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!

Posted in Basic Combat Training - Fort Jackson SC | 4 Comments

Motivated

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!

Posted in Basic Combat Training - Fort Jackson SC | 2 Comments

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!

Posted in Basic Combat Training - Fort Jackson SC | 1 Comment

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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Dirt. Bullets. Dirt. Blood. Dirt.

Mailed blog – written by Julian

17 Feb 11

Three days out in the field and we are some dirty privates in the woods of our beloved DS, “Privates, y’all are dirty, dirty, dirty….that makes me happy.”  I had dirt inside my ears, up my nose, on my eyelids, and so much on my hands they turned a whole nother color.   I washed my hands four times with a nail brush and they were STILL dirty.

How did I get so dirty, you ask?  By having lots of fun, of course!  Day one was spent rolling around in the forest, practicing how to react to enemy fire.  I was the team leader and got to yell things like, “Enemy fire, twelve o’clock, twenty meters, small arms, ACU’s, BOUND UP!”  We successfully killed the enemies and blew them up with our faux hand grenades made of pine cones. 

Later that night we had the Night Infiltration Course.  It is a football length field with a series of drops, alleys, and barbed wire to get tangled up in.  You have to low crawl on your stomach across this field while live rounds are being fired over your head and “bombs” are going off around you.  The DS’s really like to play this one up by saying the rounds are one to two feet above your heads and if you even poke your head up for a second, you’re done.  Bullet in the head before your even get to war.  While it was very tiring and action packed, the most stressful part of the exercise was the beginning where you are in a trench and have to climb this 9 foot wall with weapon in hand.  There was a slight angle and some grooves, but I kept sliding down two or three times, as did everyone else.  The DS was screaming, “Oh, my GOD, privates!  You are all going to be CASULATIES in ten seconds!  You’re gonna die, privates, DIE! Get up that wall before your ass gets blown up!”  That’ll get you going.  It was all very cool.  As the night sky was lit up with enemy fire, I just kept thinking,”I’m not gonna die, not like this!”

The next morning we were all still pretty pumped up.  The DS’s finally let us do a DS impersonation show.  We all, DS’s included, laughed until we cried.  Some of the privates can do spot on imitations of our DS’s.  I was too shy to jump up and bust out my version of our female DS.  But lunch time was another story.  Our platoon was sitting in a circle, enjoying some MRE fair and I was entertaining them all when I totally got busted by another DS.  He was highly amused and made me put on my show for the female DS next time I saw her.  So I threw out her line, “PRIVATES, TURN AROUND!  I don’t wanna see yer ugly little faces when I’m eatin!”  She chuckled and then insisted she doesn’t sound that mean.  Uh huh, right.

Day two was spent learning how to clean rooms and kick in doors.  The site we went to for this was pretty cool.  There were three buildings you could go through with different set ups.  We worked in 4 man teams.  Each man in the group has a different job, so we had plenty to practice what with switching out positions and all.  The highlight of the day had nothing to do with cleaning rooms, however.  The site also had a tunnel system and the DS’s thought it would be a good idea to have the platoons race through the tunnels and see who’s the best.    If there’s something a private likes, it’s a competition.  The tunnels were about 3 ft in diameter, so you had to crawl through pitch black on your hands and knees.  Ever wonder how long it takes 55 highly motivated Death Dealers to find the exit to an underground tunnel system?  Five minutes and elven seconds to be exact, beating the next platoon by about two minutes.  I’ve told you before, the Death Dealers are far superior.  Sorry to King’s family that you have to find out about your loved one’s inferiority in such a way 🙂  We did so well, the DS’r wanted to mess with us so they sent us through again.  They were very amused that our motivation was just as high as our first venture through.  This time, however, they locked the exit we used on the first pass.  Thus sending us through an even longer passage and spitting us back out at the entry.  It took twice as long and twice as much yelling and screaming.  Yet another victory to strengthen the bonds within our platoon and to make our DS even prouder.  She loves us and spends most of her time getting on to the other platoons.

