BOLC Week Six: I Would Trade My Firstborn for a Shower...
Adventures in the field!
I'm kidding, I really wouldn't trade my firstborn for a shower ... but only because I'm not having children! When I last blogged, I was getting ready to take the final exam, and I'm happy to say I passed it easily. I am much more pleased with my 88% this week. Hooray!
Monday afternoon we fell into formation and marched over to a building on post for weapons draw. It was so hot last week, and we stood in the sun and sweated all afternoon. We got our M16s, blank firing adapters, and three-point slings. It took a bit of time to figure out the slings, but I got mine on. Unfortunately my weapon (which I named "Large Marge") seemed nearly as tall as me, so carrying it was quite a task, and I had to make several adjustments to my sling with assistance from my more sling-experienced cohorts in crime. We were required (as you might expect) to carry our weapons everywhere during the field training exercises (FTX), including into the latrines. It was made clear in no uncertain terms that misplacing a sensitive item like a weapon was a really, really BAD thing. Future BOLCers, take note! Do NOT be "that guy/gal." Seriously.
We arrived at our Field Operating Base (FOB) at Camp Bullis on Monday afternoon/evening. Honestly, the week is kind of a blur of land navigation (land nav), weapons zeroing/firing/range time, weapons instruction, my first experience with the beloved meals-ready-to-eat (MREs), dirt, sweat, sunscreen/sunburn (neck and nose!), freckles (ugh), a hard cot, and most of all HYDRATION. This is no joke -- hydration became a focus for all of us because it was 100+ with the heat index for some of the days, and we saw a few heat casualties in our platoon (they're fine and bounced back, but it's not fun to see a buddy pale and vomiting in the heat). July and August BOLC people: I am worried for you. Please, please, please make sure you have a Camelbak for hydration and some serious sunscreen, and keep your canteens full as well (in case you have to dump water over your head, or a buddy's head). Camelbak also makes some flavored electrolyte-replacement tablets, and I recommend some of those as well -- don't try to drink only plain water.
We had to zero our weapons on Tuesday, and we spent hours on the range at temperatures very close to, if not over, triple digits. This was the first time I'd ever fired my M16, and it was fun! The point of zeroing is to get a tight shot grouping in the circle of the body on the target so that you can adjust your M16. But before I zeroed with a nice shot grouping to the center, I also put about five shots in the head, including one dead-center where the face would be. My new nickname is now Tiny Killer. Ha.
MREs ... there are so many things I can say about MREs. My first one was roast beef with vegetables, and it really was not bad at all. They're pretty ingenious -- there is a water-activating heating element in a plastic bag, and you place your plastic package with the entree into the bag to cook your meal. People who know me know that I am not a big carb eater -- I tend toward lean meats and salads/veggies, but I decided that this week, I would embrace the carbs because I needed them. I got to eat fun things from the MREs like "nacho cheese pretzels" (Combos, essentially) and carrot pound cake (yummy!). We had the MREs for lunch, and had hot breakfasts and dinners served in the dining facility (DFAC) area. The meals tended to be simple -- chili mac with some side veggies and salad, sheet cake, that kind of thing. Silly me, I went without coffee for the first four days, one day because they ran out before I got to chow, the others because I was worried it would upset my stomach or dehydrate me too much. I paid the price for that with a dull headache until Thursday, when I finally had coffee. Headache gone! Felt much better. By the way, there are a couple of things in the MREs that are great to save: the hot water bags and the napkins. The hot water bags are great for personal items like cellphones (cuts down on the dust), or for carrying around a couple of personal cleaning wipes. The napkins make great toilet paper if the latrines run out of toilet paper (and they did).
The FOB is dusty and dirty. We were all filthy! I learned the true value of personal cleansing wipes, because that was about the only cleaning we could do. There were shower conexes there, but our platoon didn't get to take a shower until Thursday night. Wow ... that was the best shower of my life! I felt like a new person afterwards. I also made the mistake of looking in the mirror above the sink (I hadn't seen my face all week), and saw the sunburn and freckles. Lovely.
The latrines ... let's just say that they were (allegedly) supposed to be changed out every 2 to 3 days, but that did not happen. They were nearing critical mass when we left on Friday, so I'm hoping they get changed out before we go back tomorrow!
