Sunday, April 17, 2011

Army BCT

I figure I will delve into my thoughts and topics right away so that my page doesn't look so boring and empty.  I want to start with discussing the first step in becoming part of the Army family... basic combat training.

Basic training serves as a HUGE wake-up call to people all over.  For SIT's (Soldier In Training), they learn all about discipline and about how good their life really was before they left.  When my husband left for bct, he had a rude awakening.  He was constantly writing about how much he wished he hadn't joined and about how good life was before he made the "stupid mistake" of signing up.  I will admit that joining the army helped my husband mature and strengthened our relationship like no other, but one can't help but wonder what life would be like without the Army involved.  This brings me to another point, bct is the beginning test for your relationship.  Most relationships make it or break it in those ten weeks of solitary confinement.  Your communication is limited to sporadic letters in the mail and the very occasional phone call.  I believe that during the 10 weeks, I received 4 phone calls total.  Three were between 3 and 10 minutes long and the other was 45 minutes long because his company placed first in the rifle marksmanship competition.  Granted, all battalions, companies, and platoons are different, but I wouldn't go into bct expecting a lot of contact.

I will say this one time... nothing you read about or hear about before your SIT leaves for bct will prepare you for what you will face.  Nothing...  It doesn't matter how much notice you have or how familiar you are with the military life, the first time you say goodbye to your gf/bf/fiance/husband/wife, it will feel like your heart breaks.  I will honestly say that when I got home after dropping him off I collapsed in my room only to have my dog comfort me.  It was a huge eye opener for me on how dependent I was on him.

I will say though that you should read up and try to be prepared about other difficulties that you will face in the military to help the transition go a little smoother.  If you're a fiance and are planning a wedding (like I was while he was in basic), get prepared for paperwork.  Do your research on tricare, DEERS, his/her MOS, military ID, etc.  The military will make you work for benefits so don't expect them to just hand them over as soon as you sign the marriage certificate.  If you do not have power of attorney, your sponsor (your SIT) will have to take care of the paperwork, but still do your research to make his/her job a little easier.

Care Packages
As I mentioned before, everywhere is different for bct.  There are some places that do not allow care packages at all, some that only allow a certain number per person, and some that let them receive as many as they want or need.  Something to remember though is the care packages WILL be searched.  There are items that SHOULD NOT be sent in the packages.  I'll do a little hunting and see if I can find the list that I referenced when my husband attended but some general rules are:
Do not send pornographic material , candy or food, medicines (some cough drops are allowed), electronics, books, etc.

When my husband was in bct, it took so long to get him care packages that it often wasn't logical to send him one.  I think I sent one or two while he was there but by the time he received them, he had already gone to the px to purchase most of the goods.  That's another thing... do not overnight packages.  The package will go to a different building than the rest of the mail and will delay the delivery more.

These are all the letters I sent during basic.  1-3 letters a day... always.
I'm not kidding... write every day.  I could not tell you how much it helped both of us get through those difficult weeks.  He constantly told me how much he appreciated the letters and how they helped him get through the days.  Even if he didn't have time to read them all for a couple of days or couldn't respond to everything I said because the limited free time... he had letters from me that said how much I cared about him.  Not only did the letters help him, but they helped me get through my days too.  I received about 1/3-1/2 of the number of letters I sent him and it was so wonderful hearing from him, but when I sat down at night to write him I felt so much closer to him.  It felt like I was getting the chance to talk to him personally and tell him about my day, my thoughts, concerns, dreams, etc.  I will say that I read a lot of people saying that they don't think you should send letters about anything negative to your spouse because they have enough on their mind already.  I agree to an extent.  I did not write about all my negative thoughts or bad moods, but when I felt extremely sorrow or depressed and felt that I needed to let him know... I did.  I didn't want to be dishonest with my husband (well fiance at the time).  He did mention later that the sad letters made him sad, so... idk.  It's up to you on how much or little you want to say.

Family Day and Graduation

Our family day and graduation was different from the norm because graduation was going to land on a holiday.  However, generally how it works is that family day occurs the day before graduation and the SIT will be allowed to hang out with family, friends, visitors, etc.  for several hours before reporting back.  Then the next morning, bright and early, graduation starts.  After the graduation ceremony ends (about 45 minutes long), the soldiers are released to their families for the afternoon again.

My husband was at Fort Jackson for his training and families were given the option of driving their soldier to their AIT after graduation if it was located to the east of the Mississippi River.  It could be different for different places though, kinda poke around for more information when it gets closer to the graduation date.

Speaking of the graduation date... When your SIT first leaves for bct, there will only be a rough estimate for when graduation will be.  After reception is completed and your SIT receives his/her company and platoon and actually starts the process of bct, you will be given a more accurate date both from your SIT and from a notice in the mail.  In the mail, you should receive a package that states the date and time of graduation with all the information you need including a post pass, map, and rules to abide by on post.  If you are not married, the package will be sent to the SIT's parents, so if you are just a girlfriend/boyfriend or fiance, then don't expect anything.  You do not exist unless you are married.

Okay, so I think this is a great start.  I really hope that people find this blog useful, I know I wish I had someone there helping me in the beginning.  I know I missed a ton of stuff but it's almost 1 in the morning and I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.  I'll add more if needed. =))

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