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Benjamin-Newton.com and Cloudy.diamonds Books Online in Parts by Ben Huot

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Complete Psychological Topics 1: Chapters 1-2 - Part 1

 

by Ben Huot

July 15, 2012

in more formats

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
First Things

by Ben Huot

1.1 For More Information

For more books and information, visit me on the web at http://benjamin-newton.com/

Feel free to send me e-mail regarding the books and website at mailto:ben@benjamin-newton.com I even enjoy constructive criticism

1.3 Introduction

1.3.1 Background of the Book

This book provides psychological information I have learned in dealing with the unique stresses and challenges of: being a soldier, later as a person with Schizophrenia (for 10 years after my diagnosis), and all along as a highly sensitive and intelligent individual. What makes it original is my: research, experiences, my personality, my family, and where I grew up. I grew up in a working class town, next to a college town, in one of the safest and most beautiful part of America, that no one has heard of. I planned on becoming an International Businessman. Things changed a lot, after I joined the military and I became very serious and also became mentally ill. I decided to study Asian religion, literature, philosophy, history, and art for the next 11.5 years and wrote a number of books, in the process.

I am: a disabled veteran, a person with Schizophrenia, a Christian, a scholar, a philosopher, a poet, a mystic, a student of history, a futurist, an artist, and a designer. I am: very intelligent, very serious, very creative, highly sensitive, a fiscal liberal (politically), a very good writer, very direct, very clear and concise, and very independent. I am most influenced by: Soren Kierkegaard, the Apostle Paul, the Prophets of the Bible, Chuang Tzu, and the global and historical church, especially in Asia and Africa. I am very close to my nuclear family and they have been essential in helping my become who I am today. I enjoy studying about different cultures and different ideas. I enjoy nature and animals.

I am very concerned with the direction the world is headed. I think the most major problems today are: the global climate change, running out of resources (not just oil), general lack of interest in education, laziness, and ignorance about everything. Worst of all, neither the people or the government seems to take any of these issues seriously. My entire writings are based on paradox - the most important of is what the average person needs to change about themselves and what I and people like me need to change about ourselves.

1.3.2 Summary

This collection, Complete Psychological Topics, contains most of my writings on the topic of psychology, including: my experiences in the military, my mental illness, and other psychological topics. This book contains Disabled Veteran and the Book of Psychology.

1.3.3 Experience of Schizophrenia

Many people may wonder why I write about Schizophrenia and what I have to offer that a psychiatrist does not bring to the table. It is true that I am not an expert in Schizophrenia and if you want to learn about this disease, I am definitely not the only source you should consult. What I do bring to the table which is very unusual is my ability to write well, my intelligence, and my experience dealing with Schizophrenia.

The problem with an expert in Schizophrenia, like a psychiatrist that specializes in mental illness, is that they are an expert in theory, but have never directly experienced what they have learned about. Certain things are hard to understand by research alone. Just like people who study the military, but have never been a service member, will never really understand what the military is all about, so a psychiatrist, no matter what their training, is no match to one who suffers with a mental illness.

A good example of the difference between what I offer in my writings and what a psychiatrist might bring is to compare a research paper on the Gospels compared to the writings of the Apostle Paul. God could have made the Bible very short and simple and explained everything very analytically, so that everything was explained, that people debate about, and have everything wrap up very neatly. But the Bible actually brings up all sorts of things, that are not easily explained and opens up a can of worms, which theologians have been trying to put into a neat package for centuries, but has eluded everyone.

The Bible is written by people, who actually experienced God, in difficult lives. Paul was not just a religious scholar, but was a missionary and suffered all sorts of imprisonments and opposition. He got into the very difficult situations, where he risked his life and reputation, for what he believed. He was not in a comfortable room and imagining solutions to theological problems, but rather suffered for what he believed. This is the reason why people care about what he wrote many centuries later.

1.3.4 Is My Situation Typical?

Most people who have Schizophrenia fall into 3 groups: 1/3 of people with Schizophrenia stare at the wall all day, 1/3 live their lives in various levels of assisted living, and the final 1/3 live mostly independently. We call this last group high functioning and I am at the very extreme of this category. So, no, my situation is not typical.

In fact, the last time I visited my latest psychiatrist, from the VA, he questioned whether or not I fit so neatly into the Paranoid Schizophrenia label, even though that is what my symptom show, because I am doing unbelievably well, for having this mental illness. He said that people with Paranoid Schizophrenia go back to the hospital, after they are diagnosed, because they have relapses (which I have had none) and don’t achieve results, like self-publishing books. Philosophy, along with other types of abstract thought, are considered not possible to be understood, by people with Schizophrenia.

On the other hand, what I have done becomes more possible, if you are able to be in a situation where: you are very intelligent and creative, highly motivated, you keep taking your medicine, your medicine is effective (especially with the newer medicines - ones developed after 1990), you get on government services right away, you have good family support, and you have not taken drugs, abused alcohol, or committed crimes (anytime in your life). The most important thing you can do is to take your medicine, as it is prescribed. If you cannot do that, than the other things are not going to matter.

One of the side effects of the disease is that it is almost impossible, to work full time or in stressful job, so family support and government and community run services are necessary, to be able to afford, to live inside, off the streets. One of the most important things your family can do for you is to fill out the required paperwork, for you to get the various government and community run services, that are necessary to live in a good situation, with Schizophrenia. If you do not want to be locked up, the best way to insure this won’t happen is to not commit crimes.

There is no cure for Schizophrenia and the medicines never take away all the symptoms. For the remaining problems, behavioral strategies are often the best, as well as controlling your inputs (TV, Internet, book usage). Religion can be an important part of these kind of strategies. You can also benefit from counseling. But remember that these are all secondary treatments, to be done, in addition to taking the medicine. There is no way to treat Schizophrenia with any kind of traditional medicine and we will likely be able to travel through time and to other earth like planets, before we can find a cure, for Schizophrenia.

The biggest side effects of the medicines, used to treat people with Schizophrenia, are lack of energy and weight gain. These are some of the hardest things to deal with, as a person with Schizophrenia. The lack of energy makes it hard, to get out and do things and the weight gain makes everything harder and increases the chances of: heart disease, diabetes, and other related health problems.

Chapter 2
Disabled Veteran

by Ben Huot

2.1 Becoming a Soldier

2.1.1 Non Exclusive Patriotism

I voluntarily served my country and am permanently disabled because of my service. This is why I am receiving funds from the Veterans Administration. I am a disabled veteran. I served my country, because it is a beautiful country and it is my country.
Many people see America as being on offshoot of England and based on the Enlightenment and that our closest allies are England and France. They see American history and culture as that of rich white men, as taught in history books and the mass media, that is accepted by the mainstream of opinion leaders. The mass media, called popular culture, is all over the world and is developed by a couple of rich white men, who don’t even pay taxes in the United States. These multinational corporations have nothing to do with America.
I see America as reflected, by the people who live here, currently and I see America as an immigrant nation, except for the Native Americans. The only thing that is exclusively American is Native American culture. When I study about the culture of historic and ancient Asia, this is as American as studying about the the American Revolution, the American Civil War, or World War II. I think that people, who got into America legally, from any other nation and follow the laws are just as much American as people who came over on the Mayflower who follow the laws. Not just those who sell out their culture for popular culture, but keeping their customs, from the countries they came from are just as American.
The really unique thing about America as I have, come to realize, after my service in the military is that we have a goal of toleration for people of different backgrounds and especially of other religions. That is one of the major things I seek to further, in my writings and artwork. This is often referred to as multiculturalism. I don’t see why we need to put up artificial boundaries between us and other countries around the world. We can be seen as doing the right thing, as well as they can be, even if we order our society in different ways, or that they may appear farther ahead than us in some areas doesn’t make us less of a nation. We don’t need to think of ourselves, as the best nation on earth. We are one, among a number of great nations, and we don’t need to be culturally exclusive to prove it.

2.1.2 Letters from Basic Training

Terms Defined

Air Assault: school where you learn to repel out of helicopters as a way of delivering soldiers into combat. It is like Airborne but with helicopters instead of airplanes.

AIT - Advanced Individual Training. This is the training in your job you signed up for when you joined the Army. You often go to another base right after graduating Basic Training and the training can be anytime from 4 weeks to a year, depending on the job. You get more and more freedom as time passes and you pass tests successfully. Drill Sergeants are here as well.

Article 15: You can get an Article 15 for almost anything from having food in your locker, smoking, or violating almost any minor rule. You can get them for just not doing something correctly too many times. The punishment is that you are fined about $150 out of your $600 for the whole month and you have to do 2 hours extra duty every day for 2 weeks. Meaning, you will only get a maximum of 5 hours sleep a night.

