“Welcome to Basic Training! Here you’ll get to enjo…” well maybe enjoy isn’t the right word. “Here you’ll get to experience all the beautif”… no, seeing beautiful sights doesn’t quite fit.
Here you’ll get to experience all of what Fort Knox has to offer within the confines of basic training under the tutelage of a Drill Sergeant.
Fort Knox is settled south of Louisville, Kentucky. The post is home to the armor and tanker divisions, as evidenced by their various static displays of retired tanks. But it more commonly known for it’s historic vault, which houses mountains of Gold.
On the eave of September 12th, I set my alarm at 5:30 am to go on a “last hike” with my dad before I shipped out. Hiking, among other encounters with nature, are a means for me to connect with the world, humanity, and myself. The following morning I rolled out of bed, and proceeded to roll (pun unintended) my ankle first step out of the driveway. As I writhed in pain whilst rolling on the concrete outside my home, my thoughts, too, rolled their way inside. “I’m not going to pass basic training, I’m going to be a holdover, I’m not going to be allowed to attend.” Thoughts like these are common when something so important is potentially threatened.
The hike (obviously) was out of the picture, and I limped my way to the couch, armed with ice and ibuprofen. The swelling was minimal, enough that I should be able to walk. I spent the remainder of the day mending my ankle and preparing to check into the Radisson Hotel. All troops are required to spend the eave of their departure at a hotel, so as to not lose recruits to cold feet and go AWOL. I gingerly walked into the Radisson, said an emotional goodbye to my then, partner, then proceeded towards the elevator up to my room. There I met an introverted Navy recruit, who, for some bizarre reason, was watching a documentary on boot camp, and how difficult it is to complete. Great choice there, Sailor.
Tossing and turning all night, thinking about the journey ahead of me and the wonderful people I was leaving behind, I eventually succumbed to sleep. The 4:30 am wake up call came to quick, it was as if I never rested at all (a common theme of basic training). Tired and zombified recruits meandered their way to the 15 pax van, which drove us to MEPS where we would receive our airline ticket to our respective training stations. Here, most recruits performed another oath of enlistment, while National Guardsman waited outside (this process has changed and the oath is all inclusive). In addition to the airline ticket, with one stop in Atlanta, recruits also received food vouchers which could be used at the airport. Recruits were given two $15 food vouchers that could be used on airport food. We were instructed not to partake of alcohol, with threats of urinalysis at duty stations (they will UA recruits). The Army has strict alcohol policies while in TRADOC, as well as other structured rules in order to enforce control to assimilate the recruit to Soldier. The group of four soldiers, myself included, mounted the flight from Salt Lake City en route to Louisville, Kentucky.
With flights and the layover in Atlanta, it took roughly 12 hours to land in Kentucky. The weather was modest in September, but noticeably humid for a man accustomed to the dry weather in Utah. We met a military liaison who guided us to a “waiting room”, where recruits waited for a transportation civilian to bring us from the Airport to Ft. Knox. I spent the 4 hours of waiting snacking and calling my family to inform that I had arrived. I had warned them that this may be one of my last chances to speak with them over the phone, as cell phones are taken away from recruits. I attempted to catch some Z’s, but with no place to lie down and the anticipation of the next few months making space in my mind, I was unable to sleep. At 0130, we had received notice that transportation had arrived. We grabbed our backpacks and headed towards the pickup zone. Fatigue and exhaustion reared it’s head and I succumbed to sleep for the hour long bus ride form Louisville to Fort Knox. Before I knew it, I had woken up to the lights and imagery of an Army post, the first time I’ve ever seen one. Squinting with my weary eyes, I tried to visually explore the post, but 0300 only yields so much imagery, outside of roads on traffic lights.
A few turns later we finally made it too…