Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.97(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"DON'T THANK ME, THANK Your Recruiter"
By Ken Conklin
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Ken Conklin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBASIC TRAINING
* * *
I first entered the United States Army on November 6, 2001. I still find it amazing that I can remember the exact date that I joined. It was nearly 2 months after the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001 which resulted of the death of thousands of Americans in the World Trade Center in New York City as well as the Pentagon. It was the most tragic day in American history. The event caused not only devastation here at home, but it also caused America to engage in the War on Terror, ultimately resulting in the United States sending troops into Afghanistan and eventually into Iraq. As a kid from a small town in upstate New York, I knew the impact of the attacks. As an American, I wanted to do whatever I could to help my nation. I love my country. Always have, always will. So, in November of 2001 I boarded a plane in Albany, NY heading south to Columbia, SC. I was scheduled to attend basic training and my advanced individual training for my MOS at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. This was my first plane trip in my entire life. I was very anxious about the journey in which I was about to embark upon. Many questions raced through my head: Would I like the Army? Would I make it in the Army? Would I make mistakes? Would I be on top of my class? What will the food be like? What about the people? Is it anything like it is on TV? Another thing going through my mind was just how much I was going to miss home. I am from a small town where everybody knows everybody. The town is called Saint Johnsville. We have one stop light in my town. Figuratively speaking, if you sneeze in my town, there's a good chance someone on the other side of town is going to know about it. When you grow up in a small town like this you tend to build closer friendships with the people that you grow up with, as opposed to if you grew up in a major city. I also knew I would miss my family. I was the oldest out of 4 kids that my father had (he would end up having one more and adopting one more later on, making a total of 6). For me, being the oldest kid in the house, the first to graduate high school and the first to leave and move out was definitely overwhelming for me. How would my brother Jason and my sisters Melissa and Jen survive without me? Of course they most certainly did survive, but when you're a young, full of yourself, 18 year old kid you almost tend to envision that it is impossible for them to survive without you. You end up learning that isn't really the case.
I arrived to Fort Jackson, South Carolina late in the evening. It turned out to be an extremely long day because we weren't permitted to sleep until around 3 am. The very first thing I can remember happening was being formed up into a formation at a place called reception battalion. Reception battalion is the in-processing center for the Army. It is the place that you go to when you first show up to receive your initial issue of your uniforms, get your first haircut, get your shots, and do your initial entry paperwork. You also get to make your first phone call to let your family know that you made it in ok and that you were safe. Throughout Basic Training you come to find out that phone privileges aren't something you take for granted. You can only use the phone to call home when the drill sergeants allow you to. Sometimes it can be weeks before you even get to call home, however they do have to give you that first phone call. Oh, and by the way, that first phone call usually lasts all of 3 minutes, if you're lucky. There's nothing quite like trying to tell your family you made it and you're safe, you're ok, and oh by the way you love them and miss them, while there are 3 to 5 screaming drill sergeants in the background. When you're an 18 year old kid who has never left New York State, it tends to be slightly overwhelming.
I can also remember many times at reception where we had to stand in formation and wait, for a very long time, for almost nothing. Or sometimes, we would be waiting for uniform issue. The big thing about reception is trying to get you into the Army mindset in just a matter of days. They make you get up early, sometimes at 3 or 4 am and go stand outside in formation to wait for breakfast at the dining facility. While standing and waiting you are either standing at the position of attention or parade rest. You're not moving, unless told to. You're not speaking, unless told to. That's how it goes. And you're standing outside at 4 am ... but breakfast doesn't actually start until 6 am in some cases. In some ways, it is a mind game. In the Army there is a phrase "hurry up and wait." This phrase means exactly what it says. You're going to be ordered to hurry the hell up, and then, you're going to stand and wait. After that, you'll most likely wait some more. I know it may sound comical but that is how these first few days go. You are only at reception for a matter of 2 weeks, maybe less, before basic training begins. The main killer about reception is there's nothing fun about it. Perhaps you can find the fun in basic training whether you're learning to fire a rifle for the first time, or doing physical training. These are activities that one may find fun. In reception however, there is absolutely nothing fun about standing around and waiting. It gets boring and quite frankly it can be easy to lose your mind while doing this. There's just so much about reception that can be mentally taxing. There you are away from home for the first time, with nothing but a ton of time on your hands, with minimal sleep, to stand there, get yelled at, and contemplate your very existence. There's any number of thoughts that can pass through your head at this time: "Why am I here? Why am I being yelled at this time? I didn't even do anything. Oh man, the guy next to me really messed up, he's getting yelled at big time. Damn, I miss home. God I'm hungry. I'm also tired." These are just some of the thoughts that can nearly drive a Soldier insane in reception.
