101 Things I Wish Id Known Before BOLC...

by Pixie.RN 42,713 Views | 30 Comments Senior Moderator

Random tidbits!

  1. 17
    Not sure how many things I'll actually come up with, and these are things I wish I'd known, or that other people probably wish they'd known that I actually did know, and I turned out to be right...

    1. Do not count on getting paid for the first 30 days, although I got paid sooner than that. We started 23 March, and I didn't get paid until 15 April. This was during all the potential government shutdown shenanigans, so pay on 15 April was even tenuous!

    2. You can take a $2500 cash advance, and Finance will offer this to you during their briefing. Take it. It is an interest-free advance/loan only available to new commissions. You pay it back over 12 months, so it's a little over $100/pay period. You will not miss it, and you might need it if your pay is delayed (see item 1).

    3. Start your PT workouts well in advance of going to BOLC. I know I harped on this a few times, but seriously. There was a BOLC student who did not pass the PT test in the previous 9 weeks who still didn't pass the PT test at the end of our 9 weeks either. It was heartbreaking to see. Don't be that person who has that hanging over his/her head. You will be held over at Ft. Sam and lose your assignment, and if you're still not successful, it's likely you'll be chaptered out of the Army. Why risk it?

    4. If you're married, don't hook up with other people at BOLC, or hook up with a married person at BOLC. Yes, I know ... but don't roll your eyes, it happens. However, adultery is contrary to the Army values and can land people in very hot water. Just don't do it.

    5. You will need a computer and a printer. Definitely bring both. It's helpful if your printer also has a scanner/copier. Heck, just get an all-in-one.

    6. Set up the movement of your household goods early during BOLC. This can be done online through the move.mil website. The earlier, the better, especially if you're going to be PCSing during the summer months, which are the busiest. Also, confirm your packout dates! The moving company screwed ours up, which resulted in us getting moved to the bottom of their available dates, causing a delay of about three weeks in packout and delivery.

    7. If you only have civilian dental records, I wouldn't bother with them too much other than to have them for your own files. I made sure I got my dental records and x-rays from my civilian dentist, and when I presented them at the dental clinic, they looked at me like I had two heads. They don't care about civilian records, only military. I had to get a dental exam and new x-rays taken at Ft. Sam.

    8. Same thing with medical records, really. However, of great importance are your immunization records, and for females something showing when your last PAP was done.

    9. Get yourself and accordion file and keep your important documents with you. I carried around birth certificates, marriage license, etc., because you never know when you're going to get suddenly told to get over to get an ID card, for example, during which you'll need info about spouses and kids to get them into the system.

    10. Carry a copy of your orders in your wallet until you get that ID card (also known as a CAC card). You can shop in the PX and commissary before you get your ID card, but you'll need a copy of your orders.

    11. Make several copies of your orders. People everywhere need copies, from finance to transportation to the hotel when you check in on post.

    12. Bring a car to Ft. Sam if you can. If you can't, make friends with people with cars.

    13. Get your ASUs (Army Service Uniform, the dress uniform) and the rest of your uniforms before arriving at BOLC. Yes, clothing and sales at Ft. Sam does have a pretty good selection, but odds are you'll be competing with several hundred other people for the same thing. You will have an ASU inspection at some point, and you don't want to be picking your ASUs up from the tailor the night before. Yes, this happened to people, and some of their ASUs didn't fit properly. Take this seriously, you need to look sharp.

    14. Carry an extra set of name tapes, rank, etc., with you at all times. This is great if you should forget to Velcro something onto yourself. Don't laugh, it happened to me just the other day -- I forgot to put my rank on the front of my uniform. I got halfway down the street when I realized my excellent prior service roommate taught me well, and I had a full spare set of stuff in my rucksack.

    15. When they tell you what time to show up, and in what uniform, do it. Do it 100%. Realize that you need to be 10-15 minutes earlier than the time you're told, too. Don't be late and not in the correct uniform. Again, I know ... but people do it. Just follow instructions.

    16. If you have a habit of sleeping through your alarm clock, recruit a buddy to wake you. Don't be the one person who is always late.

    17. Buy some moleskin. Even if your boots are broken in, you might develop blisters. One pair of my boots gave me blisters when we marched up to the gas chamber while out in the field, even though I'd been wearing them for a while without a problem. I also learned that benzoin will help toughen skin in the treatment of blisters -- who knew?

    18. On the subject of boots, I love the Nike Special Forces Boots (SFB). You can order them from the Nike website (free shipping if you register with the site), or also through the PX website. They are cheaper through the PX website, but are sometimes on backorder or slower to ship. These boots are super-light and feel like a running shoe. I didn't have to break these in at all, they are fabulous. Just my opinion, of course.

