Drum Roll Please

Mailed blog – written by Julian

26 Feb 11

Ladies and gents, the results are in for Specialist Plamann’s final PT test, and boy let me tell you, these numbers are a real humdinger.  Now let me remind you folks, to graduate from BCT you need to score above a 50 percent on each category, for a total over 150 points.  To start Officer Candidate School, you must be over 60 percent in all three.

My goal before entering BCT, was to leave with 60’s across the board.  Today I blew those expectations out of the water.  Truly, it wouldn’t matter to me what the actual numbers ended up to be, just as long as I did better than yesterday and gave it my all. I cannot express how amazing it feels to kick your own ass.  Yes, I’m pretty proud.  There’s a lot of pride in the air today and the assassins are standing pretty tall.

How’s that for suspense?   Are you guys ready for the numbers?  In my first PT test.   I did 16 push ups, 35 sits ups, and two miles in 20 minutes flat. (as a reminder, for the sit ups and push ups you have two minutes to perform as many repetitions as  you can.)  well today, I was a regular PT Wonder Woman.  I completed 38 push ups for a score of 85 percent, 54 sit ups for 70 percent, and a two-mile run in 18:05 for 81 percent.  My total score was a 236 and I couldn’t be more excited.  With the progress I’m making I definitely think a perfect 300 is in my future… somewhere.

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A New Life

Mailed blog – written by Julian

25 Feb 11

At the start of all this I knew I would change, and for the better.   I just couldn’t predict how much.  I thought I’d be just a “better me”.  Instead what I have gotten is a new life.  Becoming soldier has not made me a “better me” but a “new me”.   The changes I have undergone have been so deep.  From here on, the world will be a different place for Specialist Plamann..  Today was a sad day as we had a memorial service for Private Jordan T. Chase.  As I’ve said, the “assassins” (Platoon name) have become a family and to lose one of our own so soon has been really difficult.  At the front of the chapel were his helmet, rifle, boots, and dog tags, along with a great picture of him in uniform.  Stories were shared and we all agreed PVT Chase was an exemplary soldier.  I loved the story of him lifting up the backpacks of his battle buddies on marches so that it was easier for them to climb the hills.  That’s how I will remember him.  I have a feeling PVT Chase will forever be lifting our packs and his giving spirit will live on.

The rest of the day was very low-key.  The company commander wanted to be sensitive to our emotions.  We were given the opportunity to talk to the chaplain and then broke off into platoons to relax and share stories.  After lunch we watched the Hurt Socker and after dinner watched Restrepo.  I have always enjoyed war movies, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t .  However, I now see them in a very different light.  Those guys on the screen look, act, and talk just like me.  Restrepo is a National Geographic documentary about a company in Iraq.  It is very real, sobering, and eye-opening.

When I raised my hand and swore to serve my country, I knew I was guaranteed to go to war.  Since then, the trainings and lessons I have learned make that reality so much more tangible.  I am getting the best training out here and I know I will be ready for whatever my country needs me to do.  I am an American Soldier, beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take my stand.

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Mailed blog – written by Julian

24 Feb 11

As someone wise back home says, teamwork is the best kind of work.  You know who you are.   Today it felt like our whole company was really working together.  During training the platoons were all mixed together and we had a good opportunity to get to know people outside our tight knit circle.

It was another beautiful day spent playing outside.  We are all developing fantastic neck and hand tans.  It’s pretty funny.  My hands are about four shades darker than my arms.  It’s the only part that sticks out of my uniform!

Each day we add more of our skills together.  The last week is a huge exercise where we put everything from BCT together.  Today we did running and shooting, covering your buddy as he runs for cover, shooting behind barriers, blown up cars, and even trash cans.  The course was an urban setting and we had to bound up to the building where the enemy was firing from, shooting  the whole time and then blowing them up with a grenade.   Yeah, it sounds fun and it was.  We were supposed to go through twice.  Once dry, just saying “bang, bang”, and then again shooting blank rounds.  Unfortunately there was only enough time for the dry run.

