Sunday, June 6, 2010

Raider Challenge (Basic Training) Day 60

What we saw in our CTA after the 15K march. It was pretty amazing.
Notice how huge the flag was by looking at the person standing in
front of it. There was music playing and everyone had a great
sense of accomplishment.

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 is the Raider Challenge. This event is supposed to be the culmination of everything we have learned in basic training. Each platoon competes against each other to earn points for Honor Platoon. After it’s all over we have a 15k ruck march back starting at 22:00. The DS thought our packing list was too light, so we have to wear our body armor. 
I’m finding it hard to get motivated. Maybe it’s because we haven’t done anything the last two days. Maybe it’s because  we’re getting closer to the end and I just want it to be over. I want to be able to talk to my friends and family. As strange as it sounds, I want to know the news. I want to know what’s going on with my state, the nation, the world. Being cut off from everything takes it toll. I want to see my wife, my kids, my family. 12 days until graduation.
We took the cattle car to one of the ranges and arrived about 13:00, right at what seemed like the hottest part of the day. We did all the events as squads and then they added up all the scores in each squad for a platoon total. Some events were scored by each individual and some were just squad events. 
The first event was the machine gun, scored on each individual. We had to load it and fire it. There was a dummy round that would come up and make the weapon jam. We had to unjam it and finish shooting. It was a timed event. Our squad did good for the most part on that. Next was the AT-4 (Anit Tank Rocket launcher). We used a dummy one and hat to be prepared to “fire” in a certain amount of time. We them had to simulate a misfire – also timed. Our squad did well on this event too.
We then moved o the LAND-NAV event. This was map reading. Two were chosen from our squad to find two different coordinates. The rest of us hat to go up one by one and say whatever the geographic feature he pointed to. I had a saddle…pretty easy. The rest of the squad didn’t fair so well. We did below average on this event… well below average.
Next event, hand grenades. There was a silhouette with a ring around it and then another larger ring around that. We would get five points for the outer ring and 10 points for the inner ring. Unfortunately there were a number of tree branches that a lot of us hit and the sand didn’t let the grenades roll very well. I was able to score 5, but there were a number of guys in our squad that scored zero. A funny moment happened when PFC Metal squatted to throw… a fart squeaked out. LOL. So below average on this event.
Next event, loading, clearing a malfunction “SPORTS” and unloading our M16 rifles. We did decent on this event.
Next event, battle drill. Our squad went into the woods and after making contact with an “enemy” we had to use a basic battle drill we have practiced to eliminate them. I would say we did average on this event. Maybe a tiny bit above average. There was a lot of room for improvement. 
We then had to do first aid. There were two people laying down and as a squad were broke into to two teams to care for them. My team found a guy with an open chest wound.  We got him all fixed up and “called” in a medivac. Then we had to move him on a portable stretcher. My team was a little shaky and the other team was a lot shaky. I think we did OK on this event.
Soon dark clouds rolled in and the thunder started rumbling. Everyone had to get in the bleachers and wait it out. It blew over after about 20 minutes, and then we were back on. 
Next event, we had to carry two stretchers about 200 meters as fast as possible. Each stretcher had about 200 lbs on it. We did well on it despite a guy on my team dropping it about 4 or 5 times. Right after that event we had to run out to the range and shoot a number of targets. Pretty tough, when you’re breathing hard. We did a little below average on this. We then had another physical event. We had to pull 6 sand bags, a stretcher, a big ass monster truck tire down 50 meters and back… a timed event. It was up to us how we wanted to get it there and back. The only rule was that we couldn’t roll the tire. We ended up putting all the sandbags on the stretcher and secured the tire to the stretcher then pulled them all. Very tiring! We did average. 
Once we were finished we waited for all the other squads to finish on the bleachers PVT Diesel wasn’t looking too good. He looked very hot and was complaining of a headache. Luckily we had a lot of rest time before our 15k ruck march back.
They announced the results once everyone finished. We found out our squad did the best in our platoon, but our platoon ended up coming in third out of four platoons. That just sucked because everyone wanted to win so badly, a lot of people just had an off day. After the announcement, we were told to get our body armor and throw it in the truck. Thank god! That meant we would not be ruck marching with it back. We put all our body armor in the truck and then put on all our gear. The DS marched us across the road and into the woods enough so the entire company would fit, then we just stopped and waited. We were told it was too hot and we wouldn’t start until 21:30. 
The gut truck came and we were told we could buy anything from it. This was a first. The gut truck sold a number of items, but I just got a powerade, powerbar, and skittles. Some got sub sandwiches and others even got hamburgers. 
We rested until about 20:30 then got all our gear on and formed back up on the road. We started our ruck march about 21:00. The ruck was 15k (9.3 miles), but I swear we went 30k. We did take two breaks to refill our canteens and camel baks. These breaks came at just the right time. My back and shoulders would be in pain… almost to the point where I was wondering how I could keep going, then we would get a break. We would take off the ruck and lay down in the prone position and rest. That little rest would get me through until the next one. 
By the end of the march my feet were starting to go numb, my shoulders were on fire, a blister was forming on my right pinky toe and my calves were sore. I was so happy to see our barracks. 
Something was different this time. The entrance to out CTA was lined with tiki torches. I could also hear faint music. As we got closer, I realized the music was coming from our CTA. Once in the CTA we saw a huge American flag that covered the entire area between the company barracks. It had a spotlight on it and had a pair of combat boots and a rifle with a helmet on top in front casting a shadow on the flag. It was pretty cool looking. We all formed up gave each other high fives and dropped our gear. The company then gathered in the center of the CTA for a couple of speeches from the battalion and company commanders congratulating us on pretty much finishing basic training. All the DSs then went to their platoon and placed a US pin on our uniforms. Our 3 DSs all came though and actually shook our hands. 
We were told to eat an orange and get all our shit upstairs. This right of passage has been completed. The journey was hard, but it was pretty cool to make it to the end and have the little ceremony. We finally got our stuff up and got showered and in bed about 1:30am. I would have so loved to sleep through the night, but I got fireguard duty from 3-4am with PFC Metal. Oh well… I can update my journal.
Random DS Quote: “Get your fucking ass of the ground” (Our senior DS being very sensitive and compassionate after a guy fell down during our ruck march today.)

1st Platoon after the 15K march. The dark areas on everyone's
ACUs are drenched with sweat :)

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