White phase was exciting for the first day. The morning of I was speaking to my “battle” about how crazy it was that we had already been training for over two weeks and that they had flown by. We had another PT test this day and I had noticed a significant improvement in my score. For one, I actually passed, and secondly my two-mile run was less than 14 minutes. I was shocked.
Speaking of shocked, I was made a “squad leader”, which meant that I was a recruit in command, sort of speak. Leadership was decided by our Drill Sergeants. I was surprised to have heard that I had demonstrated leadership capability. I enjoyed this position for the remainder of basic training.
White phase focuses heavily on the warrior and his weapon. During this phase recruits ruck to the range almost everyday to work on their marksmanship. Having never fired weapons of this caliber, I enjoyed this phase aside from cleaning up thousands of shell casings in the mud.
Ft. Knox had begun to cool down as we shifted towards mid-October. Being from Utah, I wasn’t accustomed to the daily rainstorms that Kentucky yielded. They were beautiful, but cold.
When platoons transition phases, their guide-on (flag) represents the phase they’re on. We were excited to move from Red to White, as it symbolized our experience. We enjoyed the white flag for one day, until we got a wake up call at 1:00 am. The Drill Sergeants lined us up outside in an accusatory manner. “who is the Private that broke into the locked room”, they bellowed.
We were smoked until sunrise. Three of the recruits had picked the locks of a door that held our cell phones, stolen them, and hid them in their rooms. These were eventually found and, due to the nature of basic training, the entire platoon was punished. We had lost our privilege of carrying a white flag, and had to march around with a plunger as it symbolized our “crappy” platoon. This was an all-time low for morale.
The following weeks consisted of a second ruck march with increased mileage, while boasting our proud plunger. Additionally we learned various battle movement tactics, shooting with NVG’s (Night Vision Goggles), and qualifying with the M16. Recruits were given two days to qualify with their M-16. Shooting came natural to me, as I shot 39/40 targets, rewarding me with the “expert marksman” badge. Because I was the highest shooter in my platoon, I was given the opportunity to shoot a live round out of the the AT-4, which is the Army’s Rocket Launcher.
Some struggled with marksmanship, but if you listen and take in the Drill Sergeants advice, you’ll shoot well. For me, breathing techniques, slow trigger squeeze, and keeping the tip of my nose on the charging handle worked wonders.
Prior to completing White Phase, we were required to complete a FTX (Field Training Exercise). We rucked to our training site, set up a safety perimeter, then cracked open our MRE’s prior to sleeping in the cold rain. I reflect back on these moments during FTX and having joy. These were the moments where time slowed down, and we were able to laugh, share stories, and connect with our battle buddies.