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The latest letter from Amanda is 14-pages long so I will share the letter with you in installments.

Put on your “Full Battle Rattle” for this one!

Letter Ten Dated August 19, 2012 ~ Part 1

Hola Rental Units!

OMG! I’ve been so busy!

Let’s start with Monday. We woke up at the normal time, 5 am, and did an Ability Group Run (AGR). We ran 3 miles in 24 minutes. It’s not too fast or far from what I’ve done in the past, but for some reason, it killed us all. Especially those with injuries. Maybe it is because we are running in formation.

After the AGR, we put on our “Full Battle Rattle” (bulletproof vest, load-bearing vest, Army combat helmet, assault pack, and Camelback) and marched to the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) where we practiced firing with everything on. While we waited for our turn, we had “Concurrent Training.” That is where we practice what we will be doing later that week. We all hate Concurrent Training. It feels repetitive and pointless. We understand that “practice makes perfect,” but Concurrent Training is like fake practicing considering the real training is the real practice for battle. It is like you have your soccer game (battle), practices (training), moving like you’re going to kick the ball when you don’t have a ball (Concurrent Training).

Now that everyone has formed cliques and made friendships, Concurrent Training is also where we get yelled at more because it is so much more tempting to talk and f**k off. Luckily we didn’t have to do a lot of the crawling in the sand bullshit I was dreading because it was a Heat Cat V. Well, everyday is Heat Cat V, but that day it felt like Heat Cat XXV. We had to march back in that disgusting heat.

I took the bus to the hospital to reload my pain meds for my ankle. Now that my ankle is starting to feel better, I can stay with the main group during AGRs. I rarely find an occasion where I need to take the pain meds 3x a day. They make me sleepy and a little out of it. Plus, unless it is a big physical day (i.e., road march, AGR, etc.), then I’m just loading myself up on them and they don’t really do the trick when I need them.

There are two people here with horrible injuries and they are afraid to go to the hospital this late in the game. You don’t get to Week 7 and fall out. One has a knee injury and we are pretty sure it is torn. The other has hip pain. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but at Fort Jackson it is standard when there is a hip complaint to immediately be put on crutches and have a bone scan in case of stress fractures. So, I’ve been saving my meds away like you store food for a bad winter. Also, I save them for big events, like for our final Physical Training test next Saturday (Already! Can you believe it?)

Monday ended with dinner chow, mail call, shower time, and bed because Tuesday was going to be a hell of a day.

Tuesday we had Muscle Failure Physical Training and Advanced Rifle Marksmanship (ARM), which includes shooting at close range while moving like what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan now. Basic Rifle Training (BRT) is just prone and kneeling position while firing at pop-up targets anywhere from 50 – 300 meters away. Both have their challenges. BRM takes a lot more skill shooting-wise. Trigger squeeze, breath, aim. All that can f**k up your shot. In ARM however, you quickly lift your weapon and shoot. But because you are in full gear and moving, it is much more physically exhausting. It is pretty fun though. We were using laser sights so you never miss. You can’t help but feel badass.

English: Soldier wearing night vision goggles.

Not Amanda wearing night vision goggles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Later that night, once it got dark, we shot wearing Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) and infrared lasers. That was really cool too. Those things are amazing. Hard to get used to though because you have no peripheral vision, so you feel clumsy walking around. Or, maybe you just feel hammered. 

Oh, this day we were shooting M-4s. The M-4 has a smaller barrel so it weights a little less by itself, but we had the lasers and close combat optics mounted on it, making it heavier. Supposedly, the M-16 only weights 7 pounds, but when you are getting smoked holding it above your head for 30 minutes, it feels more like 75 pounds.

The only problem with using all this badass equipment was we only have 30 lanes set-up during the day and 10 lanes at night. We have more than 10 NVGs but when you have a bunch of brand-new shooters firing live rounds in the dark, you want to have plenty of safety, so each lane needed a Drill Sergeant.  So, while we waited, we did more Concurrent Training. Awesome.

However, next week is grenade throwing so that was one of our Concurrent Training stations. I was in charge of the grenade section seeing as I’m the only one who has actually thrown live grenades. God, that felt good. I honestly love teaching. Absolutely no one wants to be a Drill Sergeant because it sucks. You have to deal with dumbass Privates, repeat yourself over and over, and you work way longer hours than any other non-deployed soldier. But (and this is something I would never tell my Platoon or Drill Sergeant), part of me thinks I would enjoy the job in the future. It was a lot of fun. People actually enjoyed my lane because I made games of it and used analogies to explain procedures. I explained why we do each step so everyone understood it, instead of just blindly obeying orders and following like cows in a herd.

All that made for an epic-long-day. You can’t shoot with NVGs until it is dark so that didn’t start until 2100 (9:00 for you civilians), which is normally lights-out. People were on the range until midnight. Then, we loaded on a bus and moved to a second range where we were to sleep until 3 am and then do more shooting in the dark. Since we were only getting a few hours of sleep, I didn’t bother with my sleeping bag. I just took out my poncho, laid down on it, and passed out. 3 am rolls around and fire guard wakes everyone up. We all packed up and start personal hygiene. I got a battle buddy to come with me to the use the latrine. The bathroom felt like it was a mile away because I was so tired, but it was probably just a football field. I got back and no other Platoon was moving and no Drill Sergeant in sight. We all passed out again.  My poncho was packed-up so I just curled up on the ant-infested sand they have in South Carolina. Drill Sergeants didn’t wake us up until 0615!!! We were all so pissed and confused as to what was going on. Apparently, that night, the Drill Sergeant figured rushing to get night shooting done at 3 am with Privates who had no sleep wasn’t smart. So, they changed back to normal wake-up time. They just forgot to tell us. Cool.

Oh, I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the week they chose a Platoon Guide, Assistant Platoon Guide, and 4 Squad Leaders. I wasn’t picked. I was kinda shocked and disappointed in myself. A lot of people were surprised. I have no idea why I wasn’t picked. It could be because I already have a lot of responsibilities. Could be because they are given to people they want to see more from, or it could be because I have been slipping recently. I don’t know why I have. I’ve just been exhausted and frustrated with everyone so I’ve learned to pick my battles, like when it is important to square people away. I’m just so sick of people who don’t know what they are doing telling me what to do, so I’ve been kinda ignoring people. That way, I don’t go ape shit on someone and get kicked out.

So yeah, we had two long-ass days in the field on the shooting range. Lots of fun, but like I said, exhausting, It is hot, the gear is heavy, your back and shoulders ache, neck hurts, and your constantly soaking wet with sweat. That means every time you sit, are in the prone, kneeling, or whatever, that sand sticks to your uniform and rubs in all the worst spots. It is crazy. Oh, and the smell!! OMG!! Horrible!!

Anyone else exhausted after reading what Amanda is going through? What the hell is “Muscle Failure Physical Training?”

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