I knew I was in for a rough 10+ weeks the moment we pulled up to our reception site. More on that down below.
Reception is designed to check boxes – Army style. Recruits tackle various human resources related items, receive another physical exam, and are administered vaccinations. New troops get their uniforms, male recruits get a fresh shaved hair cut, etc.. Reception typically takes 3-4 days, depending on when troops fly in.
As the bus pulled up at 0330, recruits looked out their window’s to see three Drill Sergeants standing by with their familiar ’round and brown’ hats. The recruits started chattering about what to expect, until one Drill Sergeant made his approach to the bus, and there was complete silence. “oh, (expletive), here we go…” muttered one of the recruits as the Drill Sergeant was within feet of the door.
“Welcome to Fort Knox, the Center for Excellence. I am a Drill Sergeant and from now on you’ll only respond to a Drill Sergeant with a ‘Yes, Drill Sergeant,’ or ‘No, Drill Sergeant. Do you understand?” “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” Bellowed the group of recruits (my voice likely cracking). “You’ve got 30 mother-(expletive)’ seconds to get off my mother-(expletive) bus”. He walked off the bus. Then, in silent chaos, recruits exited and walked toward the reception building.
Recruits lined up and received further instruction about the tasks to complete for the night. We were taught basic D&C (Drill and Ceremony), such as standing at parade rest while waiting in line, which felt more common than sleep. We silently walked in a single file line towards an open room where recruits were filed in to four ranks, and checked for contraband. Similar to the integrity check at MEPS, troops were given one last chance to come clean about disqualifying history and walk without being subject to UCMJ.
We then received our APFU (Army Physical Fitness Uniform) or PT’s, linen and finally, at 0430, were given the opportunity to sleep after traveling all day and being awake for last 24 hours. However, we were first instructed on the appropriate dress of a bed with “hospital corners”. Learning such a simple task after no rest was difficult with a weary brain. Eventually my synapses fired as I dressed my bunk appropriately. I changed into summer PT’s, our uniform for sleep. As soon as I lied my weary body down on the bed, almost knowingly, the Drill Sergeant flicked the lights on with a “get the (bleep) up privates and get out of my building”.
An all time low for recruits, and PVT Ashdown.
“Sleep is for the weak, Privates”, bellowed the Drill Sergeant as we awkwardly stumbled our way into formation. We made our way to chow, where recruits were eating quickly, and in complete silence. The general rule of thumb is, if you weren’t looking at your food, you were done with your food. I saw more than once a drill sergeant snatch trays of food from a gazing privates, my tray being one of them. “Awesome…” I thought to myself as I’m prone to losing things that are vital.
Little sleep and little food meant for little function, add that lack of function to my overall awkward and confused manifestation, you’ve got one messed up Private (more on that exciting subject later). We were marched out of the chow hall and into formation where we received our “warrior handbook”, and a briefing for what to expect for the day. Day 1 we did our in processing which consisted of: medical (shots, blood work, eye and vision tests, etc.), and receiving ACUs. Mind you, this is done in complete silence, and standing in lines for hours with no sleep. I considered asking the recruit in front of me in line if I could lay my head on his shoulders to catch some Z’s, but that would be…awkward.
I recall approaching the uniform building and silently cheering to myself that I would be receiving a uniform that actually fit and didn’t look like I needed to gain a second human being in weight. Small-Long jacket and pants fit like a glove. Now I only acted like an awkward recruit as opposed to looking like one. We got dinner chow, this time I scarfed it down, which likely contributed to the eating habits I practice now, then prepped to finally end the day.
We got back to our bay, where we had time to shower and call our loved ones. I have little memory of this night, which is attributed to 48 hours of no sleep, stress, and likely delirium. I lied down in bed around 1900 and slept like a rock.
The following morning we followed a similar routine: hospital corner to rucks, formation, breakfast chow, then a brief. Day 2 consisted of further in processing, this time surrounding finance. Again, waiting in lines for hours with nothing to entertain ourselves than the warrior handbook. We wrapped up day 2 of reception, then prepped for day 3.
The third day of reception is the final day prior to starting basic training. This day recruits met the drill sergeants that would instruct us for the duration of Basic Training. Recruits were lined up in alphabetical order, and sorted (not in the Harry Potter sense) into their respective companies. I was placed in Alpha Company “Hell Hounds”, being that my last name starts with an ‘A’, I’m typically placed first in many programs. After being sorted into our respective companies, we were introduced to our Drill Sergeants. They may as well have walked out to the theme of “The Walking Dead”, their intensity and presence had an impact on the all the recruits. One Drill Sergeant, SFC Mane, literally had a torn larynx, which caused his voice to be so deep and gruff I swear Clint Eastwood would’ve taken lessons from him. Towering over us with their rank and physique, These instructors met every stereotype from popular media. Evoking fear and control over their eventual troops, they dismissed us with a hunger to metaphorically beat the “civilian” out of us the following day.