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Virtual Sanity


NEW! My Basic Training Blog has it's own site. Click here to read a day-by-day account of the first 10 weeks of Army life.

Saturday, September 27, 2003
 
Finally! My basic training journal is completely online. To get to the first post, click here.

At the moment, you have to navigate the archives list to the right to get through them all and note that they are in reverse order. The first entry is in the 04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003 range. Scroll down to Monday, January 27, 2003 for the first post. Ignore the dates in gray - the dates in red are the dates that things happened.

I will be putting this on its own site with much easier navigation, with additional comments from others who were in my platoon as well. Enjoy!
 
Friday, April 11, 2003

0100 came pretty fast with the drill sergeant yelling over the intercom to "get your asses up!!!" for the last time (Thank God). Dressed, packed my last remining items, and headed downstairs for my bus to the airport in St Louis.

At 0230, the bus pulled away from the curb and a very difficult and challenging, but rewarding and fulfilling episode of my life was finally over.
 
Thursday, April 10, 2003

The day weve been waiting for since arriving at reception some 70 days ago. Graduation Day. Wakeup 0400 and finish packing everything except what we need for the day. 0900 we head over in formation to the theater. Unlike our rehersals, we really sound off great when we have to. The ceremony starts with the music video for Darryl Worleys's "Have You Forgotten?" - a song I have come to love about people who have already forgotten about what happened to us on 9/11 and why. Then a drill sergeant called to us and we marched onto stage and out to our seats in cadence:

Remember JFK. He tried to lead the way.
He tried to make a better world. For every boy and girl.
But he was shot one day. In the early morning.
It's allright, it's allright. It's all-right. It's OK.
[Remember MLK... , Remember WWI... , Remember Arlington...]

After taking our seats, the colorguard posts the colors and the chaplain says a few words. Then a slide show is presented of photos of where US Army soldiers are currently, and what they are doing. The show is backed by Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)" The slide shown during the line "A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back" is a photo of the 2nd plane about to strike the WTC with the north tower in flame in the background. Since I witnessed that moment first-hand from my elevated subway in Queens 18+ months ago, it affects me greatly; and even after all the rehersals and knowing it was comming, it still gets to me.

All the drill sergeants then went on stage and my platoon's head drill sergeant recited the drill sergeant creed. They all marched off except for 1st platoon's. One called that platoon to their feet and marched them onstage. There, they each took a step forward and sounded off with their rank, last name, and home state. When they were done, the same happened for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th platoons. I did not go up with 2nd.

We then watched another slide show, this time with photos of our experiences during our 9 weeks of training. This was backed by Bon Jovi's "It's My Life". Remembering some things, such as BRM qualification in 20-degree weather, actually brought a smile to my face.

Then it was my turn. Six of us were receiving individual awards and we lined up in front of the stage. The emcee dscribed my award, the Commanding General's Award for Military Excellence, awarded to the best all-around soldier in discipline, BRM, physical training, fundamentals, and general knowledge. I walked across the stage where the Company Commander presented me with the certificate. The 1st sergeant was also there to congratulate me. When I left the stage, I was met by the Batallion Commander (with an impressive black eye and stitches from a soccer game) and Command Sergeant Major. I then returned to my seat.

After the other special awards were presented, the Battalion Commander, a Lieutennant Colonel, gave his address. Following him was the Company Commander who presented the graduating class to the Batallion Commander and declared us fit to join the ranks of the US Army. He commanded us to stand and we again recited the oath of enlistment. We remained standing for the retiring of the colors and signing of the army song.

Everyone then was commanded to file outside and form up to march back to the barracks, except for the 6 special award winners. We filed in front of the stage to receive VIPs from the audience and to be awarded unit coins from the Brigade Commander. After a few colonels, sergeans major, and captains congratulated us, we went out and fell in at the tail-end of the marching company.

