23 OCT 03 | 2107
Victory Forge, Foot March 5 and 6. Damn, I'm done. Seven more days and a wake up! I finally feel like I've been here longer than a week. Strangely, I haven't changed much at all, if any. I thought I'd be so different than who I was before, but here I am. Still.
The final stage of my training has had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was the level playing field of mind-numbing boredom. The ruck march out there was 8 and 1/2 miles with us in full battle rattle and 35 lbs. on our backs. It's cool to watch in movies, great to pretend when you're a kid, but when you're actually doing it...the only thing you care about is when it's going to be over.
We stayed out in the field for three days and two nights. Foxholes, shelter halves, MRE's and buddy fucking galore. Upon arrival, we lay in the prone for hours before setting up shop and begin on our fighting positions. Army standard is two M16's by two ballistic helmets to the armpit of the tallest person. Fortunate for us, we got to make it three M16's for all that extra space we want with all our luxury foxholes. I'm 5'9". I'm not tall, but at about three feet down, we hit slates of clay hardened into rock. And still with another foot and a half to go! It was the first time in my life that I've used a pick axe.
I felt like a kid in a sand box when we were digging the first foot. An amateur grave digger at three feet down. The rest of the way, I felt like a prisoner at Ft. Leavenworth turning big rocks into small rocks. It wasn't too bad, though. I had, at least, an ounce of fun.
The first night we pulled hour-long shifts every other hour in our fighting positions. So we got to shuffle out of the warmth of our cozy, Antarctica-proof sleeping bags to stumble in the dark to a hole only knee deep at the time. Jones and I tried staying awake. Whispering with all the tactical skill we didn't have, and staring up at the stars. After about five minutes, we were snoring in tune to the crickets.
Day two, we finished the foxhole and before camouflaging it, I sat in the bottom and gazed in awe at the vast array of color on the walls as the rays of the sun beamed down it's brilliance. It was one of the most serene moments of basic, and perhaps my life, that I have experienced. At the top it was a sandy, grayish-brown that faded into a khaki, shifting to a dark, muddy brown. Then a red, rocky clay with white spots and streaks framed in a pastel yellow. I wanted to take a picture of it, preserve and share, but rules are rules.
More MRE's. The pound cake was great, the Charm's hard candy was good to hang on to for when I was hungry/bored/sleepy on duty. And only recently was I privy to know that the gum doubles as a laxative! Great stuff all around, really.
Night two, I pulled two hour shifts every other 2 hours. Alone. Jones saw a "huge" spider and refused to leave the tent, too afraid to compromise his false sense of security. Good sleep. Real good sleep. I remember looking up from my crouched position and feeling like I was in a grave. It wasn't too strange, and it felt a little too comfortable. Even so, slumped over in a foxhole asleep is more fun that it sounds.
Third day, we started closing up shop only after a brief CS attack. We get all geared up in our MOPP 4 and sit around in our foxholes for some 4 hours because of a 1 hour attack I wasn't even present for. You know that gum that doubles as a laxative? Yeah, well, I had a little too much of it, so I leave for the port-a-johns. It takes some 10 minutes to strip off my NBC jacket, pants, my LBE, pro-mask and hand off my weapon to my buddy. I'm in the nasty stink for far too long and then my buddy has to go as well. He takes even longer.
The good thing is, we miss the entire assault. The bad thing is, we miss Albaugh make a fool of himself yet again in the most unforgettable way. At the moment of attack, we had our pro-masks in the case on our hips. A CS canister gets tossed a foot behind Albaugh's foxhole and the wind carries all the smoke into his fighting position. The moron he was, he didn't bother to put on his pro-mask. Instead, he begins screaming at the top of his feminine lungs, "Fire! Help me! Fire! Help!" Over and over again as he crawls out of his foxhole in a manner looking more like he was falling out of it...and begins scraping his face across the ground side to side.
I missed it, though. All I heard was a loud scream. I had no earthly idea of what in the hell it was...if I did, I would have run to Albaugh just to double over laughing.
The road march back wasn't so great. Some companies got a motor move after 8 miles, but not us. No, instead we were ruckin' it fast enough to pass up two other companies that were handicapped with the need to rest. We marched till our feet felt like sharp bones with sensitive nerves being stabbed at every step. I loved every inch of those 12 miles. It was a strong lesson in disciplined agony.
When we got back, they were pumping the music loud enough for Beethoven to hear. We jumped around and sounded off beyond our lung capacity; it has been the highest point of our motivation. All the pain fell away.
A quick ceremony and we were done. After 3 and a half hours of marching, 3 days in the field, and loads of bullshit buddy-fucking, it was over. It felt so good.
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Flashes of High School
Summer of Change
No Brass, No ammo
Lost in Translation
And that's that.
To write them.
Heart vs mind.