RSP Drill: Red Phase Day 2

As everyone that was lucky enough to be in Minnesota last weekend knows–it was a TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR Sunday morning!

We were to report to the Bloomington armory by 0730 again on Sunday and formation was again at 0800. We initially formed up into our Red Phase platoon before the 1SG dispersed us into our home platoons (First through Fourth). We were under the direction of familiar faces from the recruiting office on Sunday which was nice–always a positive to be taking direction from people you already know. The original plan was to start a nine mile ruck march at 0930, however while waiting in our platoons for that time to roll around, the rain started. And didn’t stop.

We passed the time by getting our uniforms (only the Red Phasers in Fourth PLT got our ACUs and PT-wear because I asked my recruiter ever-so-nicely and luckily…he let us!), and practicing some camouflaging techniques by painting some poor other chap’s face (my drill BFF/battle buddy Hannah and I, as well as most other girls in Fourth PLT, got out of actually having to paint our faces). At about 1030 we had our MRE lunch while still waiting to hear if we were still planning on doing the ruck march or if we would somehow get to go home…

No such luck. After moooooore waiting, Fourth PLT piled into three minivans (somehow….I still cannot figure out how 38 people fit into three vehicles but that’s neither here nor there), and drove to a nearby public trail for our march. The term ruck march is a little misleading considering (1) most of us didn’t even have rucks, and (2) somehow we got fooled into doing sprints/light jog along the way. We began with about a half a mile walk before performing some drill in which we crawled up a hillside in groups of seven while sustaining “gunfire” in the form of one recruit at the top of the hill yelling “bang bang” at the rest of us. Plot twist though: once finishing the drill and walking back down the hill, my new friend Jake and I happened across a ‘sniper’ laying in the brush RIGHT in front of us that we had NO CLUE was there. Clearly we have a lot to learn!

The only other ‘drill’ we did during the march was stopping at a crossroads in the trail and learning to pull security by lining up next to one another and yelling at the group when there was a runner or walker coming down the trail. Somehow I don’t think I particularly did that part right but, not gonna lie, it was at least partly entertaining watching civilians very awkwardly continue their run through a bunch of 20 year olds in ACUs with their arms up pretending to hold a rifle.

The rest of the march/run was uneventful but so much fun. In the moment, every time our cadre would start up a sprint again, I would dread it because I’m sweating my @$$ off in heavy ACUs and I can’t feel my left toes and how much longer is this going to go on?!?! Some females fell out of the sprints early on. Hannah and I persevered. I was smelly and sweaty and miserable. Once we got back to the armory I was ecstatic. It was the first semi-Army thing I had done all weekend and it was so much fun!

Overall my first RSP drill was a mixed bag. After Saturday my dad asked if I was ready to do that again every month for the next six years and I…was not. Saturday was long, boring, more boring, and more long. Sunday, while still dull at time because of the wait, was so much fun. I understand not all drilling weekends we’ll get to go out on nine mile ruck marches, but it was the perfect balance between challenging myself and knowing I could accomplish what we were set out to do.

And God bless Jake–I lost my waterbottle while trying to climb up that gd hill on our stomachs and was dying in the humidity and mosquitoes and runs. The saint found it on our way back and for that I am forever grateful.

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Hannah and me following our ruck march–look at those dirty boots!
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A brand new cap fashioned with a Specialist pin that my recruiter/cadre personally hunted for

RSP Drill: Red Phase Day 1

I survived my first official National Guard drilling weekend!

Recruits that have sworn in at MEPS but haven’t gone to basic training yet drill as a part of RSP (recruit sustainment program). Alternatively, I found there’s a lot of high school students that split their basic training and AIT schooling, so they will go to basic during the summer of one year, return back to high school from September to June, and then go to AIT the following summer. This means they drill as a part of RSP every month while in school since they haven’t completely finished their training yet.

I received a newsletter via e-mail the Friday the weekend prior to drill weekend from the RSP Readiness NCO in Bloomington. RSP in Bloomington housed platoons from the Brooklyn Park (Fourth PLT), Minneapolis (Third PLT), Chanhassen (First PLT), and Bloomington (Second PLT) recruiting sites. To begin drill weekend, I was a recruit that was not directly a part of Fourth PLT despite the fact my leadership is out of Brooklyn Park. Because this weekend was my first RSP drill, I, along with a handful of other recruits, were in ‘Red Phase’. Red Phase simply means that we are recruits attending our first drill. Phases progress to white phase (recruits that have previously drilled but not yet gone to basic), blue, green, and gold phases. Honestly, I don’t remember what the other colors designate because they won’t apply to my situation.

I think the easiest way to detail my time this weekend is to present it in time table form with each activity…either for inquiring minds to or for others anxiously awaiting their first RSP drill to have a very shallow base to judge what will happen upon. As I began writing this all, I realized this was turning into a GIANT megapost, so beware, it is lengthy!

