Here is a nice long letter from our daughter Amanda who is at Army Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Letter Eight Dated August 5, 2012
(Notes in parentheses are mine. Since the letter is long, I kept my notes to a minimum.)
Hey Rental Units!
I honestly don’t know how you time stuff so perfectly. Friday was a shitty, shitty day and somehow the “mail gods” knew it and your letters and packages arrived. I was seriously on the verge of hurting someone and you were my saving grace. Let me back up a couple of days to fill you in . . .
Wednesday, we went to the shooting range to “group and zero” our M-16s. (Think target practice and sighting in the gun.) I was “battle buddied” with a pathetic shot. She went first and so I didn’t even touch my weapon until after lunch. While it took that girl over a hundred shots, she still didn’t zero. Me, I grouped and zeroed in 20 shots. It was a blessing and a curse. Cool because my Drill Sergeant just looked at me and said, “You can shoot.” It felt like the best compliment in the world. But, then, no more shooting for me. Only 20 rounds and I was finished.
Thursday was a free day for those already grouped and zeroed. Kinda. We cleaned our weapons, practiced trigger squeezes, and breathing techniques for shooting. Boring.
And then we come to Friday. My Platoon stayed back to do more practice and weapon cleaning. (It sounds like we have a lot of free time but really we aren’t allowed to do anything. We aren’t even supposed to talk, but of course that doesn’t happen. I can’t stay silent all day.) We were setting up our shooting drills when the Battalion Commander came outside. Each time an officer comes around we are to call the Platoon to attention, salute, and say “Good morning/afternoon sir/ma’am.” Well, the person who called us to attention forgot to say “Good morning,” so the Commander started to smoke us. But everyone was moving really slow and he started yelling, then people would drop to their knees so more sets kept coming til we could get it right.
(Not sure what that means . . . push-ups?)
It just so happens our Drill Sergeant came by and saw his Big Boss smoking his Privates who were half-assingly doing it. The Battalion Commander even said, “You are embarrassing your Drill Sergeant right now.” As soon as he left, our Drill Sergeant sent us up to the Bay to “toe the line” (That is, stand on the line around our bunks leaving the “kill zone” (center) open for him, just like the movies. He promised to “make it rain inside” (our sweat dripping from the walls) that night.
Also, because of that, we had to do “area beautification” instead of shooting drills. That means we mowed, raked, and pulled weeks in this huge field behind our building, all the time knowing we were going to die that night. Our Drill Sergeant is pretty cool, but he has an anger light switch and we do not doubt him when he says stuff like “making it rain inside.”
After seven hours of baking in this South Carolina heat (seriously, I have never sweat like this before. My shins sweat. I don’t even have shin guards on), we went to chow. No one ate because we knew it would end up all over the floor. We went to the Bay, but first, the Drill Sergeant had four people get “ice sheets” (for if someone passes out) and a first aid bag to put in the Bay with us. He then left us on the line at attention staring at the ultimate doom of first aid and ice sheets, knowing it was serious. He joked with us the following day about his mind-trick. I mean, it worked. We were all scared shitless. After five minutes of waiting, he came in and we just got smoked. But first, and most humiliating of all, he had us put our Camelback drinking tube in our mouth like a pacifier because “if you want to act like babies, you should look like babies.”
Then we did a million push-ups and flutter kicks, and on and on. He said we would go that way until lights-out. Eventually, during the 8-count push-up (position of attention – push-up position – push-up – push-up – push-up – position of attention), one of our most athletic dude’s leg cramped up like you see on TV when they grab their leg and curl up in pain, so we got to stop. I can’t even remember if the “walls were raining.” We had ten minutes to shower and get back to the classroom. (Oh, I forgot to mention, that morning we had 60 – 120 intervals on the track also. I could hardly move by the end of the day.)
Once we got to the classroom, though, he had calmed down and we got our mail. It just perfectly happened to be the time I got your letters, and letters and a package from Jill and Paige (her sisters). I honestly could have cried from happiness and exhaustion. Thank you so much for everything in the care-package.
Jill and Paige sent the cutest letter, some Sudoku books, and a novel. Unfortunately, the only things I can use now are the letters. But that still made my day. And now I have so much to look forward to once I get my personal bag back after graduation. Mom, that picture you sent me is great. (I sent a photo of our family drinking my husband’s homebrew beer at our cabin.) I taped it over my bunk like the girls do in the movies at summer camp. It sounds lame, I know, but it is a nice little escape from here. My Drill Sergeant looks through the photos to make sure they are appropriate. He asked me if you guys sent me the one with the beer in it to tease me. I cannot wait until I can drink one of Dad’s beers with you guys again.
We got in trouble again so now no phone until at least the 7th week. I did, however, get one girl a phone call. Her mom has cancer and she hadn’t heard anything from her, so I talked to the Drill Sergeant on my own. I said the rest of us would do extra duty so she can call home.
We had a lot of fun yesterday. We went to the shooting range where we shot at 175- and 300-meter targets. I honestly didn’t do too hot and got a little frustrated. The Drill Sergeant said he was disappointed. That stung. I felt like I let him down. But the range was fun. On good day, it’d be super cool. And we got to talk while we waited so it was like a party. Plus, after lunch, the Drill Sergeant did a singing/rapping contest so we got some fun in.
You know, they say being at Basic is supposed to change you. The Drill Sergeant keeps saying we won’t recognize ourselves after it. I don’t think that is the case for me though, probably because I am older than the others and I kicked ass at ROTC. It is hard to stay strong here though. Or even to stay a leader because that is not the stuff the Drill Sergeant notices and everyone else fights you the whole way.
To answer some of your questions Mom, we’ve seen very little of the Olympics. We get nothing from the real world. They did tell us about the shooting in Colorado in order to see if any Colorado people needed to call home. Dad sent me a newspaper clipping and technically even that is contraband. There isn’t a break room because there is no break time. The showers/bathroom are almost exactly like high school. We get to clean the bathroom every night while on fireguard. I’ll do the sinks after I read Dad’s letter. Dad, your cards always make my day . . . and my Drill Sergeant’s day. He likes to throw our mail at us, so the cards are his favorite because they get speed and distance.
Well, that was a long letter! Sorry! I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but mostly, I’m just telling you the interesting parts, which happens to be the shitty ones. I do like everything here. I’ll be happy when it is over though!
Miss and love you!