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Letters from Basic, 1, May 5th, 2002 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: May 5th, 2002
"Letters from Basic, 1" [permalink]
    keywords: military, U.S. Army, basic training
    soapbox #: 343
    written: January 11th, 2003
    words: 1072

"Letters from Basic, 1", an Essay

These are my letters from basic training, which lasted from approximately May 10 to July 11 of 2002. In retrospect, the writing is horrible; however, when you're pretty much kept busy and/or in discipline all the time, you don't have much freedom to ruminate or organize your thoughts very well. The result is that you end up hurrying to get in as much as possible. The product doesn't end up being a Randall Jarrell poem, but it does help me remember all the tidbits I didn't get down on paper but still vividly remember in my mind. I assumed that my parents knew a lot when I was writing the letters; what I was sure I would've written about, like all the screwups and smokings we got, never ended up in the letters at all. It was weird. Another thing was all the redundancy because you lose track of what you had time to write. At any rate, I still think the letters are worth posting, and hopefully, worth reading. They've been translated from the original chickenscratch that the letters contained. =)

...

Hi Mom & Dad,

Thanks for the priority mail. It lifted up my spirits. Also, the very brief phonecalls were surprisingly powerful for me. I miss you two very much.

So far I took about 5 days to get through reception battalion. While there we pretty much ate, shit, and slept from 5 to 9. I took a test called the AAAT which was required to find out whether I possessed the logic skills required to analyze info or only collect it. I got all right except two, which I just ran out of time on.

I ran a 6 minute mile at reception and ran a little slower on our first diagnostic PT test today. I did 27 pushups (low! I need 31 for the final test so I'll be okay what with all the "smoking" the drill sergeants give us) and 55ish situps. My run time was one of the highest in our platoon (36 people, 12 males) so I was assigned to the top running group. I hear we run fast and the last cycle's top group ran 7.5 miles once! I'll probably die.

Everything else is pretty brutal. We are watched nonstop and yelled at for slight to large screwups. It's part of giving us discipline and respect. A lot of girls in our platoon got hurt already (hip injuries are common for them) and a few in the company (four platoons) wanted to quit. The D.S.s make a point that you signed on the dotted line and the Army owns you. I have mixed emotions. Sometimes I feel like it was a mistake but other times I feel good and part of a new family. The UCMJ justice codes are scary because the law applies to you twice: civilian and military. Also, the standards are high, NCOs harsh, and penalties severe. But on the other hand I feel like a stronger person already -- I feel if I graduate on time that this will be my greatest achievement so far.

When we first arrived at reception, it was okay. Everyone was nervous and people freaked out when the D.S. first got on our bus. But reception was really just babysitting us while we got processed. About the worst we had to do was stand up for talking. False impression for basic! When we were loaded onto these cattle car bus things (I shudder when I see them), there'd be 2 D.S.'s sitting all quiet on board. But as soon as we hit the first stop sign, they exploded. Yelling, threatening, cussing, telling us to put our heads down or we'd die. That night was bad. Everyone was scared shitless. Today, at the end of week 1, we were leaving the chow hall while a fresh group of recruits entered. The D.S.'s yelled at them a lot, and we could then see how terrified we must have been. The D.S.'s ease off over the nine weeks but right now they're still pretty bad. I'm the platoon's smart boy with no common sense because I seem to mess up basic things like not pack my rucksack quickly enough. I got a counseling already but it's okay. One more and I could be in trouble. Sorry if I repeat; I'm writing this over multiple days. We have 3 D.S.'s for our platoon. One is D.S. Eisch, an Army Ranger hardcore, who is awesome. He tells us constantly about what Ranger school is like. Sounds like Hell. D.S. Conn is a hardliner discipline freak. And he loves to make us do physical exercise for screwing up. I always manage to piss him off. D.S. Russell is our female D.S. She is nice and generous some days, but impatient on others. Overall she seems awesome. You have to consider they're all one step away from blowing up.

The food is pretty damn good! They'll serve Mexican, fried chicken, etc. Gatorade, Powerade, chocolate milk, mixed fruit cocktails. And we eat 3 times a day. It's pretty awesome. Tons of food but I think I've lost fat since coming. Good diet.

I'm on running team B now, officially. That's fine for now. I can't run 7.5 miles at once, or carry someone else up a hill yet.

They have cool cadences for marching. For instance, D.S. Eisch says something like "you go to the market where everybody shops and then you pull out a machete and then you begin to chop!"

Please send to this address! We got smoked for filling it out wrong. Mom, you did it correctly...wait, so just do this. Thanks for doing it right! Saved my butt, Mom. Just put a "2" on the back fold so they know what platoon I'm in. Don't send newspaper clippings because they said I'm not allowed to read them. Thanks though! I got all the clippings and they were great!

Yesterday we did post detail and did nothing except busy work cleaning up stuff around the base. We got huge lunches with sandwiches, Chips Ahoy, Doritos, slushy fruit punch, and slushy peaches because they were still frozen. Will write more later.


 
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