Three weekends down, fourteen to go.
This weekend was a particularly long weekend. We went to Camp Dawson in West Virginia. I had never been to West Virginia before, so it’s another flag I get to add to my map. (I keep a map with flags posted in places I’ve visited, stopped through, lived, and vacationed. I’m working on all 50 states. So far I’ve got 23, just 27 more to go.) At any rate…
OCS is such a mind game. We get on the bus for a miserable 5 hour bus ride up the side of some mountain. We are not allowed to speak or fall asleep. So I’m staring off into space, bored out of my mind.
We arrive and hit the ground running. I took a PT test, passed, of course. I’d better; after all the working out I’ve been doing I should be passing with flying colours. The TACs make fun of me now because of the way I run. As I was passing the mile marker, they told me I had only 2 minutes to finish the final lap. I was like, “Oh my God! I’m not going to make it!” So I burned that mutha out and just ran like Jesus was waiting for me on the other end. Turns out, they lied. I really had 4 minutes but they said it just to get me moving. I was running like I was on a Saturday jog in Central Park.
After the pt test, we go for a land navigation class and munch on pizza. I thought that was kind of cool. Most of the time, military food is either a dry MRE or something indiscernible in the mess hall.
I’m pretty good with map reading and all that. I mean, I’m an intelligence analyst. All we do is look at maps and plot things. It’s the land navigation that’s the hard part. Intel Analysts rarely leave the ‘office.’ I don’t even know what outdoors looks like. I’m paired up with a guy from Delaware. Delaware, DC, Maryland and West Virginia make up my region. Pennsylvania will be joining us, but they weren’t there this weekend.
So we head out on a compass course on post in the dark. There was an awful lot of walking involved but we pretty much knew what we were doing.
We went to bed after midnight and popped right up the next day at 500 in the morning.
We hit Briery Mountain almost before the sun was up. Okay, so I’m not really outdoorsy and everything. Woods, forests, and all that shit, really it’s for the birds. I’m not into camping, but surprisingly I don’t mind sleeping outdoors, as long as it’s comfortable and not like just laying in some dirt somewhere.
We had to complete a land navigation course that rumour has it was made for the delta force. This shit was NOT A JOKE, let me tell you. My feet were hurting from running the PT test on asphalt and swollen feet in boots for 16+ hours is miserable. We ran up and down that damn mountain all day.
FOR REAL, I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN. I’m not joking. To me that shit was like Mt. Everest. The purpose of land navigation is to find your way using a map, compass and other tools. The map is just a display of what’s on the ground, hills, valleys, and shit like that. There’s no buildings, no street signs, nothing like that to help you find your way. You just have to know how to read a map. Then you have to know how to use a compass. So they give us points on the map to find and we have to go out there in the woods and find the points, write the number down and come back. If it’s wrong, go back out there until you get it right.
Thankfully, we got all of ours, but that shit was so hard. I mean, we were hiking like we were ’49ers in the Gold Rush across mountain ridges. Running through the woods, down canyons and valleys, wading through streams. I’m serious, I feel like some kind of, I don’t even know what the word for it would be. Anyway, I’m proud of myself because I actually completed the task and passed. I climbed elevations up to 2500 feet. Some of the points were 3000 meters apart. I would say over the course of the day I walked about 10 miles up and down the side of a fucking mountain.
And then we had to do it again… at night. That shit was the worst. Luckily, the course gets easier at night because you cannot see shit if you are in deep woods late at night. You cannot use a flashlight or anything like that. You just have to keep it moving. You’re supposed to practise light discipline, because what if the enemy is looking for you. You don’t want him to find you easily because you got this bright as flash light pointing directly to you.
For real, though… It was beautiful up there on that mountain. We got to the top of this peak, like 2500 feet up and I swear you could see all of West Virginia and clear up to Maine, we were so high up. Okay, maybe 2500 feet is not that high, but I don’t think I’ve ever been that high up before, outside of an airplane. I didn’t see any animals, thank God, but of course there was more than a fair share of bugs and shit. I wish I could have brought my camera but we weren’t allowed to bring anything non-military. Maybe next time I will sneak a disposable one. The pictures won’t be as good as digital but at least you can see what I’m talking about.
We were supposed to do two night courses, but my feet were really hurting. I was trying to suck it up, but finally I told someone and they sent me to the medic. He took one look at my feet and said, “Yeah, you’re done.”
Then it started raining. It was cold as a bitch and raining. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to sleep with wet pants, cold, achy feet in a wet sleeping bag with water dripping down your face? Your battle buddy next to you is snoring and keeps moving around and kicking you. The ground was soft and muddy so at least I didn’t have any rocks digging into my hips. The croak of frogs was my background noise.
Up again at 530 in the morning. Get ready for a ruck march. My feet were so swollen I could not even put them back into my boots. I couldn’t ruck with them and they took me to the medic on post. She said I had the flattest feet of anyone she’d ever seen, and wondered how I got into the Army. I wasn’t the only one hurt. This other guy had bleeding blisters and this girl wrenched her kneecap during the run.
We all wound up in the lieutenant’s van on the fast track back to Maryland where they took us to a proper hospital. I have a lot of issues, let me tell you that. No standing for the next three days. Praise God I have an excuse not to go to work.