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Monday and Tuesday we had physical training (exercises) twice a day. The purpose was to give each sergeant the opportunity to be graded on their ability to conduct PT (physical training). This really helped to snap me into shape. It also cut into our regular schedule and made it more challenging for the SGL’s to get us to dinner on time. They gave us a choice; we could be let out sooner if we were willing to buy our own dinner for the night. Out of all of the bus I was on, I was the only one that wanted to go. They were going to let only the ones who wanted to go, go, so I got off the bus. About a half dozen from the other bus came off. The leading SGL made the decision to just have everyone go. Quite a few half jokingly and half seriously gave me somewhat of a hard time for that. One offered to buy my dinner next time that happened. He lived off post and would happily take the extra time. I told him I would keep him to that if it were to happen again. From then on they just brought us back to the barracks and let everyone off for the evening, and those who would go to dinner chow would soon after re-board the bus for chow. To my surprise no more than fifteen ever went, and usually there was only about a half dozen.
Tuesday was my day to conduct PT. I wasn’t nervous, but the way I began it made it seem like I was. I made a few mistakes, and some from the first row made “on the spot” corrections. Finally, the SGL couldn’t take it anymore. He pulled me aside and spoke to me. “Relax,” he said. He continued to make a few critiques and sent me back out. The rest of the PT went much more smoothly. The motivation was high as a group and I were more relaxed and less militant about it.
Later in his evaluation counseling, he commented that he was impressed that I had recovered and finished strong, even after being interrupted. “There are many who just wouldn’t have been able to recover after being interrupted, so I was taking a chance by pull you aside, but it worked out,” he explained. My evaluation for the PT was “satisfactory.” My course of action to improve was to simply prepare a plan for PT more thoroughly.
Singing in the Barracks
I believe it was Monday night that I was overheard singing as I went on my way getting ready to retire for the night. I heard the usually, and often way overused comment of, “don’t quit your day job,” but a few thought I could actually sing. They coaxed me to sing them a song. So I did, I sang, “that’s life” and they loved it. “Sing another one,” one of them requested almost demandingly, so after a slight hesitation I sung “Heartbreak Hotel.” They loved it, and wanted me to sing another, but remembering the old cliché I kept them “wanting more” and said, “That’s all I have for tonight.” It was fun, but I had no idea what the repercussions would be.
The next day word got out between transporting from class to lunch chow that I could sing. The fellows on the other bus talked me up and the SGL who was driving overheard and ask if I could sing the “National Anthem.” They said that I could. So after chow, as I was leaving to get into formation and wait for the rest to get finished, several of them told me that I was going to sing the “National Anthem.” I had a hard time believing their story, but it was verified later when the SGL’s asked me if I wanted to sing it for graduation.
The next day in class the SGL asked me to sing it. So I did it for the SGL while most of the class was on break. On the next break there was a consensus in the class for me to sing another song. So I sang another song for the whole class. I was applauded as I took my seat and we returned to the teaching.
Night Guard; the worst shift (1-3am)
I was hoping to get the night guard Saturday night so I wouldn’t have to do it during the week. I wouldn’t be so fortunate this time. When I got it on Wednesday instead, I hoped that I would be on one of the easier shifts; first or last shift. Again, I was not so fortunate. Alas, I was saddled with the worst. 0100 hours to 0300 hours. It is more difficult because you have your night broken up, and have to try to go back asleep after the shift.
Despite its inconvenience, it provided me an opportunity to catch up on writing. I brought my laptop and for two straight hours I typed almost non-stop, catching up to Monday. The two hours went quickly. Our relief came on time, and we were walking across the calm black night toward our barracks.
It took me an hour before I could even begin to fall asleep. When I did someone’s alarm woke me up at 4am. And again ten minutes later. Soon after I was awake for first formation at 0530.
Up until now, I made sure I had adequate sleep, but there was no avoiding the insufficient hours of sleep today. Though I was feeling fine before lunch, I knew I needed some aid from caffeine. I forgot to get some on the first break, so I asked one of the guys next to me if I could pay him for some of his Mountain Dew. His expression showed that my request was very odd to him, yet he let me pour about six ounces from his bottle to mine for fifty cents. Despite my efforts to thwart the onslaught of deprivation, the drowsiness plagued me after lunch.
Teaching the class
Each of us was assigned a subject to teach the class on. On Thursday we would have roughly fifteen minutes to complete our task. Mine was on converting azimuths from grid north to magnetic north and vice-versa. Because grid north is closely oriented to true north which differs from magnetic north there is usually a few degrees in the difference. In order to get to your destination accurately you must either add or subtract the difference accordingly if you plot your course on the map and use your compass.
I couldn’t wait for my turn. I love the opportunity to teach. It went smoothly. I took questions and felt that I was actually doing more to educate than to present a lesson. I was evaluated while the next guy taught.
I got an overall 91% on my evaluation. Before everything the army does, it is standard to give a “risk assessment” prior to the activity and an “after action review” afterward. My risk assessment wasn’t thorough or in-depth enough, according the SGL. Every one of us practically said the same thing; “risk assessment is low. Watch out for cords when walking around the class room.” So I haphazardly echoed a shorter version of it, which contributed to my less than perfect score.
Taking on the “Guide-On”
On Friday, I volunteered to be the “guide on.” There is only one “guide-on” to bare the company flag per day, so in all, out of about sixty soldiers, fifteen of us took the job. I had been the guide on in my two week infantry MEPS school while in Afghanistan four years ago. Despite my prior experience, time would erode my ability to execute the necessary movement properly. I had to be corrected a few times.
There are a few benefits that come with being the “guide on.” One of them is that you get to eat first. The other benefit, exposure, could also backfire. By taking the guide on you become more noticeable by the SGL’s. I was laying the ground work to really shine toward the end.
