By Melissa K. BuckleyOctober 17, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- (Oct. 18, 2012) In week nine, Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment wrapped up Basic Combat Training with a demanding final exercise, then ended the week on a high -- a Rite of Passage ceremony where they were welcomed to the U.S. Army, officially obtaining the title of Soldier.
At the beginning of the week, Soldiers were excited to be near the end, but knew they had a tough few days between them and graduation.
They began Monday with Drill and Ceremony competition, then spent the remainder of the day packing and preparing for their final graduation requirement -- a 96-hour Field Training Exercise.
Company C started their third and final FTX Tuesday with an early morning road march of about 10 miles to their new home for the next few days, a Forward Operating Base.
During this FTX they engaged in a number of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills while being evaluated on their performance.
"This is the run phase for their crawl, walk, run training. It's as close to combat as we can make it," said Sgt. Patrick Waldrop, Co. C, 1-48th Inf. Bn. drill sergeant. "We are preparing them for combat in the best way we can."
The drill sergeants make the experience as realistic for the Soldiers as possