I am currently at OBLC (Officer Basic Leader Course) in Ft. Sam Houston. I will try to give a brief overview so future students can have an idea and hopefully be prepared.
I am not in the ANC (Army Nurse Corp), I am a Clinical Laboratory Officer in the MSC (Medical Service Corp). I am a licensed practical nurse and am working on my BSN.
Our class started on April 9th, 2007. This 1st week was mainly administrative type tasks, like ID cards, filling out travel vouchers, submitting dependent information, brief dental exam, immunizations, etc. We did have lectures and workshops on things like military leadership, writing skills, etc. too.
Even though the OBLC website showed a class size of about 230, our class is only about 135 soldiers.
Thoughts from week 1
1) Many of us are prior service. Learn from the prior enlisted Army soldiers! Incredibly helpful. My prior service was Navy so some basics like military courtesies and military bearing I knew, but the Army does do many things differently. Be patient and listen. They will teach you.
2) I have noticed that a few soldiers who are straight from civilian life have had some issues with being on time for formation. Trust me, you do not want to be late!! You are not in college anymore!! This is the military. Be early!! You do not want the huge negative attention you will receive not to mention the anger of your fellow soldiers that have to be there earlier and earlier because some can't make it on time.
3) Bring all of the documents listed on the OBLC website. Makes life easier for you. Don't forget shot records. You can't prove it, you get stuck again!
4) You definitely should get at least 1 set of ACU's (Army Combat Uniform) prior to arrival. We wore PT outfit 1st day and ACU's after that. A few did not have ACU's and wore PT gear the 2nd day. You don't want to stick out like a sore thumb. There are mail order sources if you are not near a post. Don't forget ACU name tags. I ordered mine through U.S. Cavalry and am very pleased with them.
5) Do NOT fall asleep in class!! It is hot, humid and sometimes you have been up since 0330 or so. Again, you do not want this negative attention on yourself. Only water is allowed in the auditoriums and classrooms, so I bring Vivarin and take if I need. Also, standing up and moving to the back is acceptable and not a negative on you.
6) If at all possible bring a laptop or desktop computer. It will make your life easier. Bring a printer if you can. I was one of only a few that had a printer in their room so many people were coming to me to print stuff.
Thoughts from week 2
1) Sadly we are still having issues with some people being tardy. The unfortunate consequence of this is all of us will now have to be in formation 3 times a day for accountability. This takes away from our already sparse free time during the week. I realize this will seem strange to non prior service. In the military you are a team and even if only a few do not conform, frequently there will be consequences for the whole unit.
2) PFT (Physical Fitness Test): Oh boy, this was unpleasant for many. You would be wise to heed their advice to be in shape when you arrive here. Approximately 1/3 of my class did not pass the PFT. The test consists of push ups, sit ups, and a 2 mile run. If you fail any part, you fail it all. Most people had problems on the run. Now, usually when you fail a PFT, you are "flagged". This basically means you are ineligible for positive actions including promotion. The PFT is taken quite seriously. For those who failed, they do morning PT 5 days a week. The rest do PT 3 days a week. At the end of the course, there will be another PFT test for those who failed the 1st one. You can download an Excel spreadsheet from here which will show you what your minimums are for your gender and age:
I have been told direct commissions "off the street" are a special category and have 180 days to pass, but they really strive to have everyone pass before leaving OBLC.
3) This week has kicked into high gear with PowerPoint presentations. They jokingly call it "Death by PowerPoint". Some of it is interesting, other subjects quite dry. Not being able to drink coffee in there is absolutely brutal for many of us, including me. Oh well. Don't forget, standing up in the back of the class is OK if you can't stay awake.
4) A little item I did not know before this. Apparently in the Army (not sure of other services), 2nd lieutenants do not salute 1st lieutenants. I do get a salute from a 2nd lieutenant occasionally, but rarely.
5) There are a lot of E-1 through E-4's here. Here is a website showing the rank insignia: http://www.military-quotes.com/ranks...k-insignia.htm
Many are just out of BCT (Basic Combat Training). Some, for whatever reason, walk by without saluting. At first myself and my classmates were unsure how we were supposed to handle this situation. Our cadre (our instructors and leadership) instructed us that we DO NOT have the authority to "smoke" them (Make them do push ups, etc.). But, they told us that if we do not correct the problem, then we are part of the problem. So, now if it happens, we get their attention and ask them if they forgot to do something. Most at this point come to attention, apologize and salute. You don't have to be an ass to help them. They get enough of that from their drill sergeants!
Thoughts from week 3:
1) The long PowerPoint days continue. We each had to give a short PowerPoint presentation. This is another time you will be happy if you have a personal computer. Also very nice to have PowerPoint installed and if you have no clue how to use PowerPoint, at least learn the basics before you get here.
