Okay, we've been here at Fort Dix for nearly three weeks and now it's time to shine. Over the past few days we have been putting the final touches on our training here and today was the first day of really putting to the test all of the PowerPoint classes, practical exercises and familiarization sessions.
Before I get to what that means let me just say this, just in case I haven't mentioned it before, we really have a great group of Soldiers here - oh yeah, I guess I have mentioned it already - well, it's true!
As proof of my declaration, I use as an example our Halloween celebration. At the commanders direction, SSG Delgado (our rear detachment NCOIC - who is here with us) made a trip to the PX to pick up a load of candy to celebrate the Halloween festivities. At about 8 o'clock on the 31st, the commander, bed sheet over her head (her impression of a ghost), took a large bag of candy around to our Soldiers. Not far behind was our XO (executive officer), 1Lt. Sarratt, who had apparently made plans for Halloween before leaving Texas. He walked around in black thermal underclothes, a black knit cap and some sort of black bandanna that had a skeleton head affixed across his face - ooh scary!
Not far behind him was Specialist Anderson. Her first getup consisted of a scarf wrapped around her head and face as she did her impression of a middle eastern woman dressed in a burka. For realism she kept making a loud high pitched yell. You know the sound; it's the one that some Mideast women make for which there has to be a name for, but for which I can only describe as - well, loud high pitched yelling. Minutes later she had a new get up. This time as a pregnant Soldier - a pillow stuffed in her shirt.
Finally, Sgt. Risner came into the hall dressed in civilian clothes, holding an ammunition magazine on his head and claiming to be "crazy magazine head man". That must be a costume I missed seeing on the costume aisle at Wal-Mart, but at least he had a costume.
I have pictures of all these moments and will post them when we get the time. We all had a great time. As said before - we have fun and we work hard.
Back to the hard work part. . . .
In the past couple days we have learned how to protect ourselves from a vehicle rollover, how to recognize IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), how to operate a convoy, a check point and several other tasks.
Without going into too much detail we have been given missions in the last couple days and again tomorrow to test all this knowledge. These are the closing days of our time here and now it is all coming together to help us gain confidence in our new skills. The trainers here are putting us through the ringer to see how well we have absorbed all we have been taught. Do we know how to use the weapons? Can we defend ourselves? Can we perform our soldier tasks?
Based on our performance during today's scenario's, the answer is yes! We did great! Our trainers told the unit that of all the units they have had come through here, we have performed at the top of the list. Not bad for a bunch of journalists, huh?
Tomorrow is our final test. More scenarios and opportunities to show our trainers that we get it. That we can hold our own, that we can get the job done.
We aren't infantry Soldiers, that's for sure, but as Army journalists, I think we can honestly say we are more prepared to tell the world what our combat Soldiers are doing in Iraq. How hard they work to get their job done, the sacrifices they make to accomplish their mission, how hard they fight for their fellow Soldier.
They are the best at what they do, and now we can be better at what we do.
A couple more days and we'll be home - preparing for our actual deployment. We already have stories to tell and we're still on American soil.
Great days are yet ahead!