Thursday, August 13, 2009

Teen Soldier for a Day

OK, here's what it was.
On Tuesday, my brother (Lucas) and I went to an event on Ft. Bragg called "Teen Soldier for a Day." Only having briefly been told about it beforehand, I wasn't sure what to expect and wasn't too thrilled by the prospect. To tell the truth I was expecting "Jr. Boot Camp." Not exactly my thing, as I don't like exercise just for exercise's sake. Anyway, when it began, it was just easy stuff like "P.T." (ha, instead of real P.T. it was only like 30 push-ups and other laughably easy exercises)
Then there was some things like marching drills, but that wasn't difficult either.

After getting in the big Army trucks and driving for a little bit, we ended up at the jump towers, where soldiers training for jumping out of planes get somewhat prepared. I don't like heights (really high up, anyway), but that is partly because I don't feel usually very safe high up - if I was sure there wasn't any way I could fall, I'd be OK. The jump towers we jumped out of were not that high (only 34 ft., my dad says), but even so, I was a bit nervous at the doorway. Did I mention that I don't like falling? Yep, you won't find me on a lot of roller coasters.

Well, I just thought something like "the heck with it already" and jumped. I didn't have too much time to get the sinking feeling when my stomach jumps to my throat, since the drop was only a few feet before I stopped falling with a jerk. After bouncing a bit more along the cable (the whole thing is basically a zip line with you attached by the risers on your parachute equipment), I reached the end, where the soldiers had a bit of difficulty in getting me off the line, but which happened without any injuries or trouble.

OK, let's see...
After that, we went to a Humvee simulator, with three large screens around the room. I thought it was horrible, to tell the truth. I was the driver, so I didn't have an M-16 like the passengers or the .50-cal M2 like the gunner.

The guns are real, I think, but they're hooked up to the machine, so nothing is fired from the barrel. Anyway, as the driver, I shifted into the highest gear and kept the pedal floored, but as if it wasn't bad enough having a vehicle that was very difficult to drive (compounded by the fact that nothing was actually moving under me), I had a Humvee with a defective engine! At least something was wrong, since the other Humvees in the convoy were going off into the distance and I was left in the dust. We missed most of the action.

Well, after that we tried out a small arms simulation training center, and did target practice with M-4s. I did OK, but it was hard to tell what you were "hitting."

For lunch, we had...guess what - MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat)! MREs aren't exactly exquisite cuisine, and I've certainly had enough of them in Guam, but my Ckicken Ravioli was actually not bad.

Unfortunately, I ate just about everything in my MRE, and since I drank quite a bit of water also, I was feeling rather full after that.
So, when we went to the obstacle course used by soldiers going to enter Air Assault school,
I wasn't feeling as ready to go as I should have been.

The various obstacles weren't as hard to complete as they usually were, since we didn't have to do some of them how the soldiers did (such as not having to climb to the top of a rope ladder), due to safety reasons. If I can remember correctly, the obstacles were the following:
1) a row of parallel bars (imagine this bracket - "[" - only much bigger, and on its side);
2) a structure with two climbing ropes, a tall ladder-like structure, and a rope ladder/net on the other side; 3) more parallel bars, like the first one, only differently sized and spaced;
4) a pyramidal structure, also with wooden bars (kind of hard to describe this one easily);
5) a short plank wall; 6) a dirt area with barbed wire about two feet or less above the ground;
7) an obstacle with ropes hanging from a beam and a log at the opposite end of you;
8) a log structure with two logs: the closer one close to the ground and the other higher up and farther away; and 9) an obstacle that was basically just a giant ladder.

The first obstacle was supposed to be "traversed" (or whatever) by simply stepping sideways and putting one leg over, and then pulling your other leg over to repeat the process. You couldn't use your hands for this. Sounds easy? Well, it was if you were tall, like one kid. If, however, you aren't exactly well-endowed in the height department (like me, at 5'6"), you would probably have had a hard time. Different people did it in different ways: one kid that might have been the shortest there jumped backwards onto the bar so he'd be sitting on it, and then turned and did the same thing for the rest of the way. My method was to get my left over (and sometimes brace myself off the bar behind me with my right leg), facing forward, and then get my other one over the bar. I originally tried to jut go sideways and swing one leg after the other over, but that proved to be rather painful.

The next obstacle was really quite simple. Instead of climbing the rope, crossing the platform, and then climbing the (very tall) ladder and climbing down to a few feet off the ground, then letting go and falling onto a cushion, as a soldier did, all we had to do was climb the rope and come back down (which was easy, after one soldier showed us how to make a "brake" with your feet), and thengo around to the other side, climb up the rope net/ladder to a certain point, and come back down and fall at the end. I think they thought that someone could break their neck if they went to the very top and fell.

Obstacle #3 was supposed to be easy: vault over the bars until you get to the end.
However, I found I couldn't vault over for some reason, so I tried another method and slid and nearly hit the ground, looking very silly. Only when I was near the end did I realize that I could vault over by swinging my legs over to the left. Doh!

#4 was too simple. Climb up the bars on one side, and then climb down the other side. Actually, once you got to the top you could do it the "right" way and "thread" it, going over a bar and then under a bar, but I didn't do that because it looked complicated and I thought it would take too long. Plus, I was the last one in line before the soldiers, and they were going to do it too.
#5 was laughably easy. I just grabbed the top of the wall and vaulted over and sort of slid down. Some had trouble with this one, especially the few, shall we say, chubby, girls who were there.

I am pretty sure that obstacle #6 was the hardest one to complete for me.
Crawling (army-man style) wasn't as easy as it looks, and I had to continually keep my head down so I wouldn't get poked by barbed wire. Oh, did I mention that there was a heat index of more than 100° F out there? So, yes, it was very hot. Crawling through the dirt while the direct sun blazed down fiercely and the sweat dripped into my eyes wasn't fun, to say the least. And I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt over my T-shirt, to prevent my arms from getting too dirty or scratched, and that just made me hotter. The funny thing is when I finished, someone said I looked as if a giant Cheeto had exploded on my shirt. Oddly enough, I did look dirtier than anyone else. Unfortunately, I got a few small abrasions/cuts on my hands from rubbing on the dirt, but that could probably have been avoided by wearing gloves. It doesn't help that when I was in my car taking things out of my backpack to save weight and have room for water bottles I left out my pair of gloves and cellphone, two things that could have been quite useful. Oh well, just another one of those "doh!" moments.

To do obstacle #7, a soldier would throw a rope, and you had to run, grab the rope, and swing over the log that was at the other side. For some, including a fairly short Army guy, it was somewhat difficult. He didn't quite swing far enough and only got his legs over, but he was still holding on to the rope and so was kind of stuck. Anyway, he managed to get over the log. I just ran and flew over with the rope. Some of the Army guys nicknamed me Bruce Lee, which I thought was slightly fitting, considering I'm half-Chinese.
For #8, you had to run, jump off the first log, land on the second log, and flip or slide over.
On my first try, I landed on the second log on my stomach. Oof! Ok, so that din't work.
But the second time I made it without too much difficulty.
The last obstacle (#9) was very simple. Climb up the big, widely spaced rungs on one side, and then go through the rungs under the red-painted beam and climb down. It wasn't hard, but of course at least one of the "well-fed" girls had quite a bit of trouble with it.

And that's about it. After it was all over I got a headache even though I went through a bunch of half-liter water bottles. Well, does that sound like fun to you?

-Max out.

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