Crossfit, Paleo, and all things Army

Too hot to handle

with 3 comments

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but it’s taken me awhile to gather my thoughts on this to be able to write something about it. When I was in Drill Sergeant School last fall, the DSLs (Drill Sergeant Leaders) kept telling us about how different basic training was now and how restricted we as DS were. At the time, I brushed it off, thinking that it probably wasn’t as bad as they made it seem, or that was just at Ft Jackson, or they were just telling us that because they had to. Then I got my hat and came to Ft Sill. And I am shocked and frustrated on a nearly daily basis with how scared the Army is. I used to think the Army was just putting in weaker privates because that was the generation that was growing up.. Now I think it’s the Army that’s creating this “weaker” generation.
Before I begin, let me just say that I understand, to some extent, why this is happening. I know that DSs were abusing their power. I know that there was excessive hazing, widespread cases of sexual harassment and assault, and that DS now are closely monitored because the actions of some of our dumber comrades have proven to the Army that we cannot be trusted. However, I strongly feel that we have swung too far in the other direction. I’ve met DSs too scared to do their job, for fear of repercussion from higher. The word of a private is gold, and DSs are now guilty until proven innocent (and even then they get a letter of concern in their official file). So noting that, here are some of the things that frustrate me and make me scared for the future of the Army.

The goal of Army Basic Combat Training is to turn civilians into Soldiers and to prepare them for life in the Army.I have to argue that while BCT maybe teaches them the requisite tasks needed to be a Soldier (such as marksmanship, PT, Drill and Ceremony), being a Soldier is far more than being able to pass a PT test, shoot a weapon, and march. Basic training taught me how to function when I was cold and miserable, how to use my mind to conquer my body, and how to push through fear and pain. While the tasks are still more or less the same, the Army has taken out degree of toughness. I asked some specialist in my CBRN class what he thought of basic training when he went three years ago. His answer? “Pathetic.” And that was three years ago!! I’m not lying to these privates when I tell them that basic training is the easiest thing they will have to endure during their time in the Army.

So here’s a few things I don’t understand. If we’re supposed to be preparing these Soldiers for the rigors of combat, why are we babying them? Earlier this week, my boyfriend’s btry conducted the privates’ first PT test. It was 80 degrees the morning of, and one female private became a heat casualty and fell out. She was taken to the hospital, where I imagine she got an IV, and then returned to duty. End of story, right? Nope. The DS were informed that a 15-6 (an investigation, the words every DS dreads), would be opened for every heat casualty. Every time. You’re kidding right? She was running two miles for the first time in her life, probably. We’re opening a 15-6? Where you’re going to find what, that the DS had implemented every possible safeguard, such as having a MED EVAC vehicle, putting out water coolers, had told the privates to hydrate. What do you think you’re going to find, exactly? Later this same week, his btry (I’m going to be using his btry as an example a lot, because I’m not currently in cycle and he is) was told that not only do they have to set up their two solar shades at training sites, they now have to set up an air conditioned tent. WHAT? Yes, it gets hot here. But that’s the POINT of basic training. You learn how to get acclimated to heat. You teach the privates how to hydrate properly, how to eat so they lessen their risk of becoming a casualty, and we monitor the temperature and implement work/rest cycles and modify the uniform when it gets over 95 degrees. And now we have to have an air conditioned tent, in case they get too hot. What are we teaching them, exactly? When they deploy there will be no air conditioned tent for them to cool off in mid-mission. They will have to rely on the skills we taught them to prevent them from becoming a heat casualty. Except wait a minute- we taught them there would always be an air conditioned tent! The same btry has CCC- combat conditioning course- today. They left at 0530 this morning to beat the heat and finish the training before afternoon. After events like these, the btry normally conducts a “non tactical march” back to the btry. These shorter NTMs strengthen the Soldiers and prepare them for the four mandatory ruck marches they have to complete to graduate. However, instead of walking the mile and a half back to the btry at noon today, the privates will be sitting outside in the hot air until trans gets there to pick them up at 1500 (3pm). Trans that according to the commander will cost the Army 500 dollars to send (to pay the drivers, for the fuel, etc). And the Army is supposed to be broke. Actually wait- they’ll probably all be in the air conditioned tent. So when it comes to their actual ruck marches they won’t be able to complete them because they’ll be unprepared. I can’t possibly blame this on the Soldiers. It’s not their fault that the Army is now terrified of any Soldier feeling light headed due to the heat.

