Reception Week

So after (another) long sabbatical, I’ve motivated myself enough to get back on the blogging train and continue reminiscing upon my BCT/OCS/continuing journey. Had a really great e-mail conversation with blog reader, Hoang, and I realized just how much easier it is to write about my experiences when I’m answering specific, guided questions, as opposed to having to pull all of this out of my ass. But, nevertheless, we will persevere.

After covering departure day and the first reception welcoming, I’m going to throw as much info as I can into one post about the rest of reception week. As I previously said, I left on Monday, August 7, and everyone else that filtered in throughout that night became Bravo 1. We all shipped off to our actual training company that Saturday, August 12, so we spent about five days total at reception. You’ll always hear soldiers say the worst part about basic training in reception. To be truthful, I didn’t find reception to be all that bad. Sure, it’s boring. It’s tense. But I found other parts of basic training to be much worse (cough first wakeup in Delta 1-48 cough).

Our saga continues on Tuesday, August 8 at 0345 wakeup. We had 15 minutes the first morning to be formed up outside the bay in our PT uniforms with Camelbak, laundry bag, and shipping paperwork (honestly, I remember that first week always having to carry that damn laundry bag around to carry our shit in, and I don’t remember why that was ever necessary. Literally the paperwork and our Blue Book was pretty much all we ever had so I feel like the laundry bag was just a hazing ritual to make you recognize how lowly you were). The first reception day, I listed the events that took place in my handy-dandy notebook, which included: chow, blood draw, getting our CACs and Eagle Cards for our visit to the PX, vision test, and OCP issue. We were back to our bay by 1800 and the first fire guard shift started at 2100 while new recruits that would make up Bravo 2 started rolling in. Fire guard was somewhat similar to what it would become in basic, but less strenuous (not that it was ever that strenuous…).

Two females volunteered that first day to be bay leaders, and were responsible for creating the fire guard roster as well as keeping tabs on who was arriving and in what bunk. Honestly, there was only supposed to be one bay boss, but for some reason two females really wanted to do it so they were both allowed, and it just created a mess. Note: more hands in the pot is not always better or more helpful. I think I maybe did fire guard twice the entire time I was at reception since there were constantly more females coming in almost every night. Fire guard was super lax in reception, and as long as you stayed awake, there wasn’t much else you were expected to do unless an emergency arose (it never did).

Unfortunately, I literally have no more notes from reception week, but remember fragments here and there. There are obviously medical stations everyone has to complete in order to continue to their training company. There wasn’t any movement in cohorts, and you were allowed to go to whatever station was closest or had the shortest line, but generally the reception DSs would tell you where you needed to be. The civilians and soldiers that work the medical stations aren’t generally very friendly, but that’s because they deal with hundreds of inept, immature recruits every day. Keep your head on, and actually listen to what they say and it doesn’t create an issue.

This is the week you’ll also get your Army issued glasses if needed. You’ll do an eye exam, but as long as you pass them with your current glasses, they’ll just read the prescription on the lenses you brought from home and put some fancy ass black frames on them. Don’t worry, I know ya’ll are concerned that you won’t be provided with a strap that connects the glasses’ temples behind your neck. You will be! And if you want your glasses to actually stay on your face during training, you will wear this strap!

As for the PX trip–you are given a list with mandatory items you must buy. The reception drill sergeants will tell you you NEED to purchase all of the mandatory items for basic and will be checked when you get to your training unit. I brought paper/notebooks from home, so didn’t feel the need to buy a ream of paper that they deemed ‘mandatory’. Basically, if you bring items from home that will suffice, you don’t have to buy everything they tell you to. When you get to the training unit, they’re basically going to check that you have all your issued items as far as OCP/socks/boots go, and that’s it. They don’t care if you bought the 100 pack of blank notebook paper. If you don’t get it and find you need it–that’s on you.

You will, however, be forced to purchase their tennis shoes, so I wouldn’t recommend spending $80 on some new Nikes under the assumption you’ll be able to wear them at basic. Just like everyone else, you’ll be forced to wear whatever the heck colored ASICS they have in your size. For the record–the DS will ask what size shoe you were and hand you a box. If the shoes don’t fit, ask for a new damn size. Don’t suffer with too small/too big shoes just because you’re afraid to ask. (This goes for issued boots, too, but more on that later).