That brings me to today where we rescued our buddies and got blood squirted at us.  We went to a training site that simulated a battle scene with an exploded Humvee, and three casualties, two live persons and one anatomically correct, blood squirting dummy named Matt.  As we tended to the wounded, “bombs” were going off and we were under enemy fire.  We killed Matt right away.  Whoopsies.  One of our medics took Matt’s armored vest off to check for wounds just as we were struck by an enemy grenade.  Rest in peace, Matt.  I was a medic and the casualty I was assisting was very much alive (role played by one of my fellow privates).  His arm had been burned in the explosion, he was wearing prosthetic skin and loads of fake blood.  He was very distraught and the more I tried to help him, the more he reached for his dead buddy, Matt.  I kept trying to talk him down, but he kept yelling, “I can’t hear you!”  Just my luck, how do you calm down a frantic casualty who’s hearing was lost in the explosion?  Well, the scene started to look like combative.  I pinned him down in a tight side bar but since he was much stronger, he just was dragging me all over the floor.  As hard as I tried, he resisted even harder.  He actually got scolded afterwards for being so uncooperative.  It was a long ten minute exercise in which I learned a great deal.    I decided in real life I’ll just punch my casualty in the face and things will go much more smoothly.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to wash all the dirt and “blood” off tonight.  Unfortunately, through all the excitement of the past few days,  I seem to have developed two nice blisters, one on each heel.  This has me concerned because Saturday morning we have our 12K field March.  Before then I’ll be taking real good care of them and saying lots of healing prayers.  Blisters could make for a very, very long march.

Thanks to the following for great letters:  Mom & Dad!, Chloe, Elaine Bartel, Marcia Schuyler and Sherri Beausolei et al.  You guys rock and I absolutely love hearing from  home.  Your love and prayers are definitely felt here at Fort Jackson.

Posted in Basic Combat Training - Fort Jackson SC | 6 Comments

Dressed in blues, but so not blue

Mailed blog – written by Julian

14 Feb 11

My face is beaming right now.  It’s Valentine’s Day and even though I’m ending the day completely exhausted, I feel great because I know I am so loved.  Seven letters came my way today (three from Mom & Dad, Mary, Aunt Glo, Aunt Gayle, and Sharon V.)!  Okay, Gomez just busted me for writing this with a goofy grin on.  The timing was perfect as tomorrow morning we start a three-day exercise out in the field and I really needed the energy from the letters you guys send.  Thanks!

Today was a long day of waiting.  We got fitted in our dress blues, or Army Service Uniform as they’re technically called.  They do a pretty good job of getting all of us in fitted and altered.  My uniform is snug as a bug, so that’s good incentive to stay fit and trim.  While it’s nice to have this uniform (it’s pretty expensive if you have to buy it yourself), I will never get to wear it in its current state.  We will be graduating in our ACU’s (camo).  Bummer, I know.  There was a rumor going around that you don’t wear your dress uniforms if you graduate during a time of war.  Not sure if there’s any truth to that, but stay tuned.  The next opportunity I have to wear a dress uniform will be at my graduation from Officer Candidate School (OCS) and the uniform I got today will have to go through a major makeover for that event.

The hall in which we waited for our alterations had big photos of 9-11 displayed on the walls.  The tears of frustration from that day are still fresh in my memory.  Seeing those photos reminded me how I felt.  Here I am today, preparing and strengthening myself to stand up and ensure that never happens to our country again.  It feels good to be carrying out in action what I have always believed in my heart; this country is worth fighting for.  All the cold nights, tummy grumbles, and never-ending fatigue are far worth the price of freedom.  God Bless America!

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Mission Possible

Mailed blog – written by Julian

12 Feb 11

Everyday here, I am amazed at the things I’m doing and learning.  Today we conquered Victory Tower.  I’m going to try to explain it as much as I can, but I really recommend Googling it.  I’m sure there are YouTube videos of this.  Victory Tower is 40 feet tall, with a series of obstacle courses before you reach the top and rapple down the side.  If 40 feet doesn’t sound hiGH to you, you really have to see it.  When we saw the tower for the first time, it was a healthy mix of fear, adrenaline, and excitement.  I thought for suRE I’d get through it, but in the process I’d probably fumble around a bit and look like a ninny.  OH no, not so!  I was so slick, they could put me next to Tom Cruise in the next Mission Impossible…except that I might show him up.