At the end of the first week of reception, the drill sergeants had my entire reception company in a room sitting silently waiting to do some of our initial entry paperwork. I can remember this angry drill sergeant looking at this room of young kids and yelling at us, "IS THERE ANYONE HERE THAT DOESN'T WANT TO BE HERE!?!? YOU JUST GOT HERE! IF THERES ANYONE HERE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO BE HERE, TELL US NOW AND WE WILL SEND YOU HOME, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. THIS IS YOUR FREE PASS. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE HERE, NOW IS THE TIME TO TELL ME. I'LL GET YOU OUT OF HERE. IF YOU WAIT TO TELL ANYONE, IT IS GOINGTO BE MUCH HARDERTO GET OUT DOWNTHE LINE AND YOU WILL BE STUCK HERE! WITHTHAT SAID, WHOTHE HELL DOESN'T WANT TO BE HERE?!?!" As intimidating as the drill sergeant was to the company, he seemed to be offering an olive branch if you will, a way out for anyone who couldn't hack it, who in those few days simply had enough and decided that the United States Army wasn't for them. Personally, I wasn't about to raise my hand; I was here for a reason, I wanted to be there. But at this moment, while I was thinking about how much I did want to be there, a young private actually stood up said, "Drill Sergeant, I do not want to be here! Please send me home." This kid was about to cry. I could hear it in his voice. I could see it in his mannerisms. What happened next I didn't expect whatsoever. The drill sergeant who made the offer got in this young private's face, along with two other drill sergeants, and they proceeded to yell and scream at this Soldier, not to mention insult him, in front of the entire room. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WANT TO GO HOME? I GOT NEWS FOR YOU! YOU AINT GOIN NOWHERE!" I thought to myself "sucks to be him!" Of course, I didn't say that aloud, for I may have reached the same fate. You have to pick your spots when you're in this type of situation and obviously this kid didn't pick the proper spot. The drill sergeants made him go to the front of the room, and proceeded to smoke this Soldier in front of the whole room. The term "smoke" or "smoking a Soldier" in the Army means that the Soldier is going to be doing an awful lot of push-ups, sit ups, and various other exercises, in front of everyone, while being yelled at and humiliated. The drill sergeant apparently tricked the Soldier, just to see who would crack. I guess in a lot of ways this can be compared to prison, like in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, when the new guys show up to prison and on their first night the other prisoners take bets to see who cracks first. It's the same thing in all reality. Only here it's the Army, and there it's prison. And for those wondering, that Soldier didn't get to go home. No, he stayed right there with the rest of us. It was at this moment in time I realized for myself that there were going to be mind games of some sort in basic training, and I needed to stay on my toes. I didn't want to end up like this guy, that's for sure.
After those 2 weeks of reception, we finally loaded up onto the bus to go to our basic training site. Basic Training was really only a 10 minute ride from the reception battalion. The drill sergeants crammed us onto this white school bus with all of our bags so it was extremely cramped. What I also found particularly funny was how the drill sergeants made us put our faces down into our bags, so we couldn't see out the windows on the way to the basic training site; as if we weren't supposed to know the way. I really did find this funny, but I did not voice this to anyone, for obvious reasons. When we got to our destination, we all went through what I like to call "the get off my fucking bus drill." Those of you reading this who were never in the military are probably wondering what exactly this is, while those of you who were in the military are probably laughing. So, for the benefit of those who have never been in the military, I will explain: The "get off my fucking bus drill" is when you arrive to the basic training site and one drill sergeant walks onto the bus and starts angrily screaming at you, "GET OFF THE BUS! GET OFF THE BUS! WHAT, YOU DIDN'T FUCKIN HEAR ME? GET OFF THE FUCKIN BUS! YOU'RE IN THE ARMY NOW!" I apologize for the swearing but, I feel the need to include it so you, the reader, can fully grasp what is happening. Chances are, if you're reading a book about the army, than you can handle a few bad words. Anyway, it's at this moment that you as a Soldier grab your stuff and head off the bus as quickly as possible. You try to run but it's a school bus; there's only so much room and there's like 10 other dudes in front of you, and all you want to do at this point is not give the drill sergeant an excuse to make a target out of you. I remember getting off the bus, hitting the ground and there's another drill sergeant there screaming some more. In fact, that drill sergeant is also yelling "GET OFF THE BUS!" Of course, me being the self-appointed comedian that I am, I think to myself, "but I'm already off the bus." Obviously I didn't say this to the drill sergeant. That would have been a bad idea. All the Soldiers then head into a courtyard, where we are forced to dump out our things to take an inventory, despite the fact that we just did this prior to leaving reception. Seemed like a big waste of time to me, but apparently those drill sergeants really, really need to make sure that you have seven brown t-shirts and seven brown pairs of underwear, along with a Class A dress uniform and a pair of flip flops in addition to a bunch of other stuff. One thing you will not hear me say in this book is that a lot of what happens on a day to day basis in the army makes sense. Now sure, on a strategic level the army does make a lot of sense, and sometimes even on an individual level but sometimes there are just going to be those things in the army that happen that leave you scratching your head and asking why. That's how it is at all levels. It's not a perfect way of life, but then again, what in life is?
