Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's been a while...

Like the title says, it's been a while since I've posted. I bet you thought I had abandoned this place. I'd like to tell you that there's been so many exciting things going on since the last time you heard from me. Unfortunately, that's not the case. At least it's not exciting to me.

I guess a good place to start would be my preparation for OCS, which in case you're counting, is less than 6 weeks away. I've been to 3 Phase 0 drills since my last post. I've learned a lot during these drills. We've review the OC guide more, we've studied land nav, and best of all we even made a trip to Ft. McClellan for April's drill. That was an interesting experience.

The weekend of the April drill just happened to be the same weekend that the government shutdown was looming over our heads. There was much confusion on whether drill would happen or not, but in the end it worked out. Getting a sneak peek at where I'd be spending the majority of my summer was very helpful. I know where I'm going, where I'll be living, how the DFAC procedures go, etc. This takes some of the mystery out of OCS, which eases my nerves at least a little bit. We also did a day and a night land nav course while we were there. I'll definitely have a small advantage when land nav comes up at OCS. I've already got a feel for the terrain and how AMA runs there land nav courses.

Physically, I'm much better off than I was in January. I've stuck with my workout plan almost religiously for the past 3 months. I'm still doing Crossfit at my local affiliate, Caustic Crossfit. I can tell a huge difference in my conditioning from January to now. I've been able to complete workouts that I thought would be impossible 3-4 months ago. I can honestly say that I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I would have crushed BCT if I went there in this condition. I really feel like I'm well prepared for the physical demands of OCS.

I still have a lot to do in the next 6 weeks though. I have to make sure I have all the necessary gear and equipment for OCS, I have my last Phase 0 drill in a couple of weeks, I have to choose a branch, and that's just a few things I need to do on the Guard side. I won't even go into what I've got to do to make sure my family and work situations are squared away before I head off on my quest for that little gold bar.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm not trying to scare you or anything...

I had my first OCS orientation or Phase 0 drill. The drill itself was pretty relaxed. We spent most of our time listening to presentations. We had one that was a basic overview of the National Guard OCS process - requirements to enroll, dates, etc. One was briefing on the education benefits in the National Guard. Not to sound like an advertisement, but there is so much money available to pay for college through the Guard that you could possibly go to college and actually get paid to do it. It's not bad for someone like myself that already has a bachelor's degree either. If you happen to have student loans, the Guard will pay them back or they will help pay for a Master's degree. Our most interesting brief was a review of the AMA OCS Officer Candidate guide, though.

A recent OCS graduate gave us the brief, so he was able to give us some helpful advice based on his experience mixed in with the review. Several of his stories began with "I'm not trying to scare you or anything, but ...". This was kind of the theme for the weekend though. Everyone from the officers and sergeants running Phase 0 to one of the TAC officers (TAC officers are instructors for OCS, it stands for Teach, Assess, and Counsel) that stopped by seemed to use this phrase when talking about OCS. Of course when someone has to qualify their stories with by saying something like that, you can probably be safe by assuming that they are trying to scare you. Well maybe not really scare, but just get you to mentally prepared for what's ahead.

There is so much in the OC guide to learn. Not only do you have to learn it, it has to be learned EXACTLY like it is in the guide. There's a process, an exact process, for everything, from addressing the TAC officers and NCO's, to entering a room, to going to the dining facility. The DFAC procedure is a doozie. The menu has to be read, the food has to be blessed, push ups, situps, and pull ups must be done, just to name a few of the steps. It's definitely a good thing that I have about 5 months to study the guide. For any of you who plan on going to OCS at Ft. McClellan or if you just want to look over the OC guide for fun, you can read it here.

