Sunday, November 18, 2007

Training Day

What does an Army National Guard soldier do all day on a training weekend? Here's a log:
0600--Get up, make coffee, get dressed, check my e-mail, make sure I have everything I need in case we have night training and I spend the night.
0645--Drive 39 miles north, all on back roads, from my home on the west side of Lancaster, Pa., to Fort Indiantown Gap.
0740--I am inside the mess hall at our headquarters building and waiting for formation. The cooks sell egg and sausage sandwiches for $1.50, the coffee is free. (Only the noon meal is provided for Guard drills, unless we have night training.)
0800--Morning formation. Usually the First Sergeant begins the day with routine annoucements for the whole company and formation takes about five minutes. this morning, the first sergeant expressed his displeasure with the results of the preceding month's APFT (Annual Physical Fitness Test). He reminded everyone that their enlistment contract included staying in shape and meeting the Army's height and weight standards. And then he said "Those of you who failed the PT test should know that Old Man Gussman passed with flying colors last month. Any of you who are younger than him--that's every damn one of you--should be ashamed of yourselves." He then said those who flunked will retake the test after everyone else is dismissed this evening and do it every month till they pass.
0815--We are told at formation we will get a gas mask test fit at 0830. Several of us go to the test area, but the test will be delayed, so we go to the motor pool.
0830--The motor pool building is one mile away on the range road, but there is a barrier across the range road and no vehicles are allowed. So everyone drives 5 miles around the airstrip to the motorpool. I walk. I listen to my iPod for 20 minutes and arrive 5 minutes after the people who drive.
0850--My assignment for the morning is to set up the side curtains and start the heater on my $200,000 tool box. See the FRS (Forward Recovery System) post from last month for details. Next I inventory a box of filed lighting equipment. It's a 100+-pound green plywood box about 2x2x3 feet. Inside are wires, bulbs, connectors and power cords. I count everything, verify the lengths of the cables, and issue tools from the FMS.
1100--The motor sergeant sends several of us back to the headquarters building for gas mask fit. When I get there, he is shutting down for lunch.
1130--In the monthly newsletter sent to everyone a few days before drill, my name is listed as needing to sign some paperwork and turn in other paperwork--college transcripts, direct deposit authorization, etc. So I go to our company HQ and take care of the paperwork.
Noon--Lunch. Beef in gravy over noodles, mixed vegetables, fresh fruit--pears and oranges--rolls, cole slaw, and orangeade. I eat everything. Lots of jokes at lunch about how the lunch is going to look coming back up during the PT test.
1300--I get my gas mask from the supply room and join the line for mask fit. The new method connects a pressure sensor to the drink toube and makes sure the mask fits correctly by sensing pressure while we breath normally, breath hard, turn our heads side to side, up and down, and finally pretend we are chewing gum.
1330--I walk back to the motor pool. I am always alone for this 20 minutes. As far as I know, no one ever walked to the motor pool except me. Certainly no one has in the last three months. So I talked to a friend who teaches English at Lancaster Bible College about a class he is teaching on faith in the arts. We talked about the music he was using to tracing Dylan's career in one class session.
1400--With the light box inventory complete, I began to inventory the refrigeration mechanics tool kit. It turned out to be a total of four tool boxes. I also stowed the tools takes from the FRS.
1610--Back to HQ for afternoon formation. I walk fast. "Walk This Way" by RunDMC keeps me on cadence.
1630--Afternoon formation. Everyone is dismissed until 0800 Sunday. I decide to stay around because my squad leader is one of the guys who has to re-take the AFPT.
1700--I tell my squad leader i will run with him then go and change into exercise uniform while he and the others do the push-up and sit-up part of the AFPT.
1730--Everyone drives to the track.
1740--We arrive at the track. Another company is testing. I talk to them and they are fine with us sharing the track as long as our timing is on the opposite side.
1745--The two-mile run begins. I run beside my squad leader. He gets slower in the middle but recovers enough to pass. He was sure he was going to see his lunch again. 1805--At the end of the run, seven of the nine guys who needed to pass made it. Two left for next month.
1815--Everyone goes home. My left knee was swollen before the run. It feels better now so I do three more laps because I know I will have to lay off running for at least a week anyway.
1845--Drive back to Lancaster. On the way home, I talk to my best friend from the last time I was in the army. He is a recently retired firefighter in San Diego. We laugh a lot about how little the Army has changed. At other times we have talked about how much more combat ready the Army National Guard is now than the active duty unit we were in during the post-Vietnam malaise.
1945--Stop at Starbucks then go home.