Sunday, May 15, 2011

End of Week 8: FTX Complete

We finally wrapped up the FTX and had to say goodbye to Camp Bullis. Everybody was so sad to leave :-)

Here is a wrap up of our last week at Bullis.

I found out I am the PSG for the week for my platoon.   If you are given this role it is all about accountability of your people.  Know where they are and you are fine.  We had PT in the morning and then began role II simulations.  We all had a specific job inside of role II.  I was given the job as XO.   Avoid being a litter bearer.  It is hot and you don't get much of a break.  Being a casualty is pretty nice.  You get to be carried and kept inside AC tents.

We had PT in the morning and then began role III simulations.  It was pretty neat to see a cache setup.  I was given the job of a lab tech since we didn't have one.  After the simulation, you had to put up a tent outside.  This was a real waste of time.  It was just a time killer for the cadre.

No PT in the morning.  We did role I simulations.  You go out in two groups.  One for the MAS (Main Aid Station) and one for the FAS (Forward Aid Station) and setup your BAS (Battalion Aid Station).  Here is where you want to be a casualty.  If you are, you get a chance to fly on a Blackhawk.  I was a casualty, but unfortunately I was only a priority and not urgent.   That meant I was a ground transfer.  I was so close to riding on the bird.  The ones that went said it was really cool.

After the exercise we had night land nav.  A lot of people failed this exercise.  You have to get 3 out of 4 points. My team got 3 points with 1 1/2 hours left and just headed back to the FOB.  No point getting 4 since 3 is a GO (unless you are high speed and don't care about sleep).  Plus you get to go to bed early. If you stay out the entire time you are only getting about 2 hours of sleep before you have to get up for Thursday.  It was really humid that night.  I never had my ACU's so soaked in sweat.

Final day at Camp Bullis!  After getting 2 to 3 hours of sleep, if you failed day land nav you had to retake it this morning.  The rest just cleaned up the FOB.  The buses were going to pick us up at 1200, but a big thunderstorm came around 1000.  This forced all land nav people to come back to the FOB.  This allowed us to leave early and head back to FSH at 1100.

Back at FSH you turn in your M16.  Everybody was excited to turn this in.  Then we got dropped off back at our hotel on FSH.

We started the day with a ASU inspection.  After the inspection you were in your classrooms signing the AER (academic evaluation report).  Then we had a AAR of the entire course in the afternoon at 1400.  After the AAR we had graduation rehearsal.  Graduation will be in our ACU, instead of our ASU's.  The LTC said this was because of the heat in San Antonio.  For example, we were outside for just 1 hour for graduation rehearsal and we had 3 people fall out as heat casualties.  Remember hydrate all of the time and don't lock your knees at the position of attention.

Next week we have graduation on Monday and CIF turn in.  We also meet with our track advisors.  Then on Tuesday we finally get to start the 70B track.  Less than 2 weeks left.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

End of Week 7: FTX WLT Testing, Gas Chamber, Land Nav, Convoy Training

We are nearing the end of Camp Bullis.  We finished our second week in the field.  We only have 4 more field days remaining before graduation.  This week we restarted PT and combatives.  This was every morning Tuesday-Friday 0600-0700 (PT); 0600-0800 (Combatives).     This week was much cooler than last week. Highs in the upper 70's and lower 80's.  Just a great week to be camping :-).

Monday we went to the M9 range.  This was a cool day with highs only getting into the upper 50's.  You get to attempt to fake qualify with the M9.  I say fake qualify, because even when you qualify nobody writes your name down so you know this didn't count for anything.

Tuesday we had WLT testing.  We did pretty good with most of my squad getting first time go's on everything.  This took the entire day.  Again in Army fashion, it was 2 hours of testing and 8 hours of sitting and waiting.

