Earlier this summer, I attended a millitary training course called "BMQ". BMQ, or "Basic Millitary Qualification" was in short, a bitch, a real fucking bitch. Of course, if I left it at that, this wouldn't be much of an article, so just as I once was, you too will be dragged hoplessly through the "character building" details of the training. As the training was quite an extensive affair (it took about a month), I'll be breaking up my experience into a few articles so as to avoid having to come up with other ideas for articles for as long as possible. I guess a good way to start this off would be by describing my arrival, as at this point, I too was curious and naive as to what would be occuring.
After the ride across town, I bid farewell to my family, got my stuff out of my parent's van, and adjusted my beret. I'm not a perticularly emotional person, and looking back on the event, I still think it was pretty cool of me to be completely void of emotion watching my folks leave, it must have made me look pretty badass. The van on it's way out of the compound, I focus my attention of trying to pick up all my shit at once. Barely managing to hoist all my gear over my shoulder, I saundered into the building henceforth known as "the shacks". What I saw once inside the building gave me quite the confidence boost; Some of my peers had gotten there before me, however despite thier promptness, they where quite disorganized in comparison to myself, who again, must have looked pretty badass. Basically, these people were wearing civilian clothes and hauling thier stuff around in garbage bags that were more often than not falling apart. Pleased with my headstart on my peers, I then looked for an instructor so I could let them know I was there and be assigned a room.
I reported my name and serial number to a nearby Sargent who looked like he was taking down names and was then shown to my room. There were already two guys there, and I chatted with them for a while, confirming that I was indeed well prepared for the course. The conversation was interrupted by someone in the hall yelling for everyone to head over for the cafeteria for a pre-course briefing. Already feeling quite good about the situation, I dash out of the room in an attempt to impress whomever was orchestrating this movement with my readyness. I'm not sure if I impressed the Sargent or not, but he saw my promptness as an oppourtunity and assigned me to hold the door open for the other candidates while they left the shacks for the mess. so there I am, holding the door to the shacks open as everyone files out. After a while, people stop coming. However, I haven't yet been relieved of my door-holding post, so I just stand there waiting. I wait for quite a while, debating weither or not to leave the door unattended, in the end figuring that I'd get in less shit for just being a moron and keeping the door open than I would for abbandoning an assigned post against an order, so I just stood around for a while. After about an hour, people start coming out of the mess and I guess they just assumed that I ran up ahead to get the door, because I didn't catch shit for being there.
At this point, I'm still pretty confident about my abilities with regards to the course. Stange how a night without sleep can change all that. As the coumpound I was taking the course in, Kapyong Barracks, was previously abandoned and then re-opened for the course, nobody bothered to ship beds in so we were left with cots that were virtually impossible for a non-sleep deprived person to sleep on. I suppose there was some good in the situation howerver, as after the first night this was no longer a problem. I suppose I should have stated this earlier, but just before hitting the sack, we where shuffled around into different rooms and devided into two platoons consisting of four sections each (each section had about 11 or 12 candidates in it). I now belonged to 2 Section of 1 Platoon.
The next morning as every morning on course, at around 5:15, 1 Platoon (and maybe 2 platoon too, but we were told not to concern ourselves with those fools) was summoned outside for morning PT. PT (Physical training) was generally pretty easy for me, and I took a kind of sick pleasure in feeling just fine while seeing my peers struggle and in some cases vomit. There were three different things we did for PT; Running, Circuit training, and Ruck marching. The running was the easiest for me, as I ran regularly before the training and seemed to be ahead of the course fitness standard from the start. I could say the same about ruck marches, but they really pissed me off a couple of times. It's not that they're physically demanding, It's just the fact that you're having a large amount of equipment strapped to you, given little sleep, and forced to march long distances that kind of killed the platoon's morale. Circuit training was, from what I've heard, the dread of every candidate. Remember in gym class when the class was divided into groups, then each group was given an activity, performed said activity for a while, then the gym teacher would blow his whistle and the groups would rotate? It's kinda like that, but all the activities are hard as hell, you get yelled at a lot, and you have to run for a while between stations. That said, a lot of people vomited during circuit training, so it was still sorta amusing despite it's harshness.
