Monthly Archives: January 2012

One down, nineteen to go!

Source:
One year ago today.


In 2010, I had been joking with Trinnie that if I hit thirty and wasn’t with child that I would finally join the military, as I’d been talking/dreaming about for some time.  With no small children to care for, I had no excuses and nothing holding me back.  After that day came and went, I started researching my options.  The officer recruiter for the Navy Reserve shut me down quickly, for being too old with a non-technical degree.  They discussed no other options, just a “thanks but no thanks.”  Well fine, I’ll let my brother be the token sailor in our family.  Then I called an officer recruiter for the Air Force Reserve, who told me that due to our area being saturated with prior service officers joining the reserve, it would be difficult for a non-prior service Airman like myself to find an available slot.  Some reserve officers were traveling out of state for drill, just to pick up a slot.  That wasn’t something I wanted to do.  The suggestion was made that I enlist, put in a year of good time, then apply for the Deserving Airmn Program, which allows enlisted Airmen to make the switch [you still have to do OTS, though].  That seemed reasonable to me, and I didn’t mind working a little harder to achieve my end goal, especially if it bought me some street cred.

28 Jul 2011 – Top Honor Graduate

I linked up with a recruiter at my local base and began making arrangements to meet with her.  In the meantime, I started a running program to prepare myself for what was to come.  I was surprised at how how quickly things things moved.  I was signed up for my ASVAB,

13 Sep 2011 – Distinguished Grad 

It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year already, mainly because I’ve only been in training and permanent party status for the last eight months.  There’s still a few trainees from my flight and my brother flight that are still in tech school.  These last eight months have challenged me beyong what I could’ve imagined.  When they told us at BMT that this would be one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done in our lives, I thought they were exaggerating.  I figured I had age, education, and life experience on my side.  I was wrong, and I underestimated the undertaking.  The blood, sweat, and tears I poured into becoming an Airman made the accomplishment that much sweeter.

If this first year is any indicator of the rest of my career, then bring it on!  The sense of pride and accomplishment that I’ve felt has been worth any temporary feelings of pain or frustration.
Since entering the Air Force, my dreams have changed.  While I once thought the officer side was my end-all, be-all, a change of heart has lead me to realign my goals with sights set on MTI school.  It seems cliche, as a lot of Airman claim to have the same dream when they’re still early in their careers, but I see it as a natural extension of my teaching career and a blending of my two passions.  We’ll see where this journey takes me though!

I’m looking forward to growing in my career field over the course of my second year in the Air Force.  I hope to make significant progress toward my CCAF degree, complete seasoning training, and complete a number of my on the job training requirements, if not all of them.  My goal for the year is to achieve deployment readiness, in terms of my knowledge and skill level.  My dream for the year would be to receive a quarterly award as an Airman.

Here’s to the next nineteen years!  May they bring me as much success and fulfillment as the first has!

Miscellany Monday

I love a Miscellany Monday, since I’m such a rambler when I speak.  After a weekend, there’s always some goodies to share with you!

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters1.  FIL (father-in-law) is home!  I haven’t seen him yet, but he’s back!  My DH went to Phoenix this weekend to pick him (and his things) up and bring him home, after being gone since October visiting family and doing some odd jobs.  I’m blessed to have a great relationship with my FIL, and he’s very conscientious about giving us our space, not telling us how to run our home, helping out with cleaning, etc.  He’s a model live-in parent, and we have a lot in common.  Did I mention that he’s retired Air Force?  He out ranks everyone in our home by leaps and bounds, but you’d never imagine it by the way he acts.  One of the most humble, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet.  Love me some FIL!

2.  Growing up in California, we had access to a plethora of grocery shopping options.  When my mom was battling her cancer, she strived to decrease toxins in her food, so she shopped (and ate) a lot of organics.  Enter a life-long love affair with Trader Joe’s.  Back in CA, you could throw a stone and hit a TJ’s.  In North Carolina, you had to drive an hour and a half to get to the one in Raleigh.  In Colorado?  Not even an option.  Go ahead and drive four hours across the New Mexican border, and you’ll find one in Santa Fe.  With as crunchy as Colorado is, it’s a shame that we don’t have a Trader Joe’s, or even a Fresh and Easy market.  Nope, just Whole Foods, which is a drive up town and too pricey for a full weekly grocery run.  Long story short, DH made a run to the Phoenix TJs when he was coming home.  He brought back goodies for me, gluten-free granola for one BFF and Maple Cookies for the other BFF.  He called me from the store to read off the names of all of the beauty items, so I could place my “order” over the phone.  He even brought back some surprises, including two new reusable bags, freeze-dried blueberries, and some organic banana chips, in addition to my other requests.  I am such a lucky girl, and a happy camper at that!

[Source]

3.  It seemed fitting to do something special for my Air Force anniversary tomorrow night for dinner.  What would be more appropriate than The Airplane Restaurant?!  We’ve eaten there before, and it’s pretty awesome.  You get to eat inside of a KC-97 tanker that has booths on either side of the center aisle.  The cockpit is open for pictures, which we took when we went with Trinnie + family last time.  Good times!

4.  When you join the AF, you don’t automatically become versed in plane identification.  They don’t teach you that at BMT.  I can’t look at a plane and tell you what it is, aside from the one flown in my squadron.  Just sayin.’