    19. They are not kidding when they say "death by PowerPoint." There were some painful, painful days. But DO NOT be the person that nods off during briefings or lectures. If you know you're a person who is likely to nod off, get up and go to the back of the room and stand up. Seriously, this is encouraged. They'd rather you stand at the back than stay seated and fall asleep. Also, if it gets to be standing room only at the back of a room, it gives the presenter a cue that they need to either wrap it up, give students a break, or stop reading slides in a monotone voice. Haha.

    20. Learn the Soldier's Creed and the Army Song. You'll have to recite one and sing the other at graduation.

    21. Bring a Camelbak to BOLC, or buy one at clothing and sales. This is important, especially for people at BOLC in the warmer/hotter/scorching months. We were out in the field in May, and it was already over 100 degrees most days. We had a few heat casualties, thankfully none of which caused the students to be recycled (held over and put into the next BOLC class). Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

    22. Do not look at the 68Ws (medics), don't go near the 68Ws, don't pick up any 68Ws, and certainly don't drink, drive, pick up 68Ws, and try to come back on Ft. Sam with all of the above in effect. Yes, I know ... but it happened. Fraternization with enlisted members is a HUGE no-no. Just don't do it. If you're ever in doubt about anything, ask yourself, "Is this worth ending my Army career?"

    23. Don't get drunk and be belligerent with the gate guards, even while in a taxi and not driving. This can still jack up a career. Drink responsibly. And if you find yourself doing things like vomiting in public or flashing people, it's time to do some coping skills assessment. Just sayin'.

    24. It's okay to be homesick and miss your peeps. We all experienced this.

    25. Play nicely with your platoon members. You're going to be with all of them for at least 7 weeks, and sometimes 9 weeks if they're also nurses. There might be people you don't like in your platoon, but suck it up and deal.

    26. You might be assigned a week-long leadership position at some point -- squad leader, platoon leader, platoon sergeant, team leader, etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions about this role, and pay attention in other weeks as to how these positions function.

    27. Tap into the knowledge of your prior service people; in my experience, they had a wealth of info and were happy to share it.

    28. Be respectful at all times with all people. This will help in everything.

    29. Do not skip your work assignments or any assigned work details. It will not go unnoticed.

    30. With that being said, sometimes it's not wise to volunteer for a detail without knowing what it is. I did this, and ended up loading ammo magazines for a few hours. The work itself wasn't bad, but the people running the detail thought it would be great to load the magazines and THEN account for the ammo, which didn't work out so well ...

    31. Do NOT -- I repeat, do NOT -- ever ever ever let your weapon out of your site while out in the field. Pretend it is an attached appendage. I am not kidding. This is a huge deal. Do you have to take it everywhere? YES. Even into the latrine. Yes, I am serious. No, you may not leave it under the supervision of another person in your tent. People did this, but they were wrong. Don't be wrong.

    32. Do not be that person caught outside without the proper attire in the field, which during the day was usually the weapon and the MOLLE vest with two full water canteens. Once the flag goes down at night, you can usually wear your PTs, and you must still carry your weapon. (The weapon, by the way, is an M16 rifle. It is not small.)

    33. Muzzle awareness: do not point your M16 at anything unless you intend to shoot it.

    34. Have your prior service people help you with your weapon sling. There are a few tricks to adjusting it properly. It looks a bit confusing at first, just a bunch of canvas straps in a jumble, but it will make sense eventually.

    35. Do not lose your "cherry" -- your blank firing adapter. During land navigation, especially night land nav, you will need to secure your BFA to your weapon using a little string (just get some 550 cord and take a string from the center of a bit of it, it looks kind of like dental floss).

    36. Land nav is fun. Just keep telling yourself that. No, I actually liked land nav! During the classroom portion of land nav, ask questions until you get it. Do not leave the classroom until you do get it.

    37. And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT lay your weapon down while out doing land nav, especially at night, or you will leave it and lose it, and then you are in HUGE trouble. Know why? Because your entire BOLC class will be called out to help you search for said weapon, and you do not want that kind of attention from your classmates. The land nav course is not small at all. You will see.

    38. If you are new to land nav or feel you might still not understand it, pair up with a prior service person if possible. They are usually land nav superstars.

    39. Maintain the proper military bearing when addressing someone who outranks you. This means you stand up and state your name and rank first, then ask your question or make your comment.

    40. Do not be offended if your prior service classmates attempt to "fix" you if you're looking "jacked up" or "all ate up." If you're not wearing your uniform properly, if your salute is not crisp, if you aren't good at drill & ceremony, if your hair is out of regulation, they will want to help you. Let them. It is not meant to be offensive, but to make you successful.

    41. Hydrate. I know, I keep saying it, but seriously.

    42. Did I mention hydration? Hahaha.

    43. If you don't know the meaning of an acronym, ask. You'll find that the Army (and the military in general) speaks in acronyms. As an Army family member growing up, as well as working for a government contractor for more than a decade, I had a big advantage in that I knew a lot of the acronyms, not to mention the phonetic alphabet. (Yes, you need to know that as well.)

