Reserve Component BOLC Survival Guide

by ArmyNurse09 11,060 Views | 21 Comments

On orders for BOLC? Concerned about the field portion of your training? A U.S. Army Reserves RN provides tips and suggestions for surviving and thriving in the AMEDD Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) at Fort Sam Houston based upon her experiences in 2010.

  1. 6

    Reserve Component BOLC Survival Guide

    Many of the nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, veterinarians, public health professionals, and psychologists you meet at the Reserve Component Basic Officers’ Leadership Course are not fresh from grad school. They are health care professionals with years of education and clinical experiences behind them.

    The introduction to the Army Way of Life at BOLC is, at times frustrating due to the change in status from respected health care professional to new recruit. Compounding matters, the Reserve Component (RC) is combined for the field exercises with the Active Duty Component (AD) consisting mainly of fresh faced, twenty-somethings direct from college. The majority of them are from the 70 series, Medical Functional Areas. A lot of them are prior enlisted.

    Many view the newbies lack of military knowledge and bearing with disdain and disgust. A few will attempt to make life easier by interpreting and translating military speak. If you find one of these, stick close! Experienced soldiers make the range and land nav manageable.

    The best piece of equipment to bring to BOLC is your fit and trim body. Soldiers that do not meet the weight standards do not receive a certificate of completion for this vital military schooling. NO Exceptions. Completion of BOLC is absolutely necessary for career progression. Do not make the mistake of believing fitness will result from time spent at BOLC; be in the best shape possible prior to arrival. Find the weight standards and physical test requirements divided by age and sex here: http://www.apft-standards.com/.

    Remember AMEDD BOLC is conducted at Fort Sam Houston where droughts and 100+ degree weather is common in the summer and below freezing, ice storms in the winter are the norm. Being in the best physical shape possible prevents complications due to the living conditions. You’re Welcome! BOLC Class 11-115 erected those cozy, post-Vietnam war tents on Camp Bullis under a 116 degree sun. The tents will be your home away from home while training.

    A sleeping bag will be issued – as it has to countless soldiers before you. Not only is it heavy and hot, it’s been used by hundreds. Bring a small set of dorm sheets and a comfy pillow. SPACE BAGS are VITAL! Shove everything in a Space Bag, even the smelly, sleeping bag. This is the only, humanly possible way to pack everything needed for the field exercises into one duffel bag.

    Cots and tents are expected to be maintained in a military fashion. Ask an AD soldier for a set up list if not provided. The phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place” was invented by the BOLC Cadre.

    Make life simple – divide and conquer prior to arrival in the field. Mark your duffel with a bright luggage tag or place a strip of colored duct tape around it for easy identification among hundreds of dull, green duffels.

    Field exercises are generally five days. Knowing this, pack accordingly. Uber, Type A personalities will appreciate the luxury of efficiency by placing one brown T-shirt (Under Armor Heat Gear for the summer recommended), one pair of boot socks (again, Under Armor hot weather socks), undies and sports bra, if indicated, in a one gallon sized bag. After PT, getting ready for formation is a race. Being able to grab a baggie preloaded with the day’s clothing shaves valuable minutes you could be shoving down chow. (Yes, you will eat standing up, preferably finishing breakfast before exiting the chow line. Expect it, get over it now.) The same can be done for the PT uniform. Never, ever forget your reflective belt. PT belts save lives! (They don’t, but you will be indoctrinated to believe they do). Bring or purchase flat dryer/fabric softener sheets and leave at your room in garrison. You will need them after you come out of the field.

    Compartmentalize your toiletries into day and night unless you use the same products for both and store in waterproof carrying cases, the grab n’ go kind for shower time. Field Wipes and feminine cleansing wipes, you cannot have too many. You Cannot Have Too Many. Be prepared to lose all modesty after the first week and be able to take a “field shower,” (baby wipe bath) naked in the middle of your tent. A small pack of facial wipes is great for females during the hot weather. A standard, Army brown washcloth is handy stored in a pocket. Carry a small package of facial wipes in your lower leg ACU pockets along with the individual feminine wipes. The portable toilets, yes, I said it, Portable Toilets frequently run out of TP. This is not a situation in which to be found. Every good soldier should plan ahead!

    Tent Life – Make sure to have a sturdy, very loud, battery operated or preferably, wind up alarm clock. In no way does a human automatically rise at 3AM. The alarm clock is mandatory. Do NOT rely on a friend’s. Bring a sturdy flashlight for hunting for things in the dark tent. Dressing properly at 3AM is difficult if you can’t see. Rope or duct tape is a masterful way of stringing up filthy, sweaty ACUs on the tent wall. While they’re hanging, douse them in Febreeze. Febreeze is your friend.

    Food Stuffs – Outside food is contraband, wink, wink. The decision is yours, eat or don’t eat. Sometimes the chow line is closed by the time you return and MREs are exactly as you’d expect. Granola and power bars are a good way to stave off hunger. Pack them individually in plastic baggies. Yes, you will lose weight, but not enough to pass your tape test if you’re too heavy to start.