5.  This weekend felt long on one hand, but very unproductive on the other.  Haley and I did Mandt training on Saturday morning, which is restraint training in a school setting.  We got out early, but the majority of my afternoon was spent napping and moping.  Sunday I woke up early, but then went back to bed and had a late start, so I really only got my Sunday chores done.  DH was convinced I’d cleaned though, when he came back late last night.  🙂  Sure darling, of course I cleaned!

BMT: MTI Secrets

One of my regular BMT readers asked me the other day, “In between all of the yelling and demanding, do they actually teach/show you how to do all this stuff in BMT?”

Fear not, readers!  I may paint a dismal picture some days, but as I told this reader, they actually do want you to succeed!  With everything that I’ve been writing lately, apparently I’m due for a more positive post.  It’s time to let you all in on some secrets that won’t become clear to you until the end of BMT, if at all.  You know, the stuff the MTIs don’t want you to know…

Now, if you’re a permanent party Airman already, you may be wondering why I’m letting all of these outsiders in on the goods.  Ultimately, everyone is going to learn the hard way.  Everyone will tell you that BMT is a “mind game,” that they’re trying to “break you down to build you back up,” blah, blah, blah.  I’m not knocking it, it’s true.  You may know that going into BMT, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it and live under that stress.  I can tell you everything there is to know about BMT, but taking and applying that knowledge is up to you and a host of other factors that’ll affect you (stress, fatigue, hunger, hydration, etc).

Let’s get to the secrets already, so you can feel better about this adventure you’re undertaking…

1.  Your MTI likes you.  Mhmm.  They know who you are, too.  It may take them a week to get your name straightened out, but they know who you are and they like you.  When your MTI is meeting with your student leaders, they’ll discuss trainees and while your MTI may not praise you to your face, he/she is praising you when your name comes up.  If you’re trying your hardest, volunteering, and always working with a sense of urgency, your MTI knows it.  They just won’t let you know that you’re doing well, because they want you to constantly be questioning your performance and striving to do better.  The only exception to this rule is if you’re constantly being written up, receiving 341s, question their authority, etc.  Then your MTI probably doesn’t like you, because you’re a dirt bag.

2.  Your MTI cares about your emotional well-being.  They may ride you, blast you, and constantly make an example of you, but if you’re having a genuine emotional issue, they want to hear about it and consult with you.  If it’s something that’s very personal in nature, they can do a closed-door meeting in the flight office, as long as your DC or another trainee is present.  As intimidating as it is to report to an office and ask to speak with your MTI when you’re already an emotional wreck, please do it.  If you’re struggling with something that your MTI needs to be aware of – reach out to him/her.  If you or another trainee you know of is contemplating suicide, tell your MTI (or any MTI) immediately.  I say this because it happens; stress affects people differently.  Your MTI will lose the “attitude” if you need to have a heart-to-heart, because your emotional well-being matters.

3.  Don’t sweat the 341s.  The MTIs will try to intimidate you with threats of pulling your 341, and some may actually do it.  Signing it may feel official too, and you might think you’re in for it at that point.  Ultimately, until your MTI inputs the comment into the computer, reads it back to you, has you key in a pin number, has a witness key in a pin number, it’s not official.  It’s not being counted against you until it’s in the computer.  If you get a 341 pulled by another MTI, notify yours as soon as you can. Your MTI will appreciate if you’re straightforward with him/her, and can admit your own fault.  You may find that because of this honesty and integrity, they don’t process that 341 in the computer, especially if it was a minor infraction.

4.  Recycling is a Last Resort.  They’re going to threatened it up and down.  They’re going to talk about the “time machine” and you going back to an earlier WOT, for failing to progress in your training or for disciplinary reasons.  You’ll live in fear of being recycled, up until the very end.  News flash – they don’t want to recycle you any more than you want to be recycled.  We had one trainee that was recycled, and our MTI agonized over it.  I got the impression that he had never recycled anyone before.  Think from a business standpoint for a minute – if you have a trainee that’s being held back, it represents a greater financial burden on the Air Force, since they’re having to feed and lodge you for that added time.  You’re potentially taking up the space of another trainee, and emptying a slot at tech school.  When it finally came down to it, the section supervisor called me and my entire student leader team into his office.  Suddenly, the tune changed from this trainee failing to demonstrate progress in her training to us failing her as a leadership team.  We were made to feel guilty for not being better wingmen.  They want you to succeed, they don’t want you to fail.  While some recycled trainees deserve it, some MTIs see recycling as a reflection of their own failure.  They’ve failed to educate the trainees entrusted to them.  A healthy fear of recycling is good, but don’t let it rule your BMT experience.

If I leave you with one message from this post it’s that you can do this.  If you’re motivated, if you’re driven, and if you’re committed to the process, you will become an Airman.  You never forget your MTI for a reason.  Being an MTI is like being a teacher – the paychecks don’t justify the long hours.  That’s not why they do it.  MTIs assume that role because they want to make a difference.  They want to improve the quality of Airmen coming into the Air Force.  Your MTI wants you to succeed.  It’s not always going to seem like they’re on your team, but they are.  Put your faith in the process, give it your all, and you’ll come out on top.

Welcome to Aim High Erin!