After returning to the barracks, we had to be inspected by our platoon sergeant before we could go on pass for the rest of the day. It took about 30-45 minutes but we passed, and out we went. I went again with my father and stepmother to lunch, this time right off post and had a huge chicken parmesean dinner - more chicken than pasta. Then we drove to their hotel where I had my first nap in 3 months - almost 3 hours. Made a few phone calls, checked my email, and headed back to post to check in.

I arrived around 1945, we had to be back by 2000. People were already forming up for accountability. Some, of course, were late, and the drill sergeant in charge had us drop - in our Class A's - into the front-leaning rest. After about 20 minutes and he figured out who was late, he let us get up and dismissed us for the night.

Finished packing, broke down linens from our bunks, said last goodbyes, exchanged some email addresses and phone numbers, and got to bed for a 0100 wakeup.
 
Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Family Day.

Final graduation rehersal, then we returned to the barracks and put on our Class A's. We had to wait for the drill sergeant to inspect our (now empty) wall lockers and bunks as our families gathered outside and waited for us. After being released, we went outside where I met my father and stepmother, who came out from New Hampshire. It was a sight for sore eyes just to see someone I knew who was not associated with Ft Leonard Wood and I had a little lump in my throat when I finally found them in the crowd. We hadnt bought tickets to eat at the banquet because I wanted some real food, but we still had to sit and wait while others did eat. Almost 50% of the people ate at the banquet, while the rest would go out later. The Company Commader and Execute Officer gave some speeches, introduced the drill sergeant cadre, and recognized the PT, BRM, and EOCT high qualifiers.

When we were dismissed, I had to go sign out and my drill sergeant said, "Buttrick, go eat some real food - you're getting too skinny!" This after she PTed me to death for the past 9 weeks! I did get some real food, though. I slept in the car about 20 minutes on the way to my father's hotel (every minute counts), and we went to a steak house which had an all-you-can-eat buffet. A 12 oz steak, 2 full plates from the buffet, and 2 ice cream sundaes later, the 3 of us went to the hotel room to relax. Watched my first real news of the last 10 weeks and got to see Saddam Hussein's head being dragged through the streets and Iraqis showering thanks on American troops. I cant describe the feeling it gave me. Also got online and checked my email. Of course, most of the 880 messages in my box was spam...

The t-shirt guy finally showed up - just in time to try and get parents to buy his wares. I picked up my t-shirt and sweats. I swear both were of inferior quality to the samples he had shown us before, and the medium t-shirt I received seemed a lot smaller than the one I had held up. Oh well, they werent that expensive anyway.
 
Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Wakeup 0400 for our last PT session, a company run. We were transported out to the starting point and formed up - actually was 2 groups of 2 platoons - all 4 together would have been too spread out for everyone to hear the cadance calls. Fun run, only about 2 miles and very slow, but it wasnt a conditioning run as much as it was a fun run to all be together. Almost died a few times as the girl ahead of me had problems keeping her shoelaces tied. She went down 3 times, each time almost taking me with her. All I need would be to hurt myself just before gradation and not be able to go (if you are on code for graduation, you do not graduate and you do not leave for your next training station).

After breakfast, we had another graduation rehersal. Then we turned in the T50 equipment we had inspected yesterday and went to chow. Then we had yet another rehersal - getting better at it, but somehow, incredibly, getting sick of it.

For dinner, we had Pizza Hut, Papa John's or Domino's delivered! We had to pay for it ourselves, but it was a great feast. A buddy and I split a medium Pizza Hut meat lover's pan pizza and a 2-liter of Sierra Mist. As we were eating, we all watched Full Metal Jacket. At 2000, we got back the personal bags that we had checked in on day 0, and started to pack up our stuff.
 
Monday, April 7, 2003

Wakeup 0400. Set up our T-50s on our bunks. As the rest of the platoon went to draw their weapons, three of us stayed back and made sure everyone's equipment was up to standards. When they got back, we broke down our M16s and placed them on our bunks, as they were supposed to be, changed into our Class A's, and waited for the Batallion Commander.