Basic Training: This is the initial training in the Army which trains you to be an infantry soldier. Every soldier must complete this training first, as we are considered first and foremost infantry soldiers and the Army wants the option of using any soldier in the infantry, if they feel they need to. There are 3 things you need to do to graduate: go through the gas chamber (unless you are on KP that day), qualify at BRM, and throw a live grenade. Basic Training is almost exactly 8 weeks long.

Battle Buddy: another soldier in training you are assigned to to work with for the entire training. It can also refer to any one in your platoon.

Bivouac: Army version of camping

Bolo: when you don’t qualify at the BRM qualifications the first time.

BRM - Basic Rifle Marksmanship. You learn to shoot your M-16, also referred to as rifle or weapon, but never as a gun. The point of the rifle is to be very accurate a kill someone with just one bullet. This rifle didn’t even have fully automatic mode with the model we were using. This training lasts about 2 weeks. You qualify at the end by shooting enough targets that are silhouettes of other soldiers and they are up for only 3 seconds and they pop up and down at one of 3 different lengths away - one is at 50 meters, one is at 200 meters, and the other one is at 300 meters. You have to shoot in a foxhole and laying on your stomach (in the prone)

Cadence: singing while marching, The songs follow at the same time as you move your feet.

Chow Hall: where you eat

Claymore Mine: This is a directional mine that shoots out shrapnel when activated. It has to be unpacked and set up. You test it first, to make sure it is not defective. It is used to protect foxholes from attack. The shrapnel should all go forward towards the enemy if you point it in the correct direction.

CO - Commanding Officer: this is generally the officer (a Captain in rank) at the head of your company. He or she signs off on most paperwork as is the one ultimately responsible for anything anyone does in their unit.

Counseling Session: If you are not doing something correctly, then the Drill Sergeant gives you a counseling session which can be deducted from your sleep time. They tell you what you did wrong and often give you extra time to practice it which is taken out of sleep or free time. You can get these for not shining your boots properly, not ironing your clothes properly, or not marching properly. If you get more than a few of these, you get an Article 15.

Cycle: this refers to the particular interval in which you have completed Basic Training.

Drill Cadet: a cadet is an officer in training, but these ones were called Drill Cadets because they were working with the Drill Sergeants

DS - Drill Sergeant. The basic unit during Basic Training is the platoon and it is headed by 2 to 3 Staff Sergeant or Sergeant First Classes in rank and will be a mixed combination of races and genders. They are each a Non-Commissioned Officer which you have to follow every command they give. You finish every thing you say to a Drill Sergeant with Drill Sergeant. If you don’t, then you are “dropped” and required to do 20 push-ups and this number increases as you progress through Basic Training.

E-3, E-4, etc. This is the pay grade of an enlisted soldier and is used to identify what rank someone is no matter what the name for the rank across different services. You start out between an E-1 (Private) to an E-4 (Specialist), depending on how much college you have or how many people you have got to enlist.

Fighting Position: this can refer to a foxhole or another type of protected fighting position.

Fireguard: Every one does a shift of watching for fire, so there is someone watching the entire time everyone is a asleep. You do this as in every thing else in groups of two.

Formation: when your entire unit is standing out in line

Fragmentation Grenade: This is what most people refer to as a grenade - it shoots out shrapnel, a few seconds after you pull the pin. It has a very high angle of fire, so you are generally safe if you are laying down or in your foxhole.

FTX - Field Training Exercises : where you train for combat with all the equipment and in simulated battle by role-playing. It is the equivalent of a dress rehearsal for combat.

Gas Chamber: This is a small cabin you are taken into about half way through Basic Training. A stick of slowly releasing gas called CS which is from 10-100 times stronger than tear gas is placed inside. The Drill Sergeants are standing in there in full protective gear (MOPP4). You go in with your mask on, take it off and stand there. There are Drill Sergeants blocking both the doors on the outside. If you say anything or try to leave early, you are thrown back in for a longer period of time. You will start BRM shortly afterwards.

Go/No-Go: you either pass most tests in the Army and get a “go” or you fail and get a “no-go”

Hurry up and Wait: tendency of military to get you all ready for something a long time before they are ready to use you

KP - Kitchen Patrol: You get assigned KP every so many days. When you get this job, you go with another member of your platoon, you wake up before everyone else, and go in and help the cooks who are all civilians all day long. The Drill Sergeants smoke you if anyone does something wrong. You should be woken up by the fire guards.

Leave: time off from the military

LES - Leave and Earnings Statement: this is your paycheck and it also tells how much vacation you have accumulated.

Low Crawl and High Crawl: The low crawl is where you lay flat on your stomach and push forward with your helmet and your arm. The high crawl is where you crawl on your knees and elbows. The point of keeping low is that we are trained to hit and kill a soldier in 3-5 seconds of even seeing their helmet. It is no secret that American soldiers are poorer shots than most our enemies. So if we can hit them in that time, they definitely can hit us. The only way to protect against machine gun fire is by being as low as possible.

Montgomery GI Bill: a law passed by congress where you get money for college after serving in the military

Manual of Arms: This is where you learn to march with the rifle in ceremony and to move it safely while loaded in formation

MOS - Military Occupational Specialty. This is the job you signed up for when you first go to your regional MEPS. You are guaranteed this job as long as you pass the school. Since you get your first choice of available jobs, if and when you fail the school, the Army re-assigns you to their first choice, which is usually something in the combat arms like Tanker or Air Defense Artillery.

MREs - Meals Ready to Eat: pre-packaged and partially de-hydrated meals that don’t have to be cooked by cooks, but taste better, and are more expensive.

NBC - Nuclear Biological and Chemical: You wear a protective suit and a protective mask to protect you from poisonous chemical gases, nuclear radiation, and biological germ attack. It is called a pro mask or protective mask and never gas mask, because a gas mask would give you gas, not protect from it.

Personal Hygiene: brushing teeth, shaving, showering, etc.

Phases: You go through Red Phase, Blue Phase, and White Phases in the Army Basic Training. As you complete a phase, you get more privileges and you move up phases by passing your PT tests and learning basic combat survival skills.

Protestant: other - This is what was printed on my dog tags. The Army has several major groupings for religion - Protestant and Catholic, so there are always a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest for each unit. There might be others as well, but these were the only I knew of.

PT - Physical Training. Exercise. PT tests involve a 2-mile run, followed by 2 minutes of sit-ups, and 2 minutes of push-ups. You have to meet a certain standard or you have to do extra PT and can get other penalties as well.

PX - Post Exchange. This is like a drug store or other general store without groceries. These are stores on Army bases. You have to be in the military to go to them.

Range: where you practice shooting your rifle or other weapon

Ranger School: elite training where you learn how to take command posts in front of the regular Army. It is very difficult but not as advanced as the Green Berets.

Reception Battalion: This is where you arrive first after you leave the regional MEPS you were shipped from. This is your first experience in the Army. I was there for 11 days. You are usually only there for 3 days. You get issued your first gear here, you are taught how to do basic marching, and do basic processing like getting ID cards.

Riot Grenade: grenade filled with CS tear gas

ROTC - Reserve Officer Training Corps: This is a program where the military pays for college and you train in the summers and at the end, you serve as an officer, usually for 6 years.

Smart Books - Soldiers Manual. This is a very thick but small book that is camouflage covered and tells you everything that you will learn during Basic Training.

Smoked - This is generally done as an entire platoon. When the Drill Sergeant is unhappy with the performance of one or more of your platoon, you are made to do push-ups as well as any other exercises for as long as they want. The most strenuous one is getting up at attention and down into the push-ups position and back and forth really fast. One of the other platoons in our company were always smoked with their entire MOPP4 gear on (rubber chemical suits).

Sound Off - You have to yell out loud your rank, last name, and social security number followed by Drill Sergeant in order to get served food.

SPORTS - an anachronism for how to clear a rifle if the bullet gets jammed into the rifle and you cannot fire it.

UCMJ - Uniform Code of Military Justice. These are the laws you are under as a member of the military. Whenever you get in trouble, you get the civilian penalty plus the military one which is usually much worse. For not obeying one order, you can be sentenced to one year in a military prison after which you will get a dishonorable discharge, which disqualifies you for any type of assistance from the Veterans Administration or any other benefit veterans get. You can also be sentenced to death for rape, and receive prison time for adultery.

Weapons Ready: marching while you are holding your rifle in your hand with your finger on the trigger, ready to shoot

Zeroing. This is the process of firing at a target and then adjusting your rifle sights, so that everything lines up correctly. This is why you are assigned a different rifle for each person.

