I guess my blog is now a monthly thing again. But to defend myself, BYU has been keeping me on my toes. I had to deal with other tests/midterms in two of my classes, ROTC commitments, my own fun and activities with my friends ("you have friends?!" yeah, ha ha.) and roommates...really, time just snuck up on me and now it's two weeks away from the end of the semester. TWO WEEKS. AH! Usually, in secondary/elementary school I would be enjoying the spring weather and not worrying about anything and just soaking in the moment school lets out. But, maybe this is just a college thing I'll get used to, it doesn't seem as glorious. That's probably because I'm not stuck in a building for 7 hours a day and summer seems like the ultimate freedom. I've pretty much had a summer all year round with my school schedule. It'll be nice not to worry about assignments and have more time to myself and be in Missouri, but it doesn't quite seem the same. Okay, college readers, is this normal? Please inform me!
Anyways, I guess I'll tell you about the FTX I participated in last weekend. Most of you people know the deets already, but I'll just give a run down. Thursday, we spent around BYU campus doing various military activities with UVU, SUU and Dixie. Most of the time was spent in formation, waiting to get our guns and making sure we were in the right company, platoon, and squad. But after that, we did FLRC lanes (Don't ask me what FLRC stands for). It pretty much consisted of three 30-minute or so missions in which we either had to make a bridge out of two planks over a "river", get your squad safely across a mine field with as few casualties (our squad killed everyone but 2 people), and then to get a mortally wounded soldier across multiple planks without touching the "water" and while moving the only two planks we had to make more bridges. That was easily the hardest one and I was the body used. To get me across, I was draped across my squad leader's back and he crawled on his hands and knees, something he would bring up every day of the FTX when he remarked how beat up his knees were. They were all really fun and afterwards we went to listen to General Petraeus, though we couldn't actually see him since the auditorium was full and incapable of holding 200+ cadets. But we were still really peeved that us cadets and future soldiers weren't able to physically hear him. Oh well.
After that, we did some more accountability formations and then with our huge A-bags, rucks, LBE's and ourselves, we loaded on the buses to be taken to our home for the next two days. I also ate my first MRE: chicken pesto pasta. I did it cold I was so hungry and it wasn't too bad. I would have many more after that. The drive up seemed to take forever but we finally got there and it was absolutely freezing. We stood in formation for about an hour while we got everyone accounted for and then we were allowed to go to our heated and lighted tents and sleep. It was about midnight and we were expected to be up by 0500 to be at first formation at 0530. I got one of the worst night's sleep that night. Woke up. It was snowing and absolutely bone-chilling. We stood in formation for what seems forever until we were loaded in a van and taken to the first of our STX lanes (I used to know what STX stood for, but for now, just know they're usually missions involving making contact with the enemy or civilians for the most part). There would be three and each of the MSIII's in our squad would be in charge of one. The first one was relatively boring except for the mine that went off. Not a real mine: a mine blank that sounded like a real mine. We were supposed to be guided by civilians across a mine field but they got into a fight and landed on a mine. I immediately hit the ground, got in the prone, and pulled security for my sector. That was eventful and woke me from my stupor.
The next lane was a disaster. We were supposed to find the enemy but ran into people from the media. Only one spoke English and the MSIII (who will remain unnamed) wasn't very good at leading. I was responsible for one of the guys and he started wandering off. I asked what to do if I should shoot a warning shot in the air, and he said no, but to keep an eye on the guy. I did, though I shouted warnings. Eventually he was out of sight and not 5 minutes later, a sniper comes out of nowhere and starts picking off the squad. We only had one soldier casualty but the English speaking civilian was killed. Needless to say, the MSIV monitoring us called "End X" (end exercise) and we didn't complete the mission. So we moved on to the next lane and this one involved taking out an enemy bunker. We were really prepared and the MSIII in charge was really on top of things. My fire team leader though was the MSIII from the last lane and so when we were supposed to assault the bunker, I discovered another enemy bunker at the 3 o'clock and began firing on them. My fire team leader was trying to get me to help them out with the other bunker but I couldn't because I was the ONLY one firing against the other bunker and if I abandoned that endeavor, we'd all be dead. Eventually, the supporting fire team caught on and helped me out so I could bound forward and assist in the assault element of the squad. We eventually took them both out and the mission was successful, except one cadet got "wounded" in the leg.
So we were done with STX lanes. We went back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) and prepped for Land Navigation. We paired up and spent 3 hours searching the far-spread camp for specific marker points with compasses and really poorly drawn maps. Out of the 8 points we were supposed to find, me and my partner (who claims to be good at this stuff) found 4 and only got 2 right. Oh well. We went back, had hot chow (when I say hot, it was really luke warm) and prepared for Night Land Navigation, something I was dreading. But me and my battle buddy, CDT Lamb (yeah, they put Lamb and Lambson in the same squad and we're both female, 5'5" and brunette, so no one could really tell us apart. So we were the Lambs) joined up with two UVU cadets that knew what they were doing and we got 3/5 points no problem. And I'm pretty sure one of the cadets started to take a liking to me because from that point on, he was overly flirtatious. It was flattering, but he was about an inch shorter than me.
After that, we went to sleep and woke up at 0445 to pack up our gear and be ready for formation at 0530 again. This time, though, we had to wait about 2 hours in the snow and freezing cold so we could fly in the Black Hawks the National Guard brought down. The wait was worth it, even though the ride was a total of 2 minutes. They took us to the beginning of our two patrol lanes. The patrol lanes were the longest things I've ever had to endure. Each were about 3 hours long and involved a lot of pointless traveling. Okay, it wasn't pointless but it made me angry how many times I had to ruck up and get in the wedge formation when all I wanted to do was sit and doze while pulling security. Oh well. We failed in both. The first time, the enemy we were supposed to assault came up behind our assault line and we couldn't shoot behind the line because we'd be firing on our support element. So it was an all around bad situation and we got chewed out by the scariest cadre member of UVU, Cpt. Berg (he's a special forces and airborne soldier. INTENSE!). Then we moved to the last lane of the FTX and the worst of them all. It took forever and at the end, we didn't succeed in the mission. My squad leader was pissed the entire time as was I because of the lack of leadership. And the supporting patrols on our left and right flanks watched as we were murdered by the enemy in these really good gilly suits and in sniper positions. Ugh. It was an impressive show since there were tons of mine blanks and grenade blanks going off and colored smoke. It felt like the real thing!
Anyways, we get back and we're all really exhausted. We were finally put on the buses and sent home, all of us dirty, tired, cranky, but still joking around and smiling. I was so excited to eat real food and get in a shower.
It was the experience of a lifetime and I can't wait to do it again next semester. But I'm also glad that it's a good distance away. For now, I'm okay not eating MRE's and carrying a gun everywhere I go.
Next week, or maybe next month, I'll post about the two concerts I will have attended: Michael Buble and Muse! WOO!