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"Letters from Basic, 9"

[written January 11, 2003]

Mom, Dad, et al, June 20: It's cool now. We're on the home stretch. Week 6 ended today and the D.S.s are beginning to give us info about graduation, AIT, the big 3 day straight field training exercise (FTX) where we basically camp out in the middle of nowhere with little sleep. It's the culmination of all our physical trianing. Tents, foxholes, hasty firing positions, etc. Yet we'll still have food delivered from the chow hall! Weird.

It's sad that I talk about food so much. I don't ever want to sleep once I get up in the morning. Only while I'm sleeping do I want it. The main desires daily are to eat and to sit down. Sitting down is usually not allowed and so we stand in boots ALL day. We've gotten to change into our physical training uniforms (sneakers, spandex, shorts, shirt) more often these days though. It was so freaking hot in our BDUs (camo outfits) while practicing drill and ceremony marching/movements for our contest against the other platoons on Thursday. Sweat dripping everywhere, boiling canteen water. Oh yeah, so chow is the other desire. I ate my first fat cakes (besides Free Day Away) at the confidence course. They were Zingers, similar to Twinkies. Today I ate the frosting of those chocolate Ding Dongs that some female neglected to eat (probably to watch her weight..."I only ate the cake and filling!"). The D.S.s don't seem to care now, I think because the sergeant major or someone put it out that we can eat anything served in the chow hall. The strange thing is I'm so much more motivated after eating fat cakes. Psychological, I know.

In the morning we did pugil stick bouts. Our platoon got whupped unlike in unarmed combat. We have no big males to compete with the other platoons even though we have the most athletic ones -- almost all our males are in Alpha run group, which therefore is composed of almost half our platoon. I fought this tall, old guy wearing football helmet, hockey gloves, and pads. I was fierce at first but I lowered my guard and the guy landed too many blows so they stopped it. Bah! I wasn't tired yet and his blows didn't make me dizzy, but they stopped the fight anyway. I never retreated at least. I kicked butt in unarmed though, right? One guy in our platoon got his bell rung. This big black guy butted him on the head with his stick and he dropped to the ground after a second standing there! Later 2 females fought 1 male. The females kept winning. Guerra, a former boxer, won the heavyweight match for our platoon!

We have to march 10km to the FTX and march 15km back home afterward. Then we clean all our gear until graduation. No rest until the minute we actually leave post! So when you come see me graduate, don't do anything that'll get me held back! ;)

Ritenour, the male in our platoon on crutches, is leaving Monday on convalescent leave so he can heal at home and come back. The guy is lazy. Fails his PT tests, doesn't help out, and bought $300-400 of Cold Steel memorabilia and now he won't even graduate with us! We have a bunch of other females who keep coming back from the doctor with crutches so we'll probably lose them too.

FTX is not for another week. Week 8. Next week we have knowledge testing and our final PT test. The run will be on a rubber track, not on gravel, so my run time should improve dramatically because I get more lift off solid footing like the 6 minutes I did in diagnostic.

June 21: We did the PECS again, which is the big obstacle course with monkeybars, one rope bridge, running with gas mask on, etc. Then the platoons had their best 2 compete but we came in 3rd. Our female got too tired. Then we did tug of war and we came in last. Not an excuse but we have a physically weak platoon with no huge males!

Oops, we probably just lost another male. Hilyard, the Korean who knows everything military-related, left his notebook in a classroom and it contained a note to a female. She told him to stop writing a whole ago apparently. Shit went down tonight with the D.S.s. We had to sign statements saying if we knew about it. I didn't. He's gonna get tossed out. Apparently flirted with two other females. A whole mess. Some other males knew some stuff, they admitted.

June 22: This morning one of the platoon's females tried to overdose on aspirin. I'm guessing because she knew she wouldn't pass the final PT test. She was the weakest and most out of shape one in the platoon... Overweight and couldn't keep up during run days. It's dumb that the recruiters will take anyone because it traps people who have no shot at graduating and they end up permanently scarring their lives! Now she's in the female bay with no shoelaces on her boots, and she'll be on suicide watch tonight. PVT Albertson by the way got off while PVT Hilyard got hit with two rank demotions, half pay, Article 15 for sexual harassment or fraternization (not given yet but probably will be), plus a transfer to the rehab company for 2 weeks before restarting with a new company.

Another female in our platoon got caught with a letter from a male in another company. She was already transferred from that company for fraternizing with him. D.S. Eisch read the letter aloud to all of our company. Allusions to sex, kissing, etc. Dunno if she's getting tossed yet.

We had 42 people on code today, meaning they're injured. The D.S.s are angry because that's a lot out of a 150ish person company. It's attrition here. No one will be left! D.S. Eisch took all the streamers off our banner indefinitely for all this. D.S. Conn gets back Monday and I'm sure he'll be happy to come back to fraternization, suicide, hiding things from D.S.s...