    44. Yes, we are nurses, but in the Army, we are soldiers first. Embrace this, do not fight it. It's actually kind of cool to think about it: what other time would a nurse get paid to crawl around in the dirt and fire weapons? Just roll with it.

    45. You have to wear your Kevlar (helmet) whenever you're in an Army vehicle. We rode in transport vehicles a lot in the field, and they'll let you know if you need your Kevlar.

    46. While in uniform, do not walk and talk on a cellphone. If you need to take a call, stop walking.

    47. On Ft. Sam (and all military installations, really), you cannot talk on a cellphone while driving without using a hands-free device or speakerphone. And do not text and drive either.

    48. Do not speed on post. The MPs there live for that.

    49. There is a Starbucks in the basement of the AMEDD Center & School.

    50. If you are given a 10 or 15 minute break during a lecture while at the AMEDD C&S, do not try to get to Starbucks and back in that time. You usually won't make it.

    I guess 50 items is good for today! I'll just post more things as they come to mind. I was just taking a break from unpacking in this sea of boxes that is our house.
  2. Read more articles from Pixie.RN

  3. About Pixie.RN

    LunahRN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, a volunteer Paramedic, ER RN, new 2LT/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her smartphone.

    Pixie.RN joined Aug '05 - from 'everywhere and nowhere - global nomad'. Age: 42 Pixie.RN has 'NREMT-P: 11, RN: 6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ED/Trauma, 66HM5 (Army)'. Posts: 12,296 Likes: 6,858; Learn more about Pixie.RN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    30 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    I forgot to ask before ma'am, but were you a Direct Commission? What was the pathway for that? The 3 weeks Direct Commission course and then the AMEDD BOLC?

    What training schools are you scheduled for now?
  5. 0
    I was a Direct Commission, yep. I worked for months with my recruiter on my packet, and it was submitted for the FY 2011 selection board. I also came in with the M5 (ER Nurse) identifier, so I didn't have to do any additional training. However, new nurses are typically assigned to a MEDCEN for their first duty assignment to attend and complete a Clinical Nurse Transition Program (CNTP), which lasts six months (I think).

    I think they are going to start making the pre-BOLC course for Direct Commissions more of a requirement, but I didn't go to it. I wish I had, a couple of people in my platoon did and I think it made a difference.

    I'm just orienting to my ER now, will be off orientation next week. Enjoying it all so far!
    Last edit by Pixie.RN on Jul 17, '11 : Reason: typo
  6. 0
    Quote from LunahRN
    I was a Direct Commission, yep. I worked for months with my recruiter on my packet, and it was submitted for the FY 2011 selection board. I also came in with the M5 (ER Nurse) identifier, so I didn't have to do any additional training. However, new nurses are typically assigned to a MEDCEN for their first duty assignment to attend and complete a Clinical Nurse Transition Program (CNTP), which last six months (I think).

    I think they are going to start making the pre-BOLC course for Direct Commissions more of a requirement, but I didn't go to it. I wish I had, a couple of people in my platoon did and I think it made a difference.

    I'm just orienting to my ER now, will be off orientation next week. Enjoying it all so far!
    Excellent. Thanks for the information ma'am. I plan on applying as a civilian for the Army Graduate Program in Anesthesia Nursing when I ETS from the Army as an enlisted guy in July 2011.

    Good luck on your first assignment ma'am.
  7. 0
    Quote from pyroandbozzt
    Excellent. Thanks for the information ma'am. I plan on applying as a civilian for the Army Graduate Program in Anesthesia Nursing when I ETS from the Army as an enlisted guy in July 2011.
    Do you mean July 2012, or are you actually ETSing this month? Either way, good luck to you!!
  8. 0
    LunahRN,

    Thanks for the info!!! Very much appreciated!! Definitely will be useful for Aug BOLC. Quick question, are there accommodations made for those whose duty station isn't Fort Sam Houston?
  9. 0
    What do BOLC mean?
  10. 0
    Quote from lalo100
    Quick question, are there accommodations made for those whose duty station isn't Fort Sam Houston?
    Yes, you'll stay in the post hotel, either Building 592 (the main building where everyone checks in) or Building 1384. Make sure you sign up for a Priority Club membership, because you can get points while staying in lodging on Ft. Sam. If those buildings are full, arrangements will be made for you to stay at an off-post hotel, but if that happens, don't get too comfortable there -- you will be moved on post as soon as a room is available on post because it's pretty expensive for the Army to pay for an off-post room. In any case, your orders should authorize lodging. Also, if you know someone else who is going to BOLC and you want to be roommates (same sex, of course! LOL), whichever one of you checks in first can request that the other person be your roommate.
  11. 0
    Quote from Let's help out
    What do BOLC mean?
    It's the Basic Officer Leader Course, our initial Army officer training.
  12. 0
    Yay! What a great list of things! I guess hydration is really important


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