These entries are from the letters that Brandon has mailed to me. His writing at times can be a bit difficult to determine his words... bare with me, I do my best, especially with army terms.
Today was the first day of FTX-3. We woke up and put on “Full Battle Rattle”, then our rucksacks… that’s a lot of weight. We boarded the bus which took us to “FOB Mauled Foot”. This is our Forward Operating Base where we’ll be staying for the next three days. It will hold the entire company and has about nine guard towers around the perimeter of the FOB. We had to bring our gas masks and the DS told us to have them ready while in our platoon area or the FOB. The DSs can pop CS grenades at anytime. That is going to suck.
We were given a mission. We have to make our way to a nearby village and try to gather intel on an Al Queda leader. Each platoon (and each squad in the platoon) have different assignments. I’m in 3rd squad and our first assignment is to man the guard towers. It started off one to a tower but since we only have nine people in 3rd squad, it can get a little boring. There is actually a bench, it may be the most comfortable place in the whole FOB. There is a ton of graffiti from the many soldiers who have passed through this FOB over the years.
They decided to have two squads man the towers. PVT Slowens (his nickname came from someone who thought he takes too long to get ready) did come and join me. We had a three hour shift just to stare at the woods and talk. PVT Slowens, and a few others, have a little side business going. They offer to take the fire guard shift of others at a modest fee of $5 or $10. He has almost made $100 already. Some people value their sleep too much. I value mine, but not enough to pay others to do my shift.
The first mission was to take our squad to a nearby village. On the way we were ambushed. I actually saw the guys who were about to ambush, but when I was trying to notify my team leader they saw me and started firing (blanks). We returned fire and “killed” them all. We then reached the village and got our intel! On the way back to our FOB we turned our uniform inside out (to turn into bad guys) and then tried to infiltrate our own FOB. It was pretty fun… but hot! As I was pulling security, I was watching the sweat just drip like a leaky faucet from my head. It’s only 13:00 and my ACUs are soaked with sweat.
After an hour or two of AAR (After Action Review) and some SLT (Student Led Training), we were told to setup our sleeping areas. We use one poncho for every two people. It started to sprinkle so there was a sense of urgency to get everything finished. The second person’s poncho was used to cover our rucksacks. We finished by dinner and about the time we were done eating it stopped raining. I guess the weather report says it’s going to rain the whole time we’re here. If you believe the DSs, sometimes you never know what to believe with them.
We spent a couple of hours after dinner doing absolutely nothing. Just hanging out in our platoon area. Finally our senior DS came in and told some jokes and stories, then said he wanted us ready for formation at 6am. We also found out that one of our guys who is infirmary has mono. Now, he won’t be graduating with us. He’ll have to go home for 6 weeks and then return to another platoon that is in about the same phase as we are in now.
Random DS Quote: “There may be thunder and lightning tonight… don’t use that as an excuse to cuddle up with your battle buddy tonight.” (Our senior DS before we went to sleep tonight).