July 18th, 2006

Other Resources for Basic Training

One of my readers emailed me a note about a book published for the very purpose for helping one get ready for “Boot Camp:”

“The Ultimate Basic Training Guide Book” by Sergeant Michael Volkin. An OIF Vet, he’s got the background for the topic. Here’s a link to the publisher’s site.Update 11/28/2007: There’s a blog on SGT Volkin’s site!

Now, something for the parents out there:

I picked this next one off a radio talk show last week, “Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parent’s Guide” by Vicki Cody. The entire pub is on the Association of the USA Army site in a .pdf format. That translates to free…sharing, that’s what it’s all about.I just found this one, “A Parents Guide to Surviving Marine Corps Boot Camp”, which is also in a .pdf format for ease of use.

June 11th, 2006

“Group Think” – Yes, It’s a Good Thing

Posted by admin in Boot Camp

Basic training, in any military form, seems to be characterized as a place that indoctrinates “us” into mindless aoutmatons, subject to “group think” like behaviors.

Yes, it sure does.   But, I’d say if you overlay that on our sports addicted culture, it should not be stated with a tone of contempt, but one of admiration.

Why?  It’s simple:  Group think in the military doesn’t mean everyone thinks alike, it means we think as a group, each knowing our responsibilities when the bad stuff is happening, or, as we execute our mission.  Our DIs/Drill Sargents are doing nothing more than Vince Lombardi or John Wooden did to their teams:  He got them to think as a single, well honed unit, which made them winners.

As with building any complex system, you begin with building blocks.  In this case, marchin in formation is a task that the “group think” requirement is nearly the same for all, excpet for those on the right, who’s requirement is to march in a single file, while those to the left use them as a guide to keep their position.  When a turn is ordered, then various people will have to maneuver indepedently, yet as part of the formation, so even a task that appears as so uniform, begins the teachings of doing something together.  As indoctrination continues, the marching drills will increase in complexitiy, as will other seemingly uniform tasks.

Bottom line:  Don’t fear this thing called:  “group think,” for it is the foundation of working together, in any environment that has more than one person in it.

May 31st, 2006

And a Dash of Chaos, If You Please!

Posted by admin in Boot Camp

In the Hangin’ Together or Hanging Alone posts, I indicated the beginnings of your military life would be, shall we say (seemingly) “unstructured.”  Some would use the word “chaos” as a descriptor of the circumstances.  They are right and not right all at once.

They are right in that just many parts of your day will be spent running about, doing push ups, being yelled at (for doing something you had been told to do and now being told it’s the wrong thing to do).

They are wrong, because the process is designed to flood your sensory inputs to their max limits and then toss more things at you, after you think you have reached saturation.

I once blogged about “crisis management,” as my captain clarified why it was a good thing…take a moment at this point to read that old post and begin to fill in the blanks on why there will be a seemingly over abudnance of wildness.

The confussion and conflicting commands are to help to stress you artificially, as you will be in a combat situation, and see how well you do in sorting out the real/important details, from the background noise.  More than likely, you’ve never experienced this, so instead of reacting with fear about what’s going to happen next, think of it as an opportunity to experieince something “new.”

Bottom line:  It’s all managed and all what works.

Get out there and excel! 

May 29th, 2006

Jason Grose Goes to MCRD, San Diego

Posted by admin in Boot Camp

Jason Grose’s USMC Recruit Training

May 29th, 2006

Websurfing Intelligence – Military Women Report

Posted by admin in Boot Camp

Located tonight while looking for pictures of DIs yelling at advising new recruits for the header of the blog: Boot Camp Stories and Advice.

The posts cover all services, and range in time from 1999 to 2003, mostly written by new recruits, but an entry under the Army section for Apr 2000 from a former Army BCT echos some of my posts.

May 29th, 2006

Hangin’ Together or Hanging Alone – Part II

Part I is here.

So here you are with all these new people, trying not to be overly “bossy,” yet you may be the one with the answer, or not (but you think you do). Controlled anarchy will ensue. I discussed some reasons for haning together in the first part. Now what happens if you decide to be the maverick?

