An open letter to ETHS military recruits

Jacob Dalton, Opinion Columnist

I am Private First Class Dalton, Illinois National Guard. I joined in Feb. of 2017. I signed a six year contract with the Army as a Combat Medic. I attended Fort Jackson, South Carolina in second platoon, Foxtrot company, 1st battalion, 34th Infantry regiment, “Leyte dragons, FOLLOW ME!”

I joined up because I wanted to serve my country, honor my family, and protect my people. I come from a military family; dating back to the American Revolution, we have all served in one capacity or another. I wrote this piece because I got the talk on what I should expect at basic training but many new recruits have not received the talk. These are my experiences. Consider this your talk.

The first four days of any military training consist of endless lines and no sleep. After reception, recruits get on the long bus lines. The drill sergeants introduce them- selves. I believe my introduction went, “Congratulations. I own you, now run!” That first day is day zero. Your first couple weeks – Red Phase – are the strictest time in Basic Combat Training (BCT); you have no options. You do what they want, when they want you to do it. You’ll get your rifle at this time. I was personally issued the M-4 and the M-249 (SAW) but trained on many more weapons, such as the M-9 handgun and the M-320 grenade launcher.

In the second phase, White phase, you focus on team skills: map reading, squad maneuvers and crew served weapons. You will also do your first “night ops.” During this time, you will be in simulated combat. At one point, you will take part in an exercise called Night Infiltration Course, crawling 300 meters under live fire. You will also start focusing more on the weapons of a soldier, throwing hand grenades and firing more weapons such as the M-72 rocket launcher.

Phase three is Blue phase. You will have a final culminating test of all your skills — for Soldiers and Marines, this means venturing into the field for five days and four nights of no sleep in simulated combat. When you return home from all of this, as well as a 16 kilometer ruck march, you are a finally a lean mean green machine.

Soldiers will be given the order “don your berets,” at which point you will put on your beret–the symbol of a soldier. Marines, you will be given the Eagle Globe and Anchor (EGA). Sailors simulate life on a ship during rough seas and ship on ship combat before being awarded their naval cap, the sign of a sailor. The Air Force doesn’t have a culmination test, but at the end of their training, they are given an Air Force coin from their BCT unit.

Only after this will you begin preparing for graduation. You have now learned the major components of becoming a Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman. Phase three is about looking good, cleaning your battalion area, your company area, your platoon area and your personal living space. The last week, all you do is clean. Once the Battalion commander does an inspection of your bays and your platoon they give you the green light for graduation and you prepare. You learn their marching drills for graduation.

Finally, after all those weeks you throw smoke grenades out onto the field and be- fore the smoke clears your march out, appearing out of the smoke you have been “baptized” into military life. Only at this point are you truly a Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman. Once your family sees you pass by their stands and they see how much you have changed, it is all worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Welcome to the first day of your lives, Recruits.