After dinner chow, we normally go to our bay classrooms as a platoon and either have Q&A with our DS about training or just clean our weapons.  It’s a nice way to relax after a long day running around outside tonight, just as we sat down for platoon time, we got a call over the intercom saying to come down to the drill pad.  We had to move all the sandbags which surround every building and line the sidewalks, and stack them in this field.  Apparently there’s some construction tomorrow.  Anyway, it was a big job and we weren’t too excited.  But, we worked as a team and did the job in half the time we were allotted.  The whole company was running around in the dark, carrying the heavy bags and singing cadences at the top of our lungs.  For some reason, we were so motivated!  It was a good feeling.  We felt like a family.

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Kaboom! Kaboom!

Mailed blog – written by Julian

23 Feb 11

Oh, the things that go BOOM!   Man, the DS’s sure had me worked up about today.  They’re always telling us if we don’t do things to their specifications, we won’t pass and qualify to graduate.  I know they tell us this to keep us on our toes, but for some reason I was incredibly nervous about today.  Everyone knows I am not good at throwing things.  Even my nephew Malachi told me baseball is “not so much for you.”  So when they told me throwing a grenade is just like throwing a baseball.  I knew I was in for a challenge.

The cadres that run the grenade range are some intense dudes, they need to be.  One slip and it’s a life or death situation.  After giving us a very thorough briefing, we pre-qualified with dummy grenades.  Everything from how many steps to take, what to say, and what direction to face is all marked out for you.   One incorrect move and you are hit with a safety violation.  Two safety violations and you are removed from the range, unable to train.  Serious stuff.

When my turn came to pre-qualify, I did all my steps correctly, but was flagged as someone who can’t throw far.  Big surprise.  I went to the side and got some pointers from a DS on throwing, but was sent to the live range without knowing if I could throw it far enough.  Yikes!

Then I was off to the real deal.  Before entering the bunker, they give you two canisters with live grenades inside.  The most nerve-wracking part is standing and waiting just chillin and holding those grenades.  Of course the pins are still in them, but it still makes you sweat.  Right before I ran out to go throw, my DS grabbed my shoulders, threw me up on the wall and said, “Feel that shit?  Feel it in your bones?  Are you motivated?”  Usually , as I’ve mentioned, I can sound off like a crazed woman. But, when I’m nervous, all I can do is eek.  I tried to fake confidence, but not sure I fooled anyone.

Out the door he shoved me.  The barrier was 30 meters away, so here I am sprinting and holding on to two live grenades.  Again, yikes.  And then it was over before i knew it.  The cadre took my grenades, handed them to me one by one and I threw them Twist, pull pin, take cover, BOOM! Loud.  I mean, loud!  With all the dust and smoke from previous grenades, you couldn’t even see where yours were landing.  All that worry for nothing.  In all, our whole company did real good and no one got blown up.  Good day.

Tonight I’m saying prayers for my hip pain.  All the training this week requires full body armor, which the weight is really hard on  your body.  I just have to hang in there.  Only two more weeks of training and then we outprocess and graduate!  Hooray!

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Mailed blog – written by Julian

22 Feb 11

My what a difference a night makes.  Last night I said some big prayers and gave myself a good talking to.  I see people around me breaking a lot of rules, but that’s their issue.  I don’t need to judge them.  The only thing I can do is be the best me, give 110%, and lead by example.  So that’s what I woke up this morning to do.

Like most days, we played outside.  Before getting started on the hand grenade qualification course, a drill sergeant got us all fired up.  I’m usually pretty loud when sounding off, but today I guess I was noticeably revved up.  The DS got right in my face and was just staring at me.  “Private, what is  your name?” I screamed, “Plamann, drill sergeant!!!”  Clearly impressed with my boisterity, he ordered me front and center of the whole company.  “Plamann, and Plamann only, are you motivated?”   And I sounded off with a blood curdling version of our motivation chant which goes like this:

  • Motivated, motivated, Ooh ,ahh I wanna kill someone
  • Ooh, ahh, I wanna stab someone
  • Shoot ’em in the face, shoot ’em in the face
  • Kill ’em!

Then he asked to hear my battle cry.  After that the whole company was having a real good laugh.   It may have also added to the humor that my battle cry included a battle dance.  You know me, acting like a goofball in front of 170 soldiers.  For the rest of the day whenever I saw that DS, I gave him my battle cry and he’d just shake his head.

