"So how was it?" seems to be the thing that everybody wants to know :)
I was pretty brief answering that question when I got back. So many things happened that it's hard to choose what to talk about. I'll share some of the photos I have and some highlights and things that stick out in my mind for now.
Basic Training is its own little universe with its own set of rules. The difference between civilian life and basic training life is like the difference between night and day. They are just very different.
Resilience, adaptability, and attention to detail are qualities that serve you well in that environment, both mentally and physically. Patience, and influencing the group to work together, are also important skills. The smallest mistakes, missed details, or tardiness come with immediate consequences, and not only for the offending individual.
There are NO PHONES, NO COMPUTERS, NO INTERNET, NO NEWS, NO SPORTS, NO NOTHING. All you have are your Drill SGT's and battle buddies.
The days feel extremely long, but the weeks feel very short. There were some days where I had never been so miserable in my entire life :) The Field Training Exercises like "The Forge" were very challenging.
Wake up at 0500 +/- almost everyday, and lights out 2130 almost every night. That's a very long day.
Every single place you go, there are Drill SGT's present, and you don't go anywhere alone.
All 50+ people in your platoon needed to be down in the correct uniform fully accounted for in formation by 0530, showered, shaved, etc. For many this proved a struggle in the beginning and we paid for it.
There are a lot of classroom briefs and there is a lot of memorization.
You train, you learn, you clean, you get tested, you get put in leadership roles, you do training events that are graduation requirements that you MUST pass to escape basic training... Obstacle Courses, Shooting Ranges (marksmanship), Grenade Range, Victory Tower / Ropes Course, Ruck Marches, Land Navigation, Field Training Exercises, Squad Tactics, Combatives, Drill and Ceremony, Combat Casualty Care, Radio communications, and the like are the things we practiced and learned. You went everywhere with your m4, you even went to the DFAC (cafeteria) with it slung and ate that way.
There are moments you have out in the field in basic training where you will question everything. And you think about how you could be back home chillin at the coffee shop with your wife with not a thing to worry about. In those moments, a strong sense of purpose, will, camaraderie, and never quitting are the things that will carry you through.
I missed my family, friends, and my clients a lot. But I knew the fastest way to get back to those things was to do the best I could and graduate Basic Training - so I put all my effort into that. When I wasn't working, I spent the little time that I did have available to either organize and clean gear or write to my wife/family.
Some of the main takeaways that stick with me are "I always take care of my arms, my equipment, and myself."
The other one is that no matter how unbelievably miserable things can get, YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN NEVER QUIT. You can push yourself much farther than you currently realize - whether you were well trained going in or not. If you think a lot about those things, you realize how much they can set you up for success and separate you from the rest of the population.
My Strength and Conditioning system prepared me extremely well for what was expected of me. I came in performing in the top 10% on the initial PT test. If there was a weightlifting test, and a well rounded crossfit style fitness test, I'd have destroyed.
My strength, and in particular my core, hip, glute, and back strength, did serve me extremely well though. There nothing that they threw at me that my body wasn't capable of withstanding. Some folks who were under-trained suffered fractured hips under the constant stress.
The only change I would go back and make is to do a lot more Ruck Marching. No matter how fit you are, when you are on mile 20 and it's completely dark and you're bleeding and you can't feel your arms, you've got skin floating about in your boots, and can't form cohesive thoughts or movements, you can't overcome that with fitness. You can only overcome that with will. More physical and mental exposure to difficult ruck marching circumstances would have helped though.
Fitness and strength do not overcome technique in combatives. You can't rely on it to defeat a well-trained opponent. You must be very familiar with BJJ and striking to perform well.
When you train functional movement patterns, the lunge, deadlift, and squat, and you train them unilaterally, you win.
When you train your core and you cover rotation, anti-rotation, flexion, extension, anti-flexion, anti-extension, in different stances and positions, you win.
When you train upper body with full range of motion in all planes of motion, and you've got shoulder stability and strong lats, you win.
All you have to do is take it one day at a time and pass all your graduation requirements, and not do anything monumentally stupid, and you will graduate and you will get to leave :)
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