Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A1C Trummel

I don't even know how to start this post. Obviously, I'm back from Basic Training. I graduated (as an honor grad, as my mother will happily tell you) on 11 December and got home to Santa Maria Monday morning. I'm kind of still in a fog, though. I'm jet-lagged, trying to get back onto West Coast time, and trying to get caught up with everyone and everything I've missed and get back into the swing of "real" life, but also trying to work in the discipline that got drilled into me over the past two months and still being so darn TIRED that nothing is really working right. I did go to classes at the dojahng Monday night, and they felt good. I am about half-decided on just writing the rest of this week off, though. I'm leaving this weekend to drive out to Illinois for the holidays, and I'm thinking that taking one week completely off of life in between won't kill me. But then I think I'm not being disciplined and feel guilty again. We'll see. (I'm also having a crazy urge to knit another Rogue, how weird is that?) I did get to spend the weekend with my parents and my brother, who all flew down to San Antonio and braved the absolutely freezing weather most of the time to watch all the ceremonies and hoopla and take pictures. (Y'all will have to wait until I get the pics from them, sorry.)

Like I said, I'm not really even sure what I want to say here. It's not like you can explain Basic Military Training to someone who hasn't done it. It's such a unique experience. People tend to either go "omg, that's horrible, why would anyone ever put themselves through that?!" or they think they understand and that it's no big deal and anyone can do it. Less than 7% of Americans ages 18-30 actually qualify for any military service. Less than 2% actually ever do it. Of those 2%, there are only 47 other people in the nation who went through the same things I did with the same people I did, and all 48 of us have our own unique viewpoints on it. How do you explain the sheer exhaustion and confusion of Zero Week, the smugness of getting your nametapes sewn onto your uniforms during Fourth Week after overcoming the obstacle course and the gas chamber, the constant awareness and weight of BEAST (Sixth Week), the studying and tutoring to help one of our girls who barely spoke English with the final written test in Seventh Week (and the tears when the whole flight cheered and mobbed her when she passed it), the sheer pride at hearing your TI call you his airmen after Retreat in Eighth Week? It really can't be explained, just experienced.

There are three things you always are at Basic. You're always hungry, you're always tired, and you're always in trouble. Basic Training is both really hard and really easy at the same time. My instructor team was very tough on us, but also very fair. Although it's part of their job to stress us to the max, they also never set us up for failure. Things were always explained, and usually you even got one chance to fix a mistake. (Heaven help you if you weren't paying attention or didn't fix it the first time, though!) As long as you maintained your military bearing, treated them with the respect and etiquette they taught you, and weren't being stupid, the TIs were mostly easy to deal with. If you just listened and did what you were told, the actual training part of BMT is easy. The hard part of BMT is living with your flight for two months. 50 females together in one room NEVER SHUT UP while they're awake (some of them don't shut up when they're asleep, either!). Someone ALWAYS has an opinion that absolutely must be shared, which usually led to arguments, which turned into screaming and cursing matches. That, for me, at least, was the hardest part of BMT - far more difficult to deal with than TIs, PT, BEAST, lack of sleep and medical mishaps combined. (Note that "lack of food" didn't make that list. After Zero Week, where it felt like you had a total of thirty seconds to eat for the whole week, you get to actually taste your food and realize that while it's not 5-star surf-n-turf, it's a heck of a lot better than regular cafeteria food, there's usually quite a variety, and portion sizes are relatively large. We burn a LOT of calories while in Basic, so you're still always hungry, but I can't think of any time where I didn't have enough to eat.)

I wrote letters to my parents explaining things as they happened, and I'm hoping they saved them, because posting them here would explain things a lot better than I could now. The hardest week for me personally was Fifth Week, not because of anything we did that week as a flight, but because that's when I was really dealing with a seriously major infection in my hand, so I was tired and sick and a little scared and really fed up with the girls arguing and that was the one time that I really thought "I can't do this anymore. I have to give up, I have to go home. I just can't do this." Of course, that passes. Life passes too quickly, and they keep you too busy, to really get bogged down in those kinds of thoughts. You just don't have time for self-pity there. It's both the longest and shortest two months of your life. There are lots of tears, but also lots of laughs. There is bitter disappointment and shining pride. I'd never do it again unless my life or a wingman's depended on it. But it's worth it.

This was one of the songs that they played every Sunday before chapel. It's John Michael Montgomery's "Letters From Home" and pretty much guaranteed to make you cry if there's ever been anyone you cared about in the military (not even males are immune). The first couple weeks, you cry because it makes you homesick, the rest of the time, you cry because you know how true it is. (It doesn't sound quite right without an Air Force "hooah!" after every time he says "letters from home", though!)

John Michael Montgomery - Letters From Home

~Sh@wn~ | MySpace Video

"My dearest son it's almost June
I hope this letter catches up with you, and finds you well.
It's been dry but they're calling for rain,
and everything's the same old same in Johnsonville.
Your stubborn old daddy ain't said too much
but I'm sure you know he sends his love."
And she goes on, in a letter from home.

I hold it up and show my buddies
like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy,
and they all laugh like there's something funny 'bout the way I talk
when I say "Mama sends her best y'all."
I fold it up and put it in my shirt,
pick up my gun and get back to work,
and it keeps me drivin' on,
waitin' on letters from home.

My dearest love it's almost dawn.
I been lying here all night long
wonderin' where you might be.
I saw your mama and I showed her the ring.
Man on the television said some things, so I couldn't sleep,
but I'll be alright, I'm just missin' you,
and this is me kissing you.
X's and O's, in a letter from home.

I hold it up and show my buddies
like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy,
and they all laugh cause she calls me "honey"
but they take it hard, cause I don't read the good parts.
I fold it up and put it in my shirt,
pick up my gun and get back to work,
and it keeps me drivin' on,
waitin on letters from home.

Dear son, I know I ain't written
and sitting here tonight alone in the kitchen it occurs to me
I might not have said it so I'll say it now.
Son, you make me proud.

I hold it up and show my buddies
like we ain't scared and our boots ain't muddy
but no one laughs, cause there ain't nothing funny when a soldier cries,
and I just wipe my eyes.
I fold it up and put it in my shirt,
pick up my gun and get back to work,
and it keeps me drivin' on,
waitin on letters from home.

Thank you


Christina said...

Glad you made it through -- what an accomplishment! Hope you have a safe drive to IL and a great Christmas with your family.

Anonymous said...

Congrats from a long time lurking reader of your blog who happens to be an Air Force brat (and who for the record is crying just at the mention of the song without having to watch the video or listen to it)

Kadiddly said...

Thank you, both of you! It's good to be home!

Kathleen C. said...

Nothing more to say but... Congratulations... you DID it. And you know how big a thing it was that you did. And, damn, but you were right about that song... gotta go blow my nose now.

Also, I say take sometime off. there's no guilt in it... you get leave time after a job well done.

Kim said...

Glad to have you back in the world. Sounds like BMT is really an experience! Have a great holiday and don't feel bad about taking a little down time. Hope you'll get to visit your old knitting group sometime in the new year!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I'm glad you made it back among the living. I did Navy boot camp in 1981; your post brings back memories.

Happy Holidays! Enjoy the downtime.

Sheena said...

Hey there! This is one of the ravelry people (agsine) and I'm just gonna say that I am hard-core proud of you for sticking through BMT! I was in the Air Force also :)

Where are you going for tech school? What kind of job are you going to have?

Good luck fellow martial arts person and Airman!