2) PT continues 5 days a week for those who did not pass initially. Just another reminder that reporting here in decent physical condition will make life easier on you.
3) We are going to the field the next 3 weeks for FTX's (field training exercises). We do come back to FSH (Fort Sam Houston) on the weekends.
4) Tardiness issue has improved drastically. Thankfully, people are getting the idea now.
Thoughts from week 4
1) Had our first FTX (Field Training Exercise). For those prior service Army/Marines, I'm sure it is a cakewalk, but for those of us who have never done this, it was a bear. Most days about 12-13 hours from reveille till your free for the day. Thursday was about 17 hours.
A rough list of tasks: M-16 & M-9(9mm) training/qualification, CBRN(Chemical,biological,radiological, nuclear) training, land navigation, 3 mile ruck march, basic tactical formations, and a practice medevac casualty exercise on Friday.
2) Gas, gas, gas! Part of your CBRN training is enduring the infamous CS Gas chamber. Look, it sucks, but everybody has to do it and you will survive. Not one of us died! You also get to put that wonderfully hot chemical protective suit and mask on in the sweltering Texas heat until your instructor tells you all clear. Fun day, heh.
3) Land navigation. You will learn how to use a compass and map to plot and navigate. There is a daytime and night time land navigation exercise.You will also be taught a basic GPS handheld and will also have a mounted land navigation exercise in a vehicle.
4) You will learn how to field strip a M16A2 rifle down and reassemble it with a complete function check within 4 minutes. Many of you will be able to do this blindfolded! I never would have believed it but I witnessed it. Unfortunately I couldn't quite get the 4 minutes blindfolded, but I felt I did quite well considering I had never even touched this weapon prior to OBLC. You will also learn how to disassemble and reassemble the 9mm, which is easier.
5) Some items to consider that may not be on your packing list:
(if you need help sleeping)
(or whatever your preferred painkiller is)
(many people developed blisters)
or similar for your duffel bag (they all look the same)
small knife/multi-purpose tool
(always useful in the field)
(this is Texas!)
(these mosquitoes can be vicious) chiggers too; also recommend a small container of repellent you can carry with you.
(up to 38 people per tent, some snore!, alarms beeping, storms; I like the silicone type)
(at this time there are no showers)
(to keep stuff dry)
plenty of socks
as many times they will get soaked from trekking through wet fields or if it is raining
(I got a compressible Thermarest from REI)
(Those cots are rock hard, at least for me. I bought a roll able, self-inflating bed roll from the PX)
(for those inevitable bug bites)
to flavor that nasty tasting drinking water. Many brands come in little tubes that work well in a canteen.
(you can buy waterproof ones at the clothing sales PX)
Extra sets of ACU's
(they will get wet/filthy/smelly. Consider though, it is difficult to get them completely clean again so they will unlikely be "perfect" ACU's anymore.)
Thoughts from week 5
1) This week was group oriented type tasks versus individual tasks last week. We did things like LRC (Leader Reaction Course), MOUT (Military Operations Urban Terrain) which was 4 person teams clearing buildings and urban warfare training, 2 days of convoy ops training, and retesting for those who did not pass night and/or day land navigation last week.
2) This week still had some long days but seemed to be a slower tempo and less traveling around via the deuce and a halfs.
Thoughts from week 6
1) The op tempo seemed higher than week 5, but still less intense than week 4. This week was the grand finale AMEDD FTX. Monday was just movement to the FOB and some CLS (Combat lifesaver) classes. Tuesday through Thursday were the exercises. There were three groups which each day rotated through the 3 main areas. We also had the BOLC (Basic Officer Leader Course) group with us this week.
2) The mornings were more training sessions, then the exercise was in the afternoon followed by the evaluation/discussion.
3) I was lucky to be picked as a "casualty" a few times. This is a good experience as you get to see the whole process from a 1st hand perspective. Volunteer for this if is offered to you.
4) Friday we did a 5 mile road march and then toured a scaled down CSH (Combat Support Hospital).
Thoughts from week 7
1) Last week!! The tempo was definitely more relaxed this week. Still doing PT. Another PT test was administered for those that did not pass initially.
2) More classes on subjects like OER (Officer Evaluation Reports), NCOER (Non-Commissioned Officer Reports), writing awards, etc.
Officership type material.
3) Next week we enter our AOC specific tracks.
4) Graduation ceremony was fairly quick and easy. Family members were allowed. Our uniform was ACU's.
Well, it's done for me now. Hopefully this information will make future OBLC students transition into the Army a bit smoother.
1LT Joseph L Cheser