I will never regret going through basic training. I got to do a lot of things that I wouldn't normally have had a chance.
I met some very interesting people (that's the nice way to see weird) I am only in contact with one still, but she blogs. So check her out. Parental Advisory though, its an advice column, if you know what I mean. eh eh eh. Anywho.....
I got to shoot semi-automatic weapons. Weapon is another brainwashing term, you were not allowed to say gun. We never had to do that fun little rhyme from Full Metal Jacket. I guess in that context, technically I don't have a gun. Again, I digress. I was a terrible shot. Be glad I was never called upon to defend my country with firepower. It might have something to do with my BCG's though. My dad being a southern man who owns many guns was thoroughly disappointed about that.
I also got to throw a live grenade. It was one of the last things we had to do to graduate. The process is nerve wracking. We were lined up in a bunker with tiny windows, so you couldn't see a whole lot, but you could sure hear a lot. One person would go out and after a while you'd hear a big boom. When it was my turn, they had a wall set up that the drill sergeant stood behind and he gave you your instructions and gave you the grenade. We were supposed to hit this ragged dummy on a stand. I threw it as hard as I could. The drill sergeant looked a little panicked and made me duck down further. Apparently as he so kindly informed me. I throw like a girl. I barely cleared the damn wall. I didn't care, I was too excited to have done that at all, and that now I was going to graduate. If you didn't you got to go back to the processing station until a platoon got to the part where you failed and you get to go back in. I didn't have to do that. Dance.
We also got to use bayonets on the end of our weapon. We did this field course where we had to jump through hoops, crawl through ditches and stab some more ragged dummies. All the while we had to scream inspiring things like "Blood Blood Blood makes the green grass grow!" I was practically hysterical the whole time. It was so much fun and ridiculous at the same time.
During our FTX (field exercises) we did my favorite thing ever. FTX is where they march you out to the "fields" and you pretend like you are at war. You sleep in pup tents with your battle buddy and you have to dig a fox hole. The drill sergeant tells you where to dig. Our lucky spot was undiggable, it was rocky ground. Even the drill sergeant gave up when we asked for help. So when they would tell us we had to be on alert, we're supposed to get in our foxholes with our weapons and wait. So my battle buddy and I had to crouch down so we wouldn't just be hanging out in a knee high hole in the ground. Then my buddy got the flu, so I had to crouch by myself the rest of the time. Then we did nightfire exercise. The coolest thing I have ever experienced. In the middle of the night they take you to this huge sand pit. First there's waiting of course. We had to be in a battle ready position on the ground with our weapons for a long time. I would rest the front of my helmet on my sight and doze off. I always say the most useful thing I learned is how to sleep on an M-16 while still looking like I was on alert. Again, aren't you glad that I was never called on to truly defend our country?
So they line you up at the edge of the sand pit. It is huge, like football field huge. It may not have even been that big, but it was the middle of the night and they told us we had to low crawl across the whole thing while being fired at. So it looked really big! It had a tower in the middle where the firing would come from and a big pit in the middle which I think had speakers where all the explosion sounds came from. It sounds low tech but believe me it was pretty insane to a scared and half asleep soldier in the dark.
When you low crawl you have your whole body stomach first flat on the ground, and have to pull yourself along with your hands, but we had M-16's so we had to cradle them to our chests and use our elbows. They also told us that if we lose any of our uniform in the dirt that we would be punished for it. So they have us start crawling. Almost immediately my canteen came off and I stopped to get it. I looped my finger through it and continued crawling. After a couple of feet it was pinching my finger so hard it was going numb. But I was not going to lose that damn thing! I look back and probably could have just left it and taken the punishment. By then I was no stranger to push ups. It was so amazing. They told us not to stand because we would get hit, (again I think it was probably much higher then that now that I think of it, but we were brainwashed man!) But looking up, it was strangely beautiful. These lights streaking across the sky above you and the tower looming out of all the smoke and dust. I got to the end and was so relieved to have made it and really proud of myself too. I actually felt like a soldier then.
I know that if I had been in a real battle situation that it wouldn't have been "cool" or "beautiful." It would have still been surreal though I think. But I was lucky and never had to experience the real thing and can just enjoy the memories of the fake ones.