Whew, what a day!  When I woke up this morning, I had not planned on making such major changes to the blog, but with everything that’s been happening lately, it seemed appropriate.  Two days away from my 1st anniversary as an American Airman, and I’m feeling even more committed to sharing my experience with others.

“Aim High Erin” serves as a better descriptor of me as a person and what this blog is all about.  “Aim High” is part of the Air Force battle cry, linking me with my branch of service.  “Aim High Erin” speaks to the pursuit of my goals and the Air Force Core Value of Excellence in All We Do.

The most noticeable change (if you’re looking at the website directly) is the new banner, reflecting the new name and url.  The button has been updated as well, but if you’ve copied and pasted the code you won’t need to update anything.  The image of your button will update automatically.  I’ve also added a new button that promotes my page specifically for those heading to BMT or readers of that series.

New social networking buttons have been added to the side, including an email button, a button for my new FB page, and button for the YouTube channel in the works.  Many of these social networking pages are still in the works, so give me a chance to get things up and running.  It’s my hope to begin adding vlogs when I introduce rolling and folding at BMT, and YT is the best way to do that.  If you were previously following me on Twitter under the name @USNsis, you may have noticed that I updated that name to match the blog (@AimHighErinAF). 

I don’t plan to give up doing personal, “fluffy” posts all together, so I hope that you’ll stick around, even if the BMT series isn’t your thing.  I’m still a milspouse blogger, and a proud one at that!

Thank you again for visiting – there is so much more to come!    

BMT: Flag Conditions and Hydration

In my last post on the BEAST, I mentioned “Black Flag.”  No, I wasn’t referring to the punk band associated with Henry Rollins.  I’m talking about the lovely weather you’re about to experience when you truck off to Lackland AFB.


Flag Conditions

While it may seem otherwise some days, your safety and well-being is one of the top concerns of your MTI.  Throughout the squadron and the base, you’ll notice solid colored flags flying from flagpoles.  You’ll also hear MTIs make announcements like:
Attention in the squadron, attention in the dormitory!
Attention in the squadron, attention in the dormitory!
WBGT 91.3°.
Black Flag!

The weather dictates the activities around the base.  MTIs are required to be mindful of the current flag conditions, and you’ll want to do likewise.  Of course, if you’re doing BMT during winter and spring, this may not apply to you.  If you’re fortunate to be in Lackland during the summer months, as I was, this will rule your experience.


Pretty self-explanatory.  At your squadron there will be a flag hanging outside each entrance of the tunnel, on the east and west sides, one from the main flag pole, and one out near the PT and drill pads.  CQ will have a runner change them when the conditions dictate.

When Black Flag hits, you won’t march when outside of the squadron’s overhang.  So, if you’re on the way to the mini-mall or any of the other buildings outside of the squadron, you’ll get to march at ease.  If you’re at BEAST, you’ll get to remove your Kevlar vest and helmet.  Needless to say, we used to pray for Black Flag some days.

Hydration Schedule
One of the first things the MTI who picks you up will have you do when you get into the dorm is to fill your canteen in the latrine sink.  Did you just double take and re-read that?  Yes, you’ll be drinking bathroom sink water for the next 8.5 weeks.  Forget about your Smart Water and your Brita pitcher back home.  Heck, forget about kitchen tap water – bathroom water it is!  Not only will you drink it, but you’ll drink a lot of it.  The web canteen belt I’ve mentioned is something you’ll be wearing at all times. It holds your canteen and your satchel (an ABU-print pouch which carries your BMTSG and your study materials).

Every morning at PT, you’ll be reminded of the hydration schedule:
All trainees are reminded to drink
1/2 to 3/4 a canteen per hour,
not to exceed 12 canteens per day.
This will seem nearly impossible at first.  It’s significantly more water than most of us are used to drinking on a regular basis.  You’re pounding all of this water, then going into the dining facility and being required to drink two additional beverages at every meal.  You’ll be reminded to take sips of water, versus chugging, which can contribute to nausea.  Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s not uncommon to see trainees throw up after every meal during 0 week.  If one person in your flight yells “hydrate,” every is supposed to follow that directive.

If you become ill, one of the first questions the MTIs will ask you is how many canteens you’ve had that day.  They expect you to follow the hydration schedule, and you should.  Be careful about the next words out of your mouth when they ask you that question.  It can be difficult to keep track of how many canteens you’ve had, so make sure you’re sipping regularly.  Your body will need it in the hot Texas heat.  You’re working harder than most have ever worked, under stressful conditions and minimal sleep.  Plus, regardless of the heat, you’ll be in full uniform (ABUs) with the sleeves down.  You won’t be rolling those sleeves up until you hit tech school.

The hydration schedule is absolutely essential when you’re at BEAST, as I mentioned in my last post.  You’ll be tallying the number of canteens you finish, which makes it a lot easier to maintain.

Hydration is everyone’s responsibility, and the MTIs will be none too pleased if you put yourself out of commission by failing to maintain the hydration schedule.  You’re property of Uncle Sam, and you need to be taking care of yourself so that you can continue to train on schedule.  Dehydration can get you sent to the 319th (the squadron where injured trainees are sent), and you’ll have to recover before you can be sent back to another flight to resume training.  You don’t want this.  You’re only dragging out your training longer than 8.5 weeks, and you’ll return to a flight that’s not “yours,” possibly not even in your same squadron.  If you made any friends in your original flight, kiss them goodbye.  A girl in our flight was sent to the 319th for a month for dehydration.  A month.  Trust me, you don’t want to be at BMT longer than you have to.