Wednesday was the dreaded gas chamber.  This went really quick.  You quickly line up in your platoon and go through the chamber.  They make you say your name, rank, serial number, hometown.  I didn't inhale any of the gas, but my eyes burned pretty good.  It took about 10 minutes for them to stop burning.  But once it stopped, your eyes are back to normal.  Overall it really isn't that bad.  After the gas you go through a few classes on CBRNE.

Thursday was day land nav.  You have 3 hours to find 3 out of 4 points to get a go.  If you don't at least 3 points or you fail to get back to the FOB in 3 hours, you have to retest next Thursday.  You will go out in groups of 2.  My team did well.  We found all 4 points and returned to the FOB with an hour to spare.  Some teams weren't so lucky.  There were many failures, including some teams which didn't even get 1 point.  If you fail you have to go back out with failures next week (you can't get someone who passed to go back out with you).  Land nav is really easy.  Just pay attention when they show you how to plot your points.   Next week we will be doing the night land nav test.  After the test we had 3 hours of outdoor classes to tell us about the simulations we will be doing next week.

Friday was convoy day.  You went on a convoy and had to go through scenarios with IED's and small arms fire.  After the convoy we went to the convoy simulator.  Basically this is a big video game.  You have a driver, truck commander, a couple of passengers and the gunner.  I got to be the gunner and man the 50 cal.  That was pretty fun.   After the simulator you got sent to the heat trainer.  This simulates roll overs.  You get into a hummer and you will be flipped a few times and have to get out upside down.  A couple of key points.  Don't drop your weapon and don't grab any equipment (ie fake ammo can) flying around in the heat trainer.  If you do they will keep on flipping your entire team.

Week 2 is complete.  Next week we will be doing Role I, II, III simulations, plus night land nav.  Then on Friday we will be back at FSH for graduation rehearsal.

End of Week 6: FTX M16 and WLT Training

We just finished up our second week in the field at Camp Bullis.  Here is an overview over the past couple weeks.

Week 6 (No PT this week)

Monday was the day to pick up our M16, blank firing adapter and 3 point sling.  The sling was a real pain to put together. Most of the time I just hang it on my molly vest by a clip.  It took about 2 hours to get our weapons while we enjoyed standing on black pavement in 100 degree heat.  Once we all got our weapons we marched over to our hotel.  Once there we integrated with the short course personnel.  Our platoon gained about 20 new soldiers.  We then boarded a hot bus and began our FTX journey to Camp Bullis.   Once we got to Bullis we unloaded and already found out we had a heat casualty on the bus who was sent back to BAMC (hospital).  Remember you must drink water here often.  We were assigned our tents separated by males and females.  You get to sleep on a small cot, but the tents do have AC and heat.  The AC came in real handy.  We got to enjoy our first MRE's for dinner.  Typically you get a hot breakfast and dinner, while lunch is always MRE's.

We spent Tuesday zeroing the M16.  This takes 10 minutes, but in Army fashion you want 10 hours for those 10 minutes.

Wednesday we focused on land nav.  You first were taught how to gauge your pace count (day only).  Then you went with the cadre and practice finding a few points.

Thursday was WLT training.  These tasks are M16 and M9 disassemble, reassemble, safety and functions check.  Radio operation disassemble, reassemble and check.  9 line MEDIVAC request.  We rotated stations practicing each of these skills.  You have 4 minutes for the M16, 2 minutes for the M9.  The radio and 9 line is 5 minutes.   You will either get a go/no-go on each event when tested next week.

Friday we were told we were going to qualify with the M16.  This isn't really true.  You do go to the qualifying range, but no body even ties a score to a name.  So you don't really qualify.  It is more of a practice.  Once done here we turned in our weapons and headed back to the hotel at FSH

Key Notes:

Bring Baby Wipes
You get showers once a week (rotated by platoons)
Bring zip lock bags for your clothes
Don't bring everything on the packing list
Bring a pillow from your hotel
Don't ever leave your M16.  You take it everywhere including the latrines.
Bring a camera to take pictures.