I once saw this in a more practical application, and the scenario gets my point across. Our staff ahd been assigned to provide services for the submarine community as they trained prospective commanding officers (PCOs). We were assigned three ships, a CG-47, a DD-963 and an FFG-7, along with a contingent of ship and shore based helos. Our operations ostensibly required us to be sitting ducks for the soon to be COs, as they shot at us with two (per person) exercise MK-48 torpedos. My commodore, on the other hand, viewed this time at sea with dedicated submarine targets as a good training opportunity. As a result, we made our plans. Here’s where it got touchy. The CO (an O-6) of the CG-47 was, by lineal number, senior to my boss (also an O-6). My boss, by virture of the tasking was in operational control and this just chapped the CO of the AEGIS cruiser (that’s another entire series of posts for another time and place), that he had to take orders from someone junior to himself. Net result, after smoking the sub guys like cheap cigars for about 10 of the planned “mini-wars,” the CG-47 CO took off downrange “to get a sub.” He left himself and his crew hanging out by themselves, as the PCO lined up and put an extorp right into his bow.

Somewhat humbled, our task unit finished our series of 14 events, the score being 12-1-1 in our favor. We would have had a 13-1 record, had it not been for foolish pride. Had it been a real shooting war, the $1B state of the art AEGIS Cruiser would have been quickly swallowed by an unforgiving ocean, with many of the 450 man crew killed, injured or drowned.

Different from your indoctrination training, where you have no ranking right away, we had listed of who could tell who what to do. The point remains: Be careful when you decide you know better, for it may be you all alone to suffer the consequences, be they pushups until you sweat all the moisture out of your body, or several extra night watchs in the barracks. Later the fallout may be far more striking.

The maverick can not only get him or herself killed in combat, but they have the opportunity to bring a few of you to the same fate. Your DIs are looking to see if you all get this by the immersion into situations they will place you in. Between their wisdom delivered at 115 dB, and the freindly persuasion they invite you to help your fellow inductees with, they are making a point: Stick together.

May 28th, 2006

Hangin’ Together or Hanging Alone – Part I

At some point in the within the first few moments of arriving at any place of military indoctination, you will be joined with a large number of complete starngers and you will be forced to begin bonding, in a common defense against the people who are yelling at you, using all sorts of unintelligible terms (which you will soon speak as if they were your native born langauge).

Literally, you don’t have a clue who these are, what they are made of, why they are there with you, or how they made the decision to sign and raise their right hands. You intelliectually know this, but….you’ll know it at a visceral level once you get to experience it.

Here’s your pre-planned response: Join the team and get your part done, then help those who are struggling. The second part may be hard, for the DIs (or what every name they are titled as) will be trying to cull out the “weak” from the pack, mostly to take the opportunity to help them excel at levels they haven’t before (that’s euphamistically said) and may be brusque in telling you your help is has not been requested, nor needed. Think carefully as to how you respond, for in the end game, everyone needs to be able to carry their portion of the load, and have extra capacity to help when it’s really needed.

Continued tasking: Keep your ears on full receive, and focus on the actual directions, trying your best to discount the chaos injected by the loudness and rapidity of the orders. Once you get it, do it.

Try not to, at least right away, make yourself distinguishable from the group, in a positive or negative way. Save that for later.

By the end of the first day, you’ll get a few moments to talk to each other,and begin sizing each other up. Some of the first “leaders” will not be the ones who are good leaders, but ones who think they can. Most likely, several people will all try to sell themselves as leaders. You have to begin forming as a unit now, and this process amongst yourselves is analagous to the moments after a major and unexpected attack. Units are dispersed, everyone shows up with what they’ve got and it’s time to create a battle plan to go on the offensive. In this case, you’re all rankless, so no one can flash their insignia around. It’s a great experience for later on.

When the next day begins, most likely only a few short hours later, you will be tired and still being yelled at. More chaos, more orders, more questions, more mistakes out of ignorance. Now it’s time to steel yourself and just keep going. One foot in front of the other, forgetting the mistakes, doing your pushups and not showing your emotions.

Soon the moment will come when the mistake of one of you causes the punishment for all. Get over it, it will happen and there is a point. part of the point is for you, as a recruit class, to put the peer pressure on. That may be help or harassment, or a combination. The other part is to make the point that you’ll all in this together and the action of one can cause serious consequences for all the rest of you in a combat situation. Therein lies the lesson: Get with the “group think” program. Know the rules, follow the rules, make sure the others you are in charge of know the rules, too. It saves lives and wins the day when you operate together.

