Saturday, June 1, 2013

What to Expect When You 're Expecting Basic

What should I expect as my solider prepares and departs for basic training?

There is an extremely simple answer to this plaguing question:

Now, for those of you who like to plan life well in advance, like, down to how many time you’re going to blink your eyes in a given day, this answer is simply not adequate. Trust me, I truly like planning. I have even reconsidered my career choice as of late and thought about starting out as an event planner for other people, I like planning that much! I also like to make obsessive lists, and should probably own stock in 3M because my use of Post-It Notes is out of control! But even with all of my pedantic preparations, lengthy lists, & steadfast studying, I could not have been more ill prepared for how trying BCT would be on our fragile frames of mind.
There are many things that I’m sure I will and have forgotten about this time period of uncertainty, but one memory I will never be able to erase. While FM was being transported from our local MEPS office to their hotel the night before his departure, a slick and rather obnoxious officer turned to the passengers in his van and asked:

Officer Obnoxious: Which of you have girlfriends? (They all happened to be male)
Almost all of the passengers, including FM, raised their hands.
Officer Obnoxious responded: Not anymore you don’t!

And this is how we began our wonderful journey into BCT. As if the concern were not great enough that the next ten weeks would be physically, mentally, and emotionally trying, now tack on someone who gets their jollies out of stacking the odds against you. Fantastic!

The first few weeks of BCT will undoubtedly be a scary time for both you, and certainly, your solider. But you will make it through unscathed if you keep a couple of things in mind…

1. Do not take to heart every piece of negative feedback you receive.
There will be naysayers like Officer Obnoxious. Plenty of them. And probably a few people wishing and hoping you’ll fail. But like any other challenge, if you set your mind to succeeding, surviving basic as a couple will just become one of your many conquered challenges on your military adventure course.

2. Try not to get spoiled by Reception week.
The week your solider arrives at their BCT training location they will enter “Reception”. It is usually about a week long period where your solider will fill out more paperwork than if he/she were being audited by the IRS, receive more holes than a pin cushion from all the vaccinations, and get less sleep than an insomniac. But the bonus is soldiers typically retain access to their cell phones. Enjoy this half-hour period at the end of their day, if that’s the case, because the next time you hear their voice will be at least three weeks away, and that’s an absolute best case scenario. FM was a painful five weeks.

3. Start writing letters before you get the soldier’s address.
I suggest this for a multitude of reasons. The first reason is for your own mental sanity. If you are accustomed to speaking to your solider/significant other multiple times per day, and especially if you have been living with them, writing from the day they leave will help you feel less disconnected. They will be ridiculously busy during the first week, and will not be focusing on missing you (not that they won’t miss you, they just won’t have time to think about it). You, on the other hand, will be losing your mental marbles wondering about their status. Write! Write! Write!
Second, one you receive the soldier’s address (which could be a week or more if they are forced to send it to you via letter), you will want to get something sent away as soon as possible. I am indebted to the postal service as of late, and should probably invest in their stocks from the money I’ve spent at their locations in the past three months, but there is one thing I certainly cannot say about their service; it is not too fast! Average, everyday, first-class mail will take about four days to get to any location in the continental U.S., then tack on a few more days for your letters to be sent through the base’s processing center, sorted to the correct battalion and platoon, and then finally handed out to your solider. You are looking at six to eight days before your solider even lays eyes on your first piece of mail. If you think you’re going crazy without hearing from them, imagine being isolated, forced to live with total strangers, and being screamed at daily by an irate DS, on top of not hearing from family for two weeks. That first piece of mail is like throwing a rare juicy steak to den of hungry green tigers!

Write soon after they leave, and send as soon as the address is in your hands.  I’ll do another post on letter writing next, because the topic is just too gigantic, and there’s a ton of tips and pointers I can share!

The main thing to remember is that things will eventually settle into a relative routine in just a few short weeks. You will start sending letters regularly, and some will come back to you, and you’ll start to feel a little less stressed, and only slightly less worried. There will be plenty of times when you are absolutely miserable, but the more you write, the better you will feel, and then graduation won’t seem so far away!

If you keep your expectations low during this time, you will find that you are not often disappointed. Every letter will be like a surprise gift, and when phone calls come, it will be like a guest appearance by the Big Man on Christmas morning (or seven days of Chanukah mornings). Have no fear, you will both get through these first weeks, and it will get better. :)

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1 comment:

  1. Hey new visitor here from the Wednesday Walkabout. I love these because they are sooo true, especially 1 and 3--I found this out the hard way when my fiance was in Basic.



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