Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Official Day in Organized Chaos

...otherwise known as Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training.) We woke up early, 5 am,  to  the sounds of Reveille, which is surprisingly loud that early in the morning, and then were immediately yelled at. Between that damn, persistent bugle and the even more persistent TIs (Training Instructors) I think I went into shock.

Now, bear in mind, that I had spent most of my teenage years being yelled at. My father and stepmother had the whole yelling-and-making-me-feel-like-dirt-thing down pat. But to have uniformed strangers do it was an entirely different feeling of low, especially at 5 o'clock in the morning.

As I'm writing this, I'm doing my best to remember that first day, which is clear in bits and pieces, but the sequence of events is a lot more fuzzy. As the echo of that bugle continued to radiate inside my ears, my first thoughts were a mixture of, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" and "Get up! Get up! Get up!"

We were immediately ordered to get dressed and come to attention beside our beds. That first day, we were allowed our only leniency in regards to getting out of bed and falling into formation. Instead of what was to be the usual waking up just before Reveille, quickly going to the bathroom and then at the first sound of the bugle, getting dressed and hurrying down the stairs so we could fall into formation before Reveille ended, that first morning we were actually allowed the luxury of going to the bathroom and then straggling downstairs. Mind you, even that day, us newbies to military life were only given mere minutes to use the bathroom and fall in.

Everything about those days was rush, rush, rush. "Hurry up and wait," quickly became a favorite description of life in the military. That was the extend of our lives from day one, we had to hurry into formation, which consisted of us standing in four or five organized rows (dependent upon the size of the flight) and then wait for our next command.

Then, in the still early morning hours, we went to breakfast or "chow." Later that day we would all receive our assignments, one of which was "Chow Runner." To avoid all flights arriving at the "mess hall," (dining hall) at one time, each flight sent their Chow Runner down to be given an assigned time and to stay on schedule, you were only allowed a few minutes to eat. It was all very organized, organized chaos.

When it came our turn, we marched row by row, person by person through the door into the mess hall. If you've ever been to a cafeteria, it's pretty much the same idea, only there's a wall behind you and you immediately pick up a tray, take the plate of food that is given to you, no choices, grab two glasses of water (mandatory) and anything else you want to drink (optional) and then you find a seat with your flight. The mess hall tables are pretty much like any public school cafeteria tables.

The first thing we had to do, before coffee or orange juice, or our first bite of food, was drink the two glasses of water. That was mandatory and that was with every meal. Later, the rumors would fly that there was saltpeter in the water to keep us from getting "horny," but there were A LOT of rumors in "Basic."

After a rushed breakfast that I didn't finish, no wonder I lost six pounds during Basic Training, we were ordered back into formation and then began the busy day of getting our uniforms and supplies, health examinations (blood work), and for the guys, there was the infamous shaving of the heads.

Yes, we did see our "guys" from time to time, sometimes in passing, other times while in group formations. You know you'd think you'd recognize a guy, even without his hair. But, honestly, shave his head, put an olive-drab uniform on him, and stand him in a sea of other guys dressed in olive-drab and he becomes hard to recognize.

But what occurred to me in all this, was that I wasn't the only girl in our group with overactive hormones. And girls do talk, especially in later weeks when we became more like "friends" than strangers, and memories of those first days were easier to laugh at.

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