One important thing to remember is that your hydration today affects your body tomorrow.  You can’t gulp water right before a run day and expect to be “good.”  You should’ve been drinking enough water the day before.  It’s especially important to be maintaining the hydration schedule the day before any big, physically demanding event, such as PT tests.

Cheers, future trainees!  Drink up!

A Thank You and Commenting

First off, thank you to all of my new readers who’ve found me through @AirForceReserve on Twitter, or through referrals.  I’m more than happy, willing, and excited to help others who’ve made the decision to enlist in The World’s Greatest Air Force!  Motivation is contagious – the more you connect with others who are in the process of enlisting or permanent party folks like myself, the more encouraged you’ll be to pursue your own dreams.  Stay focused, ignore the nay-sayers and negative thoughts, and keep your eyes on the prize.  Enlistment has been one of the best decisions that I could’ve ever made.
   
After reading it on another blog and from my own personal experience, I’ve switched to pop-up commenting, versus the embedded commenting I have now.

While I’d rather it work properly when it’s embedded, I understand that some people are still having issues with Blogger not allowing them to comment on the embedded system, yet they’re successful with pop-up commenting.  I want you to be able to comment.  Please, ask questions, ask for clarification, make recommendations for my next post, etc.  I want to serve your need to know.  I’m a teacher, it’s an innate desire.  🙂  If I’m not making sense, tell me.  If I didn’t cover a topic as well as you would’ve liked, tell me so.  Don’t get an acronym?  I’ve been thinking about a reference page for that.  I’ll do my best to meet your needs, as long as OPSEC and PERSEC allows me to do so.
Thinking about commenting?  I answer every single comment I get, and try to do so directly!  Are you a “no-reply blogger?”  The fastest way to get back to you is for me to reply directly to your comment, but I can’t do that if you’re a no-reply blogger.  Check out that link and correct your settings.  It’ll also save you the hassle of having to check back to see if/when I’ve replied to your question.   Thanks again, it’s been an amazing few weeks leading up to my first anniversary!

BMT: The Beast

The BEAST challenge coin, available for purchase.

By request, today I bring you BEAST!  And I’m not just talking about myself!  😉  BEAST stands for Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, which is the field exercise you’ll do in week 6 of BMT.  BEAST serves as a culmination of all of your practical, hands-on education at BMT.

Prior to leaving for BEAST, you’ll receive training in SABC (“Self-Aide Buddy Care” – first aide), CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear warfare), defensive fighting positions, and non-lethal rifle fighting techniques.  Around week five, this training will ramp up, and your classroom lessons will discuss “predeployment” procedures and information.

Your MTI and student leaders will select several trainees to take on leadership roles at the BEAST.  These roles include:
  • BEAST Monitor – This individual functions as the Dorm Chief of BEAST and will work with other BEAST Monitors to organize and strategize.
  • Tactical Deployment Leader – Four trainees are selected to be TDLs, which are the Element Leaders of BEAST.  They assist the BEAST Monitors.
  • Weapons Monitor – This trainee is responsible if anyone mishandles their weapon.  They should have weapons handling down pat.
  • SABC Monitor – These two to three trainees are responsible for ensuring that all trainees understand SABC procedures and can execute them properly.

The weekend before you leave for BEAST, you’ll go to the mini-mall for a predeployment shopping trip.  There’s a checklist of items in your BMTSG.  Things I bought but didn’t use include bug spray and flexible bandage tape (for protecting my arms and elbows on the chalk walk).  You’re going to want to bring hand sanitizer and probably sunscreen, since this is one of the most exposed areas of the base and you’re outside all day.  You’ll also prepare a second canteen, so that you have two on your web belt at all times.  All of these items will be packed in Ziploc bags in your duffle bag.  You’ll carry your duffle bag and your rifle (without the case) onto the bus on Monday morning and be transported to the BEAST, which is located on a remote side of the base.

For whatever reason, this particular area of the base seems hotter than back at the squadron.  Throw in some sand, MOPP gear, sweat, and it can seem unbearable at times.  By the time the week is over, you’ll be thankful for the “luxurious” squadron living.  I remember saying that I would gladly roll and fold in my air conditioned personal area for hours after that experience!  Our flight joked that there would be no more fussing when our MTI asked us to do something, regardless of how ridiculous it seemed.  Bleach the latrine floor with a toothbrush?  Not a problem, on it Sir!  We were thankful just to be back.  Keep in mind though that we were at BEAST in the middle of July in Texas – you can imagine.

The reverse of the coin, with the Airman’s Creed.

[Parts of this post have been edited due to OPSEC concerns brought forward.  I will answer questions as best as I can, but please understand if I can’t answer everything and elaborate as much as I’d like.]

BMT: Laundry

Hey, this may seem like a random BMT post, but wouldn’t you rather know the nitty gritty random details?  I like to think they’re interesting, at least!  🙂

Laundry is an important matter at BMT.

