Drill Day 1
September’s Drill started with a surprise phone call from my Training NCO, a staff sergeant, who informed me that I would need to pack my overnight bags and report to a hotel that night. Instead of attending Drill at Detachment 2 (“The Office”) the next morning, I was suddenly rescheduled to report for Drill in the Armory headquarters in northern California, over fifty miles away.
A handful of us Soldiers from Det-2 were selected to spend two full days of medical Combat Life Saver (CLS) training to learn military, pre-hospital trauma care for wounded Soldiers. I felt privileged, since CLS training is one of the most valuable skills that you can learn in the Army – you never know when a little bit of medical care knowledge might save your life, or the life of someone that you care about.
By the time I had finished ironing my Army Combat Uniform (ACU), and over-packed way too many supplies and clothes for the weekend into my car, it was almost midnight when I arrived at the hotel. I knocked on the door of my assigned room, which was opened by a very tall, thin, blurry-eyed, disgruntled-looking female in pajamas. She must’ve been a new Soldier in my unit because I didn’t recognize her face. I guess she became my roommate for the night, and hoped that she didn’t have a boyfriend hiding beneath the covers on her bed (she didn’t, thank god!).
Even in the dark, I soon discovered how luxurious our room was –– a large screen digital TV, glossy, modern wood furniture, embroidered linens, silky bedsheets, an air conditioner that actually WORKS, free fancy soap and shampoo – this must be what life is like, for rich folks! I slipped into my pajamas and tried to get a few hours of sleep, before the next morning’s First Formation.
This kind of luxury accommodation is a huge improvement from accommodations offered just a few years ago:
I arrived at the Armory by 0800 hours (8 AM). Since we only get to see each other once a month, it was nice to see familiar faces saying HI to me — like watching my favorite “Lord of the Rings” movie and getting excited about seeing my old Hobbit friends, Frodo and Sam.
After the Platoon Sergeant checked for attendance, the “Order of the day” was to cram 40 hours-worth of Combat Life Saver training – that’s 5 full days — into 2 days. The training was hosted by a staff sergeant, who was our Lead Medic and can only be described as “Mr. Hollywood.”
I had never met Mr. Hollywood before, and couldn’t help but stare in awe at the prestigious Airborne and Air Assault pins on his muscular chest. They are rare decorations, given only to the top Soldiers in the Army who are considered “high speed,” since obtaining them requires rigorous training, an extremely high level of physical fitness, and a whole lot of fearless, crazy guts to parachute out of airplanes. On top of that, he was tall, dirty-blonde and had perfect teeth and hair – I was almost jealous! I bet he gets phone numbers from the ladies, left ‘n right.
On a serious note, the CLS training was conducted through a combination of Powerpoint presentations, demonstrations and hands-on practice sessions. I noticed that “Lic-Lic,” the goofy platoon clown who is always quick with a joke, remained quiet and serious throughout the training. He asked me if I could try to get a copy of the CLS Powerpoint presentation from Mr Hollywood, so he could study and learn the training content better. I was surprised at his studious demeanor, but I suppose it’s only natural to want to feel well-prepared for handling medical emergencies, especially since he had experienced the loss of a fellow Soldier, firsthand. Lic-Lic had been in the same platoon as Specialist Sean Walsh, who was only 21 years old, when he was killed while deployed with our unit in eastern Afghanistan, in November of 2011.
During the training, I also couldn’t help but notice that Sergeant Frisco, one of a few Black Soldiers in our unit, was wearing a black eye patch over his right eye. He must’ve had a serious eye injury, or maybe an infection. Poor guy — every time someone called his name out loud, all the goofballs in our unit would blurt out, “Captain Aaaaaargh!” Sergeant Frisco is NOT a captain – he is a SERGEANT – but apparently to everyone else, with that big, funny eye patch on his face — he was a PIRATE.
By the end of the 1st day of CLS training, we had learned how to apply tourniquets on Soldiers to stop blood loss, treat for bullet and stab wounds, and prevent respiratory failure.
Drill Day 2
Drill Day 2 began with a Physical Fitness test at 0530 hours (5:30 AM) in the pitch-black morning, which included 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit-ups and a timed 2-mile run. For those of us who failed, we received shameful Counseling Statements, and much more added social pressure to lose weight and pass the next PT test, in October.
Afterwards, we completed the final portion of Combat Life Saver training: how to treat heat and cold injuries, efficiently carry casualties in the battlefield and call in a 9-Line Medical Evacuation (“MEDEVAC”) request over a military radio.
Hopefully, we will never have to utilize our learned Combat Life Saver skills, but it’s nice to know that if we ever find ourselves thrown into an emergency medical situation, we’ll know how to react without hesitation. If you’re curious, you can learn more about Army first aid training from www.ArmyStudyGuide.com.
During Drill Day 2, all Soldiers also completed the Army’s mandatory Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) training.
Personally, I welcome SHARP training and am so relieved that the Army is finally taking a strong stance against sexual harassment and assault. This online video training lasts for about an hour and is a choose-your-own-adventure type of story-telling. You can choose to become up to 4 very different types of Soldiers in the Army, and you get to role-play through various scenarios, which very closely imitates real Army life.
For example, you are in the Army and go to a bar with your friends. You notice a female at the bar, who happens to be a fellow Soldier in your unit. She is wearing very sexy clothes and appears drunk, while another Soldier (who has a bad reputation), tries to convince her to get into his car and go home with him. He is too drunk to drive, but won’t take “no” for an answer. Should you mind your own business and try to enjoy the rest of your evening? Should you step in and confront the bad Soldier about his disrespectful behavior? Take his keys? Report the incident to his supervisor? Escort the female to her own home, under your sober care? What would you do?
The online training examines the dynamics of social peer pressure, looks at the consequences of drinking too much alcohol and making poor decisions, and offers practical safety tips. The training also reminds you of the importance of having the courage to speak up and protect other Soldiers who are vulnerable, even if it makes you unpopular.
Drill ended with a Final Formation at 1600 hours (4 PM), which included a promotion ceremony. Two Privates were promoted in rank:
A Master Sergeant also retired from his career in the Army National Guard, after having served 34 years. Can you imagine? I’ve only been in the military for 8 years, and I’m already tired! He ended his short speech with a big smile, reminded everyone to “Stay classy!” and performed an exaggerated walk, as though he were walking off a stage, for the last time. We celebrated his farewell with generic ice cream and cake, which was decorated in the traditional, red-white-and-blue colors of the American flag.
Stay tuned for October 2013’s issue of MyNationalGuardLife.com!