    Bring your own canteens. The ones issued have seen duty in Vietnam as have the weapons. There is no possible way the used canteens are not a biohazard. Bring your own purchased from military clothing and sales, the Post Exchange (PX), or an Army Surplus store and bring along copious amounts of drink packets, such as Gatorade or Crystal Light. Plain water becomes unpalatable after sitting in a hot, Water Buffalo for hours under the Texas sun.

    Purchase the best CamelBak affordable in black or camo pattern and wear it! You will need both the CamelBak and the canteens; don’t skimp. Also plan for your addictions, this is no time to go into caffeine withdrawal! Starbucks Via packets are great poured into the morning’s cold milk containers. Little, hard coffee candies like Coffee Rio fix your dry mouth and your caffeine withdrawals. If you carry gum, you will have friends.

    The Little Things – Time in the field is fun, but also challenging. Having a bit of home makes the experience better. Some of things nice to have include: a good book, cash for the food truck if and when it comes around, colored lip balm with an SPF (Burt’s Bees is a great one!), tinted moisturizer with an SPF (Garnier B&B is a great, cheap one), scented bug spray, and body spray besides Febreeze. I will never be able to disassociate one of Victoria’s Secret’s body sprays from Camp Bullis. The scent takes me back. The experience is survivable! Some even thrive in the sparse conditions. (Bring your SmartPhone with a camera attached to prove it!). Remember the one thing universal to all BOLC soldiers, AD or RC, colleagues met in BOLC are friends for the remainder of your career; they’re your friends for life.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 27, '12
    Pixie.RN, Miss Molly, Enthused RN, and 3 others like this.
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    ArmyNurse09 joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2009 as a 66H. She currently serves as a Public Health Nurse in a line unit and is pursuing a DNP in PMHNP.

    ArmyNurse09 joined Jun '12 - from 'Maryland'. ArmyNurse09 has '6' year(s) of experience. Posts: 5 Likes: 6; Learn more about ArmyNurse09 by visiting their allnursesPage


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    21 Comments so far...

  4. 2
    Quote from ArmyNurse09
    Many of the nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, veterinarians, public health professionals, and psychologists you meet at the Reserve Component Basic Officers’ Leadership Course are not fresh from grad school. They are health care professionals with years of education and clinical experiences behind them.

    The introduction to the Army Way of Life at BOLC is, at times frustrating due to the change in status from respected health care professional to new recruit. Compounding matters, the Reserve Component (RC) is combined for the field exercises with the Active Duty Component (AD) consisting mainly of fresh faced, twenty-somethings direct from college. The majority of them are from the 70 series, Medical Functional Areas. A lot of them are prior enlisted.

    Many view the newbies lack of military knowledge and bearing with disdain and disgust. A few will attempt to make life easier by interpreting and translating military speak. If you find one of these, stick close! Experienced soldiers make the range and land nav manageable.

    The best piece of equipment to bring to BOLC is your fit and trim body. Soldiers that do not meet the weight standards do not receive a certificate of completion for this vital military schooling. NO Exceptions. Completion of BOLC is absolutely necessary for career progression. Do not make the mistake of believing fitness will result from time spent at BOLC; be in the best shape possible prior to arrival. Find the weight standards and physical test requirements divided by age and sex here: http://www.apft-standards.com/.

    Remember AMEDD BOLC is conducted at Fort Sam Houston where droughts and 100+ degree weather is common in the summer and below freezing, ice storms in the winter are the norm. Being in the best physical shape possible prevents complications due to the living conditions. You’re Welcome! BOLC Class 11-115 erected those cozy, post-Vietnam war tents on Camp Bullis under a 116 degree sun. The tents will be your home away from home while training.

    A sleeping bag will be issued – as it has to countless soldiers before you. Not only is it heavy and hot, it’s been used by hundreds. Bring a small set of dorm sheets and a comfy pillow. SPACE BAGS are VITAL! Shove everything in a Space Bag, even the smelly, sleeping bag. This is the only, humanly possible way to pack everything needed for the field exercises into one duffel bag.

    Cots and tents are expected to be maintained in a military fashion. Ask an AD soldier for a set up list if not provided. The phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place” was invented by the BOLC Cadre.

    Make life simple – divide and conquer prior to arrival in the field. Mark your duffel with a bright luggage tag or place a strip of colored duct tape around it for easy identification among hundreds of dull, green duffels.

    Field exercises are generally five days. Knowing this, pack accordingly. Uber, Type A personalities will appreciate the luxury of efficiency by placing one brown T-shirt (Under Armor Heat Gear for the summer recommended), one pair of boot socks (again, Under Armor hot weather socks), undies and sports bra, if indicated, in a one gallon sized bag. After PT, getting ready for formation is a race. Being able to grab a baggie preloaded with the day’s clothing shaves valuable minutes you could be shoving down chow. (Yes, you will eat standing up, preferably finishing breakfast before exiting the chow line. Expect it, get over it now.) The same can be done for the PT uniform. Never, ever forget your reflective belt. PT belts save lives! (They don’t, but you will be indoctrinated to believe they do). Bring or purchase flat dryer/fabric softener sheets and leave at your room in garrison. You will need them after you come out of the field.

