She Wrote Me A Letter, Said She Couldn’t Live Without Me No More…

Before I came to my Basic Training, I would do everything in my power to “Pre-orient” myself with any information available. I read blogs of freshly graduated soldiers, Google image search “Ft. Benning”, “Sandhill”, “Basic Training”. Anything to break down that fear of the unknown. Now I find myself scraping together free time to write to people who want to know what I am doing. So I will take this time to attempt to describe my days thus far here at Sandhill, Basic Training, Ft. Benning, GA.
“First Call”, or getting woken up is usually 05:30 in the morning; much different from our first week in reception, when the drill sergeant woke us anywhere between 03:00-04:00. They would burst through the bay doors and start yelling, “Get out yo’ gotdang bunks and get yo’ dagone feet on the dagone flow!!” And we would all stand, red-eyed zombies, in front of our bunks. Standing straight at the position of attention. Straight back, chest out, feet at a 45 degree angle, thumbs down the seam of your pants, waiting to be given the time for “first formation”, thus determining the amount of time you have for your mandatory shave, brushing your teeth, getting in uniform, and of course, making your bunk.
Here at basic training, a few things changed in this morning routine. Now, the first night we were here, our drill sergeant snuck quietly into our bay after a peaceful six hours rest and blasted us with an air horn while screaming, “FIRE!! FIRE!! Fire drill…” We had to run out into the cold Georgia night in our shorts and T-shirts, flip flops and bald heads and stand in our “formations”. (Formations are pre-designated rows and columns we stand in at the all so silent position of attention. They then herded us back into the bay and put us back in bed only to wake us up an hour later to start day 1.
Yet, on a normal day, the responsibility of “first call” falls on the last shift of “fire guard”. Fire guard being the platoon’s duty to always keep two people awake and accountable for everyone at all times. Often I use this time for a mix of studying and writing letters. Unless you are lucky enough to have last shift, in which case you wake people up who asked for early wake up call. Once we wake up, from the time the lights come on to the time of first formation, we usually have 20 minutes to shave, brush teeth, get in first uniform and make sure our stuff is “squared away”.
At first formation, all four platoons in our company stand and play the quiet game. Usually we lose this game and hear “Open ranks, move”, which separates us, then “front lean and rest, go!” This lands us all in the push-up position and we “pay with pain”.
After first formation breaks, the whole company (about 200 guys) move to a sand pit where we start warm-up PT. It’s a series of low stress combined stretching and calisthenic exercises as a group. After warm-up we break down into individual platoons. My platoon, first platoon, either does push-up/sit-up improvement, which just means doing a shit load of each, or we do group ability runs. Group ability runs are awesome. I am in B group and they can run super fast. I really feel like I have made a lot of improvements on my 2 mile and one mile speed. We never run far, but we do run fast, which is good for me. I always ran far, but slow. On the other hand, I can’t for the life of me tell if I am improving on push-ups. We live in a constant state of perpetual soreness. Hopefully we have some amount of rest before our first PT test. Then I’ll just knock out like 50.
After PT, we have a platoon formation and then move back to the barracks. Occasionally after PT they let us shower. But usually, we are just given 10 minutes to switch our uniforms, then we have another formation outside for chow. We march to the “defact” (chow hall) and usually standing in line, we say our various “creeds” as a group, sing the Army song, and then move inside the defact and stand silently in line. (All of the above was done without talking). In line, and during our entire time in the chow hall, there are strict rules on the way you stand, the places you turn your feet, and how you get your food, and above all, ABOVE ALL, it must be done quickly.
We do have freedom of choice on what we eat but it is always the same options: chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken sausage, chicken french toast, chicken-cakes, rice with chicken chunks, over-cooked vegetables with a side of chicken. And always, a good amount of fresh fruit. But once you sit down, we have 7 minutes. Always just 7 minutes. 7 minutes, with your heels together, and if you’re caught without your heels together, you finish the rest of your meal standing up. You only eat with one hand visible. If you have two hands on the table, you finish your food with one hand in the air. And believe me, in week one, it was not uncommon to see a guy eating with his hand in the air like he has a question, bent over his food, legs locked straight up.
For first platoon, when we leave the defect, we do five pull-ups on the pull-up bars before we go back to the bay. When I came here I couldn’t do pull-ups, but now I can do one, and my buddies hold my feet for the other four. After everyone’s done, we then march back to the bay. After breakfast, the rest of my day can vary from more PT to classroom training, or lately we have been marching to different ranges on base to learn things like explosives, radios, nuclear-biological threats, IEDs and various things to come. And the ranges are often fun and make the day go by fast.
After the of training comes to an end, usually sometime around 19:00, we start to put our gear away and clean up. Sometimes have “classroom formation” which means we sit on the floor like kindergarteners about to be read a story and our drill sergeant reviews what we did for the day. And always the drill sergeants ask us if we have any questions, and we always do. And then they make fun of us and call us gay for like 20 minutes, but we all know it’s okay, cause we know what comes next. For most of us, it’s what we look forward to from first call…
“The Caloric-Augmantion” program…aka MILK AND COOKIES TIME! Okay, so they are not really cookies, they are Nutri-Grain bars, and the milk is strange and served in juice boxes and we only have 2 minutes to eat them, but in the end, when we have final formation and/or final smoking which usually takes us past 20:30 in which case we all put on summer PTs. Shorts and T-shirts until we get the word, “Commence shower operations.” At which time 56 guys get naked and try to pile into the shower, 8 shower heads.
The last thing is always mail call. We are either luck or lonely every night. For five minutes every night, we commence Language Arts. We read, or we write, or we think. Since I have been here, I have only ever slept on my back. I stare at the bottom of my bunk mate’s bed. I stare and I think and I miss. And I think till I dream…And that’s what a day is like here.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 4:26 am  Comments (2)  