The training was pretty fun.  It was warm and sunny and we got to play soldier in the woods and throw dummy grenades.  We got graded on 7 different stations.  Each had a different scenario where grenades are used; in a bunker, in a fox hole, laying down, standing up, kneeling, throwing into a bunker, and throwing into a vehicle.  We had to pass 5 out of 7 and that’s what I got.  Phew!

I’m really thankful my doldrums passed.  Hey, BCT is kinda tough.  It makes it better if you approach it with a sunny attititude…and motivation of course. 

A thanks to my letter writers of the day:  Mom and Dad, Mary, Auntie Gayle, and Danielle!  I love hearing from you guys.  I  get absolutely NO news from the outside world, so the newsy letters I received were much appreciated.  I’ll try to write back as I can, but all my writing is done after lights out and after a very long day of soldiering.

Praying for a tomorrow with less aches, more cheer, and increased grenade accuracy!

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Doldrums of BCT

Mailed blog – written by Julian

21 Feb 11

Oh, boy.  There is zero wind in the sails of this BCT ship and the crew is about to mutiny.  I haven’t had much to say about training because it really seems like we haven’t done much since we got back from the field exercise last Thursday.  There is a reason drill sergeants warn about slacking during Blue Phase.  The pace slows to a crawl and boredom sets in.

Friday our company had post detail.  Gomez and I were assigned to TSC detail with four male privates.  We had no idea what TSC stood for and when our ride arrived he told us it was Toilet Service Cleaning.  Obviously he was joking, and that set the tone for the day.  We went to the Training Support Center where they make props for our training (targets, stands, faux weapons, posters).  It was a pretty chill day just organizing things around his shop.  We got to relax, listen to the radio, and even got some leftover Valentine’s Day candy….ooooh!  In all, we were really lucky as some of the other details really stunk.

Saturday we had the 12K march.  I was so thankful that it was a good foot day, they hung in there for me!  It was a beautiful morning and the whole march went by very quickly.  For the rest of the day we cleaned, cleaned and cleaned.  We’ve cleaned our bay and our weapons like twice a day since Friday.  It’s driving us insane.

Sunday I attended the Jewish service.  The last few weeks at the non-denominational have  been very uninspiring.  It doesn’t seem like there is much thought or planning that goes into the service.  So that’s been frustration I thought maybe the Jewish service would spark some critical thinking.  I was right, it did.  The Rabbi was very kind and used the story of the Israelites and the golden calf and related it to our experiences here at BCT.  It was nice to study a story from the Bible for a change, they don’t do that at the non-denom  Christian service.  None the less, I’ll return to the Christian service next week in the hopes I’ll be re-inspired.  The rest of Sunday we cleaned, fun…

That brings me to today!  We got our first lesson how to throw a hand grenade.  Guess what?  I stink at it!  Not a good thing to be bad at…really.  Hopefully I’ll just keep getting better.  We’ll be practicing for the next  two days.  And then tonight we cleaned our weapons!  Again!

Tomorrow’s a new day and I’m gonna try to poof  up these sails again and get back on the positive train.  It’s just hard with so much negativity surrounding you.  But if anyone can scrounge up some cheer, I bet I can! 

As always, please write.  Love to All!

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The First Loss of a Comrade

Mailed blog – written by Julian

20 Feb 11

Today is a somber day here at Alpha Company.  Early this morning, one of our comrades passed away.  Private Jordan Chase of 1st Platoon went into the hospital last Saturday with a high fever.  From there his illness escalated and this morning it took his life.  My heart truly goes out to his family, who were fortunately able to be here by his side.

They are still unsure what the illness was but have concluded it was nothing contagious.  None the less, we have spent the last three days cleaning and disinfecting our living areas.  The drill sergeants and commander have been handling this situation very appropriately and have been relaying information as they receive it.  Friday we will have a formal memorial service.

As sad as this is, it is surely not the last loss we will see as soldiers.  It has really put things into perspective.  While ony 1st Platoon truly knew PVT Chase well, all of Alpha Company will continue to train and push ourselves as he would want us to.  Let’s do it for PVT Chase!

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