BOLC Week Seven: Gas Gas Gas!
Week two of adventures in the field!GAS GAS GAS! Yep, that's right ... this week was the infamous gas chamber. For those of you who don't know what that entails, we were issued a gas mask (item M40), which, like the M16 rifle, is a "sensitive item" that becomes glued to your person whenever you leave the confines of your tent, even if you're headed to the latrines. (The latrines, by the way, had not been cleaned when we returned Monday, but that was corrected on Tuesday.)
On Tuesday we road-marched a mere 1.5 miles to the NBC area (that's Nuclear/Biological/Chemical), where we were oriented to our M40 masks, then lined up in preparation for the gas chamber. We were told we were going to be exposed to CS gas, which is essentially tear gas. Our prior service folks had already been through this, some more than once, so we knew to expect tears and snot. We were told that, once inside the gas chamber (a cinderblock building), we'd do some exercises to build "mask confidence." We donned our masks and filed in. The skin on my neck began to immediately experience a mild burning sensation. The "stoker" was sitting in the middle of the room in his mask, adding pellets to whatever heating element was producing CS gas in the room. The "choker" then prompted us to do some jumping jacks to show us that the masks were indeed protecting us. We were then instructed in groups of two to remove the masks and say our name, rank, a fake social security number, and our hometown, at which point the "choker" would open the door for us to exit. I took a deep breath before I removed my mask and managed to get my name, rank, and fake social out before I (without thinking) took a breath to say my hometown. WOW. My eyes were burning and tearing, and it felt like my lungs were on fire. I choked out my hometown and was out the door. Once we exit, people were staged outside to direct us forward, telling us to blink our eyes to help clear the CS and to flap our arms to aid in the off-gassing of the CS. After a few feet I felt much better, but others weren't as lucky ... there was snot and tears and some near-vomiting, too. Good times! The uninitiated had survived our rite of passage. The bonus of doing the gas chamber on Tuesday was that we got to take showers that night back at the FOB.
Monday (yes, I realize I'm out of order, but the gas chamber was so exciting! Haha!) we went out to fire 9mm pistols. This was the first time I'd ever fired a pistol, and I did really well! We had several "tables" (scenarios) to go through involving one to two targets popping up at certain times and distances, as well as changing out the ammo magazine mid-table. I did really well! We only needed a 16 to qualify, and I got a 20. I really liked the 9mm pistol a lot. Much more "my size" than the M16 rifle, that is certain! I might just have to get one of my own.
Monday was also practicing our warrior leader task (WLT) training. These tasks include clearing, disassembling, reassembling, and functions-checking both the 9mm pistol and the M16 rifle correctly in less than four minutes. Another task is to assemble a field radio and program a designated frequency in and get it working in less than five minutes. The last task is to send a "nine line," which is a MEDEVAC request, given a scenario that contains the information needed, in less than five minutes. (There are nine lines of information that make up the MEDEVAC request, hence the name.) I was still a little clumsy/slow in disassembling the M16, but much faster with the 9mm.
Wednesday was convoy operations. Tuesday night our designated convoy commander attempted to give us a briefing in preparation for our convoy, but she was competing with the chaplain, who had brought home-baked goods and a company that made us all milkshakes (yes, 300+ milkshakes!). Thus the next morning, we went into our convoy without a huge amount of preparation. I was in "Voodoo 4," the second LMTV (big truck) in the convoy, and most of what we did was dismount and provide security (i.e., lying on the ground with our M16s in the prone unsupported position, keeping an eye on things and firing blanks every now and then). We also came across an IED and had to call EOD to have it detonated. We were moving through Camp Bullis in actual vehicles with people playing the enemy, etc., so it was really interesting and informative to see the actual convoy operation in action. After the convoy we all sat down to eat our MREs while the cadre conducted the after action report (AAR). We got some nice kudos for the way things went, which isn't the norm from some of the cadre's comments. We were pretty happy with how our platoon performed.
For the afternoon, we went to the simulator area, which includes a simulated vehicle rollover (the HMMWV, better known as the Humvee) and a convoy simulator. We did the rollover first, which taught us the proper way to get out of an upside-down Humvee without hurting ourselves or freaking out. It was actually pretty fun! Next we went inside for a pre-convoy simulator briefing, in which I was chosen to be the truck commander (TC) of the fourth vehicle. The simulator is amazing. You sit in a Humvee in a room (each of the four vehicles in the convoy is in its own room), and the scenery is around you 360 degrees. The scenery moves, but the Humvees are stationery. However, they shake and move in reaction to taking on small arms fire, if there are explosions, if your gunner fires the 50 cal weapon, etc. Just a word of warning: people who get motion sickness might experience a little nausea at first just because of the way the visuals move. I didn't have much of a problem with it, but I can see how someone might. The exercise was a lot of fun! We didn't get all the way to the objective, but we worked well as a team and our convoy commander (CC) stayed calm, kept his cool, and constantly sent status reports up to higher, which is very important. During the AAR for our group, we were told that we did better than any group in the previous two days, which made us feel awesome!
