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Mike's Adventures in Field Training

Part 3 - Weekend Duty

During the first week of field training, they give out demerits for everything.  Your shoes not shiny?  Take two demerits.  Your bed not made properly?  Take two demerits.  You racked up demerits.  It was inevitable.

Several cadets were appointed by the training staff to various leadership positions such as flight commander or group commander.  For these cadets, things were really rough - every time someone in their flight got a demerit, they got one as well, since as their "leaders" they should have caught the mistakes before they were made.

So, by the end of the first week, all of the various commanders all had about 40 demerits, while the rest of the group had about ten or so.  Because of our late night talking session, my roommates and I racked up about 40 demerits as well, meaning that we had a lot to work off that weekend.

Saturday consisted of a big drill ceremony, followed by very intense room inspections.  So, how is this a no-win situation?  Well, you have a laundry bag, but it can't be too full (anything other than a sock is considered "too full" it seemed) or else you get gigged.  So, we put our dirty clothes in our footlocker.  You aren't allowed to have trash in your trash can, but you have no central trash can in which to empty it (our room was right above a dumpster, so while they were inspecting the other rooms, we opened our window and tossed our trash into the dumpster).  When we got inspected, though, we never got a perfect score.  They always found something.  In our case, it was the dust (all the dust came in from the window we opened to dump the trash).  Our goal was to have a perfect room, but we knew they weren't about to let us get that - especially on the first weekend.

Sundays were the days in which we got to relax and get caught up on stuff.  There was no training in the morning, so from about 8 until noon, the schedule was open.  Part of the reason for this was that anyone who wanted to go to church service could, and since the services were at different times, the open block allowed for different denominations to go at different times.

But, otherwise, you had that time off.  With one exception - if you had demerits, you had to work them off during your free time.  The deal was something like 10 demerits for every hour you walked a tour.  A tour consisted of marching at attention around a large square in single file.  So, since I had 40 demerits, my Sunday morning was pretty much shot.  I went to church (an hour where the trainers couldn't touch you) and then I went to breakfast (a guy's gotta eat), but otherwise, I was marching along with my roommates. 

Everyone else took this time to clean their rooms, get their uniforms in order, and do other chores, but we weren't able to because we were marching.

Marching tours wasn't that bad, though, because it was completely mindless.  I mean, we just marched over and over and over again in silence.  There wasn't anyone yelling at you (unless you stopped or got caught talking), so I actually enjoyed the tours.  I got to clear my mind and start to organize in my head how I was going to do all the stuff I was supposed to do in my free time instead of marching tours.  So, I came up with how I would do things at night.

Then, during the course of the week, my roommates and I started getting up in the middle of the night and doing laundry and stuff.  We would sneak out and sneak around.  One night, we just snuck around checking things out, and we discovered that in one of the bathrooms, there was a passage to another bathroom on the other side of the wall that the staff had tried to cover up with a blanket.

You see, there were three bathrooms with about 4 shower stalls each.  There were about 100 male cadets that all had to shower in 10 minutes.  What we would do is go in, get wet, and get out.  Then, we would lather up outside the shower, get in line, and go through and rinse off.  Get in and get out.  This discovery gave us an additional four stalls, so that we could afford to take a little longer.  Obviously, the staff didn't want us over on the other side.  (It was an NCO school that wasn't in session at the time, so that part of the building was empty; normally, they wouldn't want us over on that side of the building, thus the reason for the blanket covering the doorway.  It was probably there to accommodate spillover from either school.)

So after being armed with this knowledge, we actually had decent showers throughout the rest of the second week.  Many of the other cadets were reluctant to use the other bathroom, but we were unafraid after our long night of PT.  So, it worked out pretty well.