    Compartmentalize your toiletries into day and night unless you use the same products for both and store in waterproof carrying cases, the grab n’ go kind for shower time. Field Wipes and feminine cleansing wipes, you cannot have too many. You Cannot Have Too Many. Be prepared to lose all modesty after the first week and be able to take a “field shower,” (baby wipe bath) naked in the middle of your tent. A small pack of facial wipes is great for females during the hot weather. A standard, Army brown washcloth is handy stored in a pocket. Carry a small package of facial wipes in your lower leg ACU pockets along with the individual feminine wipes. The portable toilets, yes, I said it, Portable Toilets frequently run out of TP. This is not a situation in which to be found. Every good soldier should plan ahead!

    Tent Life – Make sure to have a sturdy, very loud, battery operated or preferably, wind up alarm clock. In no way does a human automatically rise at 3AM. The alarm clock is mandatory. Do NOT rely on a friend’s. Bring a sturdy flashlight for hunting for things in the dark tent. Dressing properly at 3AM is difficult if you can’t see. Rope or duct tape is a masterful way of stringing up filthy, sweaty ACUs on the tent wall. While they’re hanging, douse them in Febreeze. Febreeze is your friend.

    Food Stuffs – Outside food is contraband, wink, wink. The decision is yours, eat or don’t eat. Sometimes the chow line is closed by the time you return and MREs are exactly as you’d expect. Granola and power bars are a good way to stave off hunger. Pack them individually in plastic baggies. Yes, you will lose weight, but not enough to pass your tape test if you’re too heavy to start.

    Bring your own canteens. The ones issued have seen duty in Vietnam as have the weapons. There is no possible way the used canteens are not a biohazard. Bring your own purchased from military clothing and sales, the Post Exchange (PX), or an Army Surplus store and bring along copious amounts of drink packets, such as Gatorade or Crystal Light. Plain water becomes unpalatable after sitting in a hot, Water Buffalo for hours under the Texas sun.

    Purchase the best CamelBak affordable in black or camo pattern and wear it! You will need both the CamelBak and the canteens; don’t skimp. Also plan for your addictions, this is no time to go into caffeine withdrawal! Starbucks Via packets are great poured into the morning’s cold milk containers. Little, hard coffee candies like Coffee Rio fix your dry mouth and your caffeine withdrawals. If you carry gum, you will have friends.

    The Little Things – Time in the field is fun, but also challenging. Having a bit of home makes the experience better. Some of things nice to have include: a good book, cash for the food truck if and when it comes around, colored lip balm with an SPF (Burt’s Bees is a great one!), tinted moisturizer with an SPF (Garnier B&B is a great, cheap one), scented bug spray, and body spray besides Febreeze. I will never be able to disassociate one of Victoria’s Secret’s body sprays from Camp Bullis. The scent takes me back. The experience is survivable! Some even thrive in the sparse conditions. (Bring your SmartPhone with a camera attached to prove it!). Remember the one thing universal to all BOLC soldiers, AD or RC, colleagues met in BOLC are friends for the remainder of your career; they’re your friends for life.
    Army nurse,

    Thank you for writing about your experience. How long did you have to wait to from commissioning to bolc ?
    keegs13 and Neyerm1 like this.
  5. 0
    Excellent question! The time between initial commissioning and BOLC is fluid. BOLC is offered at different times throughout the year. Dates can be found at the AMEDD Center and School here U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Portal. As a Reservist, the Army is aware we are needed in our respective practices and allows us to chose the class that best fits our lives. If you do not select a class, eventually one will be selected for you. I commissioned in '09 and attended in 2011. Whoops! I need to change the title paragraph.
  6. 1
    Quote from ArmyNurse09
    Excellent question! The time between initial commissioning and BOLC is fluid. BOLC is offered at different times throughout the year. Dates can be found at the AMEDD Center and School here U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Portal. As a Reservist, the Army is aware we are needed in our respective practices and allows us to chose the class that best fits our lives. If you do not select a class, eventually one will be selected for you. I commissioned in '09 and attended in 2011. Whoops! I need to change the title paragraph.
    Army nurse,

    Thats for the info. I go before the board in Oct for 66h8a on active duty, hopefully I'll get selected and will head to bolc some time winter/spring 2013!
    ArmyNurse09 likes this.
  7. 0
    what does it mean when someone "goes before the board"? do you mean the packet?
  8. 0
    Hey Leekun,

    Yes my packet for AD. Are you applying to the Army as well?
  9. 0
    yes I am going for Army reserve and i just finished turning in my packet this week
  10. 0
    Thats great what are you going for?
  11. 0
    Med-surg nurse
  12. 0
    Quote from AjaxAndronicus
    Thats great what are you going for?
    what are you going for?


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