Thursday: land nav testing! My roommate and I partnered up, and were given our four points to find. We went four for four, hooray! We got pretty hot and sweaty running around the countryside of Camp Bullis. We were strategic with how we decided to "attack" our points -- we knew that we only had to get three of the four in order to be a "go" (pass), and our fourth point was very close to our start point, so we went start point to point 4 to point 1 to point 2 to point 3. The last one was much further away, but after we made it to point 2 (our third point, where we knew we'd be a "go"), we decided to go for point 3, and found it. Great!
For the afternoon, we had some lectures about the various levels of medical support in preparation for our final week, and then we had WLT study hall to practice all the 9mm, M16, radio and nine-line stuff for our testing on Friday.
Finally, FRIDAY! We were so happy to be on the verge of going "home" -- not that Ft. Sam is home for most of us that aren't permanent party, but it's certainly more "home" than Camp Bullis! Friday morning we were divided into groups of 10, then put through our WLT testing. I'm happy to say I was a first-time "go" in all four areas! That felt good. In the afternoon we had to move through a scenario as a group, which involved tactical movement, planning, teamwork, etc., with other students from another platoon strategically placed as hostile forces or individuals. It was very interesting to run through a scenario like that, and once again, we did a great job.
Afterwards we ate our MREs for lunch and rested a bit, awaiting transport to the Camp Bullis theater for a briefing related to next week's activities, then hopped aboard our buses and headed back to Ft. Sam Houston, showers, and some fine dining. I can say that I highly recommend the stuffed shrimp at Pappadeaux! I am not able to eat nearly as much as I used to, which just means yummy leftovers in the little hotel refrigerator.
Next week: the final week of FTX! And it's a short week, too -- we return earlier to facilitate equipment turn-in. After next week, it's really the home stretch: graduation from the initial BOLC course, and then time for Nurse Track, which lasts two weeks. Time is really going by quickly.
Just a really cool side note: our Corps Chief, MG Patricia Horoho, has been promoted to Lieutenant General (three stars, count 'em!!) and she will be the Surgeon General. Awesome!
About Pixie.RN, MSN, RN, EMT-P Senior Moderator
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.
Joined: Aug '05; Posts: 16,489; Likes: 13,334
Trauma Nurse, Trauma Educator, Paramedic; from GA , US
15 year(s) of experience in EMS, ED, and Trauma; CEN, CPEN, TCRNMay 8, '11Excellent work, Lunah! I just want to say that I really enjoy reading your posts. I think you should write a book.May 8, '11Maybe someday. I wanted to be a writer when I was much younger (was actually a Journalism major for a bit as well), so who knows?
And lest anyone think I've turned into some kind of rockstar super soldier, please know that on Friday I managed to a) whack myself in the forehead with my M16, and b) give myself a fat lip with my Kevlar because I had it hooked to my assault pack and I picked my assault pack up to quickly, causing my Kevlar to fly up in my face/mouth. I was happy to not lose a tooth in that deal.May 8, '11Hey Lunah, what is going on for Mother's Day there! Hope you at least get some nice Mother's Day cake and a day of rest.May 8, '11I'm not a mom, so not much ... I'm still getting some rest today, though. We have to be up at zero-dark-thirty. Ugh.May 8, '11Quote from LunahRNHappy Mother's Day anyway. When you get on the job, those soldiers will be the chicks you get to be a mother hen to!I'm not a mom, so not much ... I'm still getting some rest today, though. We have to be up at zero-dark-thirty. Ugh.May 13, '11Quote from LunahRNHeh...Love it!! You're still a rock star! Our armed forces produce only the very best.....Maybe someday. I wanted to be a writer when I was much younger (was actually a Journalism major for a bit as well), so who knows?
And lest anyone think I've turned into some kind of rockstar super soldier, please know that on Friday I managed to a) whack myself in the forehead with my M16, and b) give myself a fat lip with my Kevlar because I had it hooked to my assault pack and I picked my assault pack up to quickly, causing my Kevlar to fly up in my face/mouth. I was happy to not lose a tooth in that deal.May 15, '11Mmm, I miss Pappadeaux! While I don't also miss Camp Bullis, you are making me nostalgic for Fort Sam and San Antonio! Keep on keeping on...
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