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"Letters from Basic, 10"

[written January 11, 2003]

June 25: 16 days left here! Tomorrow is our End of Cycle Testing (EOCT) for knowledge. I'm a little nervous about it, particularly putting on my gas mask in 9 seconds. Will write more about it later.

Yesterday was wicked fun. We did a day fire/night fire at one of the ranges. During the day we shot 5 magazines of 20 rounds each, the first on semi (one shot per trigger squeeze) and 3 on burst (3 per squeeze) and the last with gas masks on. It's hard! Some people freak out wearing them because they run short of breath after a while. And we wear them 4 hours next week on the FTX. Oy! You get sweaty fast under them. Oh, I forgot; I was on range detail that day so we got to load about 450 magazines. You put this metal clip called a speed loader on an empty magazine and press a clip of 10 rounds through it so you can load magazines FAST. Between loading live ammo and putting fuses on grenades, I get to handle dangerous stuff! We hung around until dark next (around 2230) and ate chow (I got seconds so I was happy) and then the real fun began. We got to fire on burst into the range while it was near pitch black, but we had every fourth round in our magazines loaded with tracers, which send off a laser-like red glow when fired (think Baghdad, only closeup). Also, D.S. Conn would set off flares which lit up the whole range and helped us knock down targets. Imagine about 10 privates firing red lights out into the dark with flares, loud ra-pat-pat bursts, and smoke everywhere! It was a blast. The recoil of the M16A2 on burst is pretty strong -- trying to aim it at 300m is absurd. Range detail (me) had to clean up afterwards so we got back around 12:30 and woke up at 6. I had a nice hour of fire guard, i.e. trying to stay awake.

26 June: We had our EOCT today. I only got 2 no go's out of 16-18 stations so I passed. Well, everyone "passed". It was just supposed to get us to study all the infantry shit before we graduated, I guess. The D.S.s grading us were bored out of their minds, I could tell. They'd give No Go's for the littlest things. Not much else to say except we have only a few obstacles left before we graduate.

D.S. Eisch, who was supposed to be off this week because he's on his fifth D.S. cycle and therefore gets a break, came in today at dinner, furious. Some idiots in our platoon had photos sent back from Free Day Away (he told us explicitly not to take photos) and the photos contained people eating candy, drinking soda, not wearing proper uniform, etc. D.S. Eisch was so embarrassed when talking to the sergeant major that he got Free Day Away removed! Then one girl wrote a letter to the sergeant major saying D.S. Eisch threw a brass at her, supposedly, so D.S. Eisch was angry she didn't take the letter first to a D.S, as chain of command dictates. D.S. Eisch said he gave up on us today (we also scored lousy on EOCT) and removed Hawke from the platoon guide along with all the squad leaders and put all the worst people in their places. Barnhart, the company narcoleptic and immature dumbass who can get smoked all day and still laugh at D.S.s while staring at them, is now a platoon guide! We're the laughing stock now. D.S. Eisch said he wouldn't be at graduation because he was so ashamed. Oh well. Not much to say except we've disgraced ourselves as a platoon. But the good people in the platoon can only do so much, imo, then it's up to the bad people to correct themselves. That's why we get smoked less in Blue Phase, because only the bad people aren't doing what they're supposed to. That's also why D.S. Eisch didn't smoke us all night. Still, I'm sure things will be very rocky for the next few days.

Hilyard and Lee (female) were transferred out today. Armstrong (aspirin girl) and Ritenour (lazy ass crutches boy) are still here! We're down to 31 people. I have the night off from fire guard. Got ice cream at dinner. Jackson got unknown bad news in the mail and won't talk. Gonzales was told by his wife that she cheated on him a while ago so he trashes her now. Raisor received a picture of his baby's hand inside the womb. They still always compare stories about their gf's and wives. Hawke, Arviso, and Clay (and me) are about the only ones who talk about different things. Clay is hilarious.

June 27: Ritenour and Armstrong left today for PTRP. That is, they're injured and go sit on their butts until they heal. Sucky deal for them since we graduate in two weeks! Drill and Ceremony was today. We came in second by only 2-3 tenths of a point, out of 100. We got like 95.2%, so we relieved our D.S.s I think by not blowing it. I was second squad leader and remembered everything I needed to. Then we were inspected by our commander, CPT Treadway. I did fine but a lot of people didn't know their chain of command... Oh, CPT Treadway said the males were ragged: that's cuz we haven't had haircuts in like 5 weeks! We're chia heads now! We'll get it shaved Sunday.