The second weekend, we again racked up lots of demerits.  (I think we were working off the balance we still had accumulated from the first week.)  Week 2 was a little different; instead of just walking off demerits, we got to work them off through community service.  So, what they had us do was march over on Sunday afternoon to a long parade ground, line up in a long single file line, and march along picking up trash.  The parade ground was used as a park, so as you can imagine, there was lots of trash out there.  Anyway, there were probably about 40 of us or so all marching along about a half-mile or so picking up trash.  (All of the others had community service as well, with another group over at the motor pool washing all the cars.)

Anyway, we are walking along and because we were so big and spread so far apart, the CTOs weren't anywhere near us.  So, we could talk.  My roommate James and I are shooting the breeze, when I look behind him and see a cigarette butt that he missed.  I told him not to forget to pick it up.  He replied that the field was so big, and there was only one CTO, that there was no way that the CTO would find the butt.  So, we kept going.

About 10 minutes later, CTO Warrington starts yelling.  "Someone forgot a cigarette butt back here!  So, everyone go back to the start and we'll do this again until this field is CLEAN!"

So, we returned to the start and did it again.  This time, we picked up ALL the trash.

Hut two three four...
Marching in the twice weekly parades.  It's hard to tell, but it was a huge parade ground...

The third weekend, I thought we were finally going to get the best room in camp.  That Saturday, we had cleaned up everything and everything was spotless.  We had heard rumors that the thing they would be harping on would be laundry.  So, we made sure that our laundry bags were empty.

Perfect beds.
Perfect beds.  Note the empty laundry bags.

Up until this point, they had never done a footlocker inspection.  We were pretty sure that there was going to be a footlocker inspection at some point, and since laundry was the thing they would be looking for, we had a pretty good idea they would be examining footlockers for dirty laundry.

As you may remember, we had four people assigned to my room, but one of my roommates quit within the first few hours on the first day.  That left us with an empty bed and an empty footlocker.

So, we took all of our dirty clothes and put them in the unused footlocker, which was closed and sitting on the floor of the closet.

A perfect closet.
A perfect closet with everything properly spaced.

Just then, we heard yelling down the hall followed by a loud "BANG."  It just kept coming down the hall.  Finally, in the room across the hall, we heard what was happening.

"You put your dirty clothes in your foot locker next to your clean clothes?  What kind of a pig are you!?" the commander yelled, and then overturned the cadet's footlocker.  They had dumped all of them over.

Was there a hurricane here?
The aftermath of the overturned footlockers.

Except ours.  When they got to our room, they went through our footlocker, but no dirty clothes were to be found there.  The commander grabbed our laundry bags, which were empty.  There was a stunned look on his face that I will never forget.  He couldn't figure out where our laundry went.  He then went all over everything in the room, and he couldn't find a single thing wrong.

"Cadets, you have a perfect room.  I am very proud of you," he said and then turned to leave.  I was ecstatic!  Finally, I will have the next morning off - I had finally worked off all my demerits, and since we didn't pick up any in the inspection, we would have the whole next morning off!  Plus, we were the only ones in our flight who wouldn't have to pick up all of our footlocker contents off the floor!

On the colonel's way out, though, he dropped his hat.  It hit the floor.  When he picked it up, he noticed it had dust all over the side of it from our dusty floor.

"WHAT'S ALL THIS DUST?  YOUR FLOOR RUINED MY HAT!  TAKE TEN DEMERITS!" he yelled at us.  So much for our perfect room.  But, then CTO Sanders grabbed me.

"Sir, Cadet Lewis will carry our hats on the remainder of the inspection so that they don't get dirty from the other cadets rooms!" she announced. 

Dust bunnies everywhere!
A perfect room, except for the dusty floors.  Note the unmade bed in the bottom right of the picture.

So, I carried their hats and accompanied them on the rest of the inspection.  Now, it might sound bad, but in reality I got to help out the rest of the cadets.  You see, while they were being inspected in one room, I was in the other room helping the others clean.  I kept an eye on the inspectors, so we were able to take the rest of the cadets' dirty laundry and shuffle it into the rooms that had already been inspected.

No relaxing weekends for me the entire time.

Next: Part 4 - Guard duty