I was a little apprehensive going into the building-on-stilts to get my billet and class assignments. I expected some sort of basic-training-style situation, where there would be an assortment of tough-looking NCOs hollering at us and immediately throwing us into a stressful situation. Instead, it was quite relaxed; all of the cadre treated us with respect as fellow NCOs instead of shitbag trainees. (This respect would continue throughout the course and would prove a continual source of amazement for me – how can this be an Army school without all kinds of screaming?)
What also amazed me was the overall level of professionalism displayed by everyone on the first day. I guess that was to be expected, since everyone present was a reasonably experienced soldier and thus had some minimum standards of behavior (unlike in basic and AIT, where everyone just goes nuts). It was dead silent in the classroom while we waited for instructions – it was so unnerving that one of the SGLs (small group leaders, as the instructors are called) asked what was wrong with us.
Of course, in grand B Company tradition, my paperwork was fucked up – somehow all 7 of us from B Co. had been given the wrong version of the apparently all-important “pre-execution checklist.” This earned all of us a pre-printed counseling statement and a dire warning that if we didn’t have the right version within three days, we’d all be kicked out of the course. Let’s not mention the fact that despite having the wrong version of the form, all the correct boxes were checked, and I had all other necessary paperwork, documentation, and prerequisites – but god damn it, the checklist stating that I had these things was wrong, so I was wrong!
I guess I should consider myself lucky that I had any paperwork at all – Cryptkeeper could’ve just dropped the whole lot right into the shredder and handed me the bag.
I was somewhat surprised to learn that the vast majority of the soldiers there had been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Going in, I thought that my desert uniform and 1st Cav combat patch would set me apart, but there, I was in good company. Indeed, many of the students were from combat arms MOSes (infantry, combat engineer, artillery, cav scout, etc.); the Signal Corps was poorly represented, with the 7 from B Company being more or less the only examples.
Since lots of the gear on the course’s packing list was locked up in my footlocker inside B Company’s Golden Conex&tm; (allegedly still on its way back from Kuwait, though by now it’s probably safely at the bottom of the sea), I had to draw a shitload of TA-50 (field gear) from the school. (By the way, don’t believe the hype that they won’t issue TA-50 at Camp Ashland – they will – they just don’t want to.) Medium rucksack, sleeping mat, canteen & canteen cover, blah blah…I really wasn’t going to use any of it, but they made me take it anyway.