Editor's note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan's dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.
Some of the aspects of our Iraq-bound unit at Fort XYZ remind me of Army Basic Training. Not everything, of course, but the variety of training experiences is sometimes reminiscent of it.
Both regular Army soldiers and National Guardsmen go through the same Basic Training.
Basic Training serves several functions. It introduces the recruit to Army life. It isolates him. He's not just attending a school; he is living and breathing Army life 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
At the beginning of Basic Training, his head is shaved, and he is given his uniforms. All sorts of Army tasks follow in rapid succession. The soldier is tested and re-tested as he goes along.
The treatment meted out to the trainees by the drill sergeants sometimes seems excessive and arbitrary. But it has its own logic behind it. The trainee is being taught Army skills, how to work under pressure and how to work together as a team with other soldiers. By no means does Basic Training show the new soldier everything he needs to know. Following Basic Training, he attends a special school for his MOS (military occupational specialty). A tanker goes to tank school, an artilleryman goes to artillery school, a cook goes to cook school, a medic to medic school, etc. Then, when he is assigned to his regular unit, he will learn a lot more on the job.
Basic Training changes as military scenarios change. For example, now the training curriculum where I did my Basic Training reflects the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Half the trainees are expected to deploy in one of those countries as early as 30 days after they finish training, and the other half are expected to be deployed before they ever re-enlist.
When I attended Army Basic Training way back when, I admired the drill sergeants for this: Whatever they demanded us trainees to do, they could do themselves. If we had to run a certain distance, they were there running it with us. And that is worthy of respect.
I made some great friendships at Basic Training. Sad to say, though, I've lost track of them all by now. We had guys in from all over the country and from various ethnic backgrounds.
And, when you look back at Basic Training, even some of the unpleasant things seem funny in retrospect.