…It’s A Thousand Pages, Give Or Take A Few, I’ll Be Writing More In A Week Or Two…

Dear All,
There is a common sound around these barracks, a noise we hear so often it is taking on an iridescent, cryptic emotion to it…a young man who can’t sing, barely hum in tune, and you hear them low and under their breath, sing the cadence that says what we are all feeling: “…and it won’t be looooooonng…’til I get on back home!”
Today is Sunday. For the first time in basic training this means a large amount of freedom. We clean, we do our laundry, we talk, we do sit-ups and push-ups, we square away our gear and we talk like Soldiers.
Common converstions of today: MONEY–who got paid and where they will spend it; The big Homecoming Christmas bash. A titty bar with old college chums. A gun and a large amount of ammo. Rent. Diapers. Motorcycles. New civilian clothes. DEBATES: What was the first sexual position ever performed. Chevys vs. Fords. Cars vs. Trucks. Gay vs. Straight. What race will mean in 20 years. 30 years. Murder vs. killing. Right vs. wrong. Writing vs. talking. And above all, men debate whether joining the Army was a good decision.
We got nine hours of sleep last night but still people hide in corners and take naps. Good soldiers are now studying, working ong weaknesses in their PT or taking apart their M-4’s.
“I used to date a beauty queen, now I’ve got my M-16!”
Everyone has written letters today. Receiving our first mail call reminded everyone that they miss home almost as much as home misses them.
“Used to drive a cadillac…with all my homies in the back!”

Love,
Nick


My Dear Family,
Today marks one week in Basic training. Little over two weeks here at Benning. It has been an intense ride, but I have already learned so many important things. Some the Army taught me, some life has shown me. For one, I know how it takes about a week exactly before my body adjusts to a new environment. For about seven days in a row I would wake up, here and I reception and feel shock realizing where I was.
Today I remembered why I came here. I was thinking much more clear than ever since I have been here.
Today was also one of the most eventful days for us. Today, we faced one of our biggest challenge here at basic–the gas chamber. Tear gas hurts like you wouldn’t believe. It feels like someone grabbed your lungs and rung them out like a wet towel. Snot pours out your nose. Our faces were coated in personal body fluids from nose to chin.
The two minutes after your vision clears up and you learn to breath again, it feels like it never happened…Oh, but that’s when they told me I had to go back in, guess I should have had the discipline to tighten my chin strap. Others dropped their gear completely and ran out of there. They had to go back in and get dressed. But I’m sure they will tell it like it was no big deal…every infantry man, a tough guy.

(Continuing on a later date)


Today has been much easier. (not the same today as the one on the front of the page). We did a little ability run. (A group run where there is an A,B,C,D group. A, being stellar runners, D being asthmatic obese National Guard soldiers). I was excited because I am in B group. It is my goal to make it to A group by the end.
I am happy to say that Basic Training has become much more physical.
We usually get up, do PT in the morning, then throughout the say, every “oops” equals five minutes of getting “smoked” (an exercise of Drill Sgt. Drie’s Choice.)
I feel like I have lost some weight and I look like it too, but my drill sgts. could care less, so we don’t get on the scale. They say if MEPS let us in, then end of story. “This isn’t Bally Total Fitness.”
Today I also got to make a phone call. I called a couple of phones that didn’t pick up, including Heidi’s. I left her a message. I miss her so much. Then I called Britt and talked to her for a long while. It was wonderful. I felt so connected to home. Every description, every plan for Christmas Break flashed images of beauty in my mind. I can’t wait. I come home on the 18th of December.
I love you guys.

Nick.

Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 7:45 pm  Comments (1)  

…And Then While I’m Away, I’ll Write Home Every Day, And I’ll Send All My Lovin’ To You…

Dear All, (Mom, Frank< Emma, Britt, Nick, and Heidi)
Today it was confirmed that we will start real boot camp on Friday. it was so re-energizing. I was like I had forgotten why I did this until then. The sergeants started to tighten things up discipline-wise, and we got “smoked” three times today! I was thrilled! People probably think I’m stupid or something but I laugh and smile through those crazy exercises. Plus every night I get people to do PT in the barracks. Last night me and my buddy Scott and Stephen had a push-up marathon. Tonight I did 100 sit-ups in a row.
Today was pretty easy. Best of all, they decided to let us make pay phone cards if we had pay phone cards. I called Britt. I had been thinking about my sisters all day. I hope Emma is still doing good. Emma, get good grades and don’t break too many hearts. I’ll see you soon for Christmas. All of us look forward to two things: Christmas Exodus (Dec. 18th). And being able to receive mail. This will probably be the last letter I send before we get down there.
I miss everyone so much. This has been really hard. But I can’t wait to see letters from all of you. I have already sent out a few letters but Britt says she hasn’t seen any so I would assume they are slow sending them out. Obviously until I get letters back from different addresses I am sending them all to the only address I know by heart. Please make sure Heidi stops by at some point and gets hers. I write her a lot because I think about her so much. I have noticed that different things trigger me missing different people. When they gave us Swine Flu vaccination, basically they put a curly tail on us and a fake snout and tell us to snort, I got sick that night. Like really bad fever and I missed mom. My missing Britt comes in waves. I just want to hang out and tell stories about this place. I often get this feeling at the end of the night that I should help Emma with her Homework!

(There is a time lapse here…)

This is now day three in basic training…I put down this letter, I don’t know, a week ago and thought about it ever since. I miss you guys so much. Basic is so hard…physically, mentally and above all emotionally. I mean, it’s been two weeks and all the contact I have had has been short minute conversations. I can’t wait for letters from you guys.

Love,
PV2 Chandler

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 7:30 pm  Comments (2)  

I’m Gonna Wrap Myself In Paper, I’m Gonna Dab Myself With Glue, Stick Some Stamps On Top of My head, I’m Gonna Mail Myself To You…

Here’s Nick’s Address so you can send him all the love and support you can before your hand cramps.

 

PV2 Chandler Nick
1st Platoon RN 124
Fox Co. 2-54 IN
8775 Albanse
Ft. Benning, GA
31905

 

Thank you everyone for your support. =D

Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

…If I Get It All Down On Paper It’s No Longer Inside of Me, Threatening the Life It Belongs To…

Here they are. First Letters from Soldier Boy:

Dear All, (to include Mom, Frank, Emma, Britt, Nick, Weston, Declan and Heidi)
I am sacrificing a lot of personal hygiene to write this but I think that it is totally worth it. So when we got here it started off much like I expected. We were met off the bus by drill sergeants. Yelled at, briefed, and stripped of all personal liberties, the worst of which being sleep. I never knew how bad that could be. We just get herded around all day for what is called processing. Really just giving the Army our full lives in exchange for clothes that are generally uncomfortable and to my surprise tanny tighty briefies. (Heidi can translate). Shit is so crazy. Sorry if my letters are unorganized. I seriously can’t think straight. We slept an interrupted 4 hours of sleep in Army bunks straight out of a Vietnam war movie. I am top bunk 🙂 I like it. Bird’s eye view and a six-foot drop. This place is nothing like I would have expected. It’s so hard and it’s only the reception part. Guys I came with that seemed so pumped are looking very hard for ways out. I kid you not we had someone go AWOL last night. (Tried to run away)…like ran.
I know I can make it but I tear up whenever I think of your guys. Especially Heidi. I miss Heidi more than I thought
I could. She is in my thoughts so often I can’t even describe it.  Britt I think about whenever I see people doing interesting social things. Nick I think about whenever I see guys doing PT, which we have done zero of today or any of the other days I have been here. I am pretty sure it’s Friday, but I honestly don’t know. Oh, and tell Britt I had
zero cavities. So I win. 😛
This is the first night I have had any free time since we got here. Today they gave us what is called the Peanut Butter Shot. It’s a shot in the butt that feels like they implant 10 oz of peanut butter in your cheek! We are all rubbing our butts. Hold on…I’m gonna go brush teeth and wash my bald head. Then I’ll start a new page.

