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army status update

I woke up this morning slapping my alarm clock into snooze mode. In that moment, snapping from zero to consciousness, my first thought was that that wasn’t the first alarm that was supposed to go off. Upon investigation, I had apparantly already snoozed my cell phone without recording a memory of the event.

It is for mornings like this that I own a coffee brewer with a delay brew timer.

Today is a Safety Day. Two or three times per year, Fort Rucker shuts down entirely for one of these, no matter what they were otherwise doing. People on the flight line just lose that training day, and make up the hours later. WOCS candidates and AIT kids get the day off from training. They even bring the SERE people out of the field and give them access to showers and the same crappy lunch pizza that everyone else can get. The Army rents out the civic center of one of the nearby towns so that the thousands of us can all sit in the same place and watch the briefings. The briefings are the same every time: Drunken Driving Will Kill You. Motorcycles Will Kill You (And Owning One Means You Don’t Love Your Family). Think Carefully When Starting Fires In Your House. Don’t Be Stupid On Vacation.

For the rest of this week, I’ll be in the simulators. Everyone, including the trainers, prefers real flight hours to simulator hours. Still, simulators are valuable for the most dangerous parts of training: the first few days encountering the aircraft, the first few days in instruments, combat maneuvering flight at terrain flight altitude, sling loads. It is the last of these that I’ll be doing now.

Sling loads are unique in that they really aren’t dangerous to us. We used to train them in the aircraft. In some of the training LZs, you can still find the practice loads, which are nothing more than big blocks of concrete each with a U of rebar looped into it. Nobody can verify the story, but everyone agrees on it: one day, one of the training devices failed in flight. The rebar just slipped out of the concrete block, which then holed someone’s house. Now we train sling loads in the simulator.

I should head out now. When briefing us about the safety day, our class leader gave us the mandatory accountability time, and told us to bring a book: there are no scheduled activities until more than an hour after we have to show up. We all also know that this accountability time is according to the Army schedule: if we have not already checked in with our section leader ten minutes before accountability, everyone will consider us late. It is for this reason that I am leaving at 0600 for a day whose activities start two hours later.

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2 Comments

Comment by Stephen Windows XP Mozilla Firefox 3.0.4
2008-12-17 09:38:40

Yep, the Army is definitely the worst at hurry up and wait. We have safety days too, just like what you described, but only once a year.

Comment by coriolinus Windows XP Mozilla Firefox 3.0.5
2009-01-05 01:17:38

I think the Army only requires that we have one a year, but one of the commanders midway up the chain seems to be enthusiastic about the things.

I discovered when I got home on vacation that they sent a form letter to my parents, and presumably those of all the rest of us heading out for the holidays, encouraging them to keep an eye on me to make sure I didn’t crash any cars or drink myself into oblivion. I love the trust the Army places in its young officers: we can handle equipment worth millions of dollars carrying a full squad of passengers, but we might not be able to handle a vacation.

 
 

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