The tents are large and have AC; a real luxury for the field, and one which we all appreciated very much. Each platoon has two tents, one for males and one for females. The females in my platoon are awesome, and I'm enjoying getting to know them. The short-course Reservists have joined us as well, adding to our ranks of cool women.
You can take your cellphone to the field, but should not have it on you during the duty day. I have Sprint as my cell provider, and I was not able to get a signal to make phone calls on the FOB. I was able to text, however, and occasionally I'd get enough 3G action to download a few emails. T-Mobile people had it worse, and the folks with AT&T and Verizon seemed to have full service.
In summary ... it is likely that you will be bruised, dirty, hot, sweaty, itchy, and uncomfortable. But I always remembered that it is nothing compared to being out in the field "for real," and nothing compared what our deployed troops have to endure.
On Friday, about 30 minutes into the bus ride from the FOB/Camp Bullis to Ft. Sam Houston, I received a very sad email that put my dirt/sweat/discomfort into perspective for me. This was from the Army Nurse Corps Chief, MG Horoho, and was sent to the entire Army Nurse Corps:
Team Army Nurse Corps,
It is with a saddened heart that I share with you the news of a tragic loss sustained by our Corps and the 352nd CSH. On 22 April 2011, CPT Joshua McClimans was killed by indirect fire during a mortar attack on Salerno Hospital in Afghanistan.
CPT McClimans' Army Nurse Corps career began in 2003, and although his time with us was not long, it was marked by an unwavering dedication to selfless service. He served as an active component and reserve officer, leaving his mark with the 86th CSH in Iraq, Winn Army Community Hospital, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and was an invaluable member of the 352nd team in Afghanistan. His legacy will endure because of the Soldier that he was, the lives he touched, and the warm smile and caring touch that he offered to all who were entrusted to his care.
CPT McClimans' sacrifice reminds us that freedom can come at a high price. I humbly thank each of you on behalf of a grateful nation for commitment, dedication and your courage to care, courage to connect and courage to change. As we mourn this devastating loss please take care of each other and know that the Army Nurse Corps family is here for you.
I am humbled by his sacrifice, and I reminded myself that we train for a reason, and that we are indeed Soldiers first; the dangers are very real. I am also honored to be part of the same Corps in which CPT McClimans served so well.
We head back out to the field tomorrow! The weather promises to be much cooler this week, but we'll see.Last edit by Joe V on Apr 29, '13
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.
Pixie.RN has 'Paramedic: 14, RN: 9' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ED/Trauma'. From 'everywhere and nowhere - global nomad'; Joined Aug '05; Posts: 15,232; Likes: 11,686.May 1, '11I'm so glad that you have made it through a very difficult adjustment with such a positive outlook! I hadn't been to the field in years and it took a few days to adjust. You seem to be doing great!! I also saw the article about CPT McClimans and was reminded that we are all part of a fantastic corps. Thank you for posting the article!! You're doing great and I know you will continue to do so!! So what do you think of the Mr. Todds!?!?! Those two made land nav and the zero range so much fun!! It would've been interesting to see all three of them! Anyway, great job and can't wait to hear more!! Good luck this coming week and as you already know, stay well hydrated!!May 2, '11Lunah, I LOVE your blogs! They are very interesting and entertaining! They make me even more anxious to go to BOLC in July! I'm so excited to start my journey in the Army Nurse Corp! I was born in San Antonio, TX, as I too am an Army brat. I was too young to remember anything about San Antonio, so being at Ft. Sam will be an interesting experience within itself for me. Also, I spent time in Germany as an Army brat as well. I was in Schweinfurt, Germany for all of my middle school education! Your gonna hate me for this, but my follow on permanent duty station is Landstuhl, Germany!!! I'm so excited to go back to live in Germany, 17 years later, as a service person. I feel exactly the same as you do about being in the Army Nurse Corp. I will be just as positive as you are during my journey. I love your positivity!
Also, thanks for sharing CPT McClimans' story. It definitely puts everything into perspective. My condolences go out to his family.May 7, '11I am enjoying your blog so much, Lunah! Your lively descriptions of boot-camp life bring back memories of my own two "Army brats", one of whom went in in 2004 and the other in 2008. They are both Iraq War vets of whom our entire family is very proud, and I know you too will serve your country honorably and well. :redpinkhe
You, my friend, are SUPER-HOOAH!!! Keep the stories coming when you can!
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