What I Did On My Summer Vacation 2005. A Retrospective. Jared Mason.
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Hi, kids! I’m Jared, the author and artist of this graphic novella. I did this book for a college course, Advanced Exposition, a class that focused on Creative Nonfiction. I was inspired to use more graphic art by my professor, Dr. Bob Broad. He said he’d like to see me push my artistic talents. So, Dr. Broad, I thank you. I also feel it necessary to thank my folks for unending support, they’ve always believed in me which helped me believe in myself.
At the risk of sounding Chaucerian, I feel the need to include this short disclaimer. This piece covers a very intense time of my life, Basic Combat Training for the US Army. Soldiers may be disciplined and professional, but those training to become soldiers are unformed and rough. I warn you now; there will be colorful language, bodily fluids, and other very human elements. I feel obligated to include it all to be as honest to reality as possible.
So, pour a drink, light up a smoke, and enjoy.
This is Missouri. The 24th state to join The Union. The Show-Me state. Home to the Gateway arch. Its motto is “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” It’s a pretty decent, Mid-west, down-home kind of state. The outlined shape there is Ft. Leonard Wood.
Named for a Major General whose career spanned 40 years. Wood was a Harvard graduate, a surgeon, and the commander of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry better known as the Rough Riders. Ft. Leonard Wood now stands home of a Chemical corp. school, an Engineer corp. school, a Military Police corp. school, a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) academy, and Basic Combat Training school.
Ft. Leonard Wood is more affectionately known by its inhabitants as “Lost in the Woods,” mainly because that is how you feel when you are there. There are trees everywhere, in the summer the humidity is outrageous and the mosquitoes are the size of pterodactyls.
Ah, its inhabitants. I was only there temporarily but for the poor bastards that have to live there full time…I cringe at the thought. Some of those poor souls are the Drill Sergeants. Men and women that are respected throughout all of the Army. They have their own creed that they must learn and live by as Drill Sergeants.
Of course this is how we met them…
Being in 3rd Platoon of C. co. 3rd Battalion 10th Infantry Regiment meant that my two Drill sergeants were DS Peek and DS LaPorte. DS Peek had a very particular way about him. The way he would motivate us was not to yell and scream all of the time, but to tell us how easy it was for him to do things.
DS LaPorte looked like Elmer Fudd and sounded like he was from Providence, RI. He made it very clear that he didn’t want to be a Drill Sergeant
I didn’t want to be a Drill Sergeant. I opened my e-mail one day and I had a letter saying I was going to Drill Sergeant school. Look, just get through this and you can move on to the real army. ‘Stead of this training bull shit.
Look, man. It’s too easy. I do 20 reps of 250lbs 5 times a day. You just have to push yourselves. I’m like a freight train.
Although it’s not a comprehensive collection of things learned at Basic Training, these are some of the lessons that I’ve held onto and kept dear to my heart and the stories behind them. All of these things are lessons I learned that the Army taught me inadvertently. Of course I learned all of the regular Army things like how to kill using a multitude of weapons and my bare hands, how to run and run and run and run, first aid, navigation, urban tactics, and how to camouflage myself and move through the woods undetected. These were the un-written lessons the Army doesn’t have manuals for.
At the end of one of the first weeks of Basic we all got marched out to the CS chamber after lunch one day. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, tear gas. We were all stuffy from the Crud so none of us were really thinking straight and just about everyone was sniffing and coughing from congestion.
I was in the last group of soldiers to go into the small brick building. We didn’t know exactly what to expect but we knew it was bad, there were people that ran out of the chamber before they were supposed to. They got lumped in with us at the end.
Break the seal of your masks and re-seal them.
It was like diving into a pool
We hear you like running. Well, for that, take off your masks, hold them over your heads and sing the Army Song.
Of Tabasco Sauce.
We all felt awesome, and none of us were congested anymore.
One of the more fun aspects of military training is the physical challenges and obstacle courses. On a sunny day almost a quarter of the way through training we learned all about the COC
Tomorrow, we’re going to the COC. The COC is long and hard, the COC will break you off and leave you sore.
But because I was screaming the whole way through, when I went into the soup for the under-over logs…
So after finishing with the cargo net box, the one rope bridge, the two rope bridge, the CS Hill, where we donned our masks and run up hill going over-
walls, the rope swing onto a log, the drainage tubes, the balance log series, under the barbed wire, and up a rope,
I wasn’t feeling very well.
It was the only time I vomited in my three months in Missouri. As I watched my scrambled eggs and rice from breakfast flow down the gravel covered hill, I felt bad ass.
Just don’t think about it.
Sucks for them.
It’s widely accepted that if a soldier is given projectiles and a receptacle, this game WILL be played. It’s a worthless activity that is engrained into us all.
Step 1: pick up rock.
Step 2: Throw rock at something.
Step 3: Repeat for anywhere between 1 minute to hours on end.
Hey, has anyone seen my Kevlar?
I have fallen asleep in some pretty strange positions and locations but the most extreme way I’ve ever dozed can be summed up in two words:
I was in the hallway, then I was further down the hallway.
You learn to work around comfort.
Until next time,