We did training once a week, every Wednesday. Training usually had to be out in a training area, regardless of the weather, even if we were just sitting on the ground for instruction being read to us. The sergeants generally thought we weren’t working hard enough if it was in classroom on site.
The Army is quite serious about its training because it wants the soldiers to react correctly when the stress is on, like when we’re being shot at. So much of the training is done over and over and over, to stick the lesson and keep sticking it.
Anyone could be instructor of the training, even the lowest enlisted soldier, because sometimes you can learn by teaching.
The battalion always wanted us to provide an 8-digit grid coordinate of where we were so the battalion commander or group commander could find us for inspection. No one liked that, not even the lieutenants. Initially one of the lieutenants was annoyed at having to provide it, so it stabbed his finger at a lake on the map and gave that as a grid coordinate.
Yes, battalion checked. They told us not to do that.
But there were other ways around battalion inspections. We quickly discovered that there was a training area that was way out in the boonies, easily a 45-minute trip. No one scheduled this training area because it was so far away, so we didn’t have to worry about coordination to keep from getting shot at.
And because it was so far away, the officers weren’t going to drive 45 minutes to inspect us. Every platoon soon was going out that training area.
We’d all pile in the back of a 2 1/2-ton truck, called a deuce and half, sprawled among the bags and junk, and watch the road drop away from behind flapping canvas. Once at the site, the driver would lower the tailgate, and we’d all hop out.
The training started, often with us going to sit on the grass, while the instructor read the training out of the manual. If he was prepared, he’d have a torn sheet of notebook paper with notes written on it.
At lunch time, a suburban style truck called a CUCV would bring us meals. The meals were put in metal containers that kept the food warm, and then the cook that came with the driver served us the food on paper plates. (We did have mess kits, but outside of Basic Training, we never used them.) We’d find a spot – on the ground, on a log – and park ourselves to eat. One of the sergeants would hang up a plastic bag on a tree so we could throw our trash away when we were done.
By the way, that meal was also training for the cooks. It was a different skill set to cook for out in the field. We found that out during Desert Storm when a National Guard and Reserve unit in our battalion didn’t have any field experience cooking!
At the end of the day, we’d do police call. That’s picking up the trash. We’d form a line, side by side, and then walk straight, picking up whatever we found. Usually it was cigarette butts. Then it was back to the company for final formation.