I've been gone the past week, but apparently all I missed was a long day of paperwork and plenty of needles. Now that I'm back, I was welcomed by a 3:30 wake-up to prepare for our 12 mile Expert Infantry Badge ruckmarch. To pass this phase of EIB testing, you have to complete the march in under three hours.
I got myself pumped ahead of time with the recordings of loud 20something year old men who scream for a living. Totally sweet. I brought the trusty iPod, but didn't bother using it, because I recalled that it was put out that we couldn't use them. So it stayed in my pocket like a little security blanket.
We crammed into a cattle truck with our rucksacks, and that's never fun, but usually not too bad. A slightly interesting experience the first couple times, then it becomes pretty mundane. I tried to catch some sleep on the way, but that never really works out. At most, you can daze a little, and that's if you have skill. When we arrived at our start point, we piled out, dropped our gear, and stretched out for a few minutes until we were told to get on the hardball (apparently it means "paved road"). Several companies, if not the whole battalion was out there, so it was pretty much a sea of young men with obscenely large backpacks and M4s. Standard issue for soldiers and students of inner-city LA schools.
Once we were given the command to begin, the aforementioned sea of backpacking, rifle toting, testosterone fueled Everymen became a river, lurching forward a bit with a creaky start. This is what the inside of an anthill must look like. It was like trying to drive on a freeway with no lanes. Already, everyone has their own pace, and there you are, wanting to take off, but the dipshit ahead of you is going so slow, and you don't really have an opening to go around. I KNOW you can atleast relate to this.
Before long, the Dudes On Crack (me) began to seperate themselves from the Dudes Who Hadn't Had Coffee Yet (them). There I was, completely full of myself because I did so well on our last six mile march. So I'm just shuffling along, passing people like a dude with a new Mustang, and before I knew it, I was past mile 3, and I was without a doubt The Coolest Guy On The Planet. Soon I started getting sick of running all the time, so I'd periodically look at my watch and calculate how much time I could spare. Factor in the time buffer that you want to have, and basically, your calculations don't matter, and you just keep on boogeying. I ended up finishing the first six miles in an hour and twenty minutes, roughly. That's pretty much what I expected, but Houston, we have a problem.
There's still another six miles to go.
At this point, I'm having to force myself to jog, and when I need a break, to take long, quick strides. Did I ever mention that roadmarches suck? The further I'm going, the more my feet are screaming at me while my endorphins take the day off, and my knees ache and I'd rather be eating milk and cookies and watching Spongebob. At certain points, older soldiers who already had their EIB set up points where they'd hand out styrofoam cups of gatorade (if I may be so bold as to call it that) and orange slices. Apparently oranges give you energy or something. I figured it was either that, or all the acid in it would upset our stomachs and make us that much more miserable. Neither would have surprised me. Graveyards of discarded styrofoam cups lay on the right side of the road for the next fifty meters or so, and orange peels were more or less randomly thrown. For a moment, I almost felt bad for whoever has to go clean all that up. It was at that moment that I did what any good samaritan would do. I threw my half full cup off to the right side of the road, and savagely tore an orange apart with my teeth as I strutted along. Hey, they TOLD us to leave the cups there.
Around mile 8, I, The Dude Who Is Not So Cool Or Good At Roadmarches As He Thought, cursed myself for not wearing underwear, as the chafing on the insides of my legs was making me feel slightly forlorn. It was also around this point that the sweat on my face dried to leave that nasty salt residue. The miles seemed to stretch on longer, which also wouldn't surprise me. Pretty soon, I was straight up sucking. I went into Fussy Baby Mode. I stayed there for pretty much the rest of the march. At mile 11, my legs put their conspiracy into effect and cramped up. I was not pleased with their mutiny, and at this point I couldn't really run, just shuffle and hobble. I kept checking my watch and I started to wonder. I'd be cutting it close. I swear, the guys walking back to encourage us had been saying, "Half a mile" for three miles. I crawled across the finish line at zombie speed and dropped my gear off to the side to have it inspected (to ensure I wasn't shamming and carrying a lighter load).
As of now, I feel like Tank Abbott just made me his lover, the tough way. We have to go qualify at the rifle range after lunch, and stay to do a nightfire qualification. A nap is in order.