It took a while as he inspected other platoons first, but he finally arrived after a hour or so. Walked into our bay, trailed by our Company commander and our drill sergeant. He came up to me first, had me perform a couple of about-faces. He had everyone lift their jackets so he could see our belt buckles were all straight. Then he got back to me. Asked me everything from where I went to school and what I studied to what the 5 colors on a military map were, all the while inspecting the equipment laid out on my bunk. I answered all his questions and got a "Good job, Buttrick," and he moved on to the next soldier.

Every one of the 7 others in my bay screwed up an easy question or two. More importantly, though, all of our gear and uniforms passed the inspection. We packed up the gear into a laundry bag to turn in tomorrow, and headed to our first graduation rehersal (HUZZAH!!!).
Thursday, September 25, 2003
 
Sunday, April 6, 2003

We re-set up our bunks and help others do the same. We return to 1st and get more specific details down that we had missed; then fix all the bunks in our platoon. The drill sergeant goes through and does a quick inspection and everyone seems ok. We put our gear back in our lockers in preparation for tomorrow's inspection by the Batallion Commander and all work on the final cleaning of our weapons.
 
Saturday, April 5, 2003

We get our equipment back from the various cleaning groups - not the exact same, but the same sizes we had been issued. Everything needs to be placed on our bunks in a very specific location for our inspection on Monday. I and another in my bay are assigned the task of going to 1st platoon and copying their layout on our bunks (1st is the duty platoon and thus sets the standard).
 
Friday, April 4, 2003

Finish up the kevlar - scrub and wash the chin straps and netting. Reassemble everything and match the covers with the helmets.
 
Thursday, April 3, 2003

I am on the kevlar helmet cleaning group. We disassemble the helmets: take off the chin straps, camouflage covering, the netting inside. Covers get washed twice. Chin straps and netting gets soaked in a cleaning solution for 24 hours. Helmets themseselves get scrubbed three times.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
 
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

The longest and hardest day of basic training.

Woke up at 0300 to put on our full MOPP suits (chemical suits). The drill sergeants were supposed to attack shortly after 3. It didnt come right away, so I lay down in my tent and waited. Fell asleep.

Noises woke me around 0400 with people telling us to get into our positions. It had started. Again, they could not use gas or pyro, so something was lost in the experience. We were, nonetheless, given the alert for gas and donned our masks and gloves. I should explain what this was like. The suit itself has a charcoal liner in it and is very heavy. We wore that over our BDUs and I also had on my polypropelene long underwear shirt, which I had forgotten to remove. The mask is all rubber and you start to sweat in minutes. The gloves are also rubber and do not breathe. We were in these suits for 4 hours as we guarded our perimeter, then tore down our tents, packed up our things, then filled in our hasty positions. I was drenched with sweat when I removed that suit.

We continued to break down our camps. The drill sergeant walked around and found some soldiers napping while they were supposed to be working, so he smoked us all. This was, by far, the toughest smoking we have taken. I had muscle failure in my arms, shoulders and chest and was very close to crying. The combination of 4 nights of little sleep, aches and pain from all the activities, and the dread of a 15K road march later today after this, made it all that much harder.

We finally ate lunch and got to rest. Actually, the rest of the platoon got to rest; I was in front of a board of our 4 platoon sergeants and the first sergeant being tested for the Commanding General's award to be presented at graduation. I was asked a series of questions covering every area of our training and I had to maintain strict military presence the entire time. Not to blow by own horn, but I answered every question correct and won the award. A certificate from a 2-star general should look good in the future.

We then had a short briefing on what to expect during the night infiltration course we would be doing at the end of our road march. M60 machine guns would be firing live rounds about 6 feet above our heads as we low crawl, slide under concertina wire, and have explosions going off within feet of us. The idea is to simulate the experience of a real battlefield.

We head out on our 15K foot march around 1600. It is somewhere in the high 70s or low 80s and start to feel the heat quickly. I get through the first 10K easily but then my feet start to hurt. Although painful, the last 5K is easy at it is really the last 5K. To tease us, however, we march a click or so past our final objective and turn around to approach it again. The drill sergeants really enjoy their mind games...

