As of now, it’s the 24th of June and we just finished training day 35 yesterday, so we’re halfway done! Pretty exciting to think about. At the same time, it feels like we have a shit ton of stuff to do still. For instance, rifle qual. We’ve been here for a week so far, mostly just practicing all the rather uncomfortable shooting positions, but we’re officially going to get to shoot live rounds tomorrow, which I’m stoked and scared about at the same time. It’s kind of like when you get into a car by yourself for the first time–on one hand, it’s fucking awesome, but on the other hand, you could very well kill yourself or someone else. But I’m just going to try and relax and ease into it, because fuck no I’m not going to get dropped at the rifle range. Our platoon got 9 new recruits this week because so many people from the earlier platoon failed and that ain’t happening to me. FUCK NO. Hell, I’m setting my sights on that expert badge, because that would be badass to have. And you gotta aim high, right?

And speaking of quals, to answer your question, no, you don’t need to know how to swim before you get to boot camp. They teach you if you can’t and even if you fail the first day, you have the entire week to get your shit together. Our platoon had 3 people from the earlier platoon who got dropped for swim, but everyone passed this time around. And hellz yeah I’m getting buff! I’ve lost 14 lbs. since I got here and I somehow ended up as a cooler recruit, meaning me and the other 3 have to lug fucking heavy-ass coolers everywhere we go. And do a bunch of other shit that involves running around with heavy things. It’s not all bad though. We get to go chow earlier than everyone else and most of the time we get back to the squad bay way before the platoon, so we get time to make head calls and socialize. And it’s good exercise, so I’m not complaining. Too much.

But we’ve done a lot since I last wrote. We did the rappel tower and the gas chamber (both terrifying, but not as bad as I thought it would be), our initial PFT (Physical Fitness Test), and… I’m sure some other stuff that I can’t quite remember. We’re seeing a lot more of the males now, although the DI’s are very strict about making sure we don’t look at each other. So mostly I just see backs of shaved heads, haha. It’s kind of cool to think about how they’re going through the exact same stuff as us, though. Especially with Echo Company, which is the male company we’ll be graduating with. They were doing all that stuff I mentioned earlier at the exact same time our company was. And OMG, when we were doing the gas chamber, we were getting the brief at the same time the males were and some people had to go outside to exchange their masks. Our DI’s were out there and you could hear them SCREAMING at the males. Which was hilarious in itself, but when the guys came back in, this one dude was like, “Fuuuck!” And I wanted to tell him, “Hey, that’s what we have to deal with EVERY DAY.” But the gas chamber wasn’t too bad. I mean, yes, it was horrible, and I felt like I was going to suffocate and die, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Meaning, we only had to suffer through it once because (mostly) everyone did what they were supposed to do. One chick put her mask back on before they gave us the OK, but fortunately for the rest of us, they only made her stay and do it again.

As for my haircut… Not sure if it could be seen as edgy in any way. I look more like a 12-year old Asian boy straight off the boat from China (fucking middle part, guh!). But have no fear, I didn’t use the cash I brought with me for the cut. That $20 is still tucked away safely in my foot locker. When we first arrived, all the recruits were given a cash card-like thing with $300 on it. Which sounds awesome, right? Well, I spent $240 of that money on buying supplies for the platoon, and more shirts and shorts for myself (all of which have been mysteriously swallowed up by the laundry). But recently, we all got debit cards connected to the accounts where our check is going, so I still have a decent amount of money left. Of course, can’t say what will happen once I buy my plane ticket home, but that’s not going to happen for another 3 weeks or so, so I’m not going to think about it. First things first: rifle qual.

And, like always, this letter is taking me more than one day to write, so I’ve officially shot an MI6A4 service rifle with an RCO attached. Boo-yah. It was pretty awesome, although the sound was nothing like how I expected it to be. It kind of sounds like a cap gun, in all honesty. The recoil also wasn’t bad at all, although I will admit, my face was a little too close to the scope and my eye got slammed a few times. But all in all, shooting is super fun (albeit uncomfortable), and I’m not as nervous about qualifying. Whether I can get expert is an entirely different story, but I’ma do my best, yo. Still have 3 more days to practice, so there’s time. I’m sure by the time I write my next letter, I’ll be able to tell you how I did 🙂

P.S. Because this letter took me so long to write (again), we have returned from the range! And I qualified. Barely, but I’m pretty stoked that I did, because let me tell you, no matter how good you are at Left 4 Dead, shooting a real M16 is way the fuck different, LOL. In other words, I’m not very good at at it. Unfortunately, we had more people unq (not qualify) than our sister platoon, meaning we lose the series guidon we won from our initial drill. Sad times… But that just means we’ll have to work harder to get it back. Cross your fingers…!

  1. Josh said:

    I love reading these letters! They really read like an amazing adventure story. I will admit, though, that I have to look up a number of words and acronyms. Lena, you must be versed in marine speak by now. Looking forward to your return!

    Carolyn, thank you as always for transcribing!

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