Laundry > Clean Clothes > Rolling and Folding > Personal Area Inspection > Graduating

As a wife of a man who typically leaves me to do all of the laundry, I was excited about going away for the summer, thinking that I’d get a break.  Not so.  I soon found myself in my own personal laundry hell…

Machine Laundering
At BMT, you have a laundry crew of approximately two to four trainees in your flight.  They’ll do everyone’s laundry for the next eight and a half weeks.  Everyone’s.  They’ll pretty much be doing laundry all day long, and competing with a number of other flights for the machines in the laundry room.
If you’re considering volunteering to be on the laundry crew, keep in mind these facts, both positive and negative:
  • You’ll spend most of your time in the laundry room.  Depending on the season, this could be a good or bad thing.
  • You’ll get a ton of time to study your BMTSG.  This will come in handy as it gets closer to your EOC (End of Course exam).
  • You’ll spend time with laundry crews from other flights.  This gives you an opportunity to take some advice from those just returning from BEAST.  It also gives you a chance to socialize with the opposite sex.  Be careful – you will get blasted by MTIs if they come in and find you chatting and not studying.
  • You’re most likely going to be right next to the squadron patio.  Don’t be stupid and think you can sneak out there to the vending machines and get away with it.  Not going to happen.
  • You’re going to have a hard time managing the laundry load and schedule in the beginning.  Trainees will be frustrated and angry with you.  You’ll hate your job, at least initially.
  • You’ll have to collect laundry right after PT.  That being said, your shower time will be limited, if you even get to dash in and out.
  • You’ll also be responsible for taking all of the linens down for linen exchange day.
  • You’ll be washing the cleaning rags.  You’ll hear it from your MTI if they’re not clean when it’s time to be cleaning the dorm.
  • You’ll do laundry at BEAST.  Mhmm.  Don’t even get a break there.
  • You’ll be doing all of the sandy, sweaty laundry upon return from BEAST.
  • You may miss non-mandatory classes or exercises, if you have laundry to do.
  • You’ll have a 341 pulled if there’s a wet spot on the laundry bags, so you’ll have to ensure that you’ve always got a trashbag liner in there.

All of the negative aside, you will get an opportunity to bond with your brother/sister flight’s laundry crew, since you’ll be spending a lot of time together.  Our laundry crew members became very close in the end.  Initially, it’s not an easy job.  My laundry crew was pissy and frustrated by how difficult the task was, and my MTI had a short fuse while they straightened themselves out.  Eventually, you’ll wisen up on how to make it work for your flight, after you’ve set up a standardized system of how laundry is collected, stored, and passed out.

Laundry pass-out is another monumental task, given 50ish people in your flight.  All clothing items have a laundry mark, which is your last initial and the last four of your social security number.  Smaller items are placed in mesh bags, which have your laundry mark on them.  We passed out laundry two different ways, with the second one being more successful for us.

  1. Laundry Train – This method was encouraged by our MTI team, but we were ended up straying away from it.  Flight members place a piece of notebook paper with their laundry mark at the end of their bed.  Laundry is dumped at the end of one of the bays.  The entire flight walks in a single file, grabs a few items, and starts making a big loop through the dorm, dropping items on the appropriate bed as they walk by.
  2. Day Room/SSN Piles – A small group of trainees dump the laundry out in the day room, and organize it into ten piles, based on the first number of your laundry mark.  After everything was sorted, we would call elements in, one at a time, to retrive their laundry.  In a pinch, we could also pile the laundry up in the hallway, if it was after lights out and the day room was closed.  We ended up transitioning to this method, simply because a few trainees could organize the laundry and then individuals were responsible for picking it up.  We could see right off the bat who wasn’t picking up their laundry.  Also, you learned to recognize the laundry marks of your wingmen, so you could help them out if they were occupied.  I passed out a lot of laundry as my trainees worked, especially near the end.  This allowed them to immediately start working in their areas, and usually my wingman started on my rolling and folding.

Laundry gets lost at BMT, just like at home.  Between all of those people and mesh bags that burst open, it happens.  I lost a pair of my good spandex/compression shorts along the way.  Make sure you’ll always checking your laundry marks and darkening them as needed.
“Living Out of the Laundry Bags” is a phrase I guarantee that you’ll hear at BMT.  It’s a strategy for playing the game smarter, in order to minimize inspection errors.  Your wall locker has to be organized in a very particular way, with clothing folded and rolled perfectly.  In their (rightful) minds, if they can’t trust you to put attention to detail into rolling a shirt, how can they trust you to work on a multi-million dollar aircraft?  Any errors will contribute to demerits.  If you get enough demerits, you’ll fail your inspection.  Fail the second inspection and you’ll have to prepare for an inspection by your section supervisor.  Fail that inspection and you’ll likely to get recycled.  It’s that big of a deal.  Living out of the laundry bags refers to a delicate balance of having items rolled and folded in your drawer that you never touch/use/wear, and alternating between two items.  One item is being worn, and the other is being washed.  You’ll cycle back and forth between those two items.  This is a very difficult synergy to achieve, and it hinges on having a strong laundry crew, as well as an effective method for passing out laundry.  The perk of achieving this synergy is that you don’t have to roll and fold all of the time, and you don’t have to mess up any “inspection perfection” items in your drawer.