The NIC is not what I expected. It didnt seem real at all. The most painful part was the sand that got up my sleeves and turned the inside of my BDUs into sandpaper against my skin. I think the M60 live ammo is actually blank because of wartime ammo shortages - it doesnt seem loud enough to be real. There were also no tracer rounds mixed in as there usually are, so we couldnt see anything. Sure, the explosions were loud and the concertina wire was real, but there was no imminent sense of danger. Though I dont know if that was due to me, or the training.

Immediately after is our Rights of Passage ceremony to mark the end of our basic training and signify the official transformation from civilian to soldier. Basic isnt really over, but all of our requirements are complete. The company and batallion commanders welcome us, and our drill sergeant presents us with our unit coins and actually tells me I did a good job.

We head out in our cattle car back to the barracks and it promptly breaks down. As we wait for another to pick up up, a parachute flare from Delta company's NIC (they did it right after us) lands nearby and starts a fire. What a day.

Weapons are turned in and we hit the barracks, where we begin to separate our equipment and prepare for cleaning. All helmets are accounted for and put together, all ruck sacks, all chemical suits, etc...

We finally get to bed around 0200. A gruelling 23-hour marathon to finish it all up. We got to sleep until 0600, but I had fireguard from 0300-0400, so the extra sleep really makes no difference.
 
Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Wakeup 0430 or so. Land navigation scheduled all day. Morning we got 2 lists of points to find and walked about 4K through all kinds of terrain to get them all. There was actually 1 that we didnt get because it was so far out and we wouldnt have been able to get back for lunch. We were so early to the point before it, though, we sat and rested - most of us fell asleep for 20 minutes or so until another group woke us. Very hot day and some much-needed rest.

At night, the drill sergeants attacked again. It was supposed to be big, with CS gas and flares, but due to forest fire restrictions, they could not use them. After 3 days, it was hard not to fall asleep and I caught myself nodding out a few times. At one point, I heard a "HEY!!!" a few positions to my right, followed by the sounds of duct tape unrolling. Someone was caught asleep and a drill sergeant jumped him. Shortly after, the guy in the position to my left was hog-tied and left face-down in his hasty because his battle buddy had left him alone. It took over a half hour to find something strong enough to cut the zip-tie they used to bind his hands behind his back.
 
Monday, March 31, 2003

Wakeup 0430 or so. 0500-0600 is 100% security on the perimeter. We actually only do 0500-0530 at 100% and then take shifts to chow at 50%.

Main training today is STX lanes - not sure what it stands for. Morning we went over how to react to incomming fire from a fixed position. In the afternoon, we put in MILES gear, which basically turns our M16s and body armor into a laser tag set, using blank ammunition. We practiced scouting a position, reacting to a sniper, and reacting to fire from an enemy we could see - and ended up defeating them.

At night, the drill sergeants had their turn trying to infiltrate us. They would sneak up to our defenses and get in if noone saw them. Our area held up well, although some were a bit overenthusastic: "POW! POW! Halt! Who goes there!?"
 
Sunday, March 30, 2003

Field Training Exercise.

Wakeup 0400. Weapons draw, 20-25 pound rucksack on our backs. Start marching around 0530. The ruck plus about 7 lbs of M16 doesn't sound like much weight, but for 10 kilometers... It wasnt bad. No pain, no blisters. Fatigue and some soreness in my back and shoulders. We arrive at the destination after about 2 hours; we will stay for 3 1/2 days.

Our mission is to set up a defense perimeter. Each of the 4 platoons is set up over 90 degrees of a circle: 12-3 o'click, 3-6, etc. Along our arc, we set up hasty cover positions, basically a V-shape dug about 18 inches deep where you lie and cover a small sector. The left side of your V overlaps with the right sides of the 2 or 3 positions to your left, setting up 100% fire coverage around the entire company. Then we set up our tents.

