With money running low and our stay being ever more burdensome on Lynn’s father, I set off to Fort Jackson, SC. I would do what my parents wanted from the start. I would become a military man.
The intake was fairly neutral. Medical tests and some shots. Long lines formed to gather equipment and assignments. Finally, we were loaded onto buses towards our training units. I was ordered to keep my head down and be silent. I complied. Those who didn’t caught hell from the Drill Sergeants.
Right off the bus they were yelling at us. Simple, loud commands. I followed each with candor and precision. I knew full well how to act. My six years of military school were about to come in handy. Sure enough, I got the question “Who knows how to handle a guidon?” My hand shot up and I ran up and took the flag and showed my skill with it and was assigned to be it’s bearer.
Being out front allowed me to set the pace for the group, that way I would never be too tired or fall back from the group. I do love a good trick. The days were long, the training tedious. But the weekends held some respite. On sundays, we were allowed an hour for church and an hour after for prayer. Unless you were Mormon. Mormons were allotted two hours for church and one for prayer.
Naturally, I was a Mormon during basic training. One of my new friends, Katie also became a mormon for basic training. Several of the times we were at church, we would sneak to the shed out back, and we would take turns kneeling… Basic training had some ups and downs.
Running. Everything involved running. If we were outside, we ran. Marching drills were easy for me, thanks to my training in school and many times, I would get a break because of it. The break that was to be remembered however, would come in Combatives week.
Near the end of CQC week, the Drill Sergeant asked me up front to help demonstrate a new hold. He instructed me to tap out when the pain was too intense. I did not tap out. My shoulder gave out before I did. He had torn my rotator cuff, one week before the end of basic training. If i could not complete the final week, I would be forced to start it all over. I asked the doc for pain killers.
The final week of Basic training was absolutely the worst week of my life thus far. It rained everyday, and we were out in it, 6 of the 7 days. I was high on painkillers, with a sixty pound rucksack on my back, my arm in a sling. After the training, we had a final PT test (Physical Skill assessment). On the march out to the field where it was to be hosted, I lost my card several times because I was so messed up on my painkillers. The drill instructors found it amusing, lucky for me. I did over 70 pushups in under two minutes with a torn rotator cuff.
I was sore for the next 2 months… all spent as a “Hold Under”.
Advanced Individual Training
After Basic training, new soldiers are sent to Advanced Individual Training based upon their chosen assignment in the military. I had chosen Logistics. It was an overcrowded job and therefore I would have to wait for training. The wait was 83 days.
So, here I was, a new soldier fresh out of basic, on a new army base in Virginia. I had nothing to do but morning PT and to go bowling, to the movies and “make new friends”. All my new friends were ladies.
By the time training rolled around, I had made a name for myself around the place and really enjoyed my time there. I had many “partners” and learned quite a bit about logistics and military life. While there, a recruiter from “Airborne school” came and told us we could get paid extra to jump out of planes. I considered it.
Midway through training we had Christmas vacation. Instead of heading home to see Lynn and the kids, I went to New York City with a group of army buddies. Our marriage was rocky with my absence and I wanted a break from the stress of work and home. NYC was absolutely fun. I got my first tattoo in a small shop in Manhattan. I had sex on liberty island and a few subways. It is a treasured time for me.
Upon my return to training, I received a legal notice from my wife. She was filing for divorce. I read everything over and signed the papers. The divorce was finalized before I finished my training. Lynn and I are still friends, but I am not an active parent in my son’s life.
WIthout anything holding me back now, I went wild. I decided I was going all in. Airborne school would be my next challenge. I don’t need anybody or anyone. Maybe the parachute wouldn’t open…
Running. It’s a theme for the Army I think. Every moment from waking to sleeping is spent running in Airborne school. I would run to a training field, so we could do sprints, and then run back from the field, so we could do a ruck run. It was tiresome and irritating. It was also in Fort Benning, GA, in JULY.
It was so hot that they didn’t even bother having A/C in the barracks were we slept. I was wet the entire time I was there. We had formations twice a day for MANDATORY hydration. They would pass around electrolyte packets that tasted like actual chalk, and make us drink it with an entire 32 ounce canteen. Airborne upped my chugging game.
Jump week was exhilarating. We woke up early and strapped into harnesses and ran, or wobbled, to the aircraft hangar. We would sit in that hangar for 5 hours. It was 95 degrees and we had full fatigues, with helmet and rigged up. When we finally loaded onto the planes it was almost shocking the drop in temperature as the plane lifted us into the air.
Nothing. For just a few seconds, I was floating. As the the parachute jerked me from the trance, I got it all straightened and myself on path to the dropzone. I remember it being so quiet. Just falling through the air gently, silently. It was magnificent, right up to the point I had to land. It didn’t exactly hurt the first few times, but it was scary as hell.
After 4 jumps, and a fifth at night, I was through Airborne and all my initial military training. I was a soldier now. An Airborne soldier, headed to Fort Bragg…
3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)
When I arrived at Fort Bragg, I was taken aback at how different it was than a training post. The Special Forces unit I was assigned to would be my unit for the next 5 years. The first day I walked in the door, I was greeted by my superior, He was not in uniform and asked my first name. None of this felt like military.
The unit was relaxed at home because when in combat or training, we would go all in. I was sent to XXXXXXXXX training and XXXXXXXXX training to prepare me for the upcoming missions, sort of a crash course to get me up to speed. During this time, I was able to stay on or off post. I had a few friends in the area so I stayed with them.
Three months later, I was married, again. Leigh was a soldier as well and she did not have any kids. We were friends prior to Bragg, but had not interacted a whole lot. We hit it off and my parents attend this wedding. It was extravagant and all my family came to it. They wanted to see their soldier marry the pretty preacher’s daughter.
A month after getting married, I was sent to XXXXX for a month of Pre-Mission Training. I had a lot of fun and learned more in that month about combat than I had in my entire life. I made many friends and even received a promotion and an award for helping balance the unit’s books. We were preparing ourselves for deployment. Two weeks after PMT, I was saying goodbye to my wife again.
This time it would be for 8 months.