Saturday, September 09, 2006

How can a four day week seem so long?

I'm done with another week of BOLC II. I only have two weeks to go, but I have hard time believing that the end is actually in sight since I feel like I've been here forever. I would say that this has been the week from hell, but I say that every week. I think I'm just going to have to accept the fact that I'm going to experience all the different circles of hell in the next four years until I finally ascend back to the world of academia and school. Seriously though, hopefully once I'm done with BOLC, things will start getting better. At the very least I'll have my own room at OBC! It's not that I don't get along with my roommates, but I had a one bedroom apartment all to myself my senior year, so I'm not used to living with people (and when I had roommates in college, it never ended well - I guess it's the only child in me coming out).

We started off the week with Convoy Operations on Tuesday. We got a quick class about battle drills (some of them are so basic I can't even believe they are considered battle drills - for example, the assistant driver shooting back at someone as they drive by is a drill - or at least that's the impression I got from our class). After that, we practiced loading and unloading trucks. My life is just that exciting. We even had a mission that day, but being 4th squad, we were in the very back humvee (which means I don't have to jump as far down), and didn't do anything. They gave us six boxes of ammo (20 rounds per box) and I didn't fire a single shot. Usually during convoy ops, only the first trucks have a lot to do - they are the ones that in theory hit contact first and also should notice the IEDs. As a result, all we did in the back was pull rear security. Of course, that also means we didn't get shot at with paint balls.

We finally had land nav on Wednesday. I wasn't sure what to expect because I was hearing different things. Bravo Company did land nav the week before us, and I had heard that they only had two failures total in three platoons. However, 3rd and 4th platoon from our platoon did the course on Tuesday and they'd had eight failures in 4th alone. Of course, as I found out later, Bravo used a different, much easier course than we did, and had even had a practice day (apparently, Alpha Company is the only company that doesn't use the other course). My platoon, on the other hand, had a slide show about land nav in the first or second week, and then just went to the course Wednesday morning. We had thirteen failures out of forty-one people, and of course my partner and I were two of those failures. You know, I really think I might enjoy this place more (or at least hate it less) if it weren't for the fact that I start stressing out about the fact that I might get recycled every other week.

Not only did we fail, but we failed miserably. The standard to pass is 5/8 points. Many of the other failures had 3 or 4 points. We had 1. 1! Our biggest problem is that we were both so used to the LDAC course that we saw that our point was located near a path on the map so we thought we'd just go to the path, and use that to find the point. Unfortunately, there are dozens of paths in the eastern part of the course, and only two or three of them are on the map so that messed us up a lot. We also lost two protractors while on the course but I'm so blaming that one on my partner.

That afternoon we got remedial land nav training which consisted of us watching the same slide show from week 2, only this time it was given by the most long-winded cadre member in our platoon. We were all just sitting there with our eyes glazing over. I'm great at the theoretical part of land nav, I can plot points and I can pass a written test, no problem. I need help with the practical portion so watching a slide show did me absolutely no good. It didn't help that the sergeant didn't always understand the point we were trying to make to him, and then one LT kept arguing with him, dragging the class out even more. At one point, we all just started cracking up because the LT just said, "No, don't explain it again" in complete exasperation.

We had our second chance at land nav the next morning (I love getting up at 2:30), and this time didn't trust the map at all as far as paths and such are concerned. Once we had our points plotted, we started heading towards one that we knew because we'd walked past it the day the before. On our way, we ran into another group that had one of our other points, so we walked with them. One our way there, we saw another group on the road so one of the guys from the other buddy pair yelled out, "What point are you going to? Do you need help?" I'd thought the group looked weird because there were three of them, but it was too late to stop him by then. Anyway, at that point the Company Commander said: "This is Major ___ and the RCO (Regimental Commander, so we're talking colonel here). You can't talk to the other groups." (The 1SG was the third member of that group.) Luckily that was the end of it, and we didn't get into actual trouble. Besides, they never officially briefed that the groups couldn't talk to each other. We ended up getting that point, and then found the point from the previous day. After that, we relied on our compass and pace count the entire time. One of us would walk ahead, the other one would tell them to go a little left or right to get on the right azimuth, and then catch up and switch off. It made it take a while to get to points but we ended up passing with 7/8 (we didn't have time to go to the 8th point) so it was worth it. By the end of the morning, all but one of the buddy groups had passed, and the remaining pair got it on their third try.