BMT provides you with six large jugs of laundry detergent when you arrive. For us, it was the All Free + Clear.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and trainees will need to start purchasing their own laundry detergent to contribute to the laundry crew.  Purex is the cheapest one available at the mini-mall.  You’ll also need to save a jug of that detergent to take to BEAST with you.  Your clothes will not smell of fresh laundry softener, like at home.  You may not notice a change in scent at all, even after clothes are washed.  Your whites will get dingy looking.  My white sports bras have still not recovered, even after being home and using bleach.  When you arrive at tech school, older Airmen will tease you about smelling “like Lackland.”  You’ll promptly wash all of your clothes to nix that.

Dry Cleaning
There is a dry cleaner in every squadron, believe it or not, and you’ll use it.  The charges are reasonable, although they do add up quickly.  These folks take all methods of payment, including EZ Pay cards and your normal debit cards.

Despite the fact that your BMTSG will say not to dry clean your ABUs, you’ll take them there.  You’ll do this up until the point that someone runs out of their EZ Pay cash, then you may have people put them in the regular laundry.  In the same vein as living out of your laundry bag, we often had one pair of ABUs on our person, maybe one in the wall locker, and two at the dry cleaner (unless the MTI on CQ yelled for everyone to pick up their dry cleaning).  Once you bring dry cleaning back into the dorm, you’ll have to make sure it’s on the correct hanger (in order to be consistent with the rest of your flight), and you’ll have to clip loose threads.  That’s the biggest PITA – you literally have to go over every exterior seam and clip every thread so it’s not protruding.  It’s time consuming, to say the least.  We’d sit down with tweezers, scissors from the sewing kit, and a lint roller, and go to town.  There were many late night parties in the drying room off the shower, where we would sit on the bench and clip threads after lights out.  If you have a uniform in your locker, it needs to be clipped.  Every time a uniform comes back from the dry cleaner (or out of the washer), chance are you have a loose thread.

They’ll give you specific instructions as to how to prepare clothes to turn to the dry cleaner at a briefing on your first trip there.  Clothing will come back with orange tags affixed to every piece you dry clean.  Do yourself a favor and remove them either at the dry cleaner or immediately upon return to the dorm.  Our MTI used to tell us that they contributed to radiation poisoning, and therefore you needed to keep them out of the dorm.  Bottom line, if you don’t remove them right away you may forget, and they will count as a demerit during inspections.

The Dry Cleaners will clean your ABUs, which can be machine laundered in the end, they can do your hats, and they must do all of your blues.  You will not be machine laundering blues – trust me, you wouldn’t want to at BMT.  Eventually, the Dry Cleaner will sew on your stripes and send your lightweight blue jackets out for embroidery (if your flight decides on this option).

You’ll have a love/hate relationship with the dry cleaners.  They do lose items and items get ruined.  I had Sharpie marks show up on my ABUs that weren’t there when I turned them in.  They also lost one of my short sleeved blue shirts.  The do have a rack of unclaimed clothes that are available for purchase for a cheap price, if you should need to replace one of your items.  You’ll just have to line out the laundry mark and replace it with your own.  If you receive an item that is unserviceable, advocate for yourself and bring it to the attention of the staff as soon as possible.  They’ll attempt to have it cleaned again, but if is again returned in unacceptable condition, make another complaint and ask for a replacement.  If the Dry Cleaners continue to hassle you, let your MTI know.

Huge post on laundry, am I right?!  And you thought this wouldn’t be interesting!  =P

BMT: Chow Runnin’ and Grubbin’

Get comfy folks, this is going to be a biggie…but who doesn’t love food?!

I’ve had to psych myself up for this one, knowing that there’s going to be a lot to say.

Chow Runner
This is a duty that your MTI will assign to one lucky trainee.  This trainee needs to have some serious cojones and will need to demonstrate some great military bearing from the get-go.  If you’re transparent with your emotions, you don’t need to be chow running.  Why?  Because the Chow Runner is the trainee who approaches the Snake Pit – alone – addresses the MTIs and announces the flight as being ready to eat.  The schpiel goes something like this:

Sir/Ma’am, trainee Carpenter reports as ordered.  [wait to be addressed]
Sir, flight 494 is prepared to enter the dining facility from the east side [or west side].

At that point, the MTI at the snake pit will tell you something, usually “Sit, Eat, and Get Out,” although if they’re feeling fiesty, they may tell you something completely off the wall, like “Sit ’em on down!” in a weird country accent.  You’ll repeat back what they said  – verbatim – and then “Yes sir, thank you sir.”  At that point, you’ll go outside to get your flight.

If there is a line in the chow hall, and not enough space, you’ll be directed to wait against the wall.  You’ll study your BMTSG while you wait for them to call you forward again, and then they’ll give you the “Sit, Eat, and Get Out” directive and you’ll go through the process described above.

When you come out of the chow hall, you’ll stand on the wall if there are other Chow Runners waiting to call in their flight.  When it’s your turn, you’ll stand directly in front of the dining facility at attention and in your loudest voice say:

Flight 494,
prepare to enter the dining facility from the east side.
All key personnel fall out, fall in,
followed by the first element. 

As a flight, you will all come to attention and respond (loudly), “AIM HIGH!  FLY!  FIGHT!  WIN!”  Eventually as you progress in your weeks of training, you may opt (as a flight) to create your own chant to distinguish yourselves as a flight.  Ours went something like:

[Chow Runner] Flight 494, we are:
[Flight] Motivated!  Dedicated!
You check us out, you, you check us out!
We get the job done,
make the other flights pout!  HUA!

