Monday, June 24, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of AIT

Now that FM is nearing the end of his Advanced Individual Training, and preparing to set off on his first solo Army adventure overseas, I feel like it is a great time to discuss some of the fantastic, fair, and frustrating things that we have experienced throughout the past 11 weeks.  
The Good
Coming out of BCT it was difficult to discern what we would and would not be able to do during the secondary portion of FM’s training.  It was a slightly nerve-wracking knowing that he could have been placed under the same contact restrictions as BCT, and I would be required to continue this LDR as Emily Post via USPS.  Fortunately, FM has been in a Battalion that is relatively more lenient and understanding of the concept that these soldiers have families who want to stay in touch with them.  As a result, FM has been able to keep his cell phone for the entirety of his residency, and can make use of it whenever he has free time/is not doing official Army activities.  Huge bonus! 

AIT has also afforded FM the chance to explore the base far more than he could in basic.  He can get to the PX more frequently to purchase what he needs, rather than
my sending packages of deodorant and Dots candies (which would make for a rather interesting combination, I may add).   He can stop by the USO and relax watching TV or become the next Forest Gump and prefect his Ping-Pong skills for his new overseas friends.  He can head to the library and find a book, or read up on my blog with their free Wi-fi (hint, hint FM!).  All of these activities and allowances have made for a much less surly and sullen FM, which, in turn, make me a much happier girlfriend knowing that he feels less like running away screaming at the top of his lungs from the boredom or aggravation created by his bunkmates.

Finally, AIT has freed up some time for us to be able to make some important decisions, and research everything we needed to meticulously. For a long while I was left to my own devices to locate any information that needed locating, and not only did it become an arduous assignment to suffer solo, I was never able to fully finish any mission without needing FM’s assistance as the government employee.  AIT has permitted me to feel slightly less like Atlas holding the celestial spheres on my shoulders; a major weight shrugged.  

The Bad
One word.  Gossip.  The BS that flies around during AIT is almost intolerable.  Everyday FM has a new tale to tell either regarding something his comrades are circulating about one another, or something one of his commanding officers brutishly blurted out at them.  The former issue is less concerning as the detached party because I could not be bothered with knowing who was caught squirreling snacks or having sex in the barracks, FM participates in neither, but the latter issue is truly discouraging, both to the troops and their families.  

More than once FM was threatened with going overseas for his entire enlistment period, with not being able to see his family for the next year, or with be deployed directly after arriving at his first duty station, among other futile means of intimidation.  
Question: how do these petty scare tactics assist in fostering the soldier’s education? 
Answer: they don’t. 

Instead of remaining focused on the task at hand, they are scurrying around wondering about what the immediate future holds for their wives/girlfriends/husbands/boyfriends/parents/siblings/etc.  I despise those who have tried to mislead these people who are trying to get through 13 weeks of remembering everything they need to know to perform their jobs adequately and efficiently to protect the safety of an entire country.  For shame!

Mama says, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  (insert voice of Bobby Boucher for giggles) 

The Ugly
The absolute worst part of AIT is waiting.  Yes, I know what you may be thinking… the unofficial motto of the military is “hurry up and wait.” We were prepared for and understood that this career change would a slow moving process, akin to a tortoise on many levels.  Actually, I have seen some tortoises move faster than the information we have been given. 

The worst part has been waiting to learn the details of FM’s first assignment.  Granted, learning where he would be stationed only consumed three weeks of waiting, but for the past six weeks the information has not changed.  No official orders have been handed down; he has no idea when he needs to report to his base overseas, no idea how long he will be there, no idea whether or not he will be able to return home beforehand.  He is a mere weeks from graduation and has no clue as to what those weeks have in store before he spends likely a year isolated in a foreign country.

Where that leaves me is confused, frustrated, unable to make any plans or lists (a huge punch in the face), upset, scared, and angry.  And those are just the adjectives I can currently concoct without becoming a full-on raving lunatic.  I have been patient. I have waited. I have not complained (too much). I have done everything in my power to accept this situation, because I am well aware that it is going to occur whether I do so or not.  However, I simply cannot accept the complete lack of communication with a brand new soldier setting off on his first tour of duty to a less than stable area. 

We are not talking about a soldier PCSing to a new base or even starting a first deployment.  These events are undoubtedly and understandably stressful, but at least they come with a hint of prior knowledge or experience.  I really do hate to complain, I know we all have our crosses to bear in this uphill military battle, but is it too much to ask to get some answers before the day he’s supposed to leave?  This is truly the first time that I have had trouble with accepting this military life, and I must say, I am proud of myself for making it this far before finding a major hurdle that needed jumping.  But it is about time for us to start the race; give us the info we so desperately need to get running! Jeez!
 So, to wrap it all up in a neat little package of honesty, AIT has, for the majority of the experience, been positive.  I have been able to talk to FM almost every day in some form or another, and we are beyond thankful for that opportunity, because writing letters, while timeless and endearing, becomes old rather fast.

But do not be disillusioned, AIT does come with its downfalls, and it will be something you will have to endure with your soldier, much like the rest of this rollercoaster life.  Try to take the good with the bad, embrace every piece of solid, confirmed information you get with a sigh of relief and a smile, and keep your shoulders braced for the celestial spheres that have yet to be lifted off you.  Oh, and be ready to scramble at the last minute when that coveted information finally makes it your way!

Here’s hoping we get some information soon, before I lose my last marble.

 Be well all.

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