11 Jul 96

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have just finished my first day of Basic Training and it is not fun in any sense. I am writing this letter during fireguard - I got the best shift (9-11pm). I have to have it in by 04:35 hours tomorrow morning. Reception Battalion was boring but this is a nightmare. Once I get through the Red Phase - the first 2 weeks - my platoon will move on to Basic Rifle Marksmanship and I won’t be so stressed (maybe). The main part of our training is on marching, Physical Training, and lectures. I was called a “smart ass” for some unknown reason - I think I was misunderstood but I should have thought quicker so that I didn’t slip up even the slightest bit that I did. I am “Protestant: other” because the Army doesn’t know anything about any kind of Quakers. My head has been throbbing ever since the Drill Sergeant started getting annoyed, because people didn’t speak up at the right instance when they had a problem. I can kind of empathize with how the Drill Sergeants must feel about us, when we are so stressed out we become paralyzed to reason about little things, but it is hard to focus when you get so little sleep (9 pm to 3:45 am minus - usually - a 2 hour watch) and you can be dropped for push-ups if the Drill Sergeant thinks your question is dumb. The training I can stand the significance of even from my warped perspective. In order for us to win wars in the Information Age, all 250 MOS’s must perform their duties perfectly accurate in instantaneous speeds and be able to work together as a team to win because there is no second place in war. They want us to work harder than we ever had before so that we can develop a work ethic. They want to be in our face enough to unite the platoon into one cohesive unit. I am so glad I am not E-3 or E-4, because I think someone would have to be supernatural to lead others right on track, while not slipping up themselves. The privates are all very different from each other, but there is already a strong brotherhood forming - and that is what will build the momentum to carry us on through the next 8 weeks. There are only 55 days to go and counting, which is several eternities, when you can barely plan ahead enough for the next day, if you’re lucky. We did some push-ups already for not making our beds quick enough, but it hurt much more to think that maybe I was holding up the platoon than the pain of the physical exercise. Being embarrassed in front of your buddies is an effective motivator, because you have to fall back on your buddies, when you cannot carry on some other time, and you want to make sure you’ll be ready to catch them when they fall, and how can you, when you can’t even keep your own self in order. Most punishments involve the whole group, but this develops teamwork, not persecution, as you might expect. I found some Bible verses that were helpful to me: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Galatians 6:9-10, and Psalm 90. I was concerned that my Reception Platoon would make Basic a living Hell, but they got split up and no one would dare to screw off even though the DS can only punish you with physical exercise. Our platoon must have finished dinner in 10-15 minutes (including the time we stood in line) because you cannot even lift your head while eating let alone talk. No one messes around with the women or the weapons, because you can be fined hundreds of dollars for carrying one round off range by accident, or by saying one word a female might choose to use against you. I can get up to one year in prison and thousands of dollars in fines and a dishonorable discharge for not following any order, no matter how inconsequential, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I hope I don’t ever make one wrong step in line, forget 1 item of gear, or misunderstand any one word the DS says or s/he will “smoke” my whole platoon. I’ve been having a little trouble with my allergies, but I don’t want to get an Article 15 for having non-prescription drugs in my possession. Please pray for me. I am continually tempted to try to get kicked out, but I am going to follow the DS’s advice and follow through my decision like a man, because although I made a good choice, my choice now calls me to a higher standard of everything. The “Hurry Up and Wait” system of the military program is very distracting and disturbing, but you would be surprised at how careful soldiers are monitored for and how well they prevent needless red tape. I found out that one soldier was a so stressed that he had to throw up and I felt better. You wouldn’t believe how little time we have to keep clean shaven, sanitize ourselves, get into correct uniform (incl. polishing our boots), keep our barracks and latrine in immaculate cleanliness, read our “Smart Books” and keep remembering everything the DS tells us about even once - in such a way that if you ask him to repeat it, he won’t believe that you can’t remember his assignment/lesson. I haver already memorized my General Orders and Rank Insignia. I feel like I am hallucinating often on watch. Once I woke up sure that the DS was screaming in our faces and soon learned that no one was up and that the DS wasn’t even there. The Bible luckily is always the only acceptable reading material besides our “Smart Books.” I hope we can keep the DS from raising his voice for most of tomorrow. The first time they “smoke” us will be the worst and I am sure it will be soon. Push-ups are really one of the hardest physical exercises. I’m glad I stuck to the list I was given to pack for Basic verbatim because I just barely got by doing push-ups for it (as it was I had to buy quite a few items at the Reception Battalion PX, to complete the official list of required items. We finished our showers a few minutes late - 64 people through 6 showers in less than 20 minutes - but the DS did not get up to check on us, so we didn’t get smoked. We are getting plenty early tomorrow, so we will have a reasonable chance to not louse up for a while. I can barely fight off the sleepy headedness as my shift comes to close. Hopefully I will be able to fall asleep soon. 3:45 am comes around to early. Please write soon.

Your Son,

Benjamin

20 Jul 96

Dear Parents,

There is so much to say and I don’t know where to start so I’ll just start in the middle. My first letter was fairly morbid, but I have relaxed manifold since then. My Drill Instructors are fair and reasonable for the most part for their kind, but one of them is being replaced in a few days and he (the replacement) is much stricter (but this will help me on my PT test and help my platoon pull together more). I have already past my 2-mile run and 2-minutes sit-ups test with scores of 71% (14.44) and 55% (47) - you need 50% to pass (60% for airborne). I was only able to score 38% with 20 pushups, but they make you go much lower than I practiced for, and within a two minute limit and I used a mat, which I had to keep my arms in, so I had to go down farther. Next time I won’t use the mat, so I can spread out my arms farther and now that I know how far to go down I will waste less energy, so I should be able to do more. If I just do a few more, I will qualify for the phase change so I will get more privileges and will get shouted at less. We have already done Bayonet Training, Marching Practice, Manual of Arms (marching with rifles), Basic Rifle Orientation, lectures on the UCMJ (laws), Personal Hygiene, Sexual Harassment/Equal Opportunity, HIV/AIDS, Sabotage and Subversion, Code of Conduct, Military Customs and Courtesies, Fire Guard, and Kitchen Patrol. We have been issued most of our gear and learned most of the marching formations and maneuvers. I have memorized my Chain of Command, Phonetic Alphabet, Ranks and Insignia, and General Orders. I attended the Protestant Church Service the last couple Sundays. The service was very refreshing and I was encouraged to hear other soldiers who were excited about Christianity - their testimonies helped me relax. I was also good for my heart to hear some music. I decided I would try to be a Chaplain’s Assistant, if my job with computers doesn’t work out for me for some reason. I might be able to be a Chaplain in the Army Reserves, after I graduate from college, if I can get registered as a minister, with the Friends Church even though I won’t get a religious major. That way, I start out as a Captain, instead of a 2nd Lieutenant and I would like to work with soldiers through their spiritual problems - I like their attitudes. We had several locker inspections so far, but I wasn’t checked because I had KP one time and the other we were randomly checked and I wasn’t selected, but my locker would pass any check anytime. Hospital corners and locker organization are not hard if you are a perfectionist and take the time to check and re-check until it is perfect. I am slow on some of my marching maneuvers and my manual of arms, but I am the best by far in memorization. I feel like I never get quite enough sleep (about 7 1/2 hours), but the PT, although intense, doesn’t require an unreasonable amount of effort, and even when we get smoked, although we are in pain at the time, we usually feel better after having done it. Just today, I got angry at someone, but I feel justified for having felt that way. While I was walking across the Chow Hall to clean my tray, I overheard a Drill Sergeant ridiculing a female private, for being too heavy and threatened to smoke her until he broke her and she would stop eating so much. I glared at him for a while, stunned, and had to exert an extreme amount of effort to keep from beating the living crud out of him. Definitely an injustice, but the private was being a glutton and had volunteered for serving the Army knowing it would entail those kinds of things. Later on, I found out that Army regulations require commanders to promote a specified percentage of white female, black female, other female, white male, black male, and other male soldiers from each category, even if some of the candidates aren’t as qualified as the ones s/he wanted to promote. This is the end of my 10th day, I have 46 more to do, but they keep on going faster each day. My battalion graduates on the 4th of September. I ship off to my advanced training on the 5th. My advanced training starts on the 13th. I get 2.5 days leave a month which I can save up to 60 days worth of. Please write if you have time. I have to take a shower and shine my boots now. Luckily our HIV/AIDS presentation didn’t spark many questions, so we finished early and so I had time to write this letter to you. Don’t expect telephone calls - I only have between 8 and 11:30 am EST on Sundays to call - the lines are 3 hours long and I go to church, clean my boots, and do my wash, during that time.

Your Son,

Benjamin

P.S. I will be purchasing pictures with my uniform on (with all the badges), a Cycle Book (memory book) and a video of the highlights of Basic Training, so you can see what I did. I found out that Victory Towers is on the 24th of July (that’s a cool high ropes obstacle confidence course) and the Gas Chamber is on August 1st (which is not fun, but will at least clear my sinuses). So far, I have managed not to go on sick call once, even when I didn’t feel very good. We haven’t had to do push-ups for mail yet, but I don’t know if we will be able to eat cookies without PT to burn the calories off.