Basic Training Tips n Tricks:

  • You will be expected to sit very closely to one another for very extended periods of time in reception. You can get away with chatting quietly, but eventually, as always happened, quiet chatting turned into more raucous talking, and with 200 people in one room, you’re bound to get screamed at. That part is what it is. Keep your head down and study your Blue Book as much as possible during reception, because that’ll set you up for success later on down the line. There will be other times you’ll be able (and be expected to be) studying during basic, but you are expected to know a lot of information from the Blue Book going into the training unit.
  • If there is letter writing materials you would like, bring it from home. You will have opportunities to buy stamps and super high speed Army logo-ed materials, but don’t waste your money during reception buying all that type of stuff when you can bring it from home. Same goes for pens/pencils/highlighters/shampoo/body wash. They’re not going to make you re-buy mandatory shit that you already have.
  • With that being said: you WILL have to buy a hygiene kit that has an assortment of items in it. Unfortunately, I forget all that’s in there, but I know there is a bar of soap, soap dish, foot powder, and I think a toothbrush and toothpaste? So I wouldn’t bother bringing some of that stuff from home if you can get away without it for a few days before you make the PX trip.
  • FEMALE NOTE: buy the goddamn hair gel! Your options at the PX (at Leonard Wood, at least) are basically Aussie hairspray and Dark and Lovely hair gel. I’m a tiny white girl with thin, relatively short hair, and you bet your ass I bought that black girl hair gel. Sure, I had some jokes directed my way (I didn’t actually realize it was for ethnic hair when I bought it), but you know I had the tamest white girl hair there. The hairspray doesn’t do shit! Don’t waste your money! Just get the gel, for Pete’s sake.




BCT Day 0: Departure Day

Wow. It’s been much too long and I need to get back into the blog game now that BCT and OCS are in the rearview mirror! I’m not going to lie–I’ve been putting off writing anything regarding my training because trying to remember everything comes out as bits and pieces of memory remnants, but the longer I put it off the worse my memories get. Luckily, at least during basic, I brought a composition notebook with me to basic and wrote as much down about each day as I could (between letters), so that helps.

This post is going to focus on the very first day of travel from my home RSP station in Bloomington, Minnesota to Fort Leonard Wood. To say it was a whirlwind of a day would be an understatement. At 0830 everyone leaving for their BCT destinations that was a part of Bloomington RSP met at the armory. We met with the civilian employee in charge of in- and out-processing from RSP who gave us a manila envelope containing all the paperwork we would need at and to get to BCT–our treatment folders from MEPS, plane ticket paperwork, and instructions on where to go once we arrived at our destination. From what I recall, there were two or three others there that were going to BCT, but none of them going to Leonard Wood. We left for MSP airport around 0930 in a cargo van driven by one of the RSP cadre.

What did I bring with me, you ask? That is a great question. Because I don’t remember. I know I brought everything in my NG backpack. I brought my notebook, a cheap book I bought at Target (at that point I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to throw it away as you’re not supposed to have ‘reading materials’ at basic), toiletries to last me the week or so at reception, and the clothes on my back.* Apparently parents/family members were allowed to sit and wait with us until we left for the airport, but I said goodbye to my family before I ever went into the armory. Even at 26, I suck at saying goodbyes, so I made it as short and to the point as I could.

Once we got to the airport and after getting our boarding passes, we were taken to the USO to wait until our flights left. My flight didn’t leave until around 1400, and at the USO I met a few others from Minnesota that were on their way to Leonard Wood (surprisingly, all of us weren’t even on the same flight). We boarded the plane at about 1420 and my trusty notebook tells me the flight was an uneventful 1 1/2 hours. We got to the St. Louis airport at 1630 and our instructions said to go to the airport USO. Now, us being the ripe Privates (ahem, Specialist) that we were, we did not check in with the USO before we went to a legit restaurant to get food. Somehow, we determined the next bus for Leonard Wood departed in 15-20 minutes, had to re-order our food to-go, and hop on the next bus out of town. The bus left at about 1730. We rode on a coach bus and were segregated by sex. There were about eight females that sat in front and an entire bus-full of males behind us. It was about a 2 1/2 hour bus ride from St. Louis to Leonard Wood, and we were free to use our phones as we wanted.

We finally arrived at Fort Leonard Wood around 2000. Let me tell you–I was shaking like a leaf as we got off the bus! For being so old I was sure not any more courageous. We were driven to the reception battalion and found out we were fortunate enough to be the first group of the night to arrive. We were told to get off the bus and form up into separate male and female ranks. We were led into the reception hall and for the next few hours, basically performed administrative tasks to hand in our paperwork, cell phones, and go over what we could and could not bring with us into the barracks. Per my notes (I don’t remember this), there was more/more aggressive yelling than I was prepared for. I do know I was told leading up to basic that the DS’s in reception are pretty lax, and I just recall being a bit surprised by their demeanor. I think I was also just naturally on edge most of the night (I walked into the reception hall literally shaking), so didn’t appreciate the fact that most of their yelling came when people were just in general not following instructions and/or being the 18 year old morons they were. Hint: if you don’t want to be screamed at, don’t be an idiot!

