BCT Week 1, Day 1: The Shark Attack

There’s a lot of gears working around these parts these days, switching from tales from basic training, to the shitty days at OCS, some rare ABOLC stories, and posts completely unrelated to military life. Well hold onto your boots, because we’re traveling back in time to Fort Leonard Wood. Completely unbeknownst to me until this moment, almost a year to the day ago, it was Saturday of reception week. This was the day we were (dreading) waiting for: the transition from reception battalion to our new home–Delta Company of 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment. Here are our (my) stories.

This blog post comes to you in its entirety from my BCT handwritten journal, completely unedited and raw. Additions I felt necessary to add to my notes are in bold:

“Saturday we left reception at 1330. We brought our bags to the formation overhang and one of the reception drill sergeants did an accountability headcount alongside the Delta Company 1SG (First Sergeant–shout out to 1SG Lopez). Headcount formation essentially involved standing in a snaked line, holding your CAC and dog tags out so 1SG can come around and verify you’re squared away (and the photographers that will tag along with your company throughout the cycle can take pictures of your sweaty, fearful faces). We put all of our black duffel bags that had our personal items into the back of a truck and our green duffel bags containing our uniforms and military-issued items we carried with us onto a school bus. The truck carrying our black bags would meet us at our eventual company footprint, but best believe that our two green duffel bags would suffice in weight. 

I was unlucky enough to have to stand in the aisle of the bus with my bag, which was about a 10 minute ride. This was the first taste of drill sergeant life, as right when we got on the bus, one female drill sergeant was already beginning the yelling. The way seating works is that two individuals are squeezed into each seat and essentially the fifth individual is forsaken to the aisle where you are sandwiched between the person behind you and person in front of you in efforts to cram as many traumatized privates onto a bus as possible. Once at our new company, we had to run off the bus onto our company’s drill pad and do exercises. The whole thing was awful and kind of traumatic because…

Before I continue this installment, let me preface this next story by saying, looking back on it, it was HILARIOUS. At the time..not so much, but as with most of these recollections, they get better with age.

…I fell running from the bus, and while I was trying to get up got rammed in the back by another kid behind me. He was almost going to try to help me up, but the drill sergeants screaming at us told him not to help me (like really, that shit probably happens to new privates ALL the time, but I can’t imagine how funny me falling and then, while attempting to regain any sort of self-esteem, THERE SHE GOES AGAIN FROM THE REAR!). The whole thing sucked most because they wouldn’t let us use the shoulder straps on the duffel bags, so we had to run and bear hug the bags which was difficult for small people. (I still feel this is especially true. Those duffel bags were chock FULL of shit, and while they were heavy, what made carrying and running them so difficult was because my hands didn’t reach all the way around the bag, making having any sort of grip difficult. I ended up towards the rear getting to the drill pad, not only because of my dramatic fall, but because I was trying to haul ass with a bag I couldn’t get a handle on. This is just a lesson in embracing the suck early on.) 

So the whole “shark attack” scenario was pretty demoralizing and just as hard as everyone makes it sound. My mindset was only to get through it. Even when I couldn’t do certain things (like lifting the bag over our heads), and they were screaming in your face how weak and useless you were, I just knew it would eventually end, whether I was able to do it or not.

This is the end of what I have written for the shark attack itself. Looking back on it, there are some other things I want to mention that I hadn’t written. Firstly, I think that mindset I had written at the end was a good way to approach things. Ultimately, we were lucky because we arrived in peak summer conditions, so our shark attack only lasted about 20 minutes. Drill sergeants ended up separating people based on where they were in the grouping to arrive to the drill pad and whether they could perform the exercises or not. I arrived relatively late, and although I started with the first formation, once I couldn’t lift the bag over my head once, I was relegated to the back where you really just…do not want to be. 

I wouldn’t say I arrived to Leonard Wood weak by any means. I worked on my running, push ups and sit ups prior to shipping out because I knew those were the things I was going to have to perform. However, I have never been good under pressure and being berated for existing took things to a whole new level. So sure, those duffel bags were probably 50-60 lbs, but God knows that was enough for me to get the bag to about my stomach. I think once I got it to my shoulders. At one point, I had, who would turn out to be one of our drill sergeants, lift my bag over my head for me, scream in my face to keep it there, upon which I immediately dropped it when he let go. It truly is what it is, and the focus on survival is real.

We were separated into platoons based on only last names. Everyone that shipped on Saturday from Bravo 1 at reception was in Delta Company, split into first, second and third platoons. First platoon is made up of only males and was the beginning of the alphabet. Second platoon was the middle of the alphabet for males and the first half of the female names, and third platoon was the rest of the males and females from the end of the alphabet. Our platoon was lucky as far as females go, because all four Specialists from Bravo 1 ended up in 2nd PLT. We mostly get along well so far but that could change (LOL).

Basic Training Tips n Tricks:

  • I went into basic training as a Specialist (E-4) because I already had a four year degree. As I previously mentioned, there were a fair few of us, and a couple of 09S (MOS is an Officer Candidate), as well. Before I shipped out, I head briefly heard of individuals that chose not to wear their Specialist rank the entirety of basic training to avoid being a direct target for drill sergeants. My experience with that (YMMV), I wore my rank and wouldn’t have done it differently. That initial day, I do feel like I was targeted more by the drill sergeants (specifically the females, but that was probably just because I was a female) for being an E-4 (I know that because they brought my rank into their insults). However, later down the line I think I garnered a little more respect from them because they knew I was older and a bit more mature than some of my enlisted counterparts.
  • Prepare for a culture shock the first few weeks of basic training (especially once you’ve reached your actual company). Wake-ups are early, loud, and traumatizing for a good month, and you spend a lot of time standing around outside. I didn’t realize just how much time we wasted standing in formation outside during basic training until I looked back on it and realize how little time I stand around outside in formation now. That part just kind of comes with being in basic training and learning to #EmbracetheSuck.
  • Drill sergeants are a dime a dozen. In general, I ended up liking most of the drill sergeants in our company. Female drill sergeants just feel like they have something to prove, and you will learn to respect them but probably won’t ever like them. Aside from that, like I previously mentioned, I feel like I actually ended up with mutual respect from quite a few of the male drill sergeants, both within and outside our platoon. Each one of them has their role to play and they usually know how to do it well. Your platoon will have your senior drill sergeant, and (based on my experience) supplemented with 2 other drill sergeants. Our platoon actually ended up with a bit of a cluster because we also were the home to two drill sergeants in training and we had a couple come through our company for 2 weeks that were in the Reserve/NG component. We saw our senior drill sergeant a ton at the beginning, but as the cycle wore on, saw him less and less. Our female drill sergeant was on her last cycle and working on PCSing to her next unit, so we saw her a lot at the beginning and the end but not a whole lot in the middle (thank God). That left our male drill sergeant and training drill sergeants, who were there with us pretty much every day. My stint as PG is a tale for another day, but I learned that depending on what your drill sergeants think of you will have a major effect on your success as PG.

I’m going to try to take the rest of the cycle in bigger chunks since there are fewer big events that require longer posts, and more general feelings/takeaways from my time. P.S. to my basic training comrades reading, please help a girl out and send some funny stories my way! I have a couple to include in later posts, but I feel like I’ve suppressed a lot of my memories from early on in the cycle and could use your stories!