The D.S.s tend to think people who go on code are just avoiding training -- probably accurate on many cases. If I wasn't 6'1" or a good runner, I'd know it'd be hell here. After our morning runs in Alpha, anybody will be sore for a good 2-3 days. My hands have blisters all over but my feet are fortunately fine. We're all pretty banged up after this last week, which was obstacle course after obstacle course plus morning PT. The D.S.s obviously are burning us out since this is the last real week of training and fitness. Woohoo, almost done! Basic plays such a mind game on you because the D.S.s tell you it never gets better even in AIT or the real Army, and they never make you feel good for long. Plus you're responsible for everyone else in training and there'll always be tons of people getting in trouble. There's no such thing as hope here, and you can only get as positively motivated as the D.S.s will allow before punishing you for being undisciplined, and then you get yelled at for not being motivated. Everyone knows the D.S.s do what they want and what you get is really only given because the Army makes them do so. While D.S.s say they spend a lot of time resolving privates' issues, it's not because they care but because there's higher command who DO care yelling at the D.S.s if they don't do things for privates. Obviously a lot of privates can't handle this emotionally and intellectually desolate environment, so they fall out. It can be tough here but it's mainly a mind game. People told me that prior to my leaving and it makes sense now.

Dad, you asked about the Buddhist service; I wrote a bit about it before and I enjoyed going. I enjoyed hearing more emphasis on personal improvement and responsibility than the sermon we heard on Free Day Away about letting God take care of things and bowing before Him so that we do not go to that fiery eternal Hell. Scare tactics seemed to work on a lot of the soldiers there. Some looked frightened, but did they know more than just agreeing so they wouldn't be punished?

I sat with a battle buddy yesterday while he told his problems to our chaplain. The guy's gf just dumped him (her child he feels and treats like his own) and his parents threw him out because they were ashamed of him joining the Army. So he wakes up at night often and has nowhere to go. He's only in the reserves, not active Army. The chaplain couldn't come up with anything to say except to let Jesus handle it. I was ticked! Don't just quote a verse, give him some guidance! Anyway... Misrepresenting a religion is not cool.

Ritenour, our broken male, is staying now because his brother is a staff sergeant in the Army and asked D.S. Eisch not to send him home. He wouldn't let him quit so now we're stuck with a guy who is permanently injured and won't do anything. Whee.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a nice off day of cleaning and chow. Monday we'll be at a range all day, practice firing for a night fire attempt after dark. I guess we'll get tracers! We'll get back late, around midnight or so. Wednesday is EOCT, or End of Cycle Testing, where we will be tested on setting up claymores, putting on all that gas mask equipment with rubber gloves and boots and whatnot. Thursday is my security interview and drill and ceremony contest (we learned how to do Inspection Arms, where you do all this fancy shit to your rifle so an NCO and CO can see it) and Friday is the final PT test. The days before July 4th are FTX, which will suck. I heard we'll have to wear our gas masks for 4 hours! When we get back, it's not over. We'll clean all our gear and disassemble it up until graduation week. No rest for the weary.

Knew the Lakers would win, pissed off about missing the U.S. in World Cup as well as the French and Wimbledon. I miss watching TV that I catch myself staring at the TV in the main office when we stand outside.

I heard that the DLI doesn't require clearances to be completed before beginning studying there so as long as I graduate, I don't think I'd stay here. But I might be sent to DLI to either prepare or do boring work like mowing and organizing papers and all the other BS they make waiting people do.

Funny that SGT Smith won't respond now, after I've shipped out...

I wish everyone could come to see the graduation. We'll get to march by and everything. I should be in the first squad facing you.

We have a ton of free time tonight so that's why I'm babbling. Saturday nights and Sundays rule. Think D.S.s want to be here? Hell no! Meanwhile, we're cooped up with no TV or music. Just read the beginning of this letter and realized I repeated a lot. Sorry about that; we have short-term memories here and I can't check myself like I could on a computer.

Right now I'm sitting here in one of the empty bunk rooms with Hawke because no one looks in here so they won't come in and yell and brag and be stupid while we're trying to write and get some quiet. Hawke is one of the best people I've met. A great leader who inserts humor and patience into his command, always the first to dress and make his bunk, always cleaning, always leading us in PT and courses. He studies his Book of Mormon a lot. People love to hang around him so he hides to get rare free time to himself. I told him about this empty room and I'm quiet so we get peace there. We only have one or two other quiet males, one being my battle buddy Raisor (so he doesn't get me in trouble much, yay) and Lopez. Jackson always volunteers to get smoked if someone else gets in trouble. He's quiet too, but he sacrifices a lot for others.

For obvious reasons the males avoid the females now. They snitch on every little thing and can only get us in trouble. Anna, I'm not trying to single out women -- that's just how it is here. The males here just get in trouble out in the open so no one needs to snitch! Bottom line: I'm sticking to myself and trying to do the right thing so I can graduate. I help the responsible ones but avoid everyone else.

All in all it's been okay here. Two hard weeks coming up but everyone has been so good about sending lots of mail that I really stay motivated. A perfect end to the day is sitting down and reading mail before bed, catching up on what you guys are up to. D.S. Russell said today that I get more mail than anyone she's seen! Thank you! It reminds me I'm spoiled with love. Reminds me that there's a real world out there.


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