And what about the DS? These privates are taught that they can sit in an air conditioned tent when it gets hot, and a warm classroom when it gets too cold. Meanwhile the DS are standing outside, all day long, with barely a break to pee and eat. Let me tell you a story. In March we went to the zero range on the worst day possible. I’m pretty sure this was the most miserable day in my Army career. It didn’t get above 36 degrees all day and it alternatively rained, snowed, and hailed on us. The privates would group and zero their weapon and then go back to the classroom. The DS were on that firing line for almost eight straight hours. I’m going to be honest with you- I’m not tough. I effin HATE the cold. Hate it. You’re probably like, but you’re from Wisconsin, you’re used to it, ect. ect. NO. I’m trying to go to Hawaii next just so I’ll never have to be cold again. But you know what? I stood on that firing line as a safety the whole damn day. Cause I joined the Army, and that means you spend roughly 70 percent of your time either being too hot or too cold. And that’s the point I’m stressing. We’re trying to teach these privates how to be Soldiers, but we’re not even affording them the opportunity to be uncomfortable and prove to themselves that they can survive it. I understand trainee abuse. Abuse is not walking a mile and a half at a comfortable pace to prepare them for ruck marches and acclimate them to heat.

But it all goes back to the Army having to find someone to blame if something goes wrong or someone gets hurt. You would not BELIEVE the amount of paperwork that goes hand in hand with basic training. There are TWO risk assessments for every training event, a composite and a dynamic. Water coolers and medical equipment are never far away, and DS are constantly trained on emergency procedures. All this is so if a private goes down, the Army can say “Oh, your dynamic risk assessment wasn’t prepared correctly. That makes this incident your fault.” And it spirals from there, til today we’ve reached the point of air conditioned tents and trans, all because no one wants to be the unit with a heat casualty. And really, I’m just using heat casualties as an example. Privates are now babied in every aspect. STOP THE MADNESS. Where will it end? If this is basic training today, what will it be like in 2 years? In 5? Let’s just save ourselves the trouble and let them complete basic training online, in a nice, air conditioned room. Cause that’s what the real Army is like- no need to face the elements in the real Army. Don’t worry privates, you’ll never spend any time outside. You’ll never be uncomfortable or in pain in the real Army. Wait- that doesn’t sound right? Well, that’s what we’re teaching them. Like I said- I can’t even blame the privates. When did the Army become terrified to train privates and make civilians into Soldiers?

I have many more issues with basic training as it currently is, but I think those will have to wait for another day. I’ve gone on long enough- and this post was less funny and more saddening. I’ll leave you on a lighter note though. Below is a picture from my CBRN textbook. We spend yesterday learning about what to do in case of a nuclear attack. It was very enlightening.
1008246_10151685309974846_1963387039_o #thingsthearmyteachesme


Written by blusunshinesarah

June 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

Posted in Running

3 Responses

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  1. Wow, it looks like things have changed a lot even from the time I was at Ft Sill (9 years ago) for BCT. I remember then the biggest babying came a cycle before mine when a Senator’s niece was in training and they couldn’t do anything; the DS’s were thankful for my cycle when they could get back to real training.

    I’m sorry that you all have been put in a damned if you do/damned if you don’t position. I follow a few different blogs and I’m happy to see that you acknowledge that its not All the private’s fault. Best of luck getting to Hawaii – it’s a sweet place to be (even if I only know it from the medical side).

    Luke M.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  2. Society is to blame for the week youth and people. The army just enforces the babying they have received all their life. Have you been to the MRT class? They explain the reason for the unstable mental status of Americas youth. There is no such thing as a loser in kids sports these days. Everyone gets a trophy, so when they grow up everyone is expecting a trophy or award because it makes them feel good. They don’t know what its like to lose or be defeated, so when they come to basic training they don’t understand why they cant graduate or pass events. Its horrible and I agree with you on this post. I also wonder what basic training will be like in a few more years. I warn privates that these are not normal conditions in the army. I warn them they have to toughen up. I cant wait to see some of these little fuckers in bragg when I get back. lol


    June 18, 2013 at 8:02 am

  3. Hi Sarah,

    First of all, thank you for your service with turning civilians into soldiers. I recently enlisted into the army and I’ll be shipping out to basic (Fort Sill), this October. I’ve been reading about how to prepare for BCT, especially the politics behind it and that often means hearing a DS’s pov. I’m 23 with a college degree, but I want to say I don’t expect any red carpet treatments and I it is my highest hope that I learn to be a true soldier that embodies your army principles.


    July 28, 2014 at 2:20 am

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