When the sun set, our drill sergeant called us all in to his tent. He split us up into 3 groups and had us each attack one of the other platoons. My squad swent after 3rd platoon. We went outside the perimeter about 100 meters in a file, turned right, went another hundred meters or so and headed into their area. For some reason, their drill sergeant told them that not much happens the first night, so they were all asleep. We collected 6 weapons, 2 gas masks, 2 kevlar helmets, and a duffel bag that 1 private had left outside her tent!?!?!? We were not supposed to take a rifle off a person who was awake, but it was done. The idea is to take unsecured vital equipment. For example, we took a rifle out of a tent that was next to a sleeping private. Our drill sergeant taught us to have our rifle in our sleeping bag, with the sling wrapped around one of our legs - impossibly to take without waking the soldier.

What I learned from this was that even minimal preparation and initiative makes all the difference. There is basically no difference between the training we received and that which 3rd platoon received over the past 8 weeks. The only difference was that we took an hour to make a plan, and they expected nothing. 3rd was in absolute chaos that first night. The next morning, we could hear their head drill sergeant screaming like a madman at them. Needless to say, the next night, they wer ethe only ones where were not successfully infiltrated.

Fireguard was tough in the field. We had to be in our hasty position in the prone unsupported position (lying on our stomaches) for an hour. Then we wake up our battle buddy for his hour, then rotate through the hasty to our right. 1 out of the 4 soldiers in adjacent positions was always on guard (25%). Staying awake wasnt very hard that first night as we had a full night's sleep the night before and it was around 35-40 degrees. I slept 1 hour, had an hour of fireguard, then 2 hours more sleep. It would be the most sleep I got for the next 3 nights...
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
 
Saturday, March 29, 2003

Finally EOCT day. I get 18/18 first-time-go's, but the platoon crashes and burns. Not only do we not win an unprecedented 4th championship in our company, we fail to get the required percentage to get honor platoon for the cycle.

At night, we get our Field Training Exercise (FTX) packing list and pack.
 
Friday, March 28, 2003

Started the day with our final PT test. Did 57 pushups, 80 situps, and 11:16 2-mile run for a total score of 277 (79, 98, 100). Disappointed in my pushups but overall good. We won the highest average platoon PT score with 269, which was a company record, and also (we were told by our drill sergeants) a BCT record for a coed platoon.

Some EOCT review again, then we did the PECS course one final time. I really hate this course by now, but Im not sure why. I think it is just because it breaks me off bigtime, of course that is the whole point of a conditioning and endurance course.
 
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Thursday, March 27, 2003

These days are quite slow. After morning PT, we spend all day reviewing for our End of Cycle Test (EOCT). They broke the company into 8 groups and rotated us through 8 stations: First Aid - choking victim, rescue breathing, frostbite; First Aid - evaluate casualty, buddy aid for nerve agent, treat for shock; Put on gas mask in under 9 seconds, treat self for nerve agent; Proper technique in firing AT-4 anti-tank missile, fix a weapons malfunction on an M16; Proper technique in setting up and firing a claymore mine; Map reading - determine straight-line and curved-line distances, determine and azimuth from a compass; Chemical Warfare - react to a chemical environment, decontaminate skin (self); Zero and M15 rifle, prepare a SALUTE report (intelligence reconnaissance report). 18 tests total. It got boring at some stations going over and over and over the same stuff...
 
Monday, March 24, 2003

Wakeup 0400. AGR run. PECS 2, the same endurance conditioning course we did before, but this time we did more stations since the weather was better. The only one I was unable to complete was a robe climb. If it had been possible to grip the rope and assist my climb with my legs, it would have been ok, but I do not yet have the upper body strength to pull myself up with my arms alone.

I am proud to say that I was able to do the one rope bridge this time. I guess the easier one at the confidence course gave me the uh...confidence *ahem* I needed to do this one.

After all the practice, we finally had the D&C 8 competition (drill and ceremony). It started with the platoon at attention and going to open ranks - basically spacing the 4 rows farther apart so an inspecting officer can easily walk between them. The company Command Sergeant Major stopped in front of each soldier, we executed inspection arms with our rifles, and gave them to him. He inspected the rifle, asked a question from our training and moved on. It took about 15 minutes to do the entire platoon. Then we did the marching and arms drill routine we had been practicing. Somehow, we won.

