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[written January 11, 2003]

Dear Mom and Dad,

26 May 02: We got a lot of personal time today. It's Sunday so we basically cleaned all day. Dust accumulates ridiculously fast. I think our platoon did okay because we didn't get smoked like the other platoons. Went to the Buddhist service today. It was nice and relaxing. Got to participate in chanting. They had some sweet Korean women there organizing things.

Last week was pretty cool. We did the map reading/land nav course. We were in groups of 4 and we had to plot points on a map and then walk out into a huge wooded area to find them using only a compass, map, and protractor. We failed miserably. Our people counting paces didn't do it accurately, I think, and overall we were just getting lost. We didn't find any of the 5 points correctly, although we did find 3 wrong ones. We arrived back 40 minutes late too. Another group was with us and they screwed up too. Only 2 groups found the required 3 out of 5 points. Doesn't look like it hurt us -- it was just for practice.

The next day we did the infamous CS chamber. We lined up to put our masks on and go in and the first group went in. CS gas came out the door and wafted towards us. People started coughing and wheezing! At the same time, the first group was exiting, flailing arms and spitting up and all that good shit. When I went in, my mask was sealed fine. We had to take our masks off and clear them once, then remove them again and find the way out. They told us to look down and I was standing in someone's puke. I took small breaths and kept my eyes squinted and it wasn't that bad. It tastes like really acidic smoke. It burns your skin (rather, feels like it's burning) and makes you want to puke. I almost felt nauseous but controlled it. My hands stung more than anything else. D.S. Conn was the D.S. inside the chamber and he was yelling, "YEAH! YEAH!" It's his favorite day of basic, he says. Along with the first day when he scares the shit out of us on the cattle car and the day we graduate. D.S. Conn told us to drink lots of milk that day. He said it would "coat [our stomachs]". What a crock. I had a regular meal that day. Afterwards D.S. Conn told us he was just fucking with us. "Milk just makes your snot more stringy."

Some cadences! My buddy's in a foxhole / But I know he's dead / Airborne / Rangers lead the way! We are Bravo Company / And we like to party / Party hearty! Party party all night long / My rucksack, my bayonet, my M16, now get on down, now drop, RECOVER, beat your face, Bravo Company's gonna rock this place. They're getting more fun because we keep adding more and more voices/parts as we get more advanced. We're also getting louder because we're getting more coordinated and more confident. It can be fun but marching in boots, rucksack, magazine belt, and kevlar helmet really weighs you down.

Next week we begin using our M16A2s. By end of week, we will have zeroed our weapons (shot in grouped patterns and then adjusted so that the groups hit the middle) and will have reached the end of third week. That means: White Phase! First phase is red, where the whole platoon and company gets smoked for peoples' mistakes. By White Phase, punishments are more individual because most people have started doing what they're supposed to. Tuesday we have testing. We do a PT test (physical training) which requires 31 pushups, 45 situps, and a 2 mile jog in whatever. My only problem is pushups. I only got 27 last time. Then we do oral tests for our knowledge. Those are easy. So even if we don't pass the PT test or whatever, we still move on. It's only the last PT test and oral test that you have to pass.

Did I mention I miss you guys? I really want to see everyone again. This experience makes people realize how important friends and family are.

Mom, I heard that people don't get to go home after basic even if it's 3 weeks (like it will be for me). But I think SGT. Smith, another sergeant, and maybe a D.S. told us that if your break is longer than 3 days, you go home. I want to be lazy and eat lots of junk food, Coke, Gatorade, and watch TV. Oh, and eat out. We get 0 candy here. Blah. I want 3 weeks at home! Also, can you find out if DLI has 2 person rooms? I'm not looking forward to a year of spic-and-span lockers. Oh, we had our first inspection. I'll just say D.S. Conn dumped my shit EVERYWHERE. We spend ages organizing damn lockers! I also heard you can't have a car at AIT but I don't know if DLI is different. So you may not have to give up your car! I'm fretting about living under lockdown conditions for ages. But I guess that's the Army.

We're all buzzing here. Excited about White Phase. D.S.s are more lax, we know the hard part will be over after we qualify with our rifles.

Clay: guy is cool, been in boot camp-like places his whole life, parents abandoned him, funny guy and happy. Hawke: with his name, you know he's our platoon guide (our main leader). Mormon, hard worker, did a missionary work job in Illinois. Hilyard: Korean who went to Virginia Tech, is in same job as me without the linguist component. I can talk to him. He tells me about officer school and doing translating for the UN after the Army. Piltingsrud: part Norwegian girl, family all speaks multiple languages. Dad worked high up in NATO.

PS: Our graduation date is July 11, assuming I graduate on time and pass everything. I'll have more info as time gets near, but I think our ninth week is basically free time and rehearsals. After BRM, things are easier until the 8th week, when we have 10km and 15km road marches, FTX (3 days marching, bivouacing, night infiltration course (300 yards of low crawl in full battle rattle while guns fire overhead and flares go off) and some other stuff, culminating in the Rites of Passage, where we officially become soldiers.) In other words, these next 2-3 weeks are the focal point of basic.

I'll be crushed if I can't go home between basic and AIT. Already planning donuts, slurpees, pizza, and McD's.


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