First you climb up a ladder to a 15 ft platform.  Then you climb across a 3 rope bridge up to the 30 ft platform.  This looks like a “V”, where your feet are on one rope and your hands are each on one at your sides.   Next was the most exciting..  From the 30 ft platform back down to the 15 ft, you take a single rope bridge and slide across staying on the top side of the rope the whole time when I saw this demonstrated, I thought heck no and I paid real close attention on how to fall safely into the safety net.  But I did it like a Pro!  As I neared the next side, the DS said to me, “too easy, right private?”  To which you’re to respond “TOO EASY, DS, TOO EASY!!!”   Except that I was concentrating so hard that it came out in a tiny whisper.  My fellow privates chuckled, but the DS’s hate it when you whisper to them.  One of my favorite DS quotes so far is, “Private, Do I have long hair?  Do you date me on the weekends?  Then why are you whispering to me?!?!”  needless to say, privates only shout when spoken to.

Once I owned that single rope bridge, I had to once again cross up to the 30 ft from the 15 ft platform.  This time it was a two rope bridge, one rope for your feet and one for your hands.  After the single rope bridge, that was a breeze.  On the 30 ft platform, then you climbed a ladder to the 40 ft platform and climbed down a rope wall until you were about 5 ft off the ground, then you threw yourself back on a big mat screaming, “Death Dealers,”  Are you all tracking?  Are you exhausted yet?  Wait, the finale’ is here!  To finishe the trial so Vicotry Tower, you learn how to tie a “Swiss Seat” which is a rope harness around your waist and legs.  Think of a “giant rope wedgie”  that will save your life.  Once those ropes are checked and you’re all fastened, up a 40 ft ladder you go.

Now for the moment of truth, jumping off the top of the tower.  When you’re all set to go and hooked up to the rope you have to look over the edge and say “Lane 1, on rappel!” (I’m ready!)  And the guy below says, “Lane 1, on ballet!” (I’ll catch your rope if you start to fall!)  That peek down is a wide awakening to just how far down you’re going.  I was on lane 1, Gomez was on lane 3, and the dude on lane 2 was flipping out.  I mean, bonkers.  Crying, snot was comin out of his nose, “I can’t do this! no, no, no…I CAAAAAN’T!”   Dude was having a breakdown.  I got in position first, which is where you lower your body so that it makes a straight “L” with the wall and you are completely parallel to the ground.  That was freaky and I had to stay like that for about 45 seconds (which felt like forever!)  until Gomez was ready.  Then we left the cry baby behind in our dust and raced to the bottom.  In true best buddy form, we landed at the exact same moment.  We had a good chuckle and double high-fived our successfully kicking the butt of Victory Tower.  Hooah!

The rest of the day was pretty low-key after all that excitement.  I did get to place a 10 minute phone call home and got to talk to my pops.  Again, I blabbered on the whole time and he didn’t get much in.  Sorry pops!  I just have so much to share!  I really am enjoying myself.  We can all see the end nearing and I just hope the next four weeks go as fast and smooth as they have been. 

As always, I think of all my loved ones often and miss you all lots! 

XOXO

Posted in Basic Combat Training - Fort Jackson SC | 5 Comments

I tooted in a DS’s face

Mailed blog – written by Julian

11 Feb 11

I know, I know.  Where’s my military bearing, right?  And second, gross.  True.  But, you really gotta keep things light and airy around here.  So, when we get off the firing range they make us empty our pockets, take all our gear off, and get ready for a pat down.  The drill sergeants all come around, go through your stuff, and rough you up.  Here’s the drill:  DS comes up to you.  You say, “No brass, no ammo, DS.”  They pat you down on the front, tell you to “whirl”, where you spin around and say “KILL!”, preparing for a pat down on the back.  Well, today I guess I “whirled” a little too hard and a toot slipped out!  Yikes!  Just as I tooted, the DS bent down to search my gear.  Thus, the head to rear proximity was right on.  I was dying giggling on the inside, but you know it, kept my military bearing.  If I was a mouthy or male private, I’m sure he would have called me out on it, but he didn’t.  Just as he walked away though I heard him say to the group, “Privates, y’all really have got to stop farting.”  Whoops, he heard it.  I know, why am I sharing this?  Cause I’m a sharer and you just have to laugh at yourself, especially in tough situations like this.

