In the fifth week of basic there was something called BEAST week. It was the Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training course. I did not go. At the time the doctors though I had stress fractures in my tibias. An MRI showed that I did not. I simply had the worst inflammation/shin splints that the doc had ever seen. I gently reminded him that my feet were flatter than a level surface. Unfortunately I did not get these results until the middle of BEAST (I didn’t go and was staying with a sixth week flight at the time). Fortunately all I really missed was an excessive amount of time in the sweltering heat in MOPP 4.
Thankfully this time I was able to participate in the field training. Double thankfully no MOPP gear was involved.
Monday morning we all got up nice and early and divided into four chalks. We would not be with our flights for the week. Instead the entire class was mixed up and divided into four groups. As we were Chalk 1 we got to go first, but it also meant we had a lot more waiting to do. We gathered our gear, had breakfast, then boarded a bus to the deployment processing center. There we processed through and, in traditional military fashion, waited.
Eventually we got on another bus and road out to the Vigilant Warrior site where we would spend the four and a half days.
We then got right into combatives.
After that and dinner we finished off the TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care) training that we had started last Thursday night. Then bed time.
The next morning we started with more combatives. As I mentioned before I was excited to be here as I missed the field week in basic. Unfortunately the universe seems to have it in for me as I appeared to sustain a bilateral bicep strain. My arms had been sore on Monday, but I didn’t think anything of it. Tuesday morning though it was staring to hurt. The IDMT diagnosed said strain, prohibited me from doing anything significant arm related, and put me on 800mg Ibuprofens. Little known fact: in a military environment 800mg Ibuprofen tablets have been shown to cure headaches, muscle aches, pulls, strains, breaks, infections, depression, anxiety, dehydration, cancer, feelings of loneliness, stress, etc. Thankfully the only thing I really missed out on was combatives. Unfortunately that was something I was looking forward to.
After combatives we went on to more TCCC. Thankfully we had a really good instructor who made the course fun and interesting. For example, have you ever had a tourniquet properly applied to a limb?
It feels absolutely wonderful. We did two rounds, one where we had to apply it to ourselves and one where where we applied it to a buddy. Applying it to someone else is easy. But it’s when you have to apply it to yourself that you realize both just how tight they and how tight they actually need to be.
After tourniquets we went on to airways and NPA tubes. I even got to put an NPA tube in someones face!
He was supposed to do me next, but then they made us go on to other things. But not before one brave fellow decided to do it to himself:
In the afternoon we went off through the woods for some ground combat exercises. The two main items on the agenda were clearing rooms/buildings and defensive fighting positions.
None of this, of course, is designed to make us proficient in these activities. The primary goal is to introduce them so that those who don’t find themselves in combat positions (i.e. most of everyone here) have some idea of what goes on beyond the wire. The other motivation is that when you’re deployed you never actually know what will happen when or where you’ll end up.
Wednesday morning was more combatives, then more TCCC. This time we were working with pressure bandages. TCCC was developed to reduce battlefield casualties by first addressing the number one issue: massive hemorrhaging. Hence the main focus on tourniquets and pressure bandages.
Thursday morning was more combatives. Only this time people were going live.
Then we had another run at the assault course. I tried to get off my profile so I could run the course, but when I walked into the IDMT I heard him, somewhat firmly, explaining to another OT that there was zero way he was getting off of his profile regardless of how he felt. So rather than bother with that conversation I just left. Thankfully my profile expires Monday, not that there’s really anything else I would be limited on.
So I ran the course, but couldn’t do most of the obstacles. I did get to do the run up and down the log one, which was actually my favorite.
And that ended the morning. After lunch we started a war.
Each of the four chalks had a different ‘base’. From there we had some scripted, some unscripted missions that we would have to complete. We were competing against each other, but not necessarily directly against each other. The instructors and MTIs acted as the opposing forces. For the first day I didn’t do too much, but on the second day I got to sit in a DFP and then hike out in the woods on a mission. Of course the mission I got sent out on was the one where all hell broke loose.
One of the interesting things about this whole week was just how much everyone got into it. Not just us, but the instructors as well. In the past they used to have the final PT test after the mock deployment. People then used to be extremely cautious and not really put their all into it for fear of getting injured. Our flight instructor, when she went through, got injured at the end, couldn’t take the final PT test, and had to come back for the full course again later. Given that our final PT test was last Friday, we had nothing to worry about. Everyone seemed willing to go all out on every aspect of training. As a result the instructors, responding to that energy, were a lot more into it. On several occasions we had instructors telling us this was the most energetic they’ve seen a class. There have been a lot of changes that were implemented starting with our class. After the dust settles there are probably several that they will not carry forward. But I find it highly likely that putting the mock deployment at the end of the course is something they’re going to stick with.
I didn’t get a lot of pictures during the mock war, but thankfully the OT PA team did:
To round out training we had a catered BBQ lunch from one of the local restaurants. Given the number of MREs we’ve eaten this week it was the best meal I have ever had ever.
Eventually the busses came and home we went to relax for the weekend.
Our instructor is starting Squadron Officer School on Monday so she won’t be with us the rest of the week. To celebrate (almost) finishing OTS we went out for a flight dinner Sunday night.
And there you have it. Week Seven.
One. More. Week.