Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

Free time for me has been limited the past few months. It was nonexistent at BCT. Then at Fort Benning it was limited to the weekends and a few hours in the evening where I was able to get online and watch tv and movies on netflix. And Fort Leonard Wood?? A pass on the weekends but still had various formations during the day. But here at Goodfellow? Free free free weekends. I actually was able to watch an ENTIRE hockey game last night. Go Bruins! I even picked the winning team. It was awesome to just kick back with my fellow OC's that are also going the firefighter route after leaving the lovely accomodations of Fort Benning HHC.

Now if only the weather would be accomodating...100+ temperatures are not for the ginger. So I've taken to spending time indoors when capable. Today's its meant time in the room rewatching Six Feet Under (which I will thank Sara Baldwin, one of my friends from the years spent at MBC, who introduced me to the program) and now surfing the internet at the library. I also have completed about half of Nicholas Sparks' book Last Song, I will say that the book is much more enjoyable less Miley Cyrus...she killed me in the movie that I believe I watched at Girls Night at Janelle's...

Tomorrow, more of the same and again on Monday...but TUESDAY it all begins.

Everyone enjoy your holiday weekend. Be safe and don't forget why we have this weekend. Remember all of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, soldiers both past and present, retired and active duty, reserves, guard, all of us. Freedom doesn't come free.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Catch Up

So many people have been keeping up with me the past few months, whether it be through the numerous letters I received during my time at BCT (Basic Combat Training), the few times I was able to update my facebook (moreso lately) or through the family members I have spoken to and kept abreast of what has happened. So many in fact that after viewing various blogs that my friends are doing I thought that this would be the best way to keep everyone up to date. Now I make no promises as to how often this will be updated, class does start on Tuesday and it will be time to buckle down and get it done so I can get out of here and on to bigger and better things, but I do promise to make an honest try at this blog thing.

To date: I started my military journey over a year ago going through the process of becoming an OCS (Officer Candidate School) of you know about the hoops I had to jump through, the numerous trips to Richmond, the board I subjected myself to while having strep throat I later found out...the waiting game, all of it I thought would be worth my pain and suffering when on Feb 1st, 2011 I began my actual journey with a trip to BCT at Fort Jackson, SC.

I'm not going to say it was the easiest thing I've ever done, the 20 lbs I left behind in SC are proof of that, but all in all over a month past graduation looking back it wasn't bad. My advice to anyone going into the Army, if you can go to Fort Jackson for BCT. They don't call it Relaxin' in Jackson for nothing.

Honestly I gained a lot from my time there. I was around people that in my life I would have never chosen to be around, people whose paths I would have never crossed in small town Virginia, people who I am blessed to now call my Battles. My life is better for it. It had its physical moments, the last FTX in particular pushed me, there were moments when I really doubted my own strength, but thanks to amazing battle buddies we all made it through. We graduated. I also thank the DS's our platoon was forunate to have. All three of them made a positive impact on my life in different ways. DS Johnson's ability to read people was amazing. He took an interest in those under him and knew exactly which ones needed a push to strive towards bettering themselves, even when they didn't really think they wanted betterment. DS Smith's drive kept all of us on the top of our game in fear of a "karate chop to the throat". And DS Ellis, without his perservance and patience I would not have qualified with that blasted M16 which I downright loathed the week of qualification.

My time at basic wasn't without some rough spots and some tears. Honestly the tears that fell really had nothing to do with basic itself, but all that went on at home while I was gone. There are those people you are blessed to have in your life, the ones you call your best friends. People that know you so much better than you know yourself. I have a few that fit that description in my life, but without a doubt the most important one is my grandfather. Anyone that knows me knows how much that man means to me. Nothing happens that I don't tell him and prior to joining the Army I would see or speak to him just about everyday. Leaving home wasn't as hard as leaving him. That I believe was one of the only moments I cried when leaving and I'll always remember the way he looked at me when he said "You're not crying are you?" The crinkle of a smile in the corners of his eyes. I had to laugh. He's my best friend.

Well around the time I was battling with that blasted weapon and BRM, that's when it all went down at home. We were still yet to receive phone priviledges and I was relying on the trusty postal service to deliver all communication from me to my family and friends. I'll be honest I hadn't bought stamps in YEARS!!! Well I get a letter from my grandmother that says that Gramps is in the hospital, a possible heart attack. I cried...right there in the classroom where I opened my letter, face in my dirty SC sand coated hands. Not a bawling cry, but tears escaping my eyes. I knew joining the Army there was the possibility of things taking place at home beyond my control that I might miss, but something of this caliber while still at basic hadn't even dawned on me. So I waited a day or so for a follow up letter with more information, but that letter didn't come. I then still not having access to the phone, wrote a couple frantic letters to my mom and my aunt desperate for information. About the same day those were turned in at mail call in the morning, another letter came from my grandmother down playing all that had taken place and assuring me that he would be fine. I was put somewhat at ease and relaxed enough to survive BRM with the help as mentioned above of DS Ellis's patience.