Unfortunately, we had to join the rest of the platoon for training after that instead of getting some rest so Thursday was a pretty long day. As a matter of fact, Thursday and Friday were both extremely useless and inefficient. We worked on FOB security on Thursday, but in my case that just meant that I stood in front of the exit gate for one and a half hours with another squad member. We got absolutely nothing out of it. Then we did the Quick Reaction Force, which meant more practicing getting in and out of trucks, and then going on a little mission. When 2nd platoon did QRF while we were guarding the FOB, all they did was sit in the shade and plot a mission. Our platoon drove to rescue a downed pilot through some of the dustiest roads with a few random mud patches and puddles. Given our luck with getting done on time, we of course were worried that we were going to get stuck in the mud as we simultaneously were coughing from all the dust (I love Ft. Sill!) - after all, one of our humvees ran out of gas once. Luckily we made it there and back, and once again all I did was pull rear security.

Friday we had the live convoy fire, which was actually kind of fun. Unfortunately, it took us all day to do about fifteen minutes worth of training. Our first formation was at 0600, but we didn't leave until 0730. Once we got to the training site, we got a training brief, and then proceeded to wait until 2nd platoon was done with the training so it would be our turn. We finally left at 1330 (1:30 pm for you civilian types) because they had to do a dry run, a run through with blanks and then the live fire. Since they didn't do it correctly at first, they also had to do the dry one or the blanks twice. That entire time, we just sat and waited (and ate MREs - when we had lunch, one guy said that he was about to eat his 4th MRE of the day). After lunch, we gave each other First Aid classes to look like we were doing something other than napping. One of the other lieutenants who usually keeps a good attitude (he's Infantry, and pretty excited about it) gave the class on sucking chest wounds and it was absolutely hilarious. He basically started the class with, "you're probably going to die if you have one." Our platoon sergeant (the LT, not the actual one) came by and asked if any of us had Prozac that we could give to the Infantry guy. Apparently Thursday broke his spirit, and as a result of this week he is now completely disillusioned with the Army (see it's not just me that hates this place). In fact because of Thursday another LT even shaved off his BOLC mustache - or as someone put it, it fell off because we've all lost our motivation.

We finally got out on the convoy fire, and in the middle of the blank fire, we had an adminstrative halt because the range got closed down. After about a half an hour, we were cleared to fire again, and then we finally got back to the live fire. Unfortunately, whoever distributed ammo did a bad job so on my truck, we only got two 20-round mags instead of four. That was actually probably a good thing because even with less rounds, we still had a three people get burned by the flying brass (surprisingly I wasn't one of them but my brass did burn the guy next to me - sorry).

We finally got back to the barracks, and then had to wait to get our safety brief so that we didn't get released until 7:30 that night. 3rd and 4th platoon got back early so they took care of barracks maintenance for us, but there was a rumor that Captain America (that's what everyone calls our platoon mentor now - behind his back, at least) was going to inspect our rooms so we had to clean those up. I also got counseled for my squad leader position from last week. The sergeant said I did a good job, even if I was a bit quiet. He also said that the Captain wants to talk to me about my peer evals. Uh-oh. I was probably ranked dead last in my squad, but I guess I'll find out Monday. I always get ranked last one these kinds of things, at least in a training environment because no one knows me, and my strengths lie in different areas. Within my ROTC program, I always do better because they know I get my stuff done, and will always show up. My roommate just said not to start crying during my counseling on Monday, but since I pretty much expected to be ranked last, I don't think that hearing it is going to upset me.

At our final formation, our class leader announced that a few of the cadre were doing an optional 7 mile road march this morning for anyone that was interested. The 1SG chimed in to say that it was for our benefit because previous classes have complained that they don't prepare us for the 10 miler. Yes, so the best way to help us out is to do a 7 miler at 6 in the morning the week before. I am pretty sure they meant that a few road marches should be included as part of training during the weeks before rather than something the week before on our own time. This place may be good in theory but so far implementation is lacking. After all the point is to make sure we are all on the same page, but for things such as land nav, they don't actually train us; they just send us on the course and hope we know what we're doing. Additionally, we all have different standards depending on our cadre so that completely defeats the point. For example, the companies at Ft. Sill don't use the same land nav courses, and I don't even want to think about how different Sill and Benning must be.

At least it's almost over. Even if it doesn't feel like it.

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