We were assigned to Bravo 1 Company, which would be our designation throughout the entirety of reception. It ends up that everyone assigned to Bravo 1 would be in the same Company once we actually shipped out to basic training. Each individual was also assigned a line number, which was determined literally only by how we formed up outside after getting off the bus. Typically whenever we were in any type of formation in reception, whether going to and from the barracks, lining up for uniform handout, etc., we would form up in line number order. It ended up being a blessing that there were only about 20 females in Bravo 1 because determining our line number order was super easy. We were issued a fair amount of stuff our first night, like our Blue Books, PT uniforms, Camelbak, laundry bags, linens, and wall locker locks. The non-personal items would be turned back in as we left reception and would be reissued at our basic training company.

At about 2200 we were led to our sleeping barracks. Like I previously said, we were lucky enough to be the first group to arrive that night and were shown into an empty bay. We were able to wash up, brush our teeth, and went straight to bed. It was a pretty sleepless night as more groups filtered in throughout the night at intervals of 2-3 hours and turning the light on to unpack their belongings and get to sleep. The last group (bless their hearts) arrived at like 0330 when we had to be up at 0345.

*Female note: I brought Hanes undies that covered your entire ass (like the ones worn to MEPS). I had heard that you’re only supposed to bring white, but didn’t have a problem bringing solid colored ones. I also brought my birth control prescription!! If you’re like me and wanted to stay on your prescription, it’s not that big of a hassle. All the extra work it required was telling the DS’s at reception that you’re on birth control, and they sent me to the hospital with an ‘escort’ (aka a holdover from a previous company), to get my new birth control prescribed. It took a few hours because I was competing with all the band-aids that were in BCT at sick call, but it was worth it for me.*

Obviously I don’t have everything written down in my notebook from every day, and random stories pop into my head that, usually, were terrifying at the time but I’ve learned to laugh at since. In each blog post, I’ve decided to share a random story from basic as well as any tips and tricks I can think of to make your time a success. I’m not going to lie, as foreign as the military world was to me before going to BCT and OCS, I actually did very well in both of them and hope I can help others be da best they can be, too! Without further ado, here’s your:

Legends from Leonard Wood, Installation I:
It was a place where children had forlorn looks on their faces and always had their eyes averted to their feet. It was the place where dreams died and hopes disappeared, never to be heard from again. It was the place we had only heard horror stories of and never dared to enter: it was…the reception DFAC.

In all seriousness, the DFAC was, without a doubt, the worst place to be from day 1 of reception through the last day of basic training. Surprisingly, reception DS’s were at their worst in the DFAC, where they could maneuver about the poor, lost souls of Bravo Company, just trying to figure out what table and what seat was supposed to be taken next. Stop yelling at me, Drill Sergeant! I’m just trying to eat my powdered eggs!

One rule DS’s tried to hit home throughout reception and BCT was fraternization. With how angry higher ups got about fraternization throughout training, I thought it was going to be a much bigger problem than it actually was. Well, to put the fraternizing fear of God into me ASAP, I got the $h!t screamed out of me in reception. I pride myself on not having been yelled at a whole lot at basic (aside from evil DS Medusa, but that’s a story for a different day), but I sure screwed the pooch on day 1.

Our dear Private Pendley, who will be a signature individual in weeks to come, showed up to breakfast with a black PT shirt on under his uniform. Why do you ask? Well, to give you the short answer, because it was Pendley. Quite literally, while eating my powdered eggs in peace, the guy next to me (to this day I don’t even remember who it was), casually leaned over and smugly commented how Pendley was about to get his ass chewed for being an idiot. What did I do to get screamed at? I looked at the dude next to me and smirked. I’m from Minnesota. I’m a generally nice person. I felt the need to acknowledge that yes, in fact, Pendley was about to get his ass chewed for being an idiot.

Well let me tell you, that minuscule one second moment earned me a REAMING from the nearest DS. He hunched over the end of our table, and pointed at me, singling me out. He started on a tirade about fraternizing and the level of offense he took from it. I was so taken aback that I didn’t even realize he was singling out ME until about the third time he asked me if I was listening to him. Oh shit, Drill Sergeant, yes I’m listening: I see you and I hear you when you tell me to, from this point forward, never give 18 year old high schoolers the time of day. ROGER, SARN’T.

That anecdote leads me to your:

Basic Training Tips n Tricks:
Never give 18 year old high schoolers the time of day. Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them, and God forbid you smile at them. For everyone’s benefit, including your own, make like the Minnesota Wild during playoffs and disappear. (AYYY!)