As I have stated previously, I served 3 years in the US Army Veterinary Corps. I loved my time in the military and have the utmost respect and appreciation for the men and women who serve. This is a reflection on my time in basic training, some of which was hilarious. Mostly because I am NOT the "prototypical" soldier. I fit more of the "Private Benjamin" profile than the "GI Jane" profile. Anyway, hope you enjoy!
I attended the AMEDD Officer Basic Course for the in San Antonio, Texas. This course is for all medical personnel who are entering the Army as officers due to their level of education. This course included dentists, nurses, MDs, DVM, optometrists, etc. As you can imagine, I was not the only one who didn't fit the "GI Jo/Jane" profile. Most of this training involves classroom training on the basics of being an officer in the US Army. However, the training also included some field training.
The 60ft Rappel Tower: I am TERRIFIED of heights. So, the day we headed out to the tower my heart was pounding and I was pouring sweat ( and not just because the temp was over 100 degrees!). We arrived at the tower and were equipped with our ropes. We were given instructions on how to use our left hands as our break. If you loosen the grip your left hand has on the rope, then you can move. To stop, you pull up with your left hand. After we were given an illustration, it was time to make the long climb up the wooden ladder to the top of the tower. By the time I arrived at the top, I was shaking like a leaf. The Sergeant at the top told me to step to the edge and "Just bend at your waste to lean out over the side". I stood facing him on the edge of the platform holding the rope in a vice-like grip. I know that I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights. The Sergeant yelled, "Go!". I bent out over the side and tried to tell my brake hand to let go so that I could move. I kept chanting to my self "Don't look down. Don't look down." I was staring straight ahead. We were rappelling down the tower in two lines. I could see person after person whiz by me as the people in the other line had no problem rappelling down the tower. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to convince my left hand to loosen its grip on the rope. I took two baby steps and then quickly tightened my grip again. I continued in this baby stepping manner and slowly made my way down the tower. I lost all sense of everything that was going on around me and could only see the wall of the tower right in front of me. Finally, I was jerked out of my concentration by someone shouting in my ear, "You're only 3 feet off the ground. Put down your feet." Startled, I looked and was completely embarrassed to see that I was literally, almost sitting on the ground!
The Firing Range: We were shooting 9mm handguns. We were shooting in groups of two (the shooter and the spotter). I was the spotter. The shooter was firing from the prone position. I was lying next to him in order to give him advice on correcting his aim. The shooter ran out of ammo and handed the weapon to the instructor. It was reloaded and handed back. However, the instructor didn't make sure the safety was engaged. When the shooter took the weapon from the instructor, he swung it down with his finger on the trigger and fired straight into the ground about 2 feet from my head!
Gas Mask Training: I wear contacts. We were instructed not to wear them for obvious reasons when we went through gas mask training exercises. The first day of basic training we were given an eye exam and inserts were ordered for us to wear inside our masks. My inserts did not arrive before our field training began. So, each time we were supposed to put on our masks, I had to whip off my glasses and put on the mask. I couldn't see ANYTHING with that mask on. So, on the day we were supposed to be making our way through enemy fire while under a gas attack, I spent the entire time just trying not to fall down an embankment or run into a tree. All I could think about was the fact that if I didn't keep at least one person in my line of sight, I would have been completely lost!