We went back to the barracks and the company commander did the same thing to us as did the CSM at D&C8. However, he asked more and tougher questions. Im not sure how we did because once the drill sergeant was about to tell us, we had to go out to formation.
 
Sunday, March 23, 2003

Church, Drill and Ceremony practice.

Something has me really pissed off today. There was a blood drive. The red cross runs a blood drive for army soldiers with blood donated given priority to other soldiers. It is not required for us to give. Out of 180 or so trainees in our company, 50 or so volunteered to donate. Over half of those were from our platoon of 40. Some of the others did not want to give because they felt it would adversely affect their final PT test we have on Friday. While this is probably true (removing efficient blood that can carry more Oxygen than the new blood that would replace it), there is a FREAKING WAR GOING ON RIGHT NOW! It admit, I was not planning to donate, but once the war started, it was a no-brainer. I certainly never want to explain to a fellow soldier comming back from a year in Iraq that I couldnt donate the blood that this buddy may have needed because I needed to score a few more points on my PT test.

Full disclosure: I was disqualified from giving because I lived for a term of longer than 6 months in a European country since 1980 (France). Apparently, the Mad Cow thing... I know, go figure. I was told they are working on a test, and once it is approved, I will be back in line.
 
Saturday, March 22, 2003

4 days behind now. Im glad I at least jotted notes about what we did because normally, I cant remember what we did even just yesterday - and its not just me. Most people here have that problem. We have been here so long and the days are so long that everything just blends into one single experience. Without this journal, there is no way I would be able to remember everything I did. In fact, I am looking forward to putting it online so I can find out how much I have already forgotten.

Today may have been the busiest Ive had here. Wakeup 0400 and started out with an AGR run. After breakfast, we did another makeup activity: the bayonette assault course. To avoid breaking rifles, we used dummy M16s, but attached real bayonettes. The obstacle course had walls to jump over, logs to balance across, streams to jump, and, of course, targets to stab, slash, and bash. Its amazing how fast you get winded while screaming at full sprint. The best was when we had a 10 meter or so crawl under barbed wire - that obstacle had about a foot of ice cold water and mud under from recent rains.

After this, I and another private from my platoon were called to make up Warrior Tower. The 40-foot rappel is a graduation requirement - and am I glad! It was so much fun, I will be looking into doing it as a hobby. We first had a 12-foot slanted wall, at about a 60 degree angle, to learn the proper technique. Since I had never done it before, my first couple jumps out were tentative but the third I did well. The full tower seemed higher and it was straight down. The first step is backward onto a 4x4 attached about 2 feet down the wall. There, you lean back so that your body creates an "L" shape. I took a couple short hobs, then let loose. I probably jumped 20 feet in the third hop. Covered the remaining distance in the 4th. Couple of "ooh"s and "whoa"s as I came down, that was fun to listen to as well.

When I returned to the barracks, the company had already drawn weapons and were working on drill and ceremony.

At night, a guy came and sold t-shirts customized to our company and platoons. I got a t-shirt and some sweat pants.
 
Friday, March 21, 2003

OK, forget writing 3 entries at the same time - I didnt make it. Today was fun. Slow, but fun. We learned about the AT-4 anti-tank weapon - basically a 1-shot bazooka. We didnt get to fire a real one, but did learn how they work and went through the procedures on ones modified to shoot 9mm rounds... There was one real one, however, shot off as a demonstration.

Also, they demonstrated a claymore mine and we learned how to set them up and fire them. VERY loud.

M203 grenade launcher attachment for the M16. We got to shoot orange smoke grenades at old rusted-out tanks and trucks on a range.

Finally, we got to each shoot off 50 rounds from the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). 50 just went too fast...

When we got back to the barracks, we did more drill and ceremony practice.

Friday, September 12, 2003
 
Thursday, March 20, 2003

Been so busy, Im writing this and the next 2 entries on my fireguard shift Saturday. They are starting to squeeze in the things we missed earlier due to inclimate weather. Started the day with another platoon run. Not a great running workout for the legs, but great for the lungs.

