By Mr. Andrew R McIntyre (Jackson)July 10, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (July 10, 2014) -- Wearing T-shirts, jeans, sneakers and carrying a few personal documents, civilians step off the bus at Fort Jackson at 3 a.m., ready to join the Army. What will happen during the next 24 to 72 hours are the first steps in their transformation from civilians to Soldiers.
"During the first 24 hours they will learn how to address a drill sergeant, NCO and an officer. They will also learn what is expected from them," said Capt. Johanna Johnson, commander, Company A, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception).
"We give them a brief and at about 7:30 a.m. that day -- if it's a work day -- and they will start processing and probably won't finish until around 5 p.m.," she said. "(After dinner) they are given personal time, and during that time they are allowed to call their parents, so they are able to maintain their cell phones while in the reception company."
The 120th is operational around the clock and is responsible for receiving and processing recruits into the Army. The battalion ships, equips and motivates new Soldiers for Basic Combat Training. During the approximately three months of summer surge -- the busiest time in Basic Combat Training -- the 120th will typically receive between 8,000 and 10,000 Soldiers.
"We make sure they are fully qualified before going to Basic Combat Training because that's one of the important things we do here," Johnson said. "We make sure they are medically cleared and that they have all of their equipment so that there are no distractions once they start Basic Combat Training."
Drill sergeants assigned to the 120th make sure the new Soldiers are on time for each in-processing appointment; teach the warrior ethos, the Soldier's Creed and Army standards; and remind the Soldiers that life as they knew it has changed.
"Our first responsibility is to make sure (the Soldiers) eat," said Sgt. 1st Class Yazmin Tull, a drill sergeant with Co. A, 120th.
After that, male Soldiers will receive their first Army haircuts and all Soldiers will receive cash cards to purchase items they need and proceed to medical testing. Soldiers then will be issued clothing, receive dental care and proceed to the military pay office within the first 24 to 48 hours of in-processing.
Pvt. Jesse Keller, a native of Lake Orin, Michigan, who joined the Army Reserves, said he was tired but motivated by the process.
"I've heard in-processing is one of the toughest parts because you're running on fumes, but I hear it gets easier and easier as it goes on," Keller said. "I am feeling really tired right now, none of us really got much sleep last night. It's definitely a long and slow process. You have to do what you have to do. I am just looking forward to basic. That is what's getting me through."
While waiting during in-processing, many of the Soldiers take the opportunity to bond with fellow Soldiers and find out if they may have anything else in common outside of the Army.
"I've met a few guys, whom I've definitely connected with. I was kind of worried about that the night before coming -- if I would kind of be alone this whole time -- but it's definitely easy in an atmosphere like this," Keller said.
On the last day of in-processing -- after completing medical examinations, administrative paperwork and basic training equipment issue -- many of the Soldiers will begin to ship out to their basic training units for the next 10 weeks, but before doing so they will have a "moment of truth" brief. This is an opportunity for Soldiers to disclose any previous circumstances or information that may prevent them from successfully completing basic training.
"If the Soldiers understand to be upfront with everybody, be honest, answer all the questions and do the best they can and pay attention -- by the time it ends they will have a good understanding of what's expected of them as a Soldier," said James Allen, chief of the 120th Initial Receiving Branch.