6 You’re in the Army Now! February 27, 2008

You’re in the Army Now! February 27, 2008

On Thursday January 13th, my flight from Memphis arrived at the small Columbia, SC airport. We caught a bus out to the S.C. National Guard training facility at remote Camp MacCreedy on the Fort Jackson military reservation. This was the start of 3 weeks of Navy Combat training. The Boot Camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina has been the home of many a recruit and buck private and suddenly it was being invaded by the Navy.

I was in the Individual Augmentee (IA) bow-wave. The war had begun to stretch the limits of the Army’s man-power pool and disrupt the ability to maintain a decent recall interval for US Army Reserve (USAR) and US National Guard (USNG) soldiers. The Navy had agreed to supply thousands of Sailors to the Army for training and deployment to fill critical IA gaps in battle rosters of Army combat units. I was in that initial mobilization call-up and arrived at Fort Jackson one week after the Navy’s new ground combat school had opened its doors.

The concept was simple. By using long time active and reserve component Sailors, the Army could dramatically shorten the normal boot-camp training regimen. With a sword as sharp as a katana, the curriculum was slashed to the bare minimum with nearly a 100% focus on combat skills. The Army assigned a highly experienced Drill Instructor (DI) cadre to lead our transformation. All of these NCOs had combat experience and where reservists themselves. The week before a group of Sailors had been routed to Jackson for gear issue and some training. Mine was the actual first class and it would be used to measure program success. By the time I got home, over 6,000 Sailors had steamed in our wake and today it remains the primary Navy Combat School.

Five of us had arrived on the plane from Millington – three enlisted Sailors, a Captain (O-6), and me. We were logged in, issued linens, and taken to quarters for the night. The Captain and I were moved into the nearly full officer barracks. This was an open bay affair with bunk-beds for 100. The group before us was sleeping fretfully. Their last day of training was just hours away. I hunted around until I found an open rack and locker. It is always a challenge to make a top rack with a flashlight in your mouth while you avoid disturbing others.

I had never slept in an open barracks while in the military. I was used to sleeping in close quarters on large Boy Scout outings. At OCS, I shared a 4-man room with one other candidate. When I went to Officer Indoctrination a few years later, I had a private BOQ room, At-Sea I had generally shared a state room with a few others and now rated private quarters due to my rank. I could tell that the Army did things differently. Sleeping with nearly a hundred others would take some experience.

I eased into the rack hungry for sleep, but I was so tired and keyed-up that it eluded me. Too much was going on for my mind to settle down. This was one of the few uncomfortable nights during the entirety of my mobilization. To me this was surreal; you see I am a professional sleeper. I have the ability to fall asleep anytime and anywhere when I desire it, but not that night.

It is important to also know that due to my mobilization, I was going to miss the Summer Olympics. I compete in the Heavy Weight Snoring Division. I can cut some “Z”s. My call-sign in the Navy had been “Chainsaw”, actually “Hollywood Chainsaw”, but that is another story.

Eventually, I drifted off and I am sure that others suddenly wondered what had happened to their peaceful slumber. The Captain was racked out next to me. Although not a professional, he definitely was also making a lasting impression.

At 0400 the barracks light came on and I awoke to a cursing Sailor two racks down. He was lamenting the monster that had moved into his barracks. I ignored him as the majority of the occupants rolled out to meet their smiling DI. I drifted back into blissful slumber since the new arrivals got to sleep in until 0600. After chow, I met my new barracks mates and we knocked around the rest of the day. The other class was almost done. They had one more hard day, a last 48 hours of liberty, and would begin to ship out by Sunday.

We spent Friday and Saturday meeting our classmates and helping them to get situated into the barracks. On Sunday, the other class made it back from Liberty and started to leave. Unfortunately, the charming curser was such a friendly chap that he had no one to visit. He was gone only one night and got to stick around for four more joy filled days. I no doubt tortured his nights, by night three he woke me up whenever I snored and threatened bodily harm. Something about sticking a knife in me. I told him it was Okay if he woke me up whenever I was too loud. I was gentleman, he was not. To no avail, my crescendo took away his peace and his sanity. I am sure he was glad to leave for the quiet of the war-zone. A few more snorers moved into the barracks and the Captain moved out. Every night we played a sonorous symphony for the rest of our stay with no complaints.

During the rest of my mobilization, I made a point of warning nearby sleepers that I could raise the roof. With only a few exceptions (to be related later) most just laughed at the prodigious abilities of my nose.

After two days of waiting, Sunday arrived and all the fun began. More on that next time.

This photo is of my training section with our MILES gear on and full kit. To my right in the photo is a Naval NFO Captain who was mobilized to lead the PRT efforts in Afghanistan. To my left are a Navy Medical Service Corps officer (headed to a remote FOB) and a Navy Civil Engineering Corps (CEC) officer headed to lead reconstruction teams, both in Afghanistan.

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