At this point the DC, the water monitors, and any other trainees designated as needing to fall out early (sometimes the laundry crew) will walk to the front of first element and fall into a straight line.  The Chow Runner will be the first to enter the dining facility, as they have to report for the next part of their duty.  The first element leader will call the element to attention and march them into the dining facility.  The last person in that element will stand outside of the door and peek inside to determine when there’s room for the next element to enter.  They will then call out, “Followed by the second element” and the process continues until everyone enters.

Once inside, the Chow Runner will position themselves in line with the row of tables, stand with their left arm behind their back, and the right arm bent in front of their waist.  They will then direct trainees, saying, “front ma’am/sir,” “back ma’am/sir,” and alternating between the two.  If the MTI has given them anything special in terms of instructions, they’ll say that as well, such as “Front ma’am/sir.  Sit, eat, and get out.”  The chow runner’s job is done when the next chow runner steps in to direct their flight.  Like the water monitors (described below), the chow runner is one of the last people to eat.

Water Monitors
There are three water monitors designated in your flight.  These trainees always fall out first with key personnel, but they are the last people to eat, always.  They’ll enter the dining facility and walk into the back, along with the employees and the trainees on KP.  They’ll done gloves and their hats, and then proceed to fill glasses with water and Gatorade and set it out for everyone coming down the line.  After they’ve completed their work, they’ll go get their own food.  Before breaking ranks (as there will be another flight coming in), they’ll need to request to do so from the DC doing inspections at that point.

Sir/Ma’am, trainee Carpenter reports as ordered.
Sir/ma’am, permission to break ranks?  Reason?
Water monitor plus two.  [Total of three water monitors.]  Proceed.

Entering the Chow Hall
After you’ve come into the chow hall, you’ll line up in three columns and sign in (squadron, flight, name) at the desk.  The grandmotherly woman working the desk was probably the nicest, most friendly person we regularly encountered at BMT.  She was a breath of fresh air.  When you are done signing in, you’ll stand at attention.  When the entire row is done signing in, the trainee against the wall will command, “trainees post left [or right, depending on which direction is “out].”  You’ll execute a facing movement and proceed to stand in line, heel to toe with the person in front of you.  As described before, you’ll be inspected by your DC as you march – not walk – in.  You’ll do facing movements and take one step at a time in line, not stepping beyond a certain line, as to leave room for KP and employees walking in and out of the back.  The KP trainees will say, “DETAIL, MAKE A HOLE!” as they walk by.  You always have to remember your military bearing while in the chow hall, as the MTIs at the Snake Pit can see you walk in, not to mention you’ll have other MTIs walking in and out of the same door that you just did.

Stepping onto the Line
When it’s your turn to step forward, you’ll apply hand sanitizer and find yourself facing a full-length mirror.  Most like your EL will be standing there to inspect you.  You’ll execute a practice salute, then about face and begin side-stepping down the line.  You’ll grab a tray and your utensils, always staring straight ahead.  Don’t you dare talk to the trainees next to you, lest you not see the MTI making his way down the line toward you in the other direction.  If a trainee of the opposite sex is in front of you, you’ll need to stay at least a full arms length away from them, or an MTI will make you aware of your discretion.  You’ll let the employees know what you’d like and load your tray, moving without hesitancy.  When you get to the beverages, you are required to take two drinks of your choice.  When I first arrived, you had to take a milk and two Gatorades.  This has since changed to any two beverages, but the regulation seems to fluctuate.  

You will not do any facing movements while carrying a tray, and you’ll walk out and around (not stepping within an area marked by a red line), walking towards your Chow Runner, who’ll direct you to your table.  You’ll go all the way down to the first available chair.  It does not matter if you end up at a mixed gender table.  You’ll put your tray down, take off your web canteen belt, and tuck it underneath your chair.  You’ll come to attention for approximately three seconds, then sit down and proceed to eat.  You do not need to finish all of your food (you won’t have time), but you will need to turn your glasses upside down when you finish your beverages.  Some trainees who’d had too much to drink, chose to “accidentally” knock over their glass when they were almost finished, so it’d spill on the tray.  Under no circumstances should you talk to anyone else at your table.

The Need for Speed
You’re going to be rushed at meal time, that’s a given.  It’s going to be ridiculously fast in the first few weeks of training, so get used to it.  You may feel that you’re not even getting a chance to eat at all.  Trust me, it gets better.  As you progress in the weeks of training, you’ll have a bit more time.  During the first week, we had a number of trainees that threw up after meals.  If you’re going to spew, run for the bushes/grass.  Don’t throw up on the concrete pad – you’ll get…wait for it…yelled at.  Bet you didn’t see that coming.  😉

Leaving the Dining Facility
Leaving the dining facility can be a bit precarious.  Leaving signifies that the trainees in front of you should be done, as well as any trainees still at your table.  If your table leaves before any earlier tables, it’s referred to as “table f*cking,” as they will essentially be required to leave immediately whether they were done eating or not.  They will not be pleased with you.  If anyone else at your table isn’t done, they’ll also have to finish up right then and there.  If neither of these parties leaves, they’ll surely get blasted by the MTIs.  Don’t be that trainee, you’ll hear about it when you get back to the dorm.  Your best bet is to leave some food to pick at or a half inch of beverage left, that way you can time your finish with the rest of the trainees at your table.  You’ll give each other “looks” when it’s time to go.  Be cautious that you don’t all stand up together in one fluid motion, or you’ll get yelled at for that too, but time it so you’re all done at roughly the same time.  You’ll carry your tray to the window for dish washing, placing it on the stack and setting your silverware into the tray.