28 Jul 96

We are halfway through our third week and we have experienced Drill Sergeant Pelehach for about a week. Pelehach reminds me of Lieutenant Commander Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (by Herman Wook), He always has this smirk on his face, he is paranoid, and he drops us for push-ups for no other reason than he just feels like it. He did drop down and do push-ups with us the first time and he does explain why he does the seemingly irrational things he does. He wants to give us stress, so we learn how to deal with change, as modern warfare is so fluid. He wants us to work as a team, so he makes himself the common enemy, so that we would have the opportunity to unite against him. Other training we have been through recently, not mentioned in earlier letters or postcards, include: rifle aiming, function check, foxhole and prone firing positions, environmental awareness, ethics, rape prevention, family planning, rescue breathing, and applying a pressure dressing. Several negative things happened. Private Cruise (a member of our platoon still here after several cycles for getting injured and not taking care of the injury and deciding to try Basic again) attempted suicide, so they put her in the psychiatric ward in a padded cell. Lesson: Don’t just attempt to commit suicide - either go all the way or just carry on. $13 dollars was stolen from me - I left my locker unattended once when I had to go down to formation and didn’t have time to lock it - the rest was luckily in money orders (my cash advance), but most people lost a lot more. I found out that I am left eye dominant, which means I have to fire my rifle as a left handed person would, which makes it harder to hold it steady for long periods of time. I signed up for an 11” x 14” of my platoon and an Annual of my graduating class and pictures of some of the training we underwent. We are just starting cadence, which makes marching more fun, especially the other day, when it rained for the first time while we were outside and not told to put our rain gear on - I became very emotional, as I was reminded of running back in Oregon. I also found a way to get a lot of leave very early. Ask SSG Rodriguez to sign me up for the Hometown Recruiting Program. The Hometown Recruiting Programwould allow me to receive up to 40 days “leave” as long as I work for the Springfield Recruiting Station immediately after AIT, before I ship off for permanent duty station and this “leave” would not be deducted from the 30 days authorized per year. I would like to use the time to ask SSG Rodriguez about how good a shape you need to be in to go to Air Assault School (repelling off helicopters) and describe what happens at Ranger School in more detail. I would also like some time to pack up some of my belongings and several other things.

Your Son

Benjamin

P.S. Please send Rebecca’s address. Please pray for me when I go to the gas chamber on August 1st.

11 Aug 96

Dear Parents,

This week we started Basic Rifle Marksmanship on Range 1 “South Carolina”. I zeroed my rifle and I grouped my triangulations. I have learned to pick out human silhouettes from the tree-line, and I have shot at single and multiple targets that come up and down at random distances, along a specific lane, for only a few seconds. A few weeks ago, when we were driven past the BRM ranges, I was impressed with how beautiful it was under the little trees, but now I know how penetrating the heat can be and how long a day at the range can be, or how frustrating it can be to be ate-up and be told you are letting the entire team down, by being clueless, even though you are doing your very best. Tuesday night, we were on Bivouac (camping) out near the BRM ranges. I was one of the fastest to both set up and take down my tent. We had a camouflage demonstration - all you need is light green and loam. We practiced noise discipline and used only red flashlights. The sandy soil worked great for the tent stakes. I was impressed with how adaptable and durable the military gear issued to us as privates. We were only smoked once and didn’t have to march far. Thursday, we marched 4 miles with rucksacks to Range 12. My knee cramped up and gave me some trouble towards the end, but I stayed in step and in formation. Thursday night I had to be a buddy for another one of the battle buddies, so he could go to the hospital, which cut down on my sleep even further. Friday I was able to keep my rifle up the entire time that we did rifle PT, even though I did 100 sit-ups and 400 push-ups the day before (for leaving my night sight up instead of my day sight - I forgot to slip it back after cleaning it). I am also improving significantly at my Manual of Arms (rifle drill and ceremony). At the single and double targets range, the NCOIC of the range - the sergeant giving the commands from the tower - sounded like an auctioneer and I had a hard time not laughing, because there was a sergeant with a Marine Corps tattoo, who was just appalled at how stupid we were - we were so nervous, we went the wrong direction, and the “auctioneer” told the DS over the loudspeaker which lanes to watch well, which when you looked over there, you could tell they were missing all the targets and were behind a few commands. Saturday, we started double targets in the BRM range. I was so tired from fire watch the night before, but I still did much better. And as the targets become more and more lifelike I do better and better. My platoon does the best on Manual of Arms now and we are the only ones in our company who knew the counts to the 15-count Manual of Arms, so we can live up to last cycles “2nd to none” reputation. Our platoon is re-adjusting its pecking order, as we are half way through our 5th week. After BRM qualification on the 14th, I will be able to relax a little. It is very hot out on the range and we have virtually no time to get our personal hygiene and weapon cleaning done. I am going to try to call once a week to keep my sanity. This Sunday, I am waiting in line, during the service and hopefully I will finish in time before Bible study, but I may have waited too long for either.

PAST EVENTS

We now have a Drill Cadet named Saban. She is really cool. She wears a silver circle mirror on her cap to denote her rank, which is roughly equivalent to that of our Drill Sergeants. She is in the ROTC program (probably she will be going into her junior year in college as she has just completed her 6-week Basic Course - ROTC Basic Training). She dropped with us when DS Pelehach smoked us and she only drops us for 5 push-ups when we do something really stupid. She isn’t arrogant like the other Drill Cadets. She doesn’t do very well at cadence calls and she won’t let us use sexual or dirty words or phrases in our cadence. I have received my first Leave and Earnings Statement: I have 25 days leave accumulated and $514 deposited in my account not including $200 Casual Pay, but without the Montgomery GI Bill money or laundry fees taken out (they will probably be deducted from my LES that I will get on the 15th). On my last PT test, I improved my push-ups from 20 to 30, my sit-ups from 47 to 70 and my 2 mile run from 14:44 to 13:03. That bumped me up from the “B” to the “A” running group and kept me from passing the final PT test by 2 push-ups. I will probably get about 40 push-ups, 80 sit-ups, and about 12:30 this Saturday on my PT test, which will give me enough points to pass my AIT PT tests, I passed into White Phase, by scoring high enough on my PT test and stayed off my DS’s Sugar Honey Ice Tea list by passing my communications, map, rifle function check, first aid, rank identification, and saluting an officer tests. I decided not to try for any Military Combat Training like Air Assault or Ranger Schools and instead get as much leadership and academic schooling as possible to avoid being drafted for infantry, even though that is fairly unlikely. I have come to realize that I would learn how to survive in combat better by learning Jiu-Jitsu (the martial art developed from Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do concepts) as I would like to train gradually over a long period of time, so I can really understand what I am learning. Jiu-Jitsu covers fighting in all situations as in it has no fixed fighting stance and would prepare me for combat without making it more likely for me to be sent to combat. Some of those in the Rangers and the Airborne think that they are so bad that they “never die, they just go to Hell to regroup” and that they don’t need help from anyone, even God. I took communion for the first time this last Sunday in I don’t know how many years. It was more special to me as I had been through Hell in my own mind’s eye in the gas chamber a few days before. We have also been pre-trained in Claymore Mines, how to respond to NBC attack, and how to identify Soviet weaponry.

