Housing chaos. Early morning PT and tedious classroom/auditorium sessions. That just about sums it up.
Housing. We lived off-post for two weeks, then moved on-post. Only a few people stayed at the new Candlewood. Most of us are housed at Bldg 592 and Bldg 1384. These are the old bachelor's quarters that have been converted into Holiday Inn Express. We had roommates in our off-post hotels but were alone in our on-post quarters.
While less-than-thrilling, there is definitely information to be gleaned from this death by Power Point. There is a lot of valuable info about finances and such in the auditorium sessions. USAA will likely, at some point, offer an off-post meet-and-greet type of thing. Go, even if you already have USAA...they have great door prizes and pass out Starbucks gift cards like candy! The catered meal is really decent, too.
There was a midterm and a final exam, each a week apart. But they give you review sheets and all of the Power Points on a CD that is given to each student...just take an hour, get what you need, and study that. There were a few sneaky questions, but mostly they're straight forward and straight from the lessons.
We were in formation by 0500 every morning and did PRT in platoons. Done with PRT no later than 0630, then into classrooms by 0800. Out between 1600-1700.
Things to know:
1. There is a convenience shop (shopette), Starbucks, and Subway on the bottom floor of the schoolhouse. Plan on at least 10 minutes if you're going to get Starbucks and can make it to the front of the line. If you're not at the front, just go to the shopette and get coffee or wait till next break...you'll never make it otherwise.
2. DO NOT be late. You risk causing formation to be earlier and earlier until everyone is there on time. This happened to our class thanks to a few people who thought the rules didn't apply to them. Don't be that person. And when I was there, the clock at the back of the auditorium was 5 minutes fast. Go by that clock, not your watch.
3. Sign up for IHG rewards (points for your hotel). Even though you're not paying for the room, you can accrue points. A ton of them.
4. We didn't have a lot of free time in the first week, so you will probably want to get a jump on things you'll need (travel, DEERS, CAC card, etc.) as soon as possible and at any opportunity.
5. That thing about having 10 copies of your orders? Not necessary. Bring 20. You'll go through that many. Several people want 2 copies for whatever paperwork they're doing. You'll need to carry a copy with you everywhere until you get your CAC (pronounced "cack") card. Better to have too many than too few.
6. Better to have and not need than need and not have. I brought originals of everything (social security cards for my family, marriage license, birth certificates, etc.) and got a certified copy of my husband's driver's license. Make sure the coloring on the certified copy will be OK with another scanning, i.e. make sure it's not too dark. It is also a good idea to make at least 2 copies of each birth certificate and marriage license. Otherwise you'll be running to a copy machine. FYI, I needed all of it. Then when my husband came to visit he took it back home with him.
7. If you're going in BOLC while it's warm in TX (most months of the year) do yourself a favor and buy a.) new canteens and b.) a Camelbak. You could buy a Camelbak on post for a LOT of money, or you could go to the military surplus store on Harry Wurtzbach Rd. and get the Army-issue version of the Camelbak for about $20, new bladder and everything. You can also get a small flashlight for your FLC (pronounced "flick", stands for "fighting load carrier", it is the vest you wear every waking moment in the field), and an extra set of ACUs or PTs a la cheapo. And they're nice.
8.) Kim's Alterations and Cleaners on Harry Wurtzbach Rd. is legit. They will alter and clean your ASUs (Army Service Uniform, AKA dress uniform), and will also put on your ribbons, etc. This is a chore especially for the women, since there are no pockets to use as reference for alignment. For a small fee they'll relieve you of that stressor.
9.) The food at Rocco DFAC (the dining facility to which we are assigned for free food..."DFAC" is pronounced "DeeFack") is decent, but it is busy and it is easy to overeat. I opted to have most meals in my room. A rotisserie chicken and a clamshell of salad greens goes a long way, and they have these handy-dandy little vinaigrette things at the Commissary. They're like coffee creamer cups, except they're balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So awesome.
10.) Break in your boots before you go to the field. Identify hot spots, and get insoles if you need them. I got, and LOVE my Belleville Sabre 333 boots. They're like high top tennis shoes. Super comfy, and I HIGHLY recommend them. Yes, they're a little more pricey, but they're worth it.
11.) Moleskin and bandaids. Buy them. You will want to have them if you're breaking in boots, and likely for the first week in the field. If you can identify hot spots before they become blisters and put moleskin on them, you will likely have a more pleasant experience.
Much more to come!