(I LOVE MY HEIDI PIE)
Omg…I came back and guys are sharing poetry. This place is so crazy (just the way it swings from tough to so funny to so emotional). The chow isn’t too bad. We go in there and it is the most strict ‘no talk don’t look around’ area.
Guys who recognize each other give just the faintest glances. I often dare to smile at Joe’s big ass when I see him. Just cause he looks like he hates it. We pile on whatever we want and then they put two cups on our plates. Clear drank and red drank. They say red drank keeps us from becoming erection the morning. Just to save the embarrassment. But I think it just might be powerade. (Seriously thought it was the first word ever said to me in the chow hall). “Hey man…pst!” Me all wide-eyed. “Hey, man. Drink that stuff it’s good for not thinking dirty thoughts!” (I cleaned that up a lot.) I am going lights out in 5 minutes so I love you guys. Think of me. You can’t write me yet though. Not ’til I’m “down range”. Two weeks at most. Oh, and I have a good for next letter.
Love, PVT Chandler, your son, brother or Boyfriend.
***
Dear all, started probably at 6 a.m…
Today has been the easiest day yet. We woke up and hour later than usual which was 4 a.m. Everyone was up and on time and we got together and marched to chow. Oh, and last night I did my first fire watch. They woke me up at 1:00 a.m. to guard a door where we sleep. It was kinda crappy but I still got to sleep real well. All the extra sleep seems to help with everyone’s attitudes. I base this on the guys are lying up a storm about how tough they are and running around the bay…
Picked back up at about 8:30. This place seems to like to relax us and almost make us feel like we can handle this, make us feel good, confident, like we have a purpose here…and then immediately strips it away from us. I fucking hate this so far. I am still optimistic that things will be more fun once we get “down range”.
Today we were told we would get our cellphones for 10 mins. to make phone calls. I prayed so hard for me to be able to call one phone and talk to multiple people. I worked to my amazement. I guess I should feel guilty for not going to church now cause my prayers were answered. I called Heidi’s phone and she was with Britt and Nick. It was so emotional for me. It was my third time crying here, always cause an experience like this teaches you how much you value your loved ones. I don’t think I will be able to do more than my three years. Everyone at home seems well from what I hear and that makes me happy. I have made close friends so far. After crying on the phone I met Cross. Cross is my age but looks about 12 years old in stature. He is small! We talked about who we called. He called his wife. I told him I called my future wife and talked to my sister who I am extremely close with. My other closest friend is Scott. Scott is quite the character. He just doesn’t look like he belongs and he freaked out on day one and was trying to find a way out. Which to my surprise is impossible. There is no quitting. Trust me, half the guys would quit given the opportunity. Scott told mr the reason he didn’t want to be most of all was because he missed
his girlfriend. It’s a fairly young relationship but he (wow, all the guys just admitted to getting choked up writing letters.
Picked back up Sunday morning…8 a.m.
To go along with all the swings in my emotions today is just awesome. I hope all Sundays are like this. First off, it was daylight savings so most of us got an extra hour of sleep. I actually didn’t cause I volunteered  for an extra fire watch shift. They always ask me, probably cause I wake up so easily. It’s weird how you can adapt to strange things like guys you don’t know coming up to your face, asking, “Are you Chandler?”
We learned how to make a bunk yesterday so now some guys are getting more shit from drill sergeants. Honestly, I have not been yelled at or corrected by a drill sergeant yet.
I woke up today and Scott told me something I found to be a milestone for us both. He said today was the first day
he woke up and didn’t feel like that “Where am I” feel. And he is right. Much like we predicted, we feel better now that we have some amount of routine.
Me and Scott are getting to be good buds. Everywhere we go on base we are supposed to have a “battle buddy”. Nobody does anything alone. Including taking a poop, which there has been a limited amount of: two reasons, actually. One, there is an extremely limited amount of toilet paper, and two, we all think there is something in the food.
Scott makes fun of me for writing so much about what I’m doing, but i like the idea that when you guys imagine what I’m doing, you’ll be here with me. Plus, it just makes me feel human to write about this, put into perspective.
Although so far it’s far from story worthy.
I got my full uniform, all except my boots. My group looks retarded cause we wear “ACUs” (Uniforms) with running shoes. Most of the time we wear ACUs now but occasionally and always when we sleep we wear the “PT Uniform”, shorts and a T-shirt. Oh, and no matter where we go or what we are doing, we wear a camel pack. A bag always
full of water. It is the closest thing to PT we get. Standing for hours ar a time and carrying those.
Published in: on November 7, 2009 at 6:48 am  Comments (5)  

I am Nick’s restless girlfriend.

There isn’t much I can say at this point, because I won’t speak for Nick, but I am here to announce that shortly, there will be letters.

I am Nick’s screaming, aching legs.

I am Nick’s cold sweat.

I am Nick’s sense of pride and accomplishment.

Come here if you want to know how he’s doing. What he’s doing. When he’s coming home, and what he’s thinking when thinking is all he can do that is his own.

=]

Published in: on November 1, 2009 at 4:21 am  Comments (3)