Your Son,

Benjamin

19 Aug 96

Dear Parents,

Much has happened in the last week. I’ll go chronologically this time. I ordered several platoon t-shirts with our insignia and motto on them. We did some push-ups, where we dipped down between two chairs - 3 sets of 30. They really build muscle tone and endurance in the entire arm, especially the chest and shoulders. We now get to eat frozen yogurt on Sundays. I don’t miss candy much. We get candy in our MREs, that we can eat, but it is usually too rich for me, since I haven’t had it for so long. It’s hard to get a good balance of food, as we have so little time to pick up what we want in the chow hall, but I get plenty of fruit, grain, and dairy. I thought that I might miss not knowing what’s going on in the world, but I don’t waste time on newspapers, because it is all the same anyway. I do miss music though. My creative side lies dormant in my sleep. I have had some weird dreams lately. There is so little time to appreciate nature and to stop and think out alone. We did our first 5 mile tactical road march, with weapons ready, like the Roadrunner Battalion in Vietnam. The day before the Final BRM Record Qualification Day, my whole platoon with our Drill Sergeant Roberts and my battle buddy led the prayer. We even had 2 privates from the platoon we bunk with join. We prayed that we could win a ribbon for DS Roberts and work as a team, so we could all qualify the first time. On Final BRM Record Qualification Day, we started doing push-ups as a platoon, when just one person was dropped, this time DS Roberts dropped with us. As my firing number came up, I walked up singing “Rushing Wind” to myself out loud. I missed too many, from the foxhole, because our site posts were blackened by the DS as we walked in so it took me too long to realize that I was aiming for the bottom of the blackened part on the sight post. When I went to the prone unsupported firing position, I hit almost every target - 1 shot/1 kill every time. My DS thought I would bolo, so the 250 and 300 meter targets went up and down for me and counted as if I shot them every time. My DS Roberts put her thumb up and smiled and the Tower announced that everyone in my firing order qualified. The CO pinned the badge on me. My Company was best in the whole battalion and my platoon was the best in the company at BRM. We are still waiting for DS Pelehach to do 200 push-ups for our platoon guide when she qualified as an expert. We did night fire later that day. It is so dark that most people didn’t even bother to sync their sights. We were told to shoot the wrong targets, so I shot enough targets for both me and the guy next to me to get a go, by switching back and forth between both targets that could be mine. The tracers were beautiful though. I was lucky enough to shoot while it was still light enough to get a go (7/30) but the DS didn’t even keep track of who was on what lane. We got to bed by 11:30, and were up by 4:30 the next morning for PT. I also had fire guard for someone on KP the next day. The next day, we fired with our NBC Pro masks on, and I freaked out, because I couldn’t get it on quick enough and I could still smell CS gas in it. We also fired on burst this time, with my right hand, which was much easier. In fact, I hit every target and DS Pelehach asked me why I didn’t fire right handed before. I answered - I was told to fire left handed, because DS Evans said that I was left eye dominant. It won’t be too hard to qualify as a sharpshooter, after AIT, right handed. We also had a Health and Welfare inspection ordered by my CO to find who had condoms, cake, pornos, and other contraband. Drill Cadet Saban inspected my locker, so my gear was not thrown around. I also found out that if I am stationed with a Light Infantry Regiment, life will be very hard- 25 miles a day with 100 lb. pack over rough terrain and sheer cliffs at quick time in step - but that is unlikely to happen to me as I will be working with computers. We went back to the Reception Battalion and were issued our Class “B” and “A” Uniforms. Everyone looked better in a uniform and I was able to sneak in a little contraband sleep. We had our 3rd PT test. I got 12:42 on my 2-mile run, 84 on my sit-ups in 2 minutes, and 43 push-ups in 2 minutes. I passed the Basic and AIT standards already, and I phased into Blue Phase with the rest of my company. My platoon lost the Drill and Ceremony Competition by 1 point. We fired an M-60 Machine Gun with live ammunition, M-203 Grenade Launcher with paint balls, and an AT-4 Anti-Tank Round with 9mm tracer ammunition. The M-60 was too loud and jammed into my shoulder uncomfortably. The Grenade Launcher was a glorified paint-ball gun and was almost impossible to aim with the funky sight. The AT-4 was too light to balance, when you couldn’t put the back blast area into the pocket of your shoulder, and was too much weight in back, compared to the weight in front. The Battalion Commander walked by me and tested me to make sure I was watching to make sure my back blast area was clear. We learned how to administer a nerve agent antidote to our body and started reviewing for individual proficiency tests at the end of the cycle. Two members of my platoon were flirting, so DS Pelehach gave them a nice “evening out” in the chow hall, after they paid $189 for an Article 15. Only 2 weeks left. Please send me pictures of family and my checks.

Your Son,

Benjamin

25 Aug 96

Dear Parents,

Basic Training is tougher than ever before and it is so hard to see the end of the road, as I get more and more depressed each day thinking about FTX and being gassed with CS out in the field. We learned how to low crawl, high crawl, and 3-5 second rush for our basic Individual Movement Techniques. This is to minimize the amount of time that you give away your position and expose yourself to sniper fire. Low crawl is the most tiring and the most dirty IMT besides being the slowest, but your profile is so low that it is almost impossible to be hit and your kevlar helmet protects your entire body. Low crawling can also be used to get under barbed wire. Low crawling isn’t too bad in the sand, but hurts a lot over roots. We also learned how to signal for Set, Moving, Hold, and Danger Area. That night, we started learning how to use Interlocking Fire to defend a position. This emphasizes the necessity of teamwork out in the field. You cannot defend yourself. You have to cover your buddy and let him cover you, so your lines of fire criss cross to form a wall of hot lead. We saw a demonstration. When the enemy came too close, they set off claymore mines, threw hand grenades, had the M-60 machine gunner fire across the length of their positions, to create a very dense and deadly wall of lead, while tying up only one gunner. Then the rifle bearing soldiers were freed up to aim for and pick off the enemy one by one. Flares were sent off to signal major themes of the battle. White flares illuminated the battlefield, green meant start firing, and red means ceasefire. The next day, we qualified for grenades and threw 2 live M-69 Fragmentation Grenades. We were shown what an Incendiary, White Smoke, and Colored Smoke looked like when employed. I freaked out, so they didn’t throw the CS Gas grenade (8-10x as strong as the gas chamber), even though they would throw it far enough that it wouldn’t drift over towards us. I qualified as a Marksman on the Grenade Qualification Course. As I realized the power in the Fragmentation Grenades and was let go to the live fire range before I felt like I knew what I was doing, I started freaking out. They made me go first, and let the best instructor talk me through it. We put on our Kevlars and put on a Kevlar jacket and we were behind a concrete wall with reinforced steel, but that still isn’t comforting when you don’t know how much power the grenade has. The instructor told me how it must not be dangerous as he did it every day and he was sane. I looked up and saw only little craters and couldn’t see any shrapnel in the sand and the target didn’t even appear scathed. I was more calm, when I picked up the live grenade, then when I used the practice ones, because it was easier to use and felt the right weight. I aimed and threw as far as I could and dropped my head and arms between my legs, as I squatted down in less than a split second. Luckily my instructor was holding me down, because the time delay was so long (3-5 seconds) that I almost stood up, to see if I remembered to pull the pin. When I went back into the protection area and looked through the 5 panes of bullet proof glass, the grenades didn’t seem to blow up too large an area (5-10 feet) and all you saw was sand kicked up in the air, but the shrapnel must have been sent far, because shrapnel penetrated up to 4 panes deep. I sat down immediately, when I noticed this, so I was protected by even thicker concrete and steel. The next day, I KPD’d for another battalion, so I got out of low crawling all day. The last few days, we have been going through all the Individual Proficiency Tasks in our assigned groups (1/2 platoon size) to make sure we are so thoroughly brainwashed with the correct answers that we can’t possibly screw up, even if we sound off as a group. We took our final PT test and I did 53 push-ups (70%), 85 sit-ups (92%) (both in 2 minutes) and 12:45 (93%) on my 2 mile run (I would have ran faster, but my battle buddies kept on yelling CS gas, so I lost my concentration). We can now drink soda and eat cake when DS Roberts is on duty (she smokes us before we eat to burn off the calories). I finally got my NBC Protective Mask to seal and will practice getting it on in less than 9 seconds, so I won’t get a mouthful of CS, when they drop it on us at FTX. I passed everything required, so I will not be held back unless I go insane or go on profile, when it is time for me to ship off. I talked to the DS, the Chaplain, and my battle buddies about the CS - I almost quit over it, but they have helped me and will not gas us bad, because they don’t want me to go insane and kill someone. I think my DS is reassured, because I told him I will forewarn him, before I do something stupid. It seems you have to learn to speak, to walk, and to think all over again in the Army - I forgot everything I ever learned and lost all my self-confidence but it will come back after FTX. Just pray that I make it that far. If I do make it that far, I made plans with one of my battle buddies. His parents will sign me out and take me out to dinner (and I will have more than 5 minutes to eat, I can talk, and don’t have to sound off and stand at ease in line). I will be able to relax tremendously after FTX, but the depression may be much worse during AIT, as I am away longer and longer from Oregon and the people I am used to. 5 days of training, 4 days of cleaning and out-processing and 2 days of graduation left. I am going to ask the chaplain to pray for me for the first time. I hope I break my back or the pain in my ears turns out to be an ear infection so I can get out of FTX. I have to wake up my relief so I can get off fireguard and get a couple hours sleep. Oh, we got our platoon t-shirts in - they are beautiful - I might frame one.