Went to the land navigation course for the 3rd time and finally got to do it. The first thing we did was get our pace counts. 2 posts were set up 100 meters across and we walked at our normal pace between them twice, counting each time our left foot struck the ground. Average the 2 numbers and that is how you measure distance in the field. We had previously determined distances and directions for 5 points, so we started on our way. It took about 90 minutes to cover the 3-4Km and get all our points. We were off on one because the marker we needed was mostly hidden due to recent road grading and we stumbled across another nearby instead. The drill sergeant said it was amazing we got the 2nd one wrong but still managed to get back on track with the 3rd.

In the afternoon, we did BRM 12-14: the fun part. We finally got to shoot our M-16s on burst - 3 shots per trigger pull. After we shot off about 40 rounds, the drill sergeant in the bunker with us shouted "GAS!" and we had to get on our gas masks and chemical gloves and shoot another 20 rounds. It was tough to aim, but I got the hang of it.

We then waited for darkness so we could do night-fire. While waiting, some privates got up and did drill sergeant imitations - for the drill sergeants. A couple also had the guts to do our 1st sergeant and captain.

Night-fire was very cool. We got 28 rounds in each of 2 magazines, with every 4th being a tracer round. 28 shots on semi, firing as fast as we could squeeze the trigger. Then reload the other magazine and fire on burst as a parachute flare lit up the range. It was almost better to watch from the sidelines rather than fire. 10 positions shooting tracers looked great. We got back to the barracks late - around 2200 or so, showered, cleaned up a bit, and it was a short night. At least I didnt have fireguard and managed to get 5 1/2 hours of sleep.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
 
My thanks to http://www.coxandforkum.com for allowing me to use the WTC tribute image to the right. I took their cartoon entitled That Day, and Photoshopped it a bit to fit my template. Since it is not the actual image they produced, I want to thank to Mr Forkum for his quick reply to my request and for allowing me to run with it.

UPDATE: Apparently, the image isn't always loading. I will work on it. If you get a blank spot with a red "X" on it, try right-clicking on the X and selecting show image.

UPDATE II: Working now.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
 
Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Wakeup 0345 to prepare for the 10k road march. Its raining with the possibility of thunderstorms, so our 3rd of 4 road marches so far is cancelled. Only ones left are the 10k to our 4-day field training exercise next Sunday, and the 10k on the way back.

We got transportation out to the fire and manoever range instead. We had our wet weather gear on and it kept us dry for about 30 minutes. I guess I should get used to this weather - Im told that it rains alot here in March, and the mud is thick.

The morning was dry fire (no ammo). We do 3-5 second rushes to cover (logs), drop and roll into a prone firing position, then provide covering fire for a buddy as they do their own rush.

***This just in*** As I'm writing this, the CQ drill sergeant just announced over the intercom that we just started bombing Baghdad and the President will be addressing the nation at 2115. He will play the address for us over the intercom. Tomorrow should be interesting...

OK, back to the rushes. 3-5 seconds each, about half a dozen per person, then we simulate throwing a hand grenade into a bunker. The rain made it both fun and uncomfortable.

After breakfast, we did it for real. I would run while another guy fired real bullets literally less than 20 feet to my side. Pretty uncomfortable especially since I didnt know the other guy. We ran either the right or left side of the range, and our targets were on our respective sides, but that didnt make me any less nervous. However, after we started, it was gone - no trace of concern in my mind. Just get to the logs, drop and fire my covering fire.

We hauled though the exercise because of the rain and got back to the barracks before lunch (we were scheduled to be out there until 1600 or so). Afternoon we spent on more drill & ceremony. We are starting to get good - not good enough yet to win any competition, but good enough to probably not embarass ourselves.

After dinner, we got into our PTs and did some pushups and situps: 20 close-hand pushups, then 20 situps. Then 19 of each, 18, down to 10. Tough. Thats it for today. 2110 - getting ready to listen to the President.
 