We also had a diagnostic PT test. Luckily they let us take it Saturday afternoon, when it wasn't so cold outside. This one didn't really count for anything. It was just so everyone knows where they stand as far as PT is concerned. By the May drill, they want everybody to score a minimum of 70 points in each event. I'm already at this level, but I didn't do as well as I would have liked too. I only scored a 226, which if you followed my BCT posts you know that substantially lower than my final PT test in BCT. This is directly the result of my laziness during the holidays. I imagine it would have been much worse if I hadn't been doing CrossFit for a few weeks. I expect to score higher each month between now and June. My goal is a 275 before I begin OCS. I'm going to add some runs a few days a week in addition to my CrossFit workouts to help meet my goal. It's going to take some work, but it will be worth it. We will run everywhere we go during OCS, so I have to be prepared.

The last thing we did this weekend was begin our OCS packets. I'm in good shape here. The only things I need to complete my packet are college transcripts and an autobiography. The transcripts are easy. It's the autobiography that I'm not looking forward to. The sooner I get my packet completed and officially get enrolled in OCS the sooner I get promoted though. I found out that I'll get promoted to E-6 while I'm in OCS. This was a nice surprise. I thought I'd get paid as an E-5.

This concludes another exciting glimpse into my life and my military career. I hope you enjoy it and come back for the next update, which hopefully I'll have something for you between now and next month's drill.

Friday, January 7, 2011

First Post of 2011!

Welcome back to another exciting entry in my blog. Well, maybe not exciting, but at least it's a new post, right? Some of you probably thought I had forgotten about this place. I was just taking a break, a longer than intended break.

First off I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, especially all my battle buddies that were able to go home for the holiday's. I know I did. There's nothing like spending the holiday season with family and friends.

Since the my last post, there hasn't been a whole lot of action. I spend the first couple of weeks getting used to my civilian job again. It was strange being back in the office at first. The hardest part was having to sit behind a desk all day. Going from being outdoors and active most of the day to being inactive was hard. This also had an unintended side effect. It made me lazy.

I had a hard time getting up in the morning to do PT. I was only doing PT sporadically. I ran a few morning, but nothing like I should have been doing. It's hard to say motivated when you're on your own and there's no DS around to doing all the "motivating". I guess this is one of the disadvantages of being a reserve component of the Army or any service branch for that matter. You have to have the internal drive to stay in shape and do PT on your own between drills and other training.

It wasn't until this week that I've had a regular workout routine. I started doing CrossFit again. Most of this is due to discovering a CrossFit affiliate in my town (shout out to Caustic CrossFit). I used to do CrossFit on my own, but it's nothing like doing it in a group. I recommend finding an affiliate in your area if you can or at the very least following the WOD's on the CrossFit homepage. You can find a list of CrossFit affiliates here. I really like the workouts, but I'll be honest, they have kicked my butt this week. I've been sore since my first workout on Monday. No big deal though, at least I know I got a good workout in when I'm sore. Here's a couple of pics of me in action.

I've also been handed off to a unit, Bravo Company, 155th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. This will be my unit at least until after OCS, when I get an officer slot. The officer slot I end up with will determine what my permanent unit will be. At least this is how I understand the process.

My first OCS orientation (Phase 0) drill is coming up in a couple of weeks too. I was told that it will be mostly filing out paperwork and other administrative work. We will have a PT test too. I'm a little nervous about that since I didn't do PT like I should up until this week. I've still got 2 weeks to get back up to at least the level of fitness that I was at during BCT though. I can do it, but it'll take some work.

That's it for now I guess. Time to put my daughter to bed, wish me luck.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I'm finally going to post some pics. These were all taken on Family Day and at Graduation. Click to view the full size images.

Running out of the wood line for our Family Day ceremony.

Reunited at last!



My platoons banner is the one with the BRM streamer.

Graduation ceremony. I'm in the group in the center, behind the flags.

Getting recognized for Soldier Leader of the Cycle. That's me in the front row, next to the DS.

My platoon marching by for review.

All awardees being addressed by the Post Commander.

And then the Post CSM.

Shaking hands with and getting another coin from the Post Commander.

Followed by the Battalion Commander.

The Post Commander and I.

One last pose with the family before we headed home.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Days 61 - 65

11/12 - 11/16

The final 5 days before family day and graduation were spent cleaning up/turning in our weapon and gear and out processing. These were probably the longest days of BCT. It was very boring.