Your Son,

Benjamin

1 Sep 96

This Monday, we completed the End of Cycle Individual Proficiency Tests, otherwise known as “Super Bowl.” There were 10 stations with 20 or 30 tasks. I passed (got a “go”) on 8 of the stations. At the claymore mine deployment and recovery, I left the test set in when I fired it, so I got a no-go. At the rifle malfunction clearing station, I performed SPORTS (slap magazine, pull the charging handle back, observe the chamber, release the charging handle, tap the forward assist, and squeeze the trigger) wrong, because I used the wrong hand and the 2nd time because I switched the 2 S’s. On Tuesday, we went to the confidence course. We climbed towers and ropes and went down a command wire. We also low crawled under barb wire and mounted various obstacles. On Wednesday, we left for Field Training Exercises (FTX) - this was by far the worst “camping” experience I have ever had. They only gassed us once, but they threw a lot of smoke grenades very close to my fighting position. The first time one of the Drill Sergeants set off a white smoke grenade 20 ft. from me, I hesitated for a split second, because I didn’t think riot grenades made a “snap-crackle-pop” sound, but I still managed to get my mask cleared and sealed and run down the hill in 4 seconds. No one else had gotten their mask out of the carrier. Then we realized that the wind was blowing the opposite direction and that it wasn’t CS. We were just below the grenade range and a rifle range and my battle buddy kept coughing, so I was always ready to put my mask on. I found out that CS doesn’t “boom” and is grey, and wispy so I could identify it before I totally freaked out. I knew we would not be gassed at night, but I still slept with my mask right on my left leg in its carrier. When they called us out to form along the main road, Thursday night, I knew we would be gassed. They always gassed the road and they wanted to make sure everyone was gassed equally. The CO gave us a lecture on lightening safety procedures, as the DSs were tying CS canisters on the end of their staffs. They started at the other end of the company formation and my mask was cleared and sealed long before the gas got near. There first was a smoke bomb and then we were told “All Clear” then came the real gas and I got mine on in time again. Some guys said “all clear” and some morons took off their masks and were hurting bad. The DS made us take off our masks before it was really all clear, but my battle buddies helped keep me from running. I threw dirt on my hands and kept my eyes closed so it wasn’t as bad. It took us all day Wednesday to dig and camouflage our foxhole. We had to clear 6 ft. in all directions around the fighting position. The hole had to be 2 kevlar helmets long, 2 M-16 rifles wide, and arm pit deep of the tallest buddy (me). We then had to arrange some 80 odd sandbags to cover our position and we covered all that with sticks, leaves, needles, and small bushes to conceal it. On of my DS’s (DS Pelehach) took me out on a mission. We were to assault an “enemy” position demonstrating our: map, first aid, communication, perimeter security, and out individual movement technique skills. My DS had a simulation fragmentation grenade and a white smoke grenade with CS riot grenade markings on it to see if I would run when he threw it. He threw it fairly far away and the wind blew it the other way, but it was too dense and the people running through it too calm for it to be CS. My DS Roberts took me on a night raid with flare for illumination. It was fun. The march back was between 4-6 miles with full combat gear (carrying our rifles at ready arms) but I was relaxed and I started to remember our training and back at high school and see them both as real at the same time. We are cleaning and turning in all our gear we used in Basic. I probably don’t owe any money for anything. We went to a concert on post with All 4 One and Planet Soul which was really relaxing although late at night. I am looking forward to graduation, AIT, and home more and more as I can finally see the end of the road.

Your Son,

Benjamin

2.1.3 Military Poetry

Memories of a Soldier

The Dark

Is is dark now
And I fight to stay awake
I never was this tired before
But my time in the Army
Sure was exhausting
And many things I still remember
Happened at night
The night of our arrival
At Reception Battalion
Lasted far past midnight
It took us hours to get into formation
And to stop talking
I don’t remember
What processing they were doing
That took all that time
The night watch was so long
I read my green Gideon’s pocket bible
And scoured its indexes
Finding helpful verses
I still don’t know
What we were watching for
At Basic Training
Day started in a flash of light
The light switch was flipped
And we jumped out of bed
And ran into formation
Then we ran out into the dark
And stopped under stadium lights
My arrival to my Duty Station
Was in the deep of night
So idyllic with the palm trees
And the fresh sea air
I was lost of course
Following Drill Sergeants orders
I didn’t get on the bus
With the rest of the soldiers
But I found my way to my unit
With a lot of help
Ironically the cab dropped me off
Within feet of my assigned battalion
I walked to and from my job
Usually in the dark of dawn or dusk
And I wore my sleeves long
And wore mountain boots
Because it can get chilly
With the air conditioning so high

Fear and Excitement

My experience in the Army
Was full of fear and excitement
I was terrified of being tortured
But I was thrilled beyond imagination
At being part of history
The risk is beyond human
But with the adrenaline going
You forget all the problems that could arise
I knew what I was doing was important
And it was exciting work
For someone just out of high school
Hawaii was a dream on earth
And the activities were plentiful
The land and ocean are breath taking
But the people are what keep you there
One bus travels the perimeter of Oahu
From North Shore to Waikiki
By Scofield Barracks and Pearl Harbor
Location is everything
And that was perfect
But my mind was tormented
With long bouts of depression and paranoia
In my barracks
I was kept awake
With fear of deployment
And fear of chemical attack
I had no trouble at work
My supervisors were amazed at my performance
I tested out of a year of college
And maxed out my sit-ups portion of the PT test
But worries worked at my stomach
And I could never relax
I saw the island
But had trouble enjoying anything
It was not that I was just negative
But my mood kept me on a bad course
When I went in for counseling
They knew something was wrong

Churches Numerous

God was very real to me
When I was in the Army
And the church was the safest place for me
A place where little was expected
I went to church during Basic Training
There were no Drill Sergeants there
And there were no orders to follow
At Advanced Individual Training
I attended a Methodist church
A block from our barracks
The other soldiers wondered why
I went every week
But that was all I had left of myself
When I arrived at my Duty Station
I tried a number of churches
I found a church next to my barracks again
But I was the only white person there
It was full of excitement
And people even danced in church
It was Church of God in Christ denomination
But I don’t remember their theology
My roommate drove me to his church
At the other end of the island
This was the best church in Honolulu
It was Word of Life Christian Center
Or something like that
This was the First Charismatic/Pentecostal church
I attended regularly
It was a great place to meet
Nice young women my age
And they had activities for 20 somethings
Another church I went to was called
Oahu Church of Christ or something like that
They met in the form of potlucks
At a different place every time
And there were always outdoor baptisms
At every service
The final church I went to
Was just outside the base
Every Sunday was a salvation message
And members were expected to come
Other times of the week as well
Saturday nights the preacher answered questions
And there was prayer and speaking in tongues
Every other night throughout the week

Safe and Sound

The Recruiter

I took a long time deciding
Whether or not to join the military
One of my interests in it
Was that I could do something
Interesting just out of high school
And go to a much better college
And not be in debt from student loans
I was also stressed out with all the reading
We did my senior year and I was looking
Forward to have some time away
From a rigorous academic program
I chose to go enlisted because I wanted
To get my military service out of the way
Before I went to college
Because even then I didn’t
Think it would be very enjoyable
I found out later that there is little
A person can do to prepare for Basic Training
Except getting into good over all physical shape
I had run most years of high school in
Cross Country and Long Distance Track
And my senior year I worked out all summer
And took an intensive conditioning course
The last half of my senior year
I signed up a whole year in advance
So I got an interesting job in the Army
Working with computers
I remember asking my recruiter directly
About the NBC training
And whether or not our enemies would be
Using chemical weapons in combat
He directly denied it
I wasn’t afraid of being killed
But I didn’t want to be burned alive
The brochures painted one side of
Someone’s imagination of military life
But being in the Army is very different
The only thing I had really known
That was correct was that it didn’t
Require much brain power even for
The most advanced engineering job