Saturday, June 10, 2017:

0730: Recruits were to report to the Bloomington armory by 0730, and formation was to begin at 0800. I arrived about ten minutes early with my MN National Guard backpack I received after swearing in containing the items we were told to bring in the newsletter (water bottle, notebook, black pen, and a change of clothes similar to our reporting uniform). Because new recruits do not have uniforms (PT or ACU), we were told to arrive in civilian jogging pants or shorts, tennis shoes, calf length white socks without logos showing, and a plain T-shirt or sweatshirt. I went to Walmart the day before drill and bought around knee-length black jersey shorts (literally $3 in the little girls section) and three short sleeve crew neck shirts (I think similar to these; BUYER BEWARE: I bought one in light gray, dark gray and white–they were a bit see through so I work the dark gray but wouldn’t have felt comfortable wearing either of the lighter two colors; they were also a bit form fitting [normally I’m an XS/S and bought S]. I thought the fittedness might be an issue for others but no one said anything, however I would recommend wearing a baggier shirt. Regular cotton t-shirts with logos of any sort seemed to be fine). I also got a pack of these Hanes crew socks from Target that I figure (hope) can be used at basic training as well. I wore my hair in a higher bun (my hair is very fine and short so it was akin to a tiny sumo wrestler bun), and no one seemed to particularly care about hairstyles as one girl had one of those giant fan type buns on top of her head and no one said anything. White phase females in uniform all seemed to have the typical low bun style, though.

I was very apprehensive about what to expect during RSP drills since I truly had no clue. There was a check-in table right inside the armory with RSP’ers (I think?) checking recruits in. With absolutely no direction, I gleaned we were gathering in the gymnasium where recruits continued to file in.

0800: Formation began at 0800 where recruits formed up into their platoons. Again, being a Red Phaser, we had absolutely no clue what to do or where to go. I think my least favorite/most difficult part of the weekend was formation on Saturday because we had absolutely no guidance. Luckily, a White Phase recruit told myself and another girl that Red Phase forms up on the other side of the gym, so we all herded to the opposite side.

While it wasn’t a huge deal to have to figure out how formation works as you go, I definitely did not like being utterly confused and useless. Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad I’m learning this all now instead of trying to figure all of this out for the first time at basic training, but I hate going into things blind, especially when others know what they’re doing but don’t feel the need to help those that don’t know what’s going on. Ultimately, is it that big of a deal? No, but first formation on Saturday of Red Phase drill is definitely where I feel the biggest improvement could be made. It wouldn’t be that difficult to have a group of White Phasers spend 10-15 minutes with Red Phasers between reporting and formation to give a rundown of what was about to happen.

Nevertheless, I found myself in the front of our platoon of about 12, and as sure as shit, five minutes into formation I hear vomiting behind me. Thank GOD, he was in the back and I didn’t get any splash back–my new 17 year old friend Hannah was not so lucky and had to spend the rest of the day in vomit splattered socks. Otherwise, formation is basically just your First Sergeant giving a rundown of the day, inviting recruits up that have been promoted, and making us yell “Whoop” in agreement to whatever he’s saying.

OPAT: Following formation, Red Phasers took the OPAT physical test while everyone else took their APFT (this WAS a 2-2-2). The only things that threw me relatively off about the OPAT was (1) the shuttle run/pacer test started off much faster than I was anticipating. I didn’t so as well on that as I would have hoped, and (2) the SPC that set up the deadlift didn’t set up the bar right and had about 200 lbs weight. None of us except one male could lift the damn thing before the SSG from Second PLT said something about him not taking the 45 lbs of the bar itself into account. Problem was fixed, and we all lifted the minimum 120 lb, but didn’t get a chance to attempt lifting any more, so I’m not completely sure if that impacts our scores or not.

Overall I don’t particularly feel the OPAT was conducted very well either. From what I had read, recruits should get 2-3 attempts performing the long jump and medicine ball throw before actually conducting their 3 test attempts. We didn’t get any of that, and it wasn’t until my third medicine ball throw that I found a better way for me to throw it. I’m fairly certain I met the minimums on everything except the shuttle run and it won’t negatively impact me.

1000-1600: The rest of the day we sat around in a classroom and listened to some introductory material–truly it was very dull. I had my first MRE (cinnamon beef patty?) and went through some very brief presentations on sexual harassment, suicide prevention, etc. We learned some rank structures that, surprise, we would be quizzed on in order to receive our lunch. We had a small panel of Gold Phasers come in that we could ask specific questions about their experiences in basic training and AIT (Gold Phase is one last RSP drill after individuals return from completing both BCT and AIT and are awaiting assignment to their unit). This was sort of helpful except that there was one female out of the 7-8 individuals and she frequently didn’t get a word in edgewise.

Our last activity of the day (which was actually helpful) before going to end of the day formation was learning basic marching movements (right face and about face). It seemed like it was the first practical thing we were learning (aside from rank structure) that would immediately benefit us. Sadly, we were told in the classroom since all of us in Red Phase were leaving within the next two months we wouldn’t be issued uniforms (but that would all change day two…..heh).

1600: Final formation was back in the gym at 1600. It was the same process as at 0800 except that the First Sergeant spent his time recapping the day. Red Phasers were still a bit out of order and couldn’t quite figure things out. Overall, my impression of day one was not extremely glowing. I met a couple really wonderful girls in Red Phase, both of which are in Fourth PLT as well, but the day was very long and pretty monotonous. I understand they couldn’t throw us in to what White Phasers were doing right away, but I think a tiny amount of guidance as to what to expect when we were in a group would have been super helpful.

As I finish day one, I’ve realized this is already way too long to continue detailing day two in the same post, so I will save that for another day.