We are comming up on the 2nd anniversary of Sept 11. LGF has a thread exclusively devoted to stories from that day. I wanted to post this last year but for some reason did not get it up (dont remember why exactly). This is an email, slightly edited, additions in italics, that I sent to my sister on the 12th.



Thanks for writing. I knew you would contact dad for information about me.

Im staying home today. Both the mayor and governor said non-critical services should remain closed for another day. I dont think I could do it anyway. I just woke up and feel worse than yesterday. It just hasnt fully sunk in.

I saw the 2nd tower's explosion. I did not see the plane hit. When I got on the subway, a guy was talking about a plane hitting the WTC. I didnt really believe him (I dont think anyone did), and if it were true, I figured it was a tourst or someone with a small plane that got too close...[Just a few days before, a paraglider hung from the Statue of Liberty's torch for a while after getting too close] The train is elevated where I am, and at one point much higher than all the surrounding buildings. A great view of Manhattan. There was pretty much a collective gasp and utter of "oh my God..." Everyone was looking around at each other. I had to sit back down, when someone yelled "an explosion!" I jumped up and saw the 2nd fireball. I probably should have gone home then, but continued in to work.

When I got out of the subway, I called Mom, then Dad. Mom has no Internet at work and I dont think at that time, she really had any idea how bad it was. From the subway to work, I walked down 5th Ave and people had come out of buildings (you can see the towers from a couple miles away). They were both smoking like nothing Ive ever seen - youve seen the pictures. At this point, I realized the Empire State Building was right behind me. I glanced back and decided to put some distance and buildings between me and it. While on the phone with Dad, I just stood staring at it, 2 miles away, but still able to see more than the top half of the buildings.

When I arrived at work, some people were in a panic, others were calm. After we heard of the 1st collapse, most lost it. The walk home was eerie. Youve probably heard how people were calm; they were. Very calm and orderly for the most part. I had to walk from 28th to 60th St (about 1 3/4 miles) to get to a bridge to get into Queens. All the Manhattan-bound lanes were full of people. Cars in the Queens-bound lanes were actually stopping and taking passengers over the bridge. I jumped in the back of a pickup truck with about 20 others. There was a U-haul type truck ahead of us with the back open and another 10 people within. Taxis were taking people for free (some were gouging though). Many bus drivers took passengers without pay before the Metropolitan Transit Authority told them all to do so.

Even though I saw part of the attack, it still doesnt seem real. When people say it was like a movie, it was...

It is going to be a tough few days. I was able to get intouch with all my closest friends. However, I got news last night that a friend that left work a few weeks ago, was working there. The person I spoke with had not been able to get in touch with him. Im also afraid I am going to know a lot of people from Columbia and Exeter, that I did not know worked there. [Thankfully, everyone I was concerned about was OK]

I think Giuliani was right when he said that the toll will be too high for anyone to handle. Anyone can relate to an airplane disaster, because we've all sat on a crowded plane and looked around and had thoughts pass through our mind about "what if". Nobody can sit in a packed baseball stadium and really know what it would be like if everyone there suddenly disappeared. I dont think the numbers will every truly sink in. 10,000 people is simply unfathomable.

My person feelings: I feel the same as Brad [Sgt First Class, US Army. First thing he said: "People must die."]. If they discover a foreign government is behind this in some way, I will probably enlist. [Didnt turn out to be the case, but I did anyway.] I have spoken with others who feel the same way. Whoever did this made a mistake, they misjudged us. This IS just like Pearl Harbor in the sense that we realize that we have to stick together and do something that needs to be done.

Thats pretty much all Ive seen. The bloodbanks are flooded with people. I was turned away yesterday. They are turning away people today who have never given before because the paperwork slows them down too much, but I will try anyway.

Good luck with your kids. [At the time, my sister was a 10th grade English teacher] I wouldnt want to have to explain anything. As for the ones that "think its great," dont worry about them yet, but you may want to talk to them personally. CNN and the others have overplayed those videos, and they DO really look like movie footage. If it dosent seem real, some dont think it is. I hope the video that they see today will bring them back to reality. I know it has me.



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