Sunday, July 16, 2006

Elvis Can wait...

I am so tired!! I worked all weekend at RSP. I'll explain:
The National Guard has an unusual situation when it comes to new recruits. Normally when someone wants to enlist in the Regular Army they do one of two things. They either enlist and ship off to Basic Training right away or they go into the Delayed Entry Program or DEP. When someone is in DEP, they live their life like they did before, and wait until their ship date. When I enlisted in the Navy I shipped right away. I had friends who had been in DEP for up to 2 years waiting for a certain school to have an open slot. Once their slot came open they enlisted then shipped to Boot Camp and then to their school.

The National Guard doesn't do it that way. You enlist period. There is no DEP. If you have to wait to go to Basic or a certain AIT (Advanced Individualized Training for your MOS or job) you are enlisted and drill with your unit. This was very unproductive. The new recruit had no military training at all and either stood or sat around all day with nothing to do...or they were put to work doing the things no one else wanted to do like KP duty (kitchen patrol). So while they *did* get paid to drill, they were not motivated at all. Pretty soon Georgia and others states had high "Pipe Line Losses", or people who went AWOL prior to either shipping to Basic or AIT. To combat these costly losses Georgia and other States have started what is known as the RSP program. RSP stands for Recruit Sustainment Program.

RSP has only new recruits in a unit. They learn military customs, they learn Drill and Ceremony (how to march, etc.), they learn Guard history, who their chain of command is, how their future unit fits into the big picture and ultimately how important they are to their unit. Once someone enlists they report to the closest RSP to drill one weekend a month. They are prepared for Basic and get all their paperwork in order. Once they return from Basic they either go straight to AIT or report back to RSP to await their orders to AIT. Finally once they complete all their training they attend one more RSP drill to have a hand off ceremony to their new unit Commander or representative.

SO, this weekend I got to attend a RSP drill. Wow. This was the first one for my Team and the local Armory. Prior to this they had a regional RSP held at Dobbins Reserve AFB comprised of hundreds of kids. We had 35 recruits attend. The brand new recruits dressed in our old BDU's minus the rank and names, wore tennis shoes and tried to not look scared. We had 5 PVT's that were being promoted and handed off to their new units so they had full ACU's with boots, name tags and rank ensignia. They all brought sleeping gear, a change of clothes and PT gear.

The first day we practiced close order drill and marched them all over the armory parking lot. It was HOT! They (and we) were sweating bullets. They carried mock weapons and learned how to pivot and do facing movements (right face, etc.). They learned how to march like a soldier. In case you didn't is different than marching in band! Or at least my NCOIC thinks so. He is a Ranger and is FULL of attitude. He was having a ball. He cut up with the kids, but kept it serious. He joked so they would lighten up but kept them on the move. He was hilarious trying to show them how to march. "Stand up straight, you're a SOLDIER! Don't swing your arms out, you're not a dammed helocopter!.... Take good sized steps but don't goose step, you ain't no dammed Commie or Nazi! ......Have a little attitude in that step, you're PROUD to be a SOLDIER but you ain't no home boy, hooah?!" They ate it up.

Lunch was MRE's. Blech! I guess if you are in a survival mode it will do the trick, but the NCO's all went to eat at a local buffet! :-) The kids didn't mind a bit. After lunch we marched for 2 miles to a local rifle range. We unloaded 6 air rifles and the four squads took turns practicing marksmanship. One of the NCO's husband arrived with their two Glocks. My NCOIC pulled out his two handguns and my supervisor strapped on his holster and handgun. They had target practice for quite a while. MY NCOIC let me fire the handgun handed down to him from his father. His father served in Vietnam and had the weapon engraved with scrolling, his name and dates of service. It was beautiful and easy to use. Don't ask me what type of handgun it was. I want to say a 9mm, but I really have NO clue. Another thing to add to my ever growing list of things to learn.... handgun use and types.

We marched them back and the very last 1/8 of a mile the Platoon SGT thought it would be a good idea to run them in the over 90 degree heat. We had eight fall out. He got his butt chewed by the NCOIC. SFC Ranger explained to the Platoon SGT that these were raw recruits with little to no training. He said "Tailor your training to the overweight red faced kid. Always consider what the lowest denominator is capable of doing. They aren't here to do Basic."

We got them in the Armory to cool off then let them assemble in the airconditioned classroom to drink water and play a game while supper was being delivered. They ate Chick Fillet. They were in heaven!

Everyone (except a few of the NCO's) slept overnight in the armory on cots. The recruits that had attended RSP at Dobbins were used to sleeping in hotel rooms!!! They bed down on the floor in sleeping bags at 2200. At 0430 they were roused out of their slumber by the playing of Reveille VERY loudly and the Platoon SGT banging a big stick against the inside of a metal garbage can. Ahhh shades of Boot Camp! Everyone dressed quickly into PT gear and we marched them to a high school track about a half a mile away. We held a PT test for new recruits which is running one mile and push-ups and sit-ups for one minute. We marched back, had them change back into BDU's and they ate breakfast from Cracker Barrel!! It looked pretty good. Since I get money for food (separate rations) I have to go buy my food. It is considered stealing to eat the food provided for free.

For the next few hours they got to relax a bit, practicing the handing off ceremony and promotion ceremony for the five PVT's. I walked around talking to several of the kids asking them what they thought, how did they like the RSP. They loved it! One kid said "I went to my first drill last month at Dobbins and thought 'What did I get myself into!' but this was GREAT! I am glad I enlisted!" Later as I was putting something into my vehicle a kid with a beard (a guest of one of the recruits) said "See ya later SGT!" I asked him how he liked the weekend. He said "I loved it! I am going to talk to my friend's recruiter tomorrow." I congratulated him, shook his hand and told him "GOOD NEWS!"

The ceremony was nice. You could see how proud the PVT's were. They stood and recited the Soldier's Creed; sounding off very loud and clearly. OK, yes I got tears in my eyes. They were standing tall and looking like soldiers. I saw the future generation and the future looks GOOD! Hooah!

I left the armory very tired, exhausted but feeling very good and motivated. Several of the young recruits from my area said they would bring a friend next time. I gave them my card and told them if they had any issues to not hesitate to contact me. I have their names and will call them this next month to just check in on them and make sure they are staying squared away. Man o man, and they are PAYING me to do this job!


Blogger Kim said...

This post made me cry. You are so lucky to be making a difference in the lives of those kids!

Monday, July 17, 2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger SGT Lori said...

I *am* lucky! These kids are great kids.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 12:08:00 AM  

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