Soldier Life in Basic Training
Chapter 1 – Inprocessing
“Hurry up and wait.” – Army Saying
I started a major chapter of my life on June 20th, 2008. They swore me in (defend this country from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, and so on) and it did not hit me until January 6th of 2009, when I started basic training. We were immediately cut off from the world around us. They took our cell phones and put them in manila folders. We labeled them with our last name, and the last four digits of our social security numbers. No more television, no more internet, not even a newspaper. We were completely cutoff from the news. My mom would sneak me news articles from time to time in the mail.
Funny actually, from then on I was known as “Insert Last Name”. Got some time to get used to it, really. Either that or my last four social security digits. You were not a human being anymore, but rather just another grunt. If you stuck out, you were wrong.
Anytime you are assigned to a unit, you have to go through this stage of in processing. It is possibly the biggest pain in the ass. You carry around a big folder of paperwork with you at all times. The drill sergeants handed out this book to us. This was not just an ordinary book, it was the SMART book. Anytime we sat down anywhere, one of the drill sergeants would yell, “GET OUT YOUR SMART BOOK PRIVATES AND START READING IT!” This smart book encompassed all the basic soldier skills you could think of. It had the statistics of weapons that the U.S. Army uses, how to trim your toenails, how to brush your teeth, hell even how to fall asleep. Quite an interesting read.
“Hurry up and wait.” That was our motto. When we had to do something, it was done with speed and efficiency. But most of the time we were waiting for something to do. My platoon would line up in formation at 0400, wait for roll call, then march to wherever. God forbid if we did not shave everyday.
We all had to go through finance to make sure our pay was in order. In the army on the enlisted side, the rankings go by E-#. The higher the number, the higher the rank and more pay. I was an E-2. However I was getting paid as an E-1, which is about 150 dollars a month less. It took about an hour to sort that stupid shit out with all my paperwork.
Then it was equipment. We were issued these cards that said “Armed Forces EZpay” on them. They gave us $150 of our first pay check in advance to buy clothes and gear we would need. Now the funny thing is, while we march we sing these cadences (like you see in the movies). One of the cadences goes, “They say that in the army, the pay is mighty fine. They give you a hundred dollars, and take back ninety-nine.” They give us a part of our paycheck in advance, only to spend it on our own gear. Wonderful.
Medical came right after. They gave us physicals, checked our hearing, checked our vision, and gave us immunizations. Holy shit. So many immunizations. They had a line going, for vaccinations. There were about 5 soldiers standing with needles in their hand, most of them looking like they had never held a needle before. We walked down the line getting stabbed by each of them in either the left or right arm.
After the first couple days, sleeping at 2100 and waking up 0400 became a habit. Adapt or fail. Do the right thing and it will make your life easier. Shave every morning. Make your bed with hospital corners and folds the lengthwise size of a dollar bill. Stand with your back straight, eyes forward, legs together at 45 degree angle. Don’t speak unless spoken to. End every sentence with “Drill Sergeant”. Sound off. Move with haste. Do what you are told. It is very easy to do the right thing, but also very easy to do the wrong thing. This was only the beginning of the two and a half month journey in basic. More to follow later.