Hopefully I’m not breaking any kind of non-disclosure agreement by writing about WOCS. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sign anything to that effect, but there was a lot of paperwork and I was pretty tired. What follows are a few more anecdotes about WOCS. Still more to tell…
Also, as requested by Sabathius, here’s a Delobius action photo. (I’m the one in the middle, after being a “casualty.”)
The first night started smoothly, with an easy and stress-free inprocessing procedure, and since I had already seen the barracks SOP before arriving, my clothes were already folded in the appropriate manner inside my duffel bags. This meant that within an hour of getting to my room, I was mostly set up – a major accomplishment in the absurd dance of WOCS. My roommate had arrived the day before, so was obviously fully ensconced, so as a pair, we were smelling like roses right out of the gate. All that was left was to make my bed. No problem – I’ll just move this rucksack off my bed and get my linens —
Shit. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. My linens weren’t on the bed. They had been issued to me at inprocessing, a mere hour before, and I distinctly remembered carrying them out of the conference room. After that, though…I had everything else that had been issued to me, but no linens. Son of a bitch. I hadn’t been there an hour yet, and already I’d lost issued equipment.
Hurrying casually, I went back to the conference room, where people were still inprocessing. I asked the specialist with the incredibly unauthorized fake eyelashes if anyone had turned in an unaccounted-for set of linens. She smirked. “Lost it already? You better get ready to be my best friend…” I didn’t appreciate her snark, or the implications of what she said (in any direction), so I shut my mouth and left, mind racing.
At what point did I admit to losing shit on the first day? Doing so would probably be a major offense, and would draw a target on my back immediately. I was fast-forwarding through an endless cavalcade of consequences, most of them humiliating, when I spotted a strange sight. Sitting on a table in the common area, plain as day, was a complete set of linens. They weren’t mine – all the blankets that had been issued to that point were black, and this one was army green – but it was an otherwise complete set, as if placed there for me.
Ever suspicious, I immediately suspected a trap – was this some sort of devious plan to smoke out idiots who lose their linens on the first day? Why would a set of linens be sitting out here anyway? (This sort of paranoia would surface repeatedly throughout the course, though mostly in other people, and I’ll comment on it more later.) But what the hell – I needed linens, and here they were. Doing the cartoon-like double take, I grabbed the pile and hurried back to my room.
This solved my initial problem, but I was still worried because I seemed to be the only person on the whole floor with a green blanket. Also, the blanket was so damn small, it barely even reached over both sides of the mattress. Again, I suspected some hidden machinations: everyone will know I lost my stuff because I have the cursed green blanket!
Luckily, that fear was assuaged when the late arrivals were issued green blankets, after the black ones ran out. And as it turned out, no one (save my roommate) found out that I lost my linens in the first hour, and early disaster at Phase III was averted by the discovery of the Providential Sheets.
A Bridge Too Far
The WOCSOP (Warrant Officer Candidate Standard Operating Procedures) is the massive manual that specifies everything a WOC is supposed to do and not do, down to how one is supposed to lace his or her boots. It clearly states to lace all footwear left-over-right; that is, when viewed from the front, the laces on the left should be on top of the laces on the right. As with everything, I dutifully laced my boots in the appropriate fashion, and for five drill weekends, my boots passed muster. Imagine my surprise, then, when on the first full day at camp, one of my fellow WOCs looked down at my boots and exclaimed, “what’s wrong with your boots?!”
Uh? I had no idea what she was talking about. “You can’t bridge your laces!” She was almost hysterical. I was still confused. Apparently she was referring to the manner in which the laces traverse the first set of eyelets (closest to the toes) – underneath or over the top, hence “bridging.”
I was pretty sure that there was no such prohibition, and said as much. Furthermore, I said, it’s my problem – it doesn’t affect the team, so let’s move on. Also, I said, pointing at her pant legs – where she was clearly using blousing straps instead of tucking them in to her boots – I know that’s prohibited in the WOCSOP! Cue quote about glass houses and throwing stones, etc.
For the field exercise, each TAC had a call sign for use on their private radio net. Most picked monikers appropriate to their home state (ours was “Viking,” natch), but one stood out: “Soulcrusher.” Without even seeing the name we all knew who it was: the imposing TAC from 1st platoon, with giant arms and what seemed to be an unhealthy joy of watching others do push-ups.
His attitude actually fit the popular image of WOCS quite well, but not so much the reality, and the contrast of his sadistic nature with that of the other TACs was jarring. All I could think was that if he wanted to do a million push-ups and scream at people and have a badass name like “Soulcrusher,” he was in the wrong organization. The only souls we future warrants would be crushing would be those found in our offices…
No Brass, No Ammo
Somehow, turning in unfired small arms ammunition is the most difficult thing in the Army. Particularly blanks – no matter how many blanks you’re issued, the word always comes down that none can be turned in.
We were issued sixty rounds each, and team leaders helpfully had extra when we ran out. As soon as I was handed those three boxes of blanks, I knew exactly what I was going to do: use as few of them as possible, and get rid of the rest by any means possible. I would be damned if I was going to run a half dozen magazines of those things through my rifle. One of the other candidates had the same thought, and our competition to not-shoot blanks was on.
After our first iteration, one of our more “hooah” classmates asked if anyone had ammo left, since he had shot all of his. Score! I traded a full magazine for an empty one, and looked over at Tony, a smug look on my face. He gaped at my good luck, but managed to even the score on the next iteration by just dumping a box in the woods. Damn good idea! I imitated it the next day by putting my remaining rounds loose in my pocket, and emptying it at the first contact. After the day’s activities, I proudly reported that I had no ammo remaining, but Tony had a devious plan in mind. Early the next day, he leaned over and whispered in conspiratorial tones: “I dumped all of my ammo in the porta-john.” God damn! It sounded real dumb – I preferred throwing the stuff in the woods – but it had a certain mischievous air to it.
All of our efforts may have seemed strange, but it all made sense when on the last night of the field exercise, second platoon was assigned the task to take the remaining blanks out to the woodline and fire them all. As the flat blap blap blap of blanks echoed through the night like we were defending the perimeter, I knew Tony and I had made the right decision to surreptitiously discard all of that ammo. If we were going to waste all of that crap, better to do it cleanly.