Today everyone was pumped up after dinner. Probably because all we have left is our final PT test tomorrow and FTX. Or maybe the coconut cake and Snickers ice cream bars... ever since Hawke lost platoon guide, he's been having a grand old time. Right now he's busting a gut laughing with Clay about nothing! He wants his job back bad now though.

Example of EOCT tests: determine magnetic azimuth with compass, administer nerve agent antidote to self, zero a weapon and adjust sights. Example of drill and ceremony: rear march (platoon does a 180 degree while marching), inspection arms (the fancy weapon move you do for inspectors), counter column (4 ranks reverse sides while turning around as a unit).

Today we got back our Class A's that needed sewing and adjusting. Now I have my coat with the cool Specialist patch on it! The security interview was nothing new; some post employee just verified the data I've already verified 6-7 times. I had to sign an affidavit for Mom and Anna being from other countries!

June 28, less than 2 weeks left! This is the last I'll get to write for a few days because we'll be in the field until early early July 4. We packed our rucksacks (new cadence taught to us: sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na, hey hey hey, it's alright, no more MREs, only Mickey D's, hey hey hey, we're goin' hooooome, I'll get a Cadillac, with J-Lo in the back, hey hey hey, we're goin' hoooome) today full of extra clothes and our mats, poles, and stakes rolled up on top. We have bigass sleeping bags that apparently aren't washed after each cycle. The females were disgusted. We learned how to pitch a two person tent and weather it, as well as defensive perimeter guidelines and so on. We'll go out for three days, stinky and sweaty, and come back to the Rites of Passage bonfire. It ought to be fun even if D.S. Eisch gave up on us. He said he wouldn't take the best privates out to be the enemy since we "betrayed" him.

D.S. Russell I think was relieved after D&C yesterday. She said we did a good job and was chatty with us so she still has fun with us. D.S. Conn was with us all day today. He seemed pretty cheerful...for D.S. Conn anyway. He cracked us up a few times and took care of our issues. I'm tired of listening to Gonzales trashing his wife and acting like he's a tough guy. Springer always talks about his girl or his car (which one does he love more? pervert!), Bantum and Seaton always get angry when they ask everyone to be quiet and no one cares, etc. So much b.s. talk here. One guy I liked a lot, Mensch, who is goofy-looking, made fun of (his nickname by the D.S.s was Rain Man until someone complained to CPT Treadway) but actually respected by most of the privates for his heart despite the ridicule, failed to qualify with his weapon and evidently had a breakdown, so I think the Army booted him out. I wanted to graduate with the guy. On the ride back from Free Day Away, I saw him writing a letter to God asking for protection for his wife and child. Just a decent guy to know -- he was going to DLI too and I would've liked to have kept in touch. Just shows how quickly things change here.

This morning was our PT test. The final one! I did 51 pushups (2 better), 85 situps (2 better), and the run (on pavement, yay) in about 12:32! So I maxed situps and the run but got 73 points for pushups. If I could just do 75 pushups, I could've maxed out everything. Oh well, something to work on. Hawke was the only male to max out. 3 of the first 4 runners to finish were from 2nd platoon. I finished 4th out of all. My total score was 273/300.

We found out we could've gotten Honor Platoon (get streamers in all the events) if we'd just qualified in EOCT. I guess the platoon didn't study enough. Sucks. We had the highest avg. PT score today in the whole company at least. See, if we were just more consistent, we'd have won D.S. Eisch back!

I think almost every damn D.S. has asked me about my SPQR tattoo now. MacPherson, the other Ranger here (besides D.S. Eisch) asked if I was Gladiator and flexed his Superman symbol with "Man of Steel" tat in my face while I did pushups. D.S. Ancira (remember that Ancira car dealership on the way to Austin? his family) asked me if I was Italian. D.S. Conn asked me why I'd want to live in Rome if I said I was American. It never stops, the insanity!

Anyway, I need to seal this and go to sleep. Mailing this on Saturday. Off we go to the field. When we return from digging catholes to shit in, and hasty firing positions in the dirt, and low crawling 300m with gunfire above us, we'll be soldiers!

As always I love you all very much and think about you when in the front leaning rest (pushup position) while being smoked.


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