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So, I land in Columbia, SC and was pleasantly surprised to see many people I knew get off the plane with me. The hard part was picking out one big green duffle bag from the rest when we got to baggage claim. We all then moved our way to the taxi stand and piled in 3 or 4 at a time for the 45 minute, $50 drive to Camp McGrady. As we're driving, the cab driver is telling us how in a few minutes, we'll leave civilization and come upon the camp. He was so right...
We passed a small strip mall only to find trailer park (or just trailer) after trailer park. For another 15 minutes it went on like that, all the while skirting the edge of Fort Jackson - this place is HUGE! We finally arrived at our home for the next 2 weeks.
It all started off pretty calmly. We had a briefing in the gym with all 200+ of us then went back to our racks to go to sleep since we had to be up very early the next day. Monday morning, we met the drill sargents that will be helping us learn the ways of the Army and teaching us how not to be useless in combat. Immediately following that introduction was a combination of "Death By PowerPoint" and gear issue, or as I like to call it, "The Line Ride".
We were given everything we could possibly need - weapons (M16 and 9mm pistol), canteens, a Camelbak, magazines (the thing that holds bullets in a weapon, not the kind you read), fleece jacket and pants, long underwear, body armor, gas mask, helmet, goggles, glasses, gloves, boots, more socks, insect repellent, sun screen, hand sanitizer, mosquito netting, and we still haven't received all of it. Tomorrow, we get our sleeping bags and NBC suits (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical not National Broadcasting Company).
The Army says "Hooah" a lot and it has many meanings but we have come to spell it "HUAWA" for Hurry Up And Wait Again since in a given day, we'll do maybe 2 hours of real training and wait around for the other 8. You'll see a lot of pictures of us doing just that in various situations, in various types of battle gear. On Tuesday, we began to learn BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship) and all the techniques involved in that. It was pretty much another of the "Death By PowerPoint" days but we started off with an intro to Army Physcal Training at 5:45am. Can I get a big Hooah? No? Ok then...
Wednesday was again a PT day with a 5:45am start. For some reason, my platoon seems to be the last to finish PT in the mornings and is therefore the last to get breakfast. It is becoming a real pain in the ass to try to finish breakfast in time to take a shower and get ready to go play soldier. The rest of the day was spent practicing BRM on the giant Wii. It's not really a Wii (but that's what they call it) and it is fun to play. They have 10 M16s hooked up to a computer and it allows you to practice your shooting in an non-threatening, completely sterile enviornment. All in all, a pretty fun time. Then, the rest of the day was spent with more PowerPoint... These drill sargents really know their jobs but if another one reads right from the slides, I'm going to go crazy. At least this time they had us playing with our gas masks.
Thursday was a big fun day. We started off zeroing our M16s so we would hit what we aimed at then went to a range with computerized hit/miss sensors. When you shot, it would tell you where the shot hit or missed the target. Instant gratification and we got to shoot 40 rounds. Good times... The day ended with our 9mm pistol qualification. We were given 50 rounds - 10 familiarization that didn't count toward our scores and 40 for score. I was able to put 37 out of 40 in the man-shaped target.
The only downside to this week was the heat and humidity. I don't think I drank water as much as I have this week. I'll go through 2 or 3 Camelbaks per day (3 liters per fillup) and still feel thirsty when the day's over.
Friday was M16 qualification day. We qualified on a range with multiple targets at different distances that would pop up for only a few seconds at a time. You only got one shot per target too so it was a good challenge. It was also the day when we had to wear every piece of body armor we had - the 10 pound helmet, 50+ pound vest, knee and elbow pads. Basically, you look like some futuristic samurai warrior. Thankfully, we didn't have to qualify with the M16 with all the armor on. Oh, and we got to wait a lot Friday also...
The body armor is not only heavy but VERY hot. They say that it raises the temperature about 10 degrees when you're wearing it. If you're not used to wearing it, it can be difficult to get up once you've laid down. AND we waited around some more.
After a surprisingly poor showing in the first round of my M16 qual, I managed to eek out a modest 34/40 by hitting every target from the kneeling position. From there, we went to what's called "Reflexive Fire". It's when you're walking along and a bad-guy jumps out in front of you. You don't have time to sit and aim a shot so you have to fire by reflex. We started off with the M16 at 25 meters, double-tapped (2 quick shots in succession) each target to come up then went to 15 meters and repeated the exercise. After 15 meters, we went to 7 meters and switched to the M9 9mm pistol. So far, the most fun shooting we've done.
Below was going to be a video that one of my classmates took of me shooting the 9mm pistol in reflexive fire. Unfortunately, it takes WAY too long to upload but you can imagine how awesome I look.
Saturday was pretty tame. PT in the morning followed by liberty until sunday night. Needless to say, we painted the town red and did everything we could to stay away for the few days of freedom like going to the movies - Superbad was hilarious. Go see it.
Today was back to the grind again. "Death By PowerPoint" took on a whole new level of pain. 8 hours of briefings, mostly on stuff I knew already.
The next few days will be composed of convoy training, heavy weapons training (heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, etc), and course conclusion. On Wednesday, we should know when we are leaving for Kuwait. There are many rumors floating around but I'll believe it when I hear it from the horse's mouth.
I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Until next time...