Basic Training

The first thing that shocked me
Was how much easier the physical training
And how more friendly my fellow soldiers were
Than I had expected
The downside was that I didn’t
Rise to the occasion as much as I had hoped
The first 2 weeks of Basic Training
You get yelled at a lot from the Drill Sergeants
And you learn to march
As well as watch films on all sorts of things
Like the military judicial system (UCMJ)
And a scare film about STDs
You also get issued gear during this period
It is really easy to get out then
But there is nothing very stressful yet
Next you learn the Manual of Arms
How to move the rifle in ceremony and safely
I had to drop and do push-ups
Each time any procedure was explained
As I seemed to keep on getting it wrong
Then we had a confidence building course
That we had to repel and climb through
Various towers somewhat like an obstacle course
Then they do pictures and no one is allowed to smile
Of course that wasn’t hard as we were to go
To the gas chamber in a few days
I was told the gas chamber didn’t cause any pain
And that you only had to
Hold your breath for a few seconds
You go in this small dark room
With your mask on and you feel
Your hands are burning painfully
Then you are told to take off the mask
Not only can you barely breathe
But it feels like your
Lungs and eyes are on fire
We were kept in there for at least 5 minutes
And we were the last platoon in
So we had much more of the CS gas
In the room at the time
As they put another stick in each time
Another platoon went in
This is when I realized the
Risks I was taking by enlisting
After that, we spent 2 weeks
Learning how to shoot the M-16 (BRM)
I thought I would never pass
But the drill sergeant gave me a lane
Where the 300m target jumped up
And down and counted for me
No matter if I hit it or not
We then trained with a live grenade
I freaked out about this
Until I got the live grenade and then
It just felt like throwing a baseball
Except after you throw it you dive
Down in your foxhole and put
Your head between your legs
For training we didn’t have a foxhole
But we had a cement wall
We stood behind, we wore a kevlar
Helmet and vest and the sergeant
Jumped on us to make sure we were down
These grenades are safe as long as you aren’t
Standing up as they explode at a high angle
Then we went to field training exercises (FTX)
I didn’t do very good at digging a foxhole
But my battle buddy slept while I
Watched for the Drill Sergeant
One time, the Drill Sergeant pulled my rifle
Out of my hands, so I had to low crawl
In the dirt, but later I gathered
That she was saving me from the
Other Drill Sergeant who was going to throw
CS gas into my foxhole
I slept with my protective mask on that night
Then we did a big test on everything
We learned for combat survival
I failed the clearing a rifle from a jam test (SPORTS)
And I left the test button connected when
I set off my claymore mine and yelled “claymore”
I was supposed to be punished for that
But it didn’t happen for some reason
During the last week, the head Drill Sergeant
For the platoon announced in front of everyone
That if I wasn’t already promoted as high
As she could promote, then she would have
Chosen my above all the other soldiers
The only thing that happened the same every day
Was that we woke up once the lights were turned on
We jumped out of bed and ran into formation
When we finished training under the football lights
We went to breakfast as it was getting light
And this was in the middle of the summer
On Sundays we got a few hours off to write letters
And we could go to church or we could do chores
We were also allowed a little time to call home

Advanced Training

Going to advanced training was a big relief (AIT)
I was shocked to see my roommates
Watch TV and play video games
I was also shocked that we had Drill Sergeants
In advanced training as well
And these ones were out of uniform
The first month or two we did details (chores)
We went to school in rotating schedules
We had morning, swing, and graveyard shifts
Every few months, our class rotated
I went to school with all the other services
I developed allergic pink eye (Conjunctivitis)
Which I continued to have for 3 more years
I think I was more stressed out by
Having to identify who are the officers
And who are the NCOs and their ranks
Than I was afraid of the real potential
Of being exposed to chemical weapons
Going to advanced training was a big relief (AIT)
I was shocked to see my roommates
Watch TV and play video games
I was also shocked that we had Drill Sergeants
In advanced training as well
And these ones were out of uniform
The first month or two we did details (chores)
We went to school in rotating schedules
We had morning, swing, and graveyard shifts
Every few months, our class rotated
I went to school with all the other services
I developed allergic pink eye (Conjunctivitis)
Which I continued to have for 3 more years
I think I was more stressed out by
Having to identify who are the officers
And who are the NCOs and their ranks
Than I was afraid of the real potential
Of being exposed to chemical weapons
We had much better food as we were on
A Navy base and after the Air Force abandoned
Their “dormitories” we inherited them
They were like the Hilton to us
But they were not up to Air Force standards
The Marines really hated us
As they trained on an Army base before
And they didn’t have a good experience
We gradually got more and more privileges
After every few months
We were eventually allowed to leave the base
When I shipped off, everyone was being sent to Hawaii
People graduating a month or 2 before me
Were sent to Bosnia and Korea
We had much better food as we were on
A Navy base and after the Air Force abandoned
Their “dormatories”, we inherited them
They were like the Hilton to us
But they were not up to Air Force standards
The Marines really hated us
As they trained on an Army base before
And they didn’t have a good experience
We gradually got more and more privileges
After every few months
We were eventually allowed to leave the base
When I shipped off, everyone was being sent to Hawaii
People graduating a month or 2 before me
Were sent to Bosnia and Korea

Permanent Duty Station

I graduated on Valentine’s Day
And arrived at the air port
In the middle of the night
I took a taxi as the Drill Sergeant told me
On arriving to the base
I did not know where to go
Ironically, I was dropped off in exactly the right spot
I had to do details my first few weeks
After doing processing at the base
There was a bus that drove
All around the island (Oahu)
So I could see all the sites on my days off
We worked on a rotating swing and graveyard
So I would always have different days off
I attended different churches on the base
In town nearby, in Honolulu, and across the island
It was so beautiful even in the winter
After working a few months, I got mononucleosis
I also got staff eye infections
One day, half delirious
I went to the commanding officer
And asked to get out of the military
I didn’t even care if it was honorable or not
I was referred to the counseling center
They determined that I had a personality disorder
I never even saw anyone other than NCOs
A psychiatrist (a Major) signed off on it at the end
Later I found I had Schizophrenia, but that
The military wanted to save money,
So they didn’t diagnose me properly
Before I left, I ran a half marathon through
Kole Kole Pass to a Naval Seal base
I also took some tests that got me credit
For a year of college
And a few months before took some classes
Which in combination, gave me
An entire year as transferable credit later on
So I never was a college freshman
I also had seen most the major tourist sites
Before I left the military
I got out in 5 weeks after talking to the CO
And I got an honorable discharge
This never happens that fast
Even with a dishonorable discharge
God was sure looking out for me

Duality Poetry

A Man, Nothing More

Could a broken soldier be the same man
As a tormented artist and suffering writer
Whose sleep comes harder?
A soldier longs for home
An artist longs for something to hold
In a flash of the camera
A lifetime of experience
A pace that never lets up
A falter in the climb
The fire devours the heart
The heat consumes the poetry
A timid laugh
Shame and disappointment disguised
Too long a Soldier Artist
A pawn of no one
A disfunctioning wheel in the corporate machine
If only my mind would turn off
Like the light switch
Belief without doctrine
Names without distinctions
A word created man
A man uses words for the Creator
My heart may be an invention
But my art is not
In plain clothes
I don’t disguise my uselessness
Without personal transportation
Or protein that comes with a face
Too soon a Peasant Scholar

Like a Peasant

A soldier preparing for battle
Smelling a stench that burned the nostrils
I bravely entered into a little room
In the span of several minutes
Eternity passed five times
Alone in hell
I was paralyzed with fear
Compassion was never present
I left with an anger that could not be quenched
Prophet of God
Called to a sacred mission
The only one who could stop the tribulation
Taking the pain upon myself
The suffering of 3-1/2 years in a matter of minutes
The other half as a lonely wanderer
The sun came up and the wind became lively
One life sacrificed for billions of others
I was led by others to a place I did not want to go
Hitting rock bottom
Waking up in a room locked from the outside
My life began again I could not advocate for myself
Hours went by like weeks
Time was playing tricks on me
One freak in a million who lives by himself
This is truly something
Someone who dared to challenge society
To hold himself accountable to both reason and faith
Who challenges himself to create more intelligent pieces of art each time
Who expands to different disciplines as he breaks into one at a time
A happy child with control over his destiny I return to the joy of my youth
Now more thoughtful in word and action
A handicap that I struggle with daily
But without pain

Like a Soldier

Fighting all our lives
For just a moment in time
For that natural high
That reflective sigh
For that minute of silence
When the world stops
And you keep going
That sweet sorrow
Comes when we look back
Nothing will be repeated
A feeling that never ends
The moment will fade
But the silence I will keep
And the tune will play in my head
Humor comes in such surprising moments
But the pain lingers on and drags into hours
What will stop the deep sorrow
From penetrating my bruised heart?
We are most alone
When the other first closes the door
Pain is deeper than a bullet wound
When we have a sorrow that can’t be resolved
How do we fight
With just one step in front of the other?
Sometimes it is harder just to keep standing
We are not defeated when we fall down
Or fall short of our expectations
And death need not be a defeat
But that is not the worst fate
Some fight with paper
It is not how many balls that land in the trash
That measures their success
It is not the expected outcome
That foreshadows loss
Every moment we breathe with a sigh
That is how we know we are alive
Through the hours that never let up
We do our work with less and less hesitation
But it is not what defines us
It is in the all nighters
And the long evening talks
That we remember

Life’s Parallels

Setting down my protective mask
And logging off my workstation for the last time
My duty done
Someone else will save the world tomorrow
I heard God on the radio
Leaving the fantasy world permanently
The world is no longer a projection of my mind
I swallow the red pill
And wake up outside the protective matrix
I followed God through the start of the millennium
Sitting at a table in a local deli
The radio was on for the first time
Reality comes crashing down
Our nightmares are played on the black box in our living rooms
God kept me from sinking into my sorrow
Taking a good look behind
I see some of the past in my future
The old world that my ancestors came from is a news flash away
We are part of them and they are part of us
Time places no limits on God
What separates us from madness and violence is a very thin line

