Friday, March 10, 2006

Day 5: PT

PT Gear: Physical Training Uniform. It is a sort of uniform. It is composed of a grey short or long sleeved t-shirt with ARMY written across the front in black and a big black A on the back. You have an option of wearing black nylon shorts with ARMY across one leg, or long cotton lined nylon pants. There is a matching nylon jacket that is also lined in cotton. I have to wear my hair up in a regulation style while wearing PT gear. This is an issued "uniform" to be worn during PT or Physical Training.

0415, my cell phone alarm is going off and I wake to a few figures moving about in the darkened room. The sun is not out, so it is nearly pitch black in the barracks room. I doubt they will cancel PT twice in a row so I get up, grab a small flashlight and begin to get dressed in my PT gear.

0435, I head out the barracks door and walk quickly to the PT area. We form up in ranks and await instruction. It is pitch black dark and COLD. Note to self: find your d*mn gloves. I'm standing next to Spc Colbert who is prior Navy, like myself. We grumble and gripe to each other in the Dark. "Lordy, did you even have to do PT in the Navy?" I ask. "Not since Boot" he responds. We both chuckle. We quietly trade old Navy stories as we wait for instruction.

Presently an ANCOC (pronounced A-nok) student walks up. She is a petite blonde but formidible. She calls "Fall into formation!" She then calls for the Squad Leaders to report. Each Squad leader calls out "Squad One, All present and accounted for!" Then the ANCOC student yells "Extend to the left! MARCH!" Of course I have no clue what this is. So I look around (so is the other prior Navy guy) and I quickly realize that the whole formation has extended their arms out and is rapidly (running) pushing to the left. We are to extend out our arms and move until only the tips of our hands are touching.

Our Formation leader then tells us we will commence stretching exercises. She explains what we will be doing then shouts "Follow me!' The formation yells in return "LEAD THE WAY!" The leader stops stretching and says "Relax!" formation yells "NEVERRRR!!!" in return. After strecthes, we run in place to warm up. Then we close ranks (draw the formation together). Our leader then calls for a volunteer to call cadence. Someone pushes Sgt Nichols out of formation, she stumbles forward and as all eye are on her she says "I guess I'll volunteer". It was hilarious, we all chuckled. Someone else volunteers for real. Then we make a right face then begin to run at double time for a "short" 2 mile run.

Our run is at a good pace. I am keeping up but I hate running. I just cannot stand it. It is boring. It is hard to keep my mind on it or rather off of running. I think about stopping the whole time. I have no idea how long the run will be since they said we would only go for a "short" run. In PLDC school this could mean 7 miles. Add to this I was very close to the front of the group with the fastest runners. Wasn't planned that way, just worked out that way. We ran about a mile and a half and then I really began to get winded, so I fell out of ranks (not really fall, you just drop back) and brought up the rear. I walked/ran and pretty much kept up with the group. I made it all the way back with everyone, so that was good. I hope to greatly improve to the point of keeping up the pace the whole way.

I guess I must look old and decrepit, because everyone kept telling me all day "Hooah, on the run, Sgt Fields!" LOL, I guess they thought I'd literally fall out! :-)

After quick showers and an even quicker breakfast, we made our way to class. Sgt Burn is one of our instructors. He gives instructions in a way that we have begun to mock after class. In a nice way. He will talk and say "OK, after you open your packet, count the pages hooah. Make sure you have 5 pages hooah and the last page is a copy of a map hooah." Of course the proper Army courtesy is to respond with a Hooah after each hooah! So we start to smile and silently chuckle after the umpteenth hooah! Then later we will say "I am going to chow hooah, then I'll walk to the barracks hooah. Later I want to go to Wal-mart hooah." Then we all break-out laughing.

We break for lunch. As we walk to the Mess Hall we spot a group of OCS cadets. Poor guys. It was reminiscent of Boot Camp. The Instructors were yelling at them, they were ahving them go through a sort of obsticle course. I felt sorry for them but it brought back bitter-sweet memories of my own Boot Camp experience. We can hear them marching in formation during the day as they go from class to class. We don't have to march, thankfully. Hearing cadence or a marching song is a haunting sound. It is hard to explain. It makes you remember those days of blood, sweat and tears. But it makes you proud too. It brings back the memories of feeling like part of something bigger than yourself for the first time. The feeling is very similar to hearing a really good old spiritual. Think of hearing Amazing Grace played on bagpipes or Taps on a trumpet. The whole experience is beautiful and terrible at the same time. It felt that way hearing those young soldiers marching and calling cadence. Haunting.

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