After PT, we'd usualy be given some impossible amount of time to shower and gear up, then form up in front of the shacks, learn our punishment for not meeting the timing, get yelled at for a while, and then be marched over to the mess for breakfast. On a side note, I'd say about half of the timings we recieved during the course were impossible and only given to stress us out and so that the instructors could punish us, also stressing us out. For example, we were once given something like five minuits to shower, shave, and gear up. The Problem? Our platoon had mabey 7 shower stalls and 50 people. This, added to the fact that getting geared up takes at least 4 minuites (the boots are a bitch to do up and need to be almost completely unlaced to actually get them on or off your feet.) meant that we did not meet the timing and got an extra kilometer added to the next day's run.
Strangely enough, the food was excelent. I'm not even being sarcastic when I say that. In all honesty, I probably ate better there than I do at home. We had awesome meals like steak and spaghetti, as much as you could eat, and we usually got dessert on top of that. Needless to say, mealtime very quickly became the favourite time of all the troops, as you were not only being fed, but the instructors usually stuck to thier side of the mess and wouldn't harass us, AND you weren't even expected to do anything other than eat during this glorious time. It got a little repetative always having beans and potatoes in every meal, (one time, we actually just got a ladel full of beans and a REALLY BIG potato for supper) but other than that, I've got nothing but good things to say about the food.
After breakfast came inspections, where your section commander (instructor) would look around your room and bitch you out about big and small stuff that you did wrong. There's never any scale to the bitching, it's basically just that they're going to yell at you and are looking for an excuse to do so. I once had a perfect inspection, wherein the section commander couldn't find anything wrong with my stuff. He just stared at me for a while, no doubt looking for movement, a flinch perhaps, to bitch at me for. (we're supposed to be standing at attention when being inspected) Finding no such movement, he moved on and was then irregularly bitchy for the rest of the day.
The remainder of the day consisted of classes, which I'll go into more depth into in a future article. Generally, these classes fit into one of two categories; Classroom learning and physical learning. Each of these two had thier own challenge to them. In physical learning type classes, you basically just do stuff (drill, marching, stripping weapons, etc...) over and over again. These classes are taxing on the body, especially because they're usually conducted outdoors beneath that horrible sphere of fire that it almost seems they were training us to hate. Classroom learning would seem rather simple to the casual observer; It appears like any highschool class, only with a very narrow focus and seemingly very easy tests. What the casual observer probly wouldn't take into account though, is that everyone in said class is extremely exhausted from an evil cocktail of sleep deprivation and rigourious excercise. In the first week, the more focused candidates (that's what we were called officially) were able to stave off sleping in class by standing up for a while during the lecture. It is possible however, as we found in the last few segments of classroom learning, to fall asleep while standing. Never actually falling asleep in any classes, I found this rather humerous, as the sleeping candidates just stood thier and swayed peacefully, only to be brought to an almost traumatic awakening shortly thereafter by a very angry instructor.
After all the classes and supper, we were usually marched back to the shacks for "kit and quarters", which is basically just cleaning your room and arranging all your gear EXACTLY as the instructors want it. (rulers were sometimes used during inspections) For the first little while, this time is spent furiously cleaning your room with your roommates, then once you've gotten everything nice and clean and organized, you only needed to spend like half an hour of the two hours they give you on actual cleaning, the rest of the time is yours to chat with your peers and pretend your cleaning when the instructors walk by. Then they issue you a rifle in the second week and everything goes to shit. Suddenly you're using all your time, then staying up for a while after lights out to get the damn thing inspection ready. On the plus side though, I got really good at cleaning my rifle, as it took two hours the first time and I had it down to an hour by the end of the course. (Eithier that or I just stopped caring about it.)
After all this, we were allowed to go to bed for a couple hours with the horrible reality in the back of our minds that the next day would probably leave us hurting worse than we already were and there isn't a Goddamn thing we could do about it.
-Stay tuned for "BMQ Part 2: Cast and Crew"