Most of the naturally aspiring leaders get noticed first. They are the ones to step up first and voluntarily take leadership roles as soon as they are available. Some never volunteer, but wouldn’t have a choice eventually. I want to prepare in obscurity and really shine when the time comes. That’s the plan anyway.
More Singing Requests
Friday morning we didn’t have PT on the account of giving our muscles time to recuperate for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) Saturday. So we had the privilege of sleeping in an extra hour. This morning formation would be at 0630.
By now the word has continued to spread rapidly that I can sing. Periodically, I’ve been hearing comments like, “Word has it that you can sing.” While on the bus going to chow one of the female soldiers asked me to sing. I said only if everyone wants me to sing, so she quieted the bus down and I sang.
Someone from the front called out, “Sing another one”, but before I started another song the SGL who was driving interjected with, “The NCO Creed!” That was the initiating command that would be followed by our resisting the “NCO creed,” which is what we usually did while transporting from one place to another on the bus. So we recited the NCO creed, and then sang the “Army Song.” By then we were at our destination.
Still the demand for my singing is still surprising to me. I love to sing, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but not to the extent that there would be that much demand for it. Most people don’t even care for the type of music that I like to sing to. What is also surprising to me is that no one else has stepped up to out sing me. I figure that there surely must be someone who is better than I out of sixty.
APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test)
Five months ago I failed the Army Physical Fitness Test for the first time ever. Since my departure from the National Guard, I have virtually eradicated any form of exercise from my schedule. I simply did not have any reason, in my mind, to exercise. Two weeks ago, however, and with great pain and agony, I passed with 240 out of 300. I knew my score would be even better this time, but the only question was, “how much better would it be?”
First formation was at 0430. Up until now the weather has been very nice and palatable, but this morning would buck that trend. I don’t believe I’ve ever felt so chilled in my life. We had to enter the cold dark morning in shorts and an army t-shirt. All of us shivered violently as we waited in formation.
Until the run, the only thing on my mind was the cold. I did 66 push-ups. Two weeks ago I did 76! I don’t know why I did less. Maybe it was the cold. I actually did more sit ups than push-ups; 70. The run was the most surprising of all. Two weeks ago and with great pain I ran the two miles in 15:30. This morning I ran it in 13:40. Nearly two whole minuets were lopped off of my time! “Wow”, I think, “at this rate I could ‘max’ the test in a month with 300 or more.” The thought of pulling that off is motivating. One of the things that bothers me the most about my all time best score which was about five years ago is that I was only 3 points away from 300, and if I would have done the two more sit-ups that would have brought me there, the extra push-ups and points from the run would have allowed me to score greater than 300. My score for this test, however, was 270 out of 300.
Our platoon would be pulling “CQ” again, this time for the night that I coveted; Saturday night. Though I wasn’t originally on the schedule for this night two of my comrades were willing to pay to have their shifts delegated. One came to me and asked if I would take his. I agreed to. He asked how much I wanted. As I thought, $20 came to mind, but before I could say it he blurted, “I’m not paying over fifty.” Smirking inside, I casually said,
“Ok then, I’ll do it for forty.” He gladly accepted. Another came to me and asked if I would take his shift. I asked which shift he had. It was the very next shift. He offered $30. I told him that someone else was giving me forty to take his. He reluctantly agreed. How fortunate I was to have those perfect opportunities come right to me. Now, not only would I not have to worry about pulling it in the middle of the week, I was gaining an extra 80 bucks on top of it.
The shift slid by without hesitation for me. I spent nearly the entire four hours catching up on my documentation that you’re reading now. After the shift, not feeling tired, I decided to continue typing some more, then went to sleep.
Monday: Class in the field
The first of the week brought us the second half of the two week course which is practical application in the field. Today, however, we would be in the field, but we would have another full day of classes, or as the Army calls it, “blocks of instruction.”
We would have no more PT in the morning like we had done up until now. To our delight, the wake up time was later because of that. Unlike before, where we went to the chow hall for our meals, we now had to simulate being in the field, so we had breakfast in the “day room.” The day room had exactly sixty chairs set up for briefings and instruction. It also had a few couch chairs in a living room type setting. We really hadn’t used the classroom part until now. In fact, although it had been a place where we could hang out on our leisure time, I hadn’t even set foot in there. Breakfast came in army green tubs which resembled catering. They set up the food line on three tables that were set in a u-shape. We came in the door and went through the line with our trays. Every day without exception, the main breakfast included scrambled eggs, a choice of bacon or sausage, grits, and waffles. For the first time in my life I was sick of bacon and eggs. I didn’t much care for sausage in the first place, so that was out too. I forced the eggs down and tried to fill up on grits oatmeal and fruit. I was still hungry before lunch time.
We put on our field gear and loaded the buses. The ride wasn’t long. We turned into a place set up to look like a wartime fort. It was surrounded by hes-co barriers. These are simple medal frames shaping a thick cloth-like tarp and filled with sand. Each was about as tall as from the ground to my belly button. They were cube shaped so they were just as wide and long. After a formation we split up into our “squads” and went to various spots around the area. Our first spot was out in the woods with our own SGL. Some of the trees had l-
- Sadly, this is the end of the writing; no less than in the middle of the sentence. I did sing at the graduation. I asked the sergeant to record my singing with the camera. He took the camera and agreed, but didn’t end up taking the video. He said that he remembered that he was supposed to be standing at attention during it. I doubt that it would have mattered as he stood behind everyone. The following are a list of things I had intended to write about but instead remain as un-elaborated on topics. I also added a few more pictures that didn’t quite fit in the rest of the document.
Tuesday: Practical Exercise in the field
Wednesday: Land Navigation
Thursday: Land Navigation (retake)
Out processing with the master sergeant fluently condescending.
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