Wow! Talk about a full few days. We left for the field on Tuesday afternoon. Our first stop was the “Fit to Win” obstacle course. This is a lengthy course with a variety of obstacles that you have to maneuver around, over, under, through, or on. The course is definitely a work out as you are expected to move through it fairly quickly . The different obstacles each required some different type of activity to overcome them. One required that you high crawl through a dark tunnel and another required that you high step over some logs nearly hip high. At the end of the course was a pit complete with a giant puddle that had to crawled through. The course was fun and it allowed us to start or trip to the field covered in sweat, sand, mud, and water.
We arrived at our bivouac site just before dark. We spent the next hour or so getting cots set up, gear stowed, tents arranged, and figuring out the best attire to sleep in when you are sweaty, dirty, and it is hot and humid outside. Most of us laid out one layer of our sleeping bag and slept on top of it. We were fortunate that mosquitoes were not very bad so we didn’t have to worry about the biting us in our sleep.
We were up bright and early on Wednesday to go to the day land navigation course. By the time we finished the course later in the morning, we were all pretty worn out from tromping through woods for a few hours. Thankfully, the Army provided us (actually, we paid for them since we all officers) with some delicious MRE’s. There is nothing like a slab of mystery meat or vacuum sealed packet clam chowder that could survive a nuclear blast to boost your energy level. Following the day land nav course, we returned to our bivouac site. Half of our company started training on various “Warrior Tasks” (first aid, map reading, etc.) while the other half endured numerous and relentless barrages of paint balls from our beloved cadre. The goal of the paint ball exercise was to teach us how to move under fire. We went through the course in groups of three; two chaplains and one armed assistant. The goal was to follow the assistant through the course and move from cover to cover without inhabiting the space through which speeding paint balls were attempting to pass. Some groups took a lot of fire. When I went through, we made it through the entire course without the cadre landing a single hit on us. HOOAH! That night we had an uneventful night land nav course.
Our final day was spent learning and executing different types of combat movements. On the day infiltration course we were required to move from cover to cover while following closely behind our escort (some privates from a Basic Training company who were also using the range that day). This wasn’t too difficult, but after sprinting through the course wearing body armor it can leave you pretty winded and sweaty. We also got our first real taste of low crawling as we had to move across a sand pit while keeping the lowest profile possible. This put us in a delightful state of grittiness which we would get to enjoy and add to over the course of the day.
After day infiltration course, we returned to our bivouac site, enjoyed another leisurely lunch of MRE’s, and continued doing paint ball and WT training. This training was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. The storm was severe enough that we were rushed out of the field on buses and back to the school house to wait out the storm. They ended up moving the WT training and testing to the school house and we finished out our afternoon and early evening by moving through the various WT stations at the school house.
We weren’t done yet. The storm passed and the skies cleared and as darkness fell we made our way to the night infiltration course. This is the course you high and low crawl through while artillery simulators go off and live rounds shoot over your head. The course is about a hundred yards long and over 200 of us (we did this with a Basic Training company) went through at the same time. By the end of the course, I (and I assume most everyone else) was exhausted from the crawling, covered in sand, and happy. It was time to go in from the field.
By the time I actually got cleaned up enough last night to get in bad, it was well past midnight. It is amazing how a few days in the field can really make you appreciate comforts like A/C and showers.
Today has been a recovery day. We spent the morning cleaning our protective masks and receiving instruction on how to clean other pieces of equipment. A group of us took off to attend the Muslim Juma service at midday as a part of our graduation requirements. It was interesting and was the first Muslim service I had ever observed. We were released early, giving us some time to get errands run, cleaning done, and some good old-fashioned relaxation in.
Now, I feel I should explain the “battle boyfriends” line from the title. In the Army, you are trained to never go anywhere alone. The Army calls this the “battle buddy” system. Well, sometimes people take the system a little over board and when you get a bunch of stinky, sleep deprived guys sitting around in the field rather mundane things can become humorous. So now if soldiers who become over-bearing battle buddies will earn the dubious distinction of being labeled a battle boyfriend (or someone may get that label anyway, simply because it’s hilarious).