You’ll walk straight out of the dining facility from there.  If there’s someone coming your way (MTI or a trainee with a tub), you’ll stand with your back toward the wall and stare straight ahead until they pass by.  After they pass, you’ll continue on your way, executing a facing movement to head toward the door.  Walk confidently and be sure to place your hat on your head prior to leaving.  If you hesitate you run the risk of being called out by the MTIs at the Snake Pit, who will call you back.

The Snake Pit
The Snake Pit is a long rectangular table that faces the food line.  Its position enables the MTIs sitting there to see trainees coming in from outside, the trainees coming down the line, and all of the trainees eating.  There is always one MTI who is working at the table, directing flights into the chow hall.  Other MTIs may be there, socializing with each other or eating.  They will talk, laugh, and joke loudly, which is very unnerving.  They will start to yell at trainees that are eating too slowly.  They may, at any time, make you set down your tray and report to the Snake Pit.  If you’re a newer trainee, they’ll probably call you over to ask you a memory work question and make an example out of you.  Maintain your military bearing as best as possible, or else they’ll drag it out.  Do not leave until they tell you to.  If your performance is unacceptable, they’ll pull a 341.  If you’re sitting at your table and doing something completely unacceptable, they will approach you while you’re eating and blast you at the table.  

Separate Tables
There are a couple rectangular tables separate from everyone else.  One is reserved for Dorm Chiefs, the other for trainees on eating waivers.  Yes, some trainees will be put on an eating waiver after going to the clinic.  I’m not entirely sure of what necessitates an eating waiver, but these trainees get additional time to eat.

Dessert
You’ll lust after the dessert cases at BMT, turning with puddings, pies, cakes, canned sodas, etc.  There’s also a coffee dispenser and a soft serve machine.  Touch them if you care not about your life.  Keep side-stepping, trainee, not going to happen.  However, there are Nutri Grain bars that you can take if you’re feeling ballsy.  In our dining facility, they were behind us.  Some MTIs didn’t care if you merely turned around and grabbed one.  Others yelled if you didn’t set your tray down, come to attention, about face, step forward and grab a bar, about face, and step back into line.  I think it was the fourth week before I felt confident enough to start grabbing the Nutri Grain bars.  Sunday is an easier day to grab these, if you’re attempting it for the first time.  They’re the closest thing to dessert that you’re going to get at BMT, most likely.  It wasn’t until 8th week when we made a bet with our MTI that resulted in us being able to select a dessert.  You’d better believe I went for the soft serve!  

Recommendations
  • Eat a banana every meal that you can.  It’ll give you the potassium that you need to prevent shin splints.  Many of my trainees enjoyed putting peanut butter on their banana.
  • Eat a peanut butter packet at every meal.  It’s like another “shot” of protein that you’ll need.
  • Careful when drinking milk, especially in the first few weeks when you’re really rushed.  I saw numerous trainees throw up after meals because they’d been drinking too fast.
  • Monday Chicken Wrap Day was one of my favorite lunches.  Make sure to dip it in ranch, which you’ll find near the salad.
  • Wednesday Pizza Day – amazing!  This is also the same day they do wings, which many trainees loved as well.
  • The vanilla yogurt (Weight Watchers brand) is the best flavor.
  • One lunch is hot, sliced turkey.  Add some shredded cheese from the salad bar and put it on two slices of bread and you’ll have an amazing sandwich.
  • Lunches were always better than dinner.
  • Get the biscuit with hot fruit topping at breakfast.  It’s the closest thing to cobbler that you’ll get, and it’s delicious.
  • The best cereal is Smart Start.  I still buy it at the commissary.  If they’re serving fresh strawberries that day, slice them and put them on top.
  • They always have a ton of fruit at chow.  I used to eat grapes every chance I could.

Bon appétit!  

Tagged by Lou!

Tagged again!  It’s going around!  I’m going to jump straight to the questions that Lou wrote for me.

1.  Favorite moment in life.  Oof, that’s a tough one right off the bat.  I really couldn’t pick between my wedding, my BMT graduation, etc.  I’ve been blessed!
2.  What is your favorite form of exercise?  Running is my exercise of choice, although I love going dancing!
3.  What is your favorite sound?  The sound of near silence, aside from some birds chirping outside of a sunny window on a day when you’re napping.
4.  What’s your favorite cleaning product?  Mrs. Meyer’s Geranium!
5.  What do you miss most about being a kid?  Have my mom around.
6.  Do you like milk?  I don’t typically drink it as a beverage, unless I’ve just had a lot of chocolate.  I love chocolate milk though!
7.  Do you play an instrument?  Tuba, trumpet, and clarinet.
8.  Do you have a zombie plan?  Nope, but I’m sure my husband does.  I’m running to his side if that sort of thing happens.
9.  Who is your favorite super hero?  60’s Bat Girl.
10.  Do you like doing surveys?  If I’m bored, typically.  I like fun, interesting questions!