Saturday, June 20, 2015

My first week in the Army...

I'll start out my "first week at the Direct Commission Course (DCC) course wrap-up" after this late entry:


I lack internet access at the moment, so this will be a delayed post, but here goes nothing!

First, I had wanted to write about how I felt about joining the Army.  The depth of emotion, gratitude, and honor that I feel to have the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than me, and not just so much bigger, but so very important!  I want my 5-years-from-now self to be able to look back and read about how it was when I joined.  I don’t have much time before lights out so I can’t go into GREAT detail.  But let’s just suffice it to say that I’ve gotten choked up more than once.  Trying on the uniform and realizing I AM WEARING the uniform of our country’s Army!  Driving out here to Oklahoma for training and realized that I didn’t listen to music for more than ¼ of the way because I was too busy in my own mind, in my own thoughts.  It’s amazing.

Then I arrived for training.  Dorm rooms.  Wool blankets.  No fitted sheets…have to do mitred corners and make it TIGHT.  Rolling and folding your clothes a certain way and putting them in a certain order in certain places in certain drawers.  It’s like another planet compared to how I am used to living!  Master of my own little world, my bubble – no more!  Learning how to stand at attention and march and shout “Hooah!” after cadre asks a question.  Learning about my battle buddy (roommate), and my classmates.  Learning about our cadre, for that matter! 

As it turns out, this pilot program DCC class was created to not be “boot camp lite” but instead be “boot camp condensed”.  The recent observations were that the directly commissioned officers did not get enough “soldier” training, and thus were left lacking in several departments.  This course is meant to be the answer to that issue.  I am actually pretty happy about this (easy to say on the first day, I know).  I think it will help me relate to and be more relatable to the soldiers and their families that I will see and serve on a daily basis in my practice.  And let’s just face it…trial by fire usually works pretty well! 

I’ll try to dish more in a recap at the end of the week.  We have some time off on Sunday.  The chaplain here is a Baptist, so I’m interested to see how the base service goes.  J  Meanwhile it’s 20 minutes till lights out and that means it’s time to wrap things up. 
OK, now it's Saturday night and I've been here for a full week.  Here is the recap.  Every morning we wake up sometime between 0430 and 0500 for PT first thing, then breakfast after that.  We did a dry run for the PFT (physical fitness test) on Thursday, and I did well.  I'm still a slow-ish runner at a 9:30-10:00 minute mile, but that gets the job done!  We have to take a legitimate PT test toward the end of our time here, and I plan to shave my time down from 9:42 min mile average to less than 9:30 min mile.  I also want to be able to get more sit-ups.  I passed on all three activities, but I want to be better!  The cadre has offered additional PT three days per week for those of us who want help with improvements, so like a crazy person I signed up for it. 
One reason for that is because we are not allowed off post and are not allowed out of the barracks without cadre.  Tomorrow we get to go to church on post if we want, in ACUs...I'm going to the Traditional Gospel service.  We also get a 3-hour on-post pass to go to the PX or gym or whatever we want, as long as it's on post and in uniform.  I'm under the impression  that the reins will gradually be loosened if we do well.  We're working hard toward that. 
So since we only have 15-ish minutes to get from waking up to formation, I take "shortcuts" ones.  Ha!  I sleep in my PT uniform with socks on so all I have to do when I wake up is clip back my bangs and put on my shoes.  I also sleep on top of my made bed with only my dust cover and pillow...that way I don't have to remake the entire crazy thing every morning.  I simply wouldn't have the time.  My battle buddy and I have our morning routine down pretty well to have our room inspection-ready!  Oh, and I should mention that we have "fire guard" for one hour every other night.  This is a night watch in 1-hour increments.  So far we've had 0300, 2300, and 0100.  Tomorrow night we have 0200.  When you're only getting 4-5 hours of sleep anyway, waking up in the middle of the night for an hour and going back to bed is a real pain.  But it's part of the experience, I suppose.
We did lots of inprocessing stuff this week.  Dental, audiologist, blood draws, immunization boosters, paperwork for finance, getting ID cards, getting my family into DEERS, reviews of policies, etc.  We also did a lot of drill and ceremony the first couple of days.  We did an obstacle course for leadership development (think 5-6 stations where you have 30 minutes to accomplish a mission with limited resources, a lot of ingenuity, and muscles) after which I was drenched in sweat, filthy, and so happy!  We didn't pass every obstacle, but we learned a lot about teamwork.  We also did a 3-mile ruck march today with light-ish kit.  We'll add more bulk to our ruck marches to culminate in a heavy 4-mile ruck march in full battle gear before we graduate.   Today I also disassembled and reassembled an M16-A4.  Cool stuff.  Felt like Forrest Gump.  Not as fast, though.  Haha!
With inprocessing my biggest word of advice is to bring EVERYTHING you think you may need, and perhaps a bit more.  Better to have too much than too little!  For the first week, I recommend that you break in your boots at home if you can, or wear double socks...preferably with the layer closest to your foot being dress socks.  Helps avoid blisters.  I haven't had any foot issues, thanks to the good advice of cadre and friends.  I can't say the same for some of my classmates, unfortunately.  Take good care of your feet!  Oh, and I can't emphasize enough the need to have a workout routine before getting here.  Push yourself - believe me when I say you'll be pushed further here!  And BRING BUG SPRAY.  The toxic DEET kind.  The mosquitoes here are as big as birds and are apparently immune to natural/plant-based mosquito repellent.  They will literally swarm you so you can't possibly slap them all away.  Just spray on the poison and take a shower right after you're done with PT.
I haven't been able to talk much with my family, just because of exhaustion and time zone differences.  We text frequently, though, and have talked around every other day.  Speaking of which, I'm going to cut this off now to go call my family.  I miss those guys, and my beasties, too!
The long and short of this is:  it has been far different than I expected, but really good so far.  I miss making decisions for myself.  I'm told when to wake up and go to bed, what clothes to wear, how to stand, how to walk, what to do, how fast to eat, when to eat...the list goes on.  As one of our cadre said, we're here to protect democracy, not live it.  *sigh*  I'm thankful that this stage is rather short...I graduate July 10th.  However, I am extremely grateful for it.
Now that we have some limited wifi I'll try to update more often.