“Group Think” will be a topic soon. It’s not a bad thing, as long as you understand it.

Go forward and excel.  See Part II here.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

May 25th, 2006

Getting a Head Start on Retirement, or the Future in General

Posted by admin in Preparation for Service Life

This is a slightly different post, but I thought of a conversation I had with a friend about 5 years ago. He said, and he couldn’t reveal much due to his position as a financial manager, this of a man who was nearing his 20 year mark:

“He could retire today and not work another day in his life, unless he wanted something fun to do.”

I knew the man he was speaking about. He was a USNA graduate, and had begun with small investments upon commissioning. The service is pretty good about providing regualr pay raises for both longevity and also the promotions. What this man did not do was hollar “COOL!” and then jack up his outpouring of dollars to coincide with his upped income. What he did do was put some of the increase into his investments. They never missed it, so it was easy to just put it away for the future.
He, his wife and two children lived in a nice neighborhood, not one of the very expensive ones. They had nice, but not brand new cars. Back in 1998, when this discussion was held, his 20 years of discipline had by then amassed about $2M in the personal retirement fund. Granted, the market took a downturn back then, but it has recovered, and he was only 42 years old, with plenty of marketable skills from his 20 years of increasing responsibility.

There are many people out there to help you create a plan for your futur. As soon as you get a chance, find one and begin stashing something for you future. Even if you don’t make the service a career, the discipline of the investing will be a great habit to get into. If you do plan on staying through retirement, and things go south, then you’ll have a solution to a potential problem already in place.

Short antecdotes to make my point:

1) Before DOPMA was passed in 1982, if you made O-4, you were guaranteed 20 years and therefore retirement. With DOPMA, statutory limits of 16 years of active service were imposed on O-4s. You then had to make O-5 to get your 20. For most people, that wasn’t an issue, but for some it was. That certainly became a wrinkle for some families to deal with.

2) With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the downsizing began. President Bush (41) began the drawdown and President Clinton accelerated it dramatically. With a force buildup heading for a 600 ship Navy, many of us had the pleasure of being told to retire at 20 years. It happened to both senior officers and enlisted people. That, too, were wrinkles for many, and far more dramatic in the number of families it affected than the DOPMA changes.

I suspect there will be many suggestions coming from the “bean counters” to alter the military retirement system, in order to squeeze a few bucks more out of that budget line, to spend elsewhere. A good plan to invest on your own behalf is a shield against the vagaries of lawmakers and the general populace.

And the best part is: If nothing strange or “out of the box” happens on your way to the future, at some point, the moves from the mandatory safety net personal budget line, to the personal entertainment line.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post!

May 23rd, 2006

Info on the Marines – Specifically Boot Camp

I was wandering about the net and found a link to a site with a whole lot of info on entering the Marines….

And as a bonus, I found this article:
“Surviving Marine Corps Basic Training” by Rod Powers.

May 22nd, 2006

On Leadership by Sgt Hook

Sgt Hook has been around the block a lot of times and also around the blogs. He’s one of the the early Milbloggers…

He recently posted a story on leadership, which begins as he entered AIT:

Twenty-four hours after walking across the parade field of Fort Dix, I found myself in a Greyhound bus, recovering from a hangover while on my way to Fort Eustis, Virginia where I was to begin my Advanced Individual Training. The Army sends all its Soldiers to AIT for training in their specific skill, or military occupation specialty. In my case I was to attend the Army’s CH47 heavy lift helicopter mechanic’s course, which is approximately four months in length.

Unlike basic training where we had three drill sergeants assigned to our platoon, only one was assigned to us at AIT and much of the duties and responsibilities previously performed by a drill sergeant, were now delegated to us, the students. There were four student squad leader positions who answered to the student platoon sergeant who was accountable to only the drill sergeant. Following a wall locker and room inspection on just my second day in the platoon, the drill sergeant fired his student platoon sergeant and named me in his stead. I was surprised and nervous as hell.

I hadn’t been issued any Patton Pills or read any “How To” books that would transform me from a private first class to a platoon sergeant, a leader. I did the next best thing and called one of the greatest leaders I knew, my dad my hero the Commander.

“Don’t worry son, you’ll do fine. Have faith in your old drill sergeant and trust your instincts,” he said.

“But dad…” I pushed.

Read the rest…

And…when you’re done with that story, then read about compassion and drill sargents.

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