Monday, May 31, 2010

In the Army at 17

I joined the military in 1984. I was 17 years old.
It was a special program called the "split-training" option.
You went to boot camp (basic training) during the summer between your junior and senior years of high school.
You came back home, went to a year of Reserve drills during your senior year of High School.
Then after graduation, you went to your Advanced Training (MOS) the next summer.

I don't think the program was really ever that popular, but it still exists.
Not too many teenagers want to spend their summer doing military training.

My memories of it were ...... that it was hard as hell.
Most of the other soldiers were 22 or 24 years old.
In the physical combat drills, I remember getting my ass kicked a lot just because the other guys in my unit were older, bigger, and more physically mature than I was.
I was so young, I didn't even have to shave.

But, the experience did make me quite tough.
If I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn't go.
I was pretty miserable. I could have flipped burgers all summer and joined at some other time.
But like all who have served, I would say that I'm glad I did it.

Waking up at 5 a.m. Hundreds of push-ups, jumping jacks.
Forced road marches with heavy gear.
Laying in burning hot sand at the rifle range.
Sleeping in the woods, battling the heat, insects and snakes.
Walking around with gas masks on and preparing for chemical attacks.

Those experiences weren't fun, but there were good parts, too.

Firing a 5o caliber machine gun. Throwing a real, live hand grenade.
Setting off Claymore anti-personnel land mines. Firing an anti-tank weapon.
Winning the company shooting competition and getting an awesome helicopter ride as a reward.

Good to know that if the Russians or Chinese come calling, we will be ready for them.

Here are some photos.

Delta Company - 10th Battalion -- 1st Brigade -- 2nd Platoon
We had these cool dark blue t-shirts with crossed rifles emblem we wore for physical training (PT).

I'm the guy in the middle of this photo... looking kind of miserable.
It's difficult to believe I was ever that skinny.

This photo was taken in the woods somewhere near Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
My unit was on maneuvers and sleeping out in the woods overnight and doing training during the day.
It was hot, steamy, and generally unpleasant weather.
We all had our camouflage jackets off, and I had rolled up my pants legs because it was hot.
I have my rifle balanced on my legs to keep it out of the dirt -- so that I didn't have to clean it again.
I'm eating what they call an MRE - Meal Ready To Eat. It comes in a brown plastic bag.
You add water to a few items to eat them. It's not fine dining, but it keeps you going.
This is actually one of my favorite photos of myself.

Here's a photo of me trying to explain to one of the NCOs why I am taking my high school football jersey with me in the baggage we are packing to go on the REFORGER mission in Germany. They didn't like my explanation... and the jersey did not get to go.