The most exciting thing we did was rehearse for graduation. It was exciting because it made the fact that we were almost finished with BCT real. The day we'd all been waiting on for almost 10 weeks was only a few days away.

Just a quick note, being Student 1SG was actually easier than being PG. The DS's told me what needed to happen and all I had to do was pass those orders down to the PG's and make sure they made it happen. I was also in charge of morning and end of day formations. The only downside to the position was that I had to eat last out of the entire company at every meal. I had to make sure the entire company got in and out of the DFAC.

Day 60


After a sleepless night, it was time to get started on our first day as soldiers. The first order of the day was a ceremony with the other companies in our battalion. It was a really cool experience. We were addressed by the battalion commander, CSM, and the brigade commander. At the end of the ceremony, we were instructed to put on our berets. Our berets signify that we are officially soldiers. The most significant part of this whole thing was that we became soldiers on Veterans Day, a day to honor those that had served before us. This made a special day in our lives even more special.

We were also rewarded with a special breakfast. The main course was steak and eggs, but the DFAC still had all the usual choices too. This wasn't what made this breakfast different though. We were allowed to eat as much as we wanted, take as much time as we wanted, and talk to each other while we ate. I must have been starved from the march because I ate almost double what I normally would. It felt strange not to be rushed while I ate too, although I caught myself eating fast out of habit.

We finally got a chance to get some rest after breakfast. We were allowed to sleep until lunch. The rest of the day was spent cleaning our weapon and gear. We will be turning everything back in over the next few days.

I've also got a side story to tell you about that I left out of my Vic Forge post. On Tuesday morning, day 2 of Vic Forge, our PG was fired. Guess who was rehired, me of course. So I was back in the saddle just in time to finish out BCT. My 2nd term as PG was short lived. I was relived from my position this morning. Don't worry, I wasn't fired this time. I was promoted to Student First Sergeant. This means I'm now over both platoons in my company and the PG's report to me.

Days 57 - 59 Victory Forge

11/8 - 11/10

I'm combining the 3 days of Victory Forge into one post for a couple of reasons: 1) There's not a lot of exciting day to day details. 2) We just got back from Vic Forge, it's late, I'm tired, and there's not enough time to sleep, so I'm writing.

First, let me tell you about the setup of Vic Forge. The area that it's held at is set up like a forward operating base (FOB) similar to where we'd stay if deployed. We slept on cots in large 20 man tents. There were at least 80 of these tents out there. It's meant for a whole battalion (1400+ soldiers) to stay at one time. Since our battalion only has about 400 soldiers, there were a lot of empty tents.

Unfortunately for us, the tents were not heated and the temps were in the 30's every night. As long as I stayed in my sleeping bag, it wasn't too bad. It sucked to get out of the bag to go to the latrine in the middle of the night or when it was time to wake up in the morning. Once the sun came out, the temps got up into the 70's so the daytime weather was nice.

The training at Vic Forge was just a combination of everything we'd learned at BCT. Most of the time we were given missions to attack or defend against 2nd Platoon. I think everyone had fun during these missions. All of the missions were good tests of our skills and knowledge we picked up over the past 8 weeks.

The final task for Victory Forge and BCT was the 12 mile ruck march back to our barracks. We We started the march at 22:30 on Wednesday night. The march lasted a little over 4 hours. It was a pretty tough march, especially since we were marching at a time when we were used to sleeping. The thing that kept us motivated was knowing that our training was over once we finished the march.

Once it was complete, we had a ceremony to change our banners from blue to red, white, and blue. This symbolized the change from blue phase to graduation phase. After the phase change, we watched a slide show of pictures from different events we completed throughout the cycle. It was cool to see some of the pics from the first couple of weeks of BCT. We've definitely all changed over the course of 9 weeks.

After the slide show, it was time to head upstairs to our bay, take a much needed shower, unpack of gear, and get ready for the next day.