Other Poetry

Commitment and Freedom

A perfectly made bed
And a perfectly pressed uniform
A hard run across the pavement
And push-ups on the living insect ground coverings
A breakfast of hard grits
And salty juice
A bleached protective mask
And a lubricated rifle
A rotating shift
With different days off every week
Are far from a perfect way
To get an edge on life
Running is the only freedom
When you are being put under combat stress
You’re only break is when you are in church service
When the drill sergeant is always breathing down your neck
Over 5 years later
Outside the grip of Uncle Sam
There is a calm deep inside
A feeling of silence never leaves
There is no reason to always be alert
There is no threat of attack
There is no one to make all your decisions for you
There is a freedom in being done with war
There is no allegiance that you have to die for
No commitment that might end your life
There is an excitement that comes
When you can go anywhere tomorrow
There is a contentment that comes
When you know you are working for peace
There is a way that you can relax
When you will not be insulted for slipping up
There is a confidence that comes
When you can plan your own day
War brings nothing good
And being done with it is the greatest relief
Why should we sacrifice
For decisions others have made?
What war ever brought less war to follow?
And when will they ever end?
Maybe if they stop enlisting
The Army will have to cease hostilities

Desert Mist

My eyelids are heavy as depleted uranium
My heart is burned with radiation
In a flash of the flares
And in the yellow smoke
My mind turns to my childhood
To others taken away
In the silent night
Fire-fights lit up the sky
One side obliterated in hours
Burning carcasses littered the desert
The Army goes rolling along
Over barricades at 40 mph
Pausing only seconds between firing
The young knights barely of age
Trampling the cavalry of years gone by
I dream of a time
When my boots were always polished
And my shirt ironed flat
Of fears lived
And hopes vanished
The god of war is steel
And the protector is a rubber mask
In danger I plead with logic
And critical time slips by
There is no escape
From the grips of Uncle Sam
This is a time
That I remember all too well
When staying awake
Is the least of your worries
When hitting the target is an empty goal
And clearing your rifle seems unimportant
There are times when you want to fly away
And now I can
But when you are in the middle of the beast
There is little you can do
Suicide seems rational
But that would bring little relief
When you hear “Gas! Gas! Gas!”
Two and half seconds is not fast enough

Reflections on Soldiering

The room is glowing red
We are convulsing in the furnace
Within a crematoria though alive
We gasp for breathe as though drowning
Little chamber filled with fire
How long will we be locked within your walls?
Large beady eyes glare at us
Telling us to surrender our eyes to the flames
Behind the masks and beneath the suits
Our leaders show no sign of care
No understanding
Of the corrosive atmosphere
Bound within the gates of Hell
We are paralyzed with fear
After spending several ages in fire
The door is flung open
We are allowed out one by one
The burning gradually decreases
And we can begin to breathe again
But at any moment
We may be forced back in
Next time it will be longer
And there is no end in sight
Each day we spend in training
We lose a year’s memory
Our days before we went to war
Fade to be nothing more than a dream
There is no time to enjoy life or relax
When every waking hour must be devoted discipline
Our music is the orders of the Drill Sergeant
And our dance is the manual of arms
Our only realm for expression is in our dreams
And our only book is the Soldiers Manual
We believe in the claymore and in our protective masks
They are all that watch over us
We are free when we are running
As long as we are fast enough
How can I live any longer
With the threat of drowning in fire?
I never would have chosen this road
If I knew what war was like
If a POW camp is harder than this life
And combat is both more boring and more terrifying than training
How will I withstand the reality of war?
How will I become a soldier?
There are no more choices to make
After the one that got me here
There is no independence in the Army
There is no justice in what we do
How can we defend others rights
When we have none?
Drill Sergeant says I am now a soldier
That I have been transformed
That there is nothing but shame in turning back
That there is hope in what lies ahead
That I will not have to face the same realities
The others will have to face
But I for the first time understand fear
And I cannot trust anyone to save me
I am on my own with no one looking over me
Yet I have no freedom and no escape
I feel like an infant
I feel weak and powerless
But there is no guardian
There is no one I know
Dying doesn’t scare me
But the possibilities of suffering do
I see no meaning
Except in avoiding pain
There is no reason to live
And no protection except in death

Total Isolation

When you enlist in the Army
Your life is no longer your own
Joining is the last decision you make
Your intelligence is of no use
And your training a waste of time
There is no way you can get prepared
For a life without freedom
When you lived a life with
Choices for everything
There is only one way to march
One way to shoot a rifle
There is one way to make your bed
And there is only one way
To don your protective mask
There is one way to throw a grenade
And one way to dig a foxhole
There is no time to think about
Theories of war or the Geneva conventions
There is never a time when you
Can let your guard down
Your life is totally committed
You have your reasons for enlisting
But they matter less and less
Enlistment is a one way tunnel
And there are no stops or ways out
You can shoot yourself in the foot
But then your job will just be harder
You can follow your job to the letter
And yet be valued the same
As the biggest screw-up
You could follow directions exactly
And still get captured
The others fail you all the time
But if you ever fail them
The cost is enormous
If you fail to listen to instructions
You could be the next victim
Of the war on terror
You could pay attention to
Every last detail
And still end up needing to be
Identified by DNA

2.1.4 Considering Military Service?

I served in the Army and here are some of the things I found to be both good and bad about the military. I also worked with the other services too, so I know something about them.

Good Points

You can feel confident that you are doing something important and something that not everyone can do. You also feel like you are accomplishing something important. Remember, whether or not you agree with what the government has sent you to do, you are still being a great help. And you don’t have to feel responsible for what your country decides, because the military does not decide when and where to go in.

You meet some great people in the military that you will remember your whole life. They often have strong personalities and are not always friendly at first, but these guys will save your life even by sacrificing their own. The military does a background check on all recruits before they can join and checks for personality defects, by putting recruits through stress during initial training.

Military service looks great on you resume and if you pick the right job you can get some very valuable training. Look into something that you can do that has a civilian equivalent. There are a lot of good engineering and mechanical related jobs that you can be trained in that will translate into good jobs when you get out of the military.

Bad Points

Very few people get the college money they are promised. The government is not going to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars for college if they can avoid it, so they put many restrictions on it like you have to start within 2 years of leaving the military, you can’t change majors (unless enough of your credits apply to the new major), you only get it if you have an honorable discharge, etc. Going to college in the military is not usually an option, because the military is too understaffed to spare service members.
You don’t get paid that much during your service. In fact, if you have a wife and a kid and have a college degree, but want the military to pay back the money, you will be under the poverty level and receiving food stamps. You can also get an Article 15 for even very minor infractions, and be penalized with a hundred dollars taken out of your pay check and get a few weeks of extra duty every day.

You might be expected to risk your long term health or life. There is a reason why they send you through a gas chamber, while you are in basic training in the Army, Marines, and sometimes in the Navy and Air Force and it isn’t just a right of passage. The countries the US fights have not signed the Geneva conventions and it it very common for them to torture prisoners and to use chemical weapons. Being exposed to chemical weapons like mustard gas and chlorine is like being burned by battery acid in your lungs and eyes.

Recommend

Realize that the military is very stressful and if you are struggling with psychological issues or are a sensitive person of any kind, joining the military will just exasperate your problems and the military is not set up to do everything for you and take care of things if you can’t.

First, consider if joining Americorps or the Peace Corps will satisfy what you are looking for. In Americorps, you help Americans in America, without the high risk of personal injury. You also have many choices on what you can do and who you work for.

Look into joining the Air Force, if at all possible. The Air Force has few of the downsides that the other services have. The one downside to the Air Force is that it is hard to advance very far in rank, because people stay in so long.

Choose the shortest length of service possible. It is very easy to be accepted back into the military for another enlistment, but very hard to get out, while you are still under your tour of duty.

Join the Reserves or Guard first. There are some very interesting jobs that the Reserves and National Guard can do if you are willing to move to another state. If you really enjoy military life, you can very easily change to Regular enlistment, but it is much harder to go the other way around.

When you have joined, always give 150 percent and be a team player all the time and you will avoid 99 percent of the problems most people encounter in the military.

Specifics

If you are considering the Army or the Marines, go play paint ball and go camping with your recruiter; this will give you somewhat of an idea about some of the things you will do in the military.

If you are thinking of joining the Navy, really think carefully what it might be like with a bunch of high school age kids on a little ship in the middle of the ocean. Find out exactly how much space you have and some of the things you might have to do there.

If you have joined in the Delayed Entry Program and have changed your mind, it is very easy to get out and does not count against you in the civilian world or even to the other services. If you show up to your swearing in and shipping date, then it is very hard to get out, until your enlistment is up.