Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greetings from BMT!

Hello loyal Every Branch readers! It's Haley, and I just received the first letter from BMT! Without delay, here are Erin's thoughts!

Greetings from BMT! There's so much to share, but so little free time and energy. I was so eager for BMT, and now that it's here, I'm ready for these 8.5 weeks to fly by.

I underestimated this experience and a mere few days into it, I'll be ready to smack anyone who says AF BMT is easy when I get out. Everyone tells you that it's a mind game, you know that going in, but it's another thing when you're actually experiencing it. When I arrived, we were told that this would be one of the hardest experiences of our life. I didn't think too much of that statement, considering everything that I've been through/accomplished, but I'm starting to think that they weren't far off from the truth.

There are times when we all wonder "WTF were we thinking?" This is my summer vacation, for goodness sake. I know I should be home napping about now, and damn I could use the sleep right now. It's a constant struggle to focus on the bigger picture and the goal in the distance.

My first night here was a huge wake up call about what was to come. When we finally were brought to our dorm (they're not "barracks" in the AF), we had a female MTI (Military Training Instructor) and a group of older female trainees (which we didn't know at the time) yelling at us. We stripped down and showered en masse, we had to put our stuff in lockers, make our beds a certain way, etc... That first week, referred to as zero week, was the roughest. Everyone is yelling at you, and there's so many rules and procedures to follow. We had/saw so many TIs coming in and out of our dorm that we didn't know what was going on. We practiced marching extensively in our first week.

There's so much to tell, I could talk and write for days. I'll bullet instead:
  • I can see why people lose so much weight at basic. We have so little time to eat, you never finish an entire meal and we go non-stop from 0445 to 2100 (realistically, 0415-2230) every day.
  • Our bubble is so small, I could be in any state right now and I wouldn't know the difference. It's hot and you start sweating almost immediately. We're in full ABUs and combat boots all day long. It's supposed to hit 101 degrees today. Luckily, we do PT from 0500-0600, but it's still warm. Our dorm temperature is typically around 80 degrees.
  • In terms of hygiene and personal care, you have so little time that you don't even focus on it. I haven't flossed since I've been here, I lost my deodorant early on (a wingman gave me an extra one), and I'm lucky to put on lip balm once a day. On the flip side, we use so much hair product that I'll be ready for a deep conditioning spa treatment when I get out. We use Got 2 Be Glued for spiking.
  • After PT and chow, we do dorm set-up (more on that later) and then have classes. You can imagine how challenging it must be to stay awake -- it's a constant issue.
  • We have a small 569 page (about 6" by 8") that we carry around everywhere. That and a canteen web belt are required items. Go without them and prepare for the wrath of the MTIs.
  • Dorm set-up: Wow, I can't begin to emphasize how much this is stressed here. We are organized into detail groups and things must be spotless and perfect. All of our items are stored in wall lockers and there are extremely detailed instructions about how everything is to be folded and displayed. We had our first big inspection yesterday and I passed it all, with no mistakes! It's a huge accomplishment and a daunting task in general. And here I thought I was going to get out of folding laundry this summer! :)
  • Sundays and Tuesdays are the best days as BMT because they're markers that you're moving forward. Trainees live meal to meal, Sunday to Sunday. Sundays are non-training days and we have chapel. Almost everyone goes to church, for the simple fact that we get out of the dorm and get to socialize in a more relaxed environment. It's the only place where you can openly cry and get that catharsis. I attend the contemporary Christian service, so there's opportunities to dance and sing. Lunch is grilled cheese, which is everyone's favorite. We are only minimally supervised on Sunday, and while we're still working, it's a more relaxes environment. Tuesday is the day that new trainees show up, so yet another visible reminder that we're moving forward. Sunday is also the day that we change weeks. Passing weeks mean more privileges and more relaxed attitudes.
The biggest part of BMT that I haven't mentioned yet is my role. I knew that with a Master's degree and a career as a teacher (not to mention my age), I was bound to end up as the academic monitor or the dorm chief. When our MTI, SSgt Rodriguez, found out that I was a teacher, he told me to volunteer when he called for an academic monitor. A day or so passed and he ended up making me the dorm chief.

The dorm chief is the leader for the entire flight. Our flight is comprised of 51 female trainees, ranging in age from fresh our of high school to 35. I'm the tallest one, so you can always spot me. The dorm chief marches in the very back of formations, so you can always spot me amongst the shorties. When graduation finally comes, I'll play key roles in the coin ceremony and other events, which is awesome. The downsides, of course, include all of my responsibilities. If someone in my flight messes up, they usually blame me. We carry excellence/discrepancy forms on us at all times (341s), and if you step out of line, they pull it. I've gotten used to carrying a full pocket. Every night I have to do an accountability report at CQ (Charge of Quarters), which can be intimidating. If your drill movements aren't perfect, if your military bearing is off, or if you don't know memory work (we have to memorize chain of command, ranks/insignia, etc...), they'll jump down your throats.

Today is Monday of our third week. Things are supposed to get more difficult and our inspections are supposed to increase. As I write, we're scheduled for a big inspection. Hopefully we'll make our instructor proud, and save ourselves some pain later. We have a lot of hands-on training this week, which is always good for a morale boost and keeping us awake.

Hopefully I'll get to update again soon! There's so much to tell you about, so I'll write again when I can. Keep those positive thoughts going for me, and ask Trinnie/Haywee for my address if you would like to write to me! :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Heard from Erin!

Hey trusted "Every Branch" followers! I was able to hear from Erin this weekend, through her husband. She's doing well, still excited to be at BMT. I have her address, if anyone wants to send her letters. If you want that address, Erin has requested to please contact me or Haley and we'll provide it to you...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Yes, Drill Sgt!"

Hey all! Quick update...I heard from Erin last night around 9pm MDT. She arrived safe and sound at Lackland AFB and according to her, immediately got yelled at. ;) Gotta love all that goes w/BMT! As I get updates from her, I will definitely post!

I know she's grateful for all the support y'all have given her and I have to thank you, as well. Erin is my hero for doing this, God knows I wouldn't/couldn't do it.

Keep her and her unit in your thoughts as they go through this next chapter in their lives!