Chapter 7: Are we there yet?
“Oh I wonder what she’s doing now. As we march all day, and we march all night, singing the same sad songs. Oh I wanna go home.” – Marching Cadence
The final stage of basic training was Victory Forge, an 8 day field training exercise (FTX). In order to get there, we had to march 13 miles.
During these long marches, people tend to “fall out”. Meaning, they fall behind because they just can’t keep up. We all packed our own rucksacks, meaning you took the bare necessities. I did not want any extra weight on my back. So with all of my gear combined – Kevlar, M16, rucksack – I weighed in around 45 pounds of gear.
We took all the females in our platoon, and we put them up in the front. That way, if they started to fall out, we could push them to stay with us. In front of me was this young, short woman named Friedman. She was popular in our platoon for being the crybaby, but she stayed motivated. She was always afraid or scared, but she kept on going. No one really supported her except me. I’d always check up on her, make sure she was alright. She had two kids, and she got married at eighteen. She hailed from Missouri, or as she liked to call it “misery”.
I remember during mail call she would always tell me that she was worried about her family. They hadn’t written to her for over a month, and she was getting anxious. She enlisted in the army to provide for her family. Her husband was out of a job, and because of his disability, was not able to enlist in the army himself. I guess that’s why I had so much respect for her, even though no one else in our platoon really did. Towards the end of basic training, she finally received a letter from her family. They were doing just fine.
Friedman was not particularly good at anything. However, she had heart. About halfway in the march, she was falling out. She could not keep up. Her rucksack, weapon, and Kevlar were just too much for her. Without any Drill Sergeants looking, I held her rucksack up while it was on her back, so while it looked like she was wearing it, I was carrying the weight in my arms, keeping it off of her shoulders. Since I had one hand and a sling holding up my M16, I had only one hand free to hold up her rucksack. It was quite a challenge, but I wasn’t about to let her fall out of the march.
Towards the end of the march, the Captain started yelling at anyone he saw helping other people out. I thought this was retarded – we were emphasised teamwork all throughout basic training, and now all of a sudden we were getting contradictory orders. I didn’t really listen to him, mostly because I was tired and didn’t give a fuck. Thankfully he didn’t notice.
I drank almost a gallon and a half of water on that march. I was saturated in sweat, and very worn out. Most of my spare energy was put into carrying Friedman’s rucksack. When we finally arrived at the FTX site, we grounded all of our gear, and removed our boots. I had one little tiny blister on my pinky toe, but it hurt like a motherfucker. Some girl next to me had three blisters on her feet, each the size of a quarter. I didn’t have it all too bad, I’d say.