The PT test was done. I’d done the best that I could. I’d also taken the written test and written an essay on how the Army Values affect my work and daily life.
So far, so good, and pretty easy. Then the horrors began.
We’d been lulled into a false sense of security. It was time to test us. Everywhere I looked, I saw a Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank. They were everywhere. Hardly an officer to be seen, however. The humidity of the northeast Atlantic drenched us, the heat pulsated from an unrelenting sun, and seemed to cook my brain inside my Advanced Combat Helmet, all made worse by the necessity of carrying a 70 lb pack, filled with a sandbag that sat at the bottom of the pack–right where you don’t want the weight to be. The straps dug into my shoulders and the bottom padded bar gouged my lower back. This was the old ruck sack, an epoch away it seemed from the newer version I’d used at my brigade’s SOY competition. We carried our packs everywhere, like having to carry a wounded enemy soldier back to the FOB; the pack was in no manner our friend.
Heat is my weakness. My body generates lots of it, and can’t get rid of it fast enough. I experienced problems at Basic at Ft. Jackson SC, when the humidity and June heat gave me my first dose of heat exhaustion. Things stopped working. My legs felt as if someone had tied an anvil to each foot. My vision became tunneled and dark. Keep me cool, I can go almost forever–and hard. I hike in shorts and no shirt for a reason. Same with biking. The morning of the PT test was perfect–just cool enough, but now, I was in trouble and I knew I’d battle heat exhaustion again. After one “heat injury” you become more prone to another. They had asked us who had had a heat injury before, but I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want the attention or hub bub. What was the difference anyway? I’d still have to perform to win and they wouldn’t let me die if they could help it.
It was a long day that lasted until about 22:00 hrs. We received some excellent MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training, clearing a shoothouse in teams of three using blank rounds and dummies that collapsed when exposed to the sonic cone from our M4s. It was the best building clearing training I’d ever had–SWAT Ninja style.
We were exposed to a Mystery Event, where we walked into a building and the stress was ramped. Sergeants were yelling at us as we negotiated a maze at full sprint and then had to quickly perform tasks at three stations. Map reading, uniform evaluation and a station on Army programs. Between main events they hammered us with Warrior Tasks, all from the Level 1 handbook. We were never told how we were doing, as far as our overall performance was concerned. I could see from the start that my competitors were not your run-of-the-mill Soldiers. They were the best. On the PT test, I’m used to looking back on the run and seeing people far behind me; not this time. I could hear Soldiers breathing hard right behind me, I needed to push myself to win–and that’s why this competition brought to a new level as a person and a professional.