Wednesday, March 10, 2004

VF Complete

Victory Forge is over.
We marched in last night, definitely one of the easiest nine mile foot marches I've done here at Ft Jackson. As we finished up, they had all kind of tiki torches and bonfires lit and some bigass speakers playing pretty good music for the soldiers. It sounds pretty cheesey but at the end of a little hump like that it is a welcome sight indeed.

Luckily, our Battalion Commander knew that the soldiers (and Drill Sergeants) wanted to finish up what we had to do and get to sleep more than we wanted a bunch of pomp and ceremony. His remarks to the cadre and to the soldiers were brief, sincere and welcome. As soon as he was finished we were released to take care of business. I was really glad that he is not one of those guys who like to hear themselves talk for hours.

The FTX went really well for the most part. The weather was cold but not too bad. We had a lot of fun and got some good training...I am at least satisfied with about 38/39 soldiers in my platoon. I have one who would not graduate if I had my way, but honestly there are always one or two who slip through the cracks. They meet every standard by the skin of their teeth, and their attitude sucks but not quite bad enough to justify kicking them out and you just know they are not going to make a good soldier. I wish we had a Trump card we could just drop on any soldier we don't think needs to be in the army, but it doesn't work that way. There has to be some justification for kicking them out.

On the other hand, the rest of the platoon did really well. Relatively speaking this has been one of the better cycles I've had.

Some highlights of VF....

The Battle Turds...
Two of my soldiers who have become really good friends during basic training. They are like the Laurel and Hardy of the platoon. All they do is crack jokes on each other and watch my every move for new material to use. They're both good soldiers and usually have a really good attitude. They started calling themselves the Battle Turds because I sometimes call them turds… and they adapted that to the "Battle Buddy" concept.
I actually talked to them like normal people for a minute when they were out on the LP/OP (Listening Post/Observation Post). Turd #1 told me later that it made them nervous because I wasn't verbally abusing them. It made them think I was "up to something" lol.
On the last day, when we hit them with the CS attack to simulate a chemical weapons strike, I like to do what I call the "Perimeter 500". This is where I tape a CS grenade to a stick and run full speed around our perimeter from foxhole to foxhole, swinging the smoke around and dipping it straight into the position to ensure that they get a good cloud of it. Of course this means that I am always caught in my own cloud of gas, and by the time I'm done I can't see anything and am drooling and crying and snotting all over the place, but it's good training for the soldiers and funny as hell for me.
So of course, when I made the run this time I went straight for their position first. I stuck it right down on them for a second and then proceeded to the next holes. I found out later that Turd #2 didn't get his mask on in time, and ended up flopping around on the ground like a fish for a little while. Then he got a "case of the ass" when Turd #1 accidentally slung a two foot long stringer of snot on him. He couldn't see where it hit him because of his mask and was turning around yelling at him to get it off of him lol. Turd #1 also claims that I hit him in the face with the CS grenade....I probably did lol.
More fun with CS gas...
Later the same day, there were a bunch of soldiers congregated around the Porta Johns standing around and just not being very tactical. We had saved a CS grenade for this very purpose and tossed it at the group to motivate them to assume a more tactical stance. Well, as soon as the grenade was thrown, the First Sergeant informed us that my partner, Drill Sergeant D., was in one of the Porta Johns taking a dump. Sure enough, as the CS covered and filled the potties, doors started flying open. The Porta Johns started emptying as soldiers crawled and gagged their way across the road and into the woodline. And then, out flies my partner, spitting and snotting, eyes looking like stop signs lol. I think it took a while for him to believe that we hadn't intentionally gassed him, but he took it like a good sport lol. The last soldier out of the latrines was Turd #1. (I didn't know he was in there either) Unfortunately, he was changing out of his PolyPro bottoms when we tossed it, so he had to completely finish changing clothes before he could leave. I think he puked a few times, but when it was over he was his usual self, asking for more, telling us how fun it was lol.
Some more highlights...
Drill Sergeant D. elaborately setting up booby traps and flares around our perimeter... and then walking through his own tripwire on the way back. He was backlit by the flare too, so there could be no doubt about who had done it lol.
Running my ass off for about 300 meters, carrying a 5 gallon water can, through woods and thorn bushes at night, to put out another drill sergeant's fire. As soon as you see a star cluster take a horizontal flight path instead of vertical, you might as well start looking for shovels and water lol.
On the first day, I handed my other partner (Drill Sergeant C.) a bag of hot beef jerky I had made the night before. My intention was for him to try it out and maybe eat a few pieces. A few minutes later I hear him say "Did you want any of this?". Half of my 3 day supply was gone in the space of about thirty seconds lol. He was full of compliments on it though, and it made it easier to talk him into giving me an extra CS grenade a few days later.
There were a hundred other little things that happened out there, but the focus is always on training and letting the soldiers put the training they got through the cycle to use in a tactical environment. For the most part, they couldn't have done it any better. There are things they need to work on and lots of mistakes were made, but this is the place to do it. Every mistake made out here is a mistake they won't make again in actual combat...especially if they pay a heavy and immediate price for it now.
For example, I had a few soldiers who had accidental discharges of their weapons. There are very few mistakes more serious than this. Without fail, the punishment and retraining for an AD is to "kill" their buddy and let them know in no uncertain terms that they did it. They then must carry their buddy back to the CCP (Casualty Collection Point) and perform first aid. (I always make the CCP as far away as possible) In the past I have even gone so far as to make them write a letter to the soldier's family explaining the circumstances of their death. This is a good way to sink the lesson in, but I stopped doing it for fear that some idiot would mistake my meaning and actually mail it lol.
Well...gotta get ready to go eat a real meal. (as in something besides MREs). I might hit some questions later.
Texas Roadhouse sounds good....