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

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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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Athletic Champion

Mailed blog – written by Julian

08 Feb 11

Yes, I’m referring to myself.  To some of you back home, you might not believe that.  My report from yesterday was quite skeptical of the PT test today, but I rocked it like a Champion.  I didn’t think I had it in me, considering all my aches and general level of energy.  But rah, rah, sis boom bah! Itty, poo, itty!  Here’s the results:  Push-ups: 24 reps –  up 7 from last test.  Sit ups:  47 reps – up 12 from last test! And I ran two miles in 19:45 – 15 seconds faster than the last test.  In all categories I scored over a 60 percent, which is where I need to be for entering Officer Candidate School.  And, scoring over 60 now gives me the privilege of eating the candy that comes in the MREs.  Now if I could just get one that has Skittles in it.  I’m just so proud of myself though, I didn’t think I had it in me.  I think the big man upstairs was sending me some extra energy .  And just think, my scores will only get better from here.

I was so excited for breakfast chow after all that physical activity.  It was amazing.  I had an english muffin breakfast sandwich, some Kashi cereal, yogurt, and fresh fruit.     Of course I didn’t have time to eat all of it, but bites of everything.  Breakfast is the best.

After we fueled our bodies, we marched.  Yes, more physical exertion.  We marched on over to the simulator range.  Each time we add a new component to our shooting we go over it dry (no ammo) for two days, go to the simulator for one day (think HUGE video game w/actual M-16’s attached), and then switch to live ammo at an outdoor range until we all perfect it.  It can get really repetitive, but this is serious stuff.  No joke, you absolutely have to get it right.  For once on the simulator, today I shot well.  It’s hard for me because the weapons there are long stocks, about 5 inches longer than my short stock.  So my hand hardly reaches the hand guard and my eye is about 2 inches away from the sight.  But today I shot 31 out of 40.  Getting better!  I really needed today.  it was good to see how much I’ve improved in everything.

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