Daily Life in the Military: The Workday Starts

We went back out for another formation at 9:00. Usually the first sergeant or the company commander will put out some information, then send us on our way to work. We were a transportation company, so most of the soldiers would head out to the motor pool to work on trucks. Some would go on missions to haul equipment or supplies. I worked as a training clerk, so I stayed in the company area.

Training is pretty serious business in the Army. The Army’s primary mission is to train for war, so we lived and breathed training every week.

When I first stated in the training office, we kept the records on 5×7 index cards, one for each soldier. Had their name, when they last went to the rifle range, etc. Computers were just starting to come out then, so my squad leader, who was also the training sergeant, bought one and we used DBase IV on that to keep track.

One of my duties was helping to maintain all the training records. In those days, the Army put social security on everything. If you had a sign in sheet to prove you attended a class, your SSN was on it. If you took a PT test, your SSN was on the form. It was just everywhere, and, in hindsight, really didn’t need to be. Towards the end of my time in the service, the Army started removing it from forms unless it was really needed.

I also prepared training schedules. We did one for every week–I think we did it two weeks out. It was a Fort Lewis form on legal size paper and had to be typed (electric typewriter; we weren’t that behind the rest of the world). The schedule planned out every part of the day. We started with “Morning Parade,” which was about 5 minutes at 0600, led by the first sergeant, then went into PT. Even breakfast and lunch went on there.

We also get the planned training for that schedule from the platoon sergeants. We did training on Wednesday, which usually meant going out to a training area. The platoon sergeants would scribble the training on a sheet of paper or in a notebook, tear it out, and give it to us. So we’d get all these different sizes of paper, something with the torn paper hanging off, and try to translate the writing.

Everything had to include the location in case the battalion commander or group commander wanted to inspect us. So if we were going out to a training area, I usually had to drive around during the week and do coordinations. Coordinations were for sites that we shared we other units. It was to keep us from having artillery fired on us, though that did happen once anyway.

I’d make copies and deliver it to the battalion, and we post a copy up on a bulletin board for everyone to read.

I also had to do the quarterly training briefing, which was known as the QTB. Briefings weren’t like they are today where you can keep changing it and changing it until the last minute because it’s all electronic. While we had software to build the briefings–this was initially even before Microsoft PowerPoint–everything had to be printed, and then copied onto transparencies.

That was always a nightmare because the copier would get very hot and start melting the transparencies. If the melting wasn’t too bad, we went with it. Sometimes we ran into problems because the copier at battalion had a set number of copies per month it could run, and we always seemed to run out about a week early!

The slides themselves consisted of what the world refers today as metrics. How many people were qualified on the rifle, how many people needed to do deployment preparation (i.e., make sure shots were up to date, review their emergency contact information, etc.). We did anything specifically training related, and the orderly room (the administration office that handle awards, evaluations, and mail) did the deployment preparation numbers.

We also ended up with this weekly slide that became a horror for a while. The slide was called “ups and downs” and was due to the group commander once a week. We had to put in three good things about the last week’s training, and also three bad things, the downs. The way it was explained was that it was to help figure out how to improve training.

We had to have three each. We couldn’t put down on or two, or leave anything blank. So for the downs, I think we put down something like “Instructor wasn’t prepared for training,” which was true. The sergeant had blown it off and half-assed through it.

We got nuked by the group commander. He pounded his fist and demanded to know why that sergeant had not been prepared. Anything on that down list was trouble coming for us.

And we were required to have three downs each week.

So it was Washington State, and we put used “It rained during training” as a down. I think it was only nearly every week’s slide. We were also constantly trying out different downs, guessing at what the group commander was going to have a melt down over. We were positively elated if the Training and Audio Visual Support Center screwed up with the equipment because we had a great down that no one could nuke us on!

Apparently the group commander got tired of seeing “it rained” from all the companies under him, and the requirement for three went away. We started leaving off the downs entirely, and then the slide was discontinued.

In addition to slides and training schedules, we had a steady stream of people coming in every day, asking for help on something training-related.

Which made it most annoying when the soldiers from the other platoons said we never did any work. I guess they thought paperwork was easy …

We’d break at 11:30 for lunch, so back to the mess hall, then my room to watch TV. Formation was 1:00, then back to work until formation at 5:00, and then I was done for the day. Wednesday of each week was the only day that was different, because it was training day.