So, before the toot toot incident, we had our final qualification for Advanced Rifle Marksmanship.  They like you to aim (ha, ha) for 7 out of 15 kills, but it’s not mandatory.  There were seven targets and each required 2 to 5 shots to be “killed”.  The targets ranged from 50 to 300 meters away.  We got 3 magazines of 10 rounds to do our killin and we had to shoot from three different positions; kneeling, standing and on your stomach, all behind a barrier.  Adding to the craziness is that you’re timed, there’s a DS right there yanking you around by the handle on your armor vest, and…each magazine had a dummy round which jammed your rifle.  So three times during the exercise you had to fix your weapon and get it back working.  Man, what an adrenaline rush!  I got 6 kills, which isn’t 7, but it was average.  Next week it’s all about running and shootin, shootin on the run!.

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Center Mass…at night

Mailed blog – written by Julian

10 Feb 11

I’m really forcing myself to write this one tonight.  It’s almost 2400 and we just got back to our bay.  The morning PT started at 530.  Long day.  For two days now we have been out at the range from 0900-2200, that’s a long day of shooting.  The cool part is that once it gets dark we’ve been learning how to use night vision and infrared devices.  The other cool part is the weather…man, it’s still cold.  We also switch out our M-16 rifles for M-4 rifles at night.  The M-4’s are the same as M-16’s, just smaller and they attach all the bells and whistles to shoot in the dark.  I’ve been stinking it up, I need some one-on-one attention.

We’ve been wearing all our gear this week, which has thrown a huge curve into our shooting.  Here’s a list of all the things we wear, I feel like the Michelin Man:  spandex (and underpants of course), long underwear pants, ACU (camo) pants, t-shirts, long underwear top, ACU top, armor vest (20 pounds), GORTEX Jacket, flick vest (kinda like a fishing vest with a ton of pockets), helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, socks, and boots.  And we always carry two hats, one with a brim – like a ball cap – and one like a winter hat, and four quarts of water.  I’m getting used to wearing it all, and even utilizing the latrine with it all on, but shooting is another story.  Once you lay down on the ground with all that gear, it all rides forward and it’s very hard to lift your head.  Oh, and getting up quickly is…well, I have to practice that one.  Thankfully, they’ve been busing us to the ranges so we don’t have to march with all that on…yet.  Hallelujah for that.  And hallelujah for the music the bus drivers play.  It’s not usually the type I’d listen to, but just anything’s nice.

See, this is why I don’t write some nights, cause I can never just say a couple things.  It is pretty exciting all the new things I’m learning and doing.  When I’m an old lady, I’ll have lots of outrageous memories.

Mail is finally regular.  I get letters within two days!  Thanks to my writers this week (Mags, Sheri, Angela, Kylee, Keala)!  Your words brightened my day and I loved every last sentence.  Mom & Dad too!

Time to get my 3 hours of sleep now!

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Gomez Blog 2

Mailed blog – written by Gomez — Julian’s Battle Buddy

08 Feb 11

It’s Gomez again….So, hey y’all today has been ridiculously tiring.  I’ve come down with fever and sorts of other junk, and my poor Plamann isn’t feeling too good herself.  We did the confidence course with plenty of confidence, of course.  Tomorrow we have an ARM ( Advanced Rifle Markmanship) and I pray our platoon wins the competition for that too.  My battle buddy is an amazing person, and to any guy who has ever done her wrong… You’re missing out on a good woman.  

To Plamann’s Family:  Thank you for sending mail, it really does made a difference and is very much appreciated.  People are starting to go home, but Plamann and I are going to get through all this because we motivate one another.  Our MRE’s today were also pretty good.  We both got sweets, but worked it off on the march back to the company.

Tomorrow is another day…In the mean time in Army time…HOOAH, Y’ALL

Gomez

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