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Lost in the Woods(Part 1)

by Ryan Kimball 2 months ago in army · updated about a month ago
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A boot camp story

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. November 2016

I have worn out my mind over the last five years, thinking of all the different ways I should or could tell the story of my experiences in basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri during the Autumn and Winter of 2016. Equal to that, and often occurring simultaneously, are the thoughts of why. Why tell the story? Is it even worth sharing? It is after all, a story that is deeply personal; and one simply never knows how certain things will be received. I would hate to go through the emotional labor of harkening back to it all in my mind; reliving the memories, good and bad, and then somehow getting it to paper only to have it fall flat, unread, unheard, and irrelevant. This worry accompanies nearly everything I write, but this story especially; not because of some horrific, mind bending series of events that would break the internet, but because of the trivial nature of the whole damn experience. I wonder if people will begin reading this, expecting some fantastic tale of perseverance, or coming of age, or of uncommon hardship, or outrageous circumstance, and move on from it without connecting with it, or feeling even a remnant of what I felt. What if you don't care? This is not, and never has been an inspiring story; nor was it a very inspiring experience, at least not to me. What it is, is a story of misfortune, self doubt, and failure. In the end you'll have almost as many answers as I do about life, and love, and me. Maybe you'll know me a little better, that can't hurt; Unless you're an asshole, then you'll have more fuel to keep thinking poorly of me. I don't look back on it the the same way I did in the immediate aftermath, or two years later, or even last month for that matter. So, if you care to know what BCT was like for me, keep reading.

On October 17th, 2016 early as all hell in the morning, my recruiter dropped me off at the Boise International Airport in, you fuckin' guessed it, Boise, Idaho where I was living at the time of my enlistment. It was right next door to Gowen Field, a joint military base were I attended monthly RSP training. I was National Guard. I was 28 years old, and it would be the first time I had ever been on an airplane. I remember feeling a little jittery in the 2-3 days prior, but it still wasn't real. I made it through airport security and boarded the plane without issue, found my seat and fired up my phone for some music. My favorite band had recently dropped a new album after 3 years, and I had downloaded the whole thing to listen to on the trip. I thought that I'd be nervous; I had envisioned myself many times in the days leading up to shipping to basic, puking in a bag and shitting myself in the airplane bathroom for hours, but I was poised and calm, because it wasn't real yet. The flight was uneventful, and everything you'd expect from an A to B domestic flight. It blew me away that a person could, for a reasonable price, get from one side of the country to the other in a matter of a few hours. I quietly fell in love with commercial flight when I touched down in Chicago, Illinois a few hours later. I had detailed instructions for when I arrived there from my NCO's back in Idaho to use my meal voucher and make absolutely sure that I eat something and hydrate at every stop. So I headed straight to the nearest food hut in the terminal and got a burger. While I was standing there waiting to order, in some sort of strange display of synchronicity, I ran into recruits that were headed to the same place I was headed to, and recruits that had left where I was headed. If you've ever been through any part of this, it won't surprise you to read that even though at this point I still wasn't nervous, I was on the look out for any and all info about the experience I was about to have. New recruits like me always ask the same questions I'm sure, and since the birth of the modern U.S. Army, we've probably always gotten the same answers. It was the same in RSP training with the soldiers that had returned from BCT/AIT. So I ate, and chatted with ingoing and outcoming contemporaries, then got on my next flight headed to St. Louis, Missouri.

The second flight was short and sweet, and also uneventful, but along the way I took an interest in a couple guys in front of me that had Army backpacks. they talked subtly about what was ahead, and their homes; it seemed like they knew each other, but the reality was that they were just from different shitty parts of the same city, Chicago. Hitting St. Louis invited the jitters, I wasn't loosing my mind, but I knew at that point that I was only hours away from Fort Leonard Wood, and Reception. As per my detailed instructions, I exited the plane and went straight to the USO clubhouse to eat and wait for the bus to Fort Leonard Wood. While at the clubhouse, I got everything for free, but the service was shit. It occurred to me at the time that this was a step along the way, so people who knew where I was headed would probably become progressively fuckin' rude. So I smiled, accepted the free hotdogs, avoided the soda pop, and went to a modestly lit corner to plug in my phone and text with my girlfriend. She wasn't super responsive, as she had promised she would be, which bugged me because the nerves were setting in. A few hours of music, pacing, and texting later The bus arrived. We all lined up, and filed onto the bus after the whole check, and double check, and make them wait routine wrapped up. It was about 2 and a half hours by bus to the main gate at Fort Leonard Wood if memory serves me. When we pulled in, the driver checked in with the gate guard, who then instructed him to park us just inside the gate at the edge of the lot while he contacted Reception Battalion to let them know we had arrived. After awhile longer, a Drill Sergeant approached and boarded the bus, and with stern yet surprisingly subdued force he instructed us on what was coming next. So we all held up our photo ID and something else I don't remember, to be individually checked. Then, they moved the bus forward and parked it in front of the main entrance of the Reception HQ.

By Sebastien LE DEROUT on Unsplash

If you've been through this, then you might agree with me when I say that this is where the fun begins. "Get your asses, off my fuckin' bus!" The drill sergeant exclaimed; now accompanied by another. We followed his previous instructions and formed the specified number of lines, standing accordingly. I was pretty well prepared for this whole process because I had spent the previous six months working on my enlistment, getting fit, and attending RSP training. My recruiter was also a drill sergeant, that had deployed to the middle east at least once. Needless to say, I was aware of the protocol and how to conduct myself in order to ensure a smooth reception and red phase experience. The two drill sergeant's yelled some very specific instructions at us, reformed us, and filed us inside. This is the part where we had to dispose of all things contraband: gum, cigarettes, chew, soft drinks, and anything else in our hands and pockets that wasn't clothing, or identifying paperwork. It was pretty easy for most of us, and then some just can't or won't do it right. This is when I began to wonder why the fuck some people join the military. I had my reasons, and I didn't take the decision lightly; it took me ten years of silent consideration and some third party persuasion to finally pull the trigger and do it. But, others seemed as if they had either gotten on the wrong fuckin' bus, or quick shipped to get a free road trip without reading the contract. I read every word of mine, in front of the National Guard Liaison before I signed and swore in....

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About the author

Ryan Kimball

I love nature and all of the arts, but writing is my main passion. At 34, I've already lived an eventful and interesting life. I hope you'll check out my stories and enjoy them. Peace.

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