Not 2 days later though our DS calls me out of formation along with a battle to meet with the Company Commander. Can we say scared? My goal at basic was to fly under the radar, not do anything I wasn't supposed to, be where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there, and in the right uniform with the right equipment. Easy enough right? But there I was getting called into the Cpt's office. I report and there sits 1st Sgt. with the Cpt. and in his hand is a Red Cross notification. My heart hit the floor. The Red Cross part of our in processing I had heard but had thought I would have no use of it while at basic. WRONG! The notice was from my mom telling me Gramps had had quadruple bipass surgery. I held it together in the office, no tears right? Because this is the Army and I'd be damned if I let the commander and 1st Sgt see me cry. That's not flying under the radar. I was granted phone privileges that day. Called and spoke to my Gramps who sounded wore slam out and rightfully so, but it was him and his voice put me at ease more than words can describe.

Apart from that I survived basic and graduated on that bright and sunny day April 14th, with my mom, Spensir, Josh, Kristie and Mary B. in attendance. Next stop was Fort Benning, GA for that OCS spot I had worked so hard and endured so much for. It was the day we were to ship, while waiting for the bus to take us the 6 hours to our next spot that it was told to us that the PT cutoff was insane to make it in. And that is when the dread hit. My best PT score at basic was a solid 222. Army standards require a 180 (60% in all three categories) to pass. I was well above that, but in comparison to the ridiculous scores others put up I was subpar. So started the longest weekend of my Army career so far. I was a nervous wreck, sick to my stomach, unable to eat, unable to think of anything but that PT test the upcoming Monday.

Monday came...I took the test putting up my best score thus far a 240...cut off to class up? began my stay at HHC, a holdover company of people unable to make the cutoff, people who were kicked from their OCS classes, profiles, and a variety of others. My time there wasn't bad, wasn't a four star resort, but in the grand scheme of things I guess it wasn't bad. I shared my bathroom with one other person...take that BCT! While there I began to think about my options. I wanted to be in the Army there wasn't a doubt in my mind about that. The Army I feel is the place for me. But did I REALLY HAVE to be an Officer at this juncture in my life? I came to the decision that no, that wasn't necessary. The icing on the cake was the day a group of us from HHC were privileged to meet and hear a Medal of Honor recepient speak. SFC Sammy Davis Jr. (the name caught me as well...hello Rat Pack) served in Vietnam and just listening to him sealed the deal. This man served in the military as a Pvt during one of the hardest conflicts I believe for military personnel, in that day in time the military did not get the recognition they deserve, the thanks they deserved for their sacrifice and service, yet the Vietnam vets are the most gracious and polite vets you will ever have the priviledge to meet. His demeanor was what pushed me over the edge to the enlisted world.

I started my paperwork that day to head to AIT. My first choice had been a medical position. Which with my background sounded amazing. A week later my orders came in and low and behold I'm a firefighter! Who even knew that was an option in the Army? I mean can something be more perfect? So I felt relief. I felt for once in this whole screwy mess of a month's time things were coming together.

My first plane ride was next. Started a little bumpy in that I couldn't fly out of GA as scheduled, luckily American Airlines is amazing with getting you a room and meal vouchure. Not that the butterflies in my belly didn't multiple in the time it took for my flight to finally get off. So a layover in Dallas/Fort Worth and I arrived in San Angelo, TX and Goodfellow AFB. Only to find out upon arrival that I have to leave for a firefighter physical and will not in fact be starting class right away. Guess who gets BACK on a plane just a few days later? THIS GIRL! And off to Missouri I go. Arrive in St Louis and purchase a....CARDINALS HAT! Its the little things that matter in life. Then a 2 hour bus trip to Fort Leonard Wood...which I am a firm believer is hell on earth. I hated the place with a passion and am so glad to be out of holding there. As I said BCT at Jackson wasn't bad...but Leonard Wood was worse that BCT there. We hung tight there for a week and a half before finally getting all our i's dotted and t's crossed. Then a road trip back to San Angelo and now I sit awaiting my classes to start dark and early Tuesday morning! I cannot wait to start, I hope once in course time will pass quickly and before I know it my 13 weeks of training will be over and I will be an Army Firefighter (12M).

I appreciate all of you that have given me words of encouragement and listened to me moan, groan and go on and on about my going's on. Its greatly appreciated and I hope to keep you further updated through this media outlet. :-)