So once you get through this arrival day of basic training, the real fun begins. The actual Soldier training (which I loved) happens next. Your drill sergeant comes busting into the bay, which consists of about 40 Soldiers, and starts screaming at everyone to wake up. Of course, this all takes place at 4 am regardless of the fact that the day before you were up until midnight. Ahh yes, the good old days. They give you 15 minutes to get outside for formation to begin physical training. In these 15 minutes you have to accomplish many tasks such as making your bed, shaving (if you are a male), brushing your teeth, and getting into your physical training (PT) uniform. Once you get outside into formation, there's no talking, no moving, only silence while the drill sergeant accounts for everyone. While one drill sergeant is doing that, another is walking through the formation to verify that the males shaved. Of course if you are a male and you didn't shave, the drill sergeant is going to get on you about that. I can remember Soldiers who didn't shave would first get yelled at and forced to do push-ups. Then if they continued to mess up, the drill sergeants would make them carry out some sort of humiliating task, such as coming out to formation with their shaving razor tied to a piece of rope like a necklace. Then they would end up wearing their new little necklace for a little while as they thought about the importance of shaving. Yeah, I know it sounds messed up. From my standpoint I usually shaved regardless even while I was growing up, so it wasn't an issue to me. If I don't shave on a certain day, my face feels dirty and greasy for the rest of the day, but that's just me. Really in the Basic Training stage of the army it's all about instilling a certain amount of discipline. That's the goal, instilling a personal discipline to maintain a level of professionalism, and it all starts with appearance. If you aren't disciplined enough to maintain a nice looking uniform, a haircut, and a clean shaven face, then how can you be counted on to carry out the big missions in the army? If you can't shave when asked to, how can I ask you to pick up a weapon and go on a mission in Iraq or Afghanistan? I do understand the methods, to an extent.
Physical Training (PT) during Basic training is a journey in itself for a lot of Soldiers. A lot of Soldiers who are in basic training were not athletes in high school. Most high school athletes were most likely granted a sports scholarship by a university and ended up going to school as opposed to joining the military. It's a logical choice and by no means am I knocking it. Hey, to each their own right? As far as me, PT was never a problem for me in basic training. I spent my entire time in high school taking martial arts and lifting weights. In 2001, I traveled to Buffalo, NY with one of my History teachers who was an avid weightlifter like me to compete in a powerlifting meet. I ended up winning a U.S.P.F. (United States Powerlifting Federation) State championship for my age and weight division. I still have the trophy to this day. My history teacher also won his respective championship too. Needless to say it was a hell of an accomplishment. Not only did I have that accomplishment under my belt, but I also bought out the gym that I trained under once I graduated high school. I took the "Fire Eagle/Black Tiger Kung Fu academy/weightlifting gym" and turned it into "Ken's All American Gym." So, coming into basic training I had a ton of experience in working out and exercising as it is, and therefore when I saw a lot of Soldiers around me falling out of runs I found it heartbreaking. For me in high school, it wasn't a choice. My dad made me hit the gym. He didn't allow an option. If I refused it would have meant pissing him off, which I wouldn't ever want to do. I have the upmost respect for my father, and I love him to death, but if there was one thing I knew, it was not to ever cross him. In a fight, I knew there was no way in hell I could beat him. He used to tell me stories of how he was a moving man in Poughkeepsie, New York at a place called "Ken's Place" and he would tell his fellow co-workers who thought they were strong tough guys that he never met the man who could beat him in a fight. My father earned his black belt at Madison Square Garden in New York City. One time when my father said that he never met the man who could beat him in a fight, one guy walked up to him and said, "Hello, my name is Winkey." (Winkey of course was the guy's nickname.) My dad looked at Winkey and said, "Hello Winkey, I'm Ken, and I still haven't met the man who can beat me." Winkey shut up and walked away. Either way, I can tell you that in my 28 years of being alive on this earth that I haven't met the man who can beat my dad in a fight. So in other words, my dad did right in raising me the way he did, and he did right by making me work out because it prepared me for the greatest honor of my life; serving my country. I just wish more parents in America instilled these same values in their children, especially the fellow Soldiers I served alongside with in basic training who's high school lives apparently included an awful lot of video games.
Excerpted from "DON'T THANK ME, THANK Your Recruiter" by Ken Conklin Copyright © 2012 by Ken Conklin. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CH 1 - BASIC TRAINING....................1
CH 2 - AIT....................25
CH 3 - FORT CAMPBELL, KY HOME OF THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION....................39
CH 4 - THE INVASION OF IRAQ-2003....................71
CH 5 - HOMECOMING....................123
CH 6 - TNA....................141
CH 7 - KOREA....................159
CH 8 - FORT DRUM, NY-HOME OF THE 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION....................213
CH 9 - AFGHANISTAN....................237
CH 10 - 2007....................283
CH 11 - LOYALTY OVER VICTORY....................317
CH 12 - BACK TO IRAQ....................345
CH 13 - THE BEGINNING OF THE END....................393
CH 14 - YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME....................431
CH 15 - FINAL DISCOVERIES....................449