Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Summarizing AIT

So, what else to say about BCT? It was pretty much what you'd expect from watching the movies . . . long days, short nights, lots of screaming DS's, etc. I will say that I met some really remarkable folks there. I liked most everyone and while they were mostly a good bit younger than my decrepit old ass, I fit in just fine. I have plenty more stories but writing them out like this seems boring, so I'll just refer back to them when it seems appropriate.

AIT (Advanced Individual Training) was a completely different beast. At first it seemed like it was going to be an extension of BCT, with DS's screaming at us but the first time they "smoked" us (I believe it was morning of my 2nd day at Ft. Sam Houston) I realized it was a different world. As I recall, the DS got pissed because somebody in my company had gone to the mini-mall without permission so he was going to: "smoke the dog shit out of us!" I figured it was gonna be a looong day (cuz it was 100+ degrees there in APRIL!) So he put us in the front-leaning-rest and proceeded to make us do thirty whole push-ups. (30? Really? Hell, in BCT we did that as a stretching exercise before casual PT!) My battles from Ft. Jackson and I looked at each other with WTF all over our faces. That's it?? Sadly, there were some folks there from other BCT's who were huffin' and puffin'. Ain't that just sad?

We started the medical training with CPR certification, followed by 6 full weeks of EMT-B courses and certification. That meant we were up at 0400 every day for PT, followed by chow, followed by nine hours of classroom work (and it was serious work . . . those teachers flew through material!) broken up by a 10 min. break every hour, during which you got to climb down three flights of stairs to stand on an open concrete pad in full uniform. (with temps upwards of 110.) We covered 3-4 chapters in BOB (Big Orange Book) every day, with two exams each week. You needed a score of 80 or higher on each exam or you had to go back for a 90 minute "re-teach" class after everyone else was dismissed for evening chow. If you failed an exam, you got two re-teach classes and had to take it again the very next morning (at 0530). Fail any exam twice and you "double-tapped" i.e. got recycled back to the platoon that was two weeks behind us in their training cycle. Fail ANYTHING there and congratulations: you are now an 88-Mike (truck driver). We were restricted to the Company area until after we passed our first PT test (4 weeks in) and maintained that minimum 80% average. After that, we had evenings free (back in for 2100 bed check!) and weekends off (still with a 2300 bed check!). Weekends I would spend down at the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. Beautiful place! I spent many hours chilling quietly in the USO: reading, napping, and eating the awesome (FREE!) home cooked food the volunteers made for us. I watched lots of movies and spent a good number of evenings at Mad Dog's Tavern (Dude: $1.00 beers!!) Oh, and I learned that I am a big fan of Hooters restaurant (not cuz of THOSE, you pervs! Well . . . okay, those too.) because of their buffalo wings. a 50 pc. platter, pitcher of beer and a game on the wide screen was one hell of a much needed break! :-0

The best part of AIT was that I got my cell phone back! I was able to call The Wife and The Boy every night. That made a huge difference in my attitude. BCT was 10 weeks long and it seemed to last for six years . . . AIT was 16 weeks and it flew by, mainly because I could talk to my family every day. I really enjoyed the Medic training, and it turns out I wasn't half bad at it. I actually completed the program as an Honors Graduate (94.6% avg. with first time "go" on every practical exam.) I'm very proud of that. The 68W program is one of the hardest in the Army. Let me put it in perspective for you:

We started with 504 people in my company.
We picked up approx. 110 people who "double-tapped" from companies ahead of us.
We graduated 380 Soldier Medics.
We had 6 Honor Graduates.

Yea, I'm all 'dat!!!! :-)


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Second Medic Call

Sorry for the delay in posting, folks. My mom passed away last week so it was a bit crazy hereabouts. She was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer while I was away in BCT. They gave her only a month or two to live but the old broad pushed it out to almost a year. Luckily, she was doing alright, able to move about and live her life until the last few days. She faded quickly, over the course of a day or two and went without any suffering, for which I am grateful.

So, on to happier things . . .

Where did I leave off my rambling tale? Ah yes, my second Medic call! This one wasn't nearly as dramatic as the first, it was just funny that I wound up covered in blood again before I'd had a single moment of training. It happened while we were "toeing the line" - our first formation of the day at 0430- inside the bay. Illness was running wild through the platoon: we'd lost two guys to Mono and a half dozen or more had strep, while the rest of us were dealing with the flu in one form or another (I was sick every single day of BCT!) We'd all become accustomed to the hacking, wheezing, sneezing and groaning all around us so we barely noticed that one kid, I'll call him Alaska, was moaning and wobbling as he stood at attention . . . we all were! It wasn't until I heard my Jamaican buddy yell: "Catch him, catch him!" that I realized anything was wrong. Alaska passed out cold while standing in formation. Went out like a light and face planted into the concrete floor. (Nobody moved fast enough to catch him!) DS Comic was on duty, back in his office and he came running out when he heard all the commotion. So, what are his first words when he sees Alaska down and out?

"Coppinger, get your ass over here!"

Great, another DS who thinks I know what the hell I'm doing.

Alaska had landed chin first, breaking his two bottom front teeth in half and driving the entire bottom row of his choppers up through his bottom lip. His eyes were rolled back up in his head and he was laying on his back, gurgling and spitting blood everywhere as he gasped for air. (The guys next to him had rolled him over on his back and were staring at him with that charming WTF?? look folks get when they're panicked.) Again, not knowing what to do I let a little common sense prevail. I held c-spine and rolled him onto his side so he'd stop choking on all the blood (and holy shit! there was a LOT of blood!) I stopped his buddies from trying to pull his impaled lip off of his teeth and got a clean white sock (nope, we had no medical kit in the bay!) pressed up against it to slow the bleeding. DS Comic called 9-1-1 on his cell, then made everyone else leave the bay except for me, him, my Jamaican battle, and Alaska of course. I kept talking to Alaska and he slowly regained consciousness, though he was still out of it. The EMT's showed up, slipped on a c-collar, put real bandages up against the wound and carted him off a few minutes later. After they were gone, Jamaica and I started cleaned up the blood while DS Comic handled phone calls and paperwork. He came back into the bay as we were finishing up . . .

"Hey, Drill Sergeant . . . " I said, "you know I'm not a Medic, right?"

He stopped and looked at me with a smile. "Really? You looked like one to me. That was good work, soldier." Then he ordered us to clean ourselves up and get our asses downstairs for a PT session.

Now, that doesn't seem like much I guess, but here's the thing: DS's NEVER call anyone soldier. You're a "private" at best . . . more often: a privvit, shitbag, wannabe, high speed, or hero. None of which are said with anything other than mockery and disdain. You don't rate being called a soldier until after you've graduated BCT. DS Comic was the first one to grant me that title and it meant a lot . . . ya' know: for about five minutes, until they had us low crawling in the icy rain down at "the beach" and I was once more a nameless "privvit!"

Such is the life of a soldier, I guess.