You can’t spell “lost” without “LT”
Week three is field week (hurray).
Quite honestly, I was greatly looking forward to field week as it offered a significant change in pace and experience. The last couple weeks of classroom study proved to motivate most for more experiential exercises.
Day 1 we woke up bright and early for PT, then upon completion were to quickly perform hygiene. We grabbed our assault packs, went to chow, then loaded up on the transport busses to the EST (Engagement Skills Training).
The EST is an adult Duck Hunt, if you will. It presents soldiers with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with military weaponry, shooting stances, and the qualification range. Many new soldiers found this to be helpful as they had never handled a weapon. The VPC obviously differs from firing actual weapons, but does a commendable job mimicking the motions.
Ft. Sill was quick to yield it’s over changing weather, as the wind chill pierced through our uniforms. Coffee, soup, and the penguin formation (huddling together) proved to provide some sense of warmth. One MRE later, and we were heading back to to Battery to call it a day around 1430.
It’s worth noting that our days are significant shorter than other classes as our class size of roughly 90 Soldiers complete tasks much quicker than the traditional 150 Soldier class size.
Day 2 was Land Navigation day, which was a day I was greatly looking forward to. Lucky for us, we got to skip PT. This makes sense as we were going to hike around Ft. Sill terrain for the next few hours. We had MRE’s for breakfast, which is a rough task early in the morning (you’ll see). We were then transported to the Land Nav course.
Again, shivering in Ft. Sill’s awful wind, my group of three set out to find our points. We were given 4 hours to find 3/4 points. An easy task given the terrain and experience in my group (the three of us being prior service). We found the first three points with relative ease, but use our remaining time to find our point via dead reckoning, an exercise more sophisticated and tactical than other methods we used. I was grateful to practice this approach as I had little familiarization with it. I’m not sure how useful this will be as a social worker, but I was grateful to actually learn something new nonetheless.
It is worth mentioning that many have anxiety about Land Navigation, as it can be a tricky concept, especially as a new Soldier. My best advice is to buddy up with a prior service Soldier and have them mentor you. Take the time to find a point yourself when given the opportunity. Even through failure, you’ll learn from your mistakes. Land Navigation is an experiential lesson that must be practiced in order to become proficient.
We wrapped up Land Navigation then transported back to the Battery to call it a day.
Day 3 was range and ruck day. Again, another task I was looking forward to. The task was to ruck all of our assigned TA-50 to the shooting range. The distance was more than reasonable for most (roughly 3.5 miles). Those who hadn’t broken in their boots, or practiced moving around loads of weight had began to show.
We wrapped up our ruck at the entrance to the zero range, which is a range with targets roughly 25 meters away from the shooting position. The task today, again, was familiarization with the M4 Carbine. All Soldiers were tasked to “group” on a target. Grouping is referring to the firing of most rounds in a 4 centimeter circle. This, too, can be tricky for newer troops. However, prior service troops and cadre are available for coaching. By closely adhering to the firing fundamentals, all Soldiers will be able to successful group their shot group (barring a dysfunctional weapon).
My battle buddy and I quickly grouped our shot group, then spent the remainder of the day waiting for others to familiarize themselves with firing. It was during this time that the Battery 1SG informed us that tomorrow’s trainings were cancelled in observance of the funeral of President George Bush Sr.
Day 3 wrapped up around 1600, where we returned our weapons, had dinner chow, then personal time.
Day 4 was a personal day as the post shut down all activities in observance of President George Bush Sr.’s Funeral.
Day 5 was gas chamber day (yay…).
I had done this before, and that didn’t necessarily make the training any less inviting.
It had snowed the day before, which meant that there was a possibility for post to be shut down due to slick roads. This didn’t happen. Bummer.
We woke around 0530 to go to chow. I had a light breakfast as I didn’t want to risk throwing up eggs. We mounted the bus equipped with gas masks and our assault packs. We rolled up on the gas chamber, but I had noticed that the looming anxiety had shifted to eagerness. I tend to shift into a “lets get this over with mentality” when I am tasked with something I don’t want to do.
I volunteered to be one of the first groups to go though the chamber. Mask on, my group of roughly 12 Soldiers walked into a dark and misty room. Performing the all too familiar exercises in the gas room. 5 minutes of push ups, jumping jacks, etc., later, we walked into the “hot room”, which had most of the nerve agent. Walking into the room, I felt the familiar burning on the back of my neck and on my hands. We were instructed to clear our masks, which I performed much better than last time. I inhaled, closed my eyes, and lifted my mask for three seconds, then resealed my mask to clear it. I was able to quickly reseal my mask and clear the gas with minimal pain. A stark difference from my struggle in Basic Training 8 years ago.
We were then instructed to remove our masks for 15 seconds prior to exiting the building. Again, inhaling and closing my eyes, I removed my mask and placed it in my carrying case. After a few seconds I opened my eyes and noticed the burning sensation, but it was much less than what I was expecting. I began to breathe in the gas minimally and, again, noticing much less burning sensation than my experience at Ft. Knox. We exited the building much sooner than anticipated. I walked out pleasantly surprised at the minimal pain compared to my previous experience.
We transported back to the Battery with obvious glee as this was the last significant training task on the agenda. We cleaned our masks, showered, got lunch chow, then received a block of instruction at the class room. Later we were released for personal time.
Week three had flown by quickly. The next week was all about out process, completing tests, and graduation. These are often the slowest, yet most exciting weeks in training.