28 December 2011

Home for Christmas Exodus, Language Assignment

67th Platoon at the 120th Adjutant General
Battalion (Reception), Fort Jackson, SC
A Much-Needed Break
All basic training recruits at Ft. Jackson have gone home for Victory Block Leave (VBL), better known as Christmas Exodus. Recruits will be able to spend time with family for Christmas and the New Year before returning to the post to complete training. Our cycle, Delta Company (Dragons), 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, has 2 weeks left before graduation. I've been assigned to 1st Platoon; 4 platoons, each headed by 2 drill sergeants, make up our company.

Training's been a "hurry up and wait" experience during the 9 weeks we've been on post so far, and I hear the Active Army's the same. There's plenty of waiting around in line and formation, but at the same time, the training's something no civilian can normally experience. To date, we've qualified on the shooting range with our M16 rifles, done nighttime reflexive fire with M4 carbines outfitted with red dot sights and night vision goggles, stacked on doors to clear rooms, neutralize insurgents, and evacuate casualties, practiced bounding overwatch under fire (finding forward/rearward cover while a battle buddy covers you with suppressive fire aimed at the enemy) in leapfrog fashion, ridden in and dismounted HMMWVs (Humvees) during convoy operations, low and high crawled under barbed wire while live rounds were being shot several feet above our heads, thrown live grenades, shot the M249 SAW and M240 Bravo machine guns, M203 grenade launcher, and AT-4 anti-tank weapon, done tactical foot marches as far as 10 miles in full "battle rattle" (combat boots, Kevlar helmet, ballistic and ammo vests, assault pack, and M16), done land navigation with a compass and map, and practiced drill and ceremony.

A typical day consists of wake-up between 0445 and 0600, PT (except on Sundays, when recruits may attend religious service), breakfast chow, movement to that day's scheduled training, movement back to the post (the "rear"), weapons cleaning, personal time, final formation (and mail call, if there is any), and lights out at 2100. The training's carried over to home somewhat; I wake up between 5-7 AM and begin to get sleepy around 6-7 PM. While substantial, both the chow hall food and MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) were devoid of the love one would find in a home-cooked meal. It just isn't the same.

After arriving home, I learned that my language assignment at the DLI would be Pashto pending approval of my security clearance.

Adjusting to the Army lifestyle will obviously take some time. Thanks to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), more rules are imposed upon a U.S. serviceman than a civilian would ever care to know, but that's a good thing. Integrity is a big deal in the military, and in life, it's one of the few things that matter.

I report back to training in early January. In the meantime, I'm making the most of my time at home with family and friends.


  1. SPC Bernardino,

    I commend your enthusiasm about your burgeoning career as a Crypto and your willingness to painstakingly document your activities up until this point. I would like to remind (or perhaps inform you for the first time) that your job requires you to be able to hold onto information without sharing it with closed loved ones let alone the world wide web. You will receive an OPSEC briefing which will detail what I am referring to here. At this point in your career you don't know enough to be able to severely endanger the safety of any soldiers down range. However there is a great deal of personal information on your blog here that could possibly prevent you from certain career possibilities. I don't want to see you limit your career before you really get it going. Please try and keep your personal info to a minimum...write a private journal if you have to get your thoughts out. Best of Luck...see you soon in Monterey.

  2. Anon,
    I really appreciate your sound/practical advice. It's something I've kept in mind, yet frankly I've felt that I may have been too close to crossing the line in past entries for the sake of descriptiveness. But given the nature of my career, I understand the need to stay quiet & edit parts of the blog to adhere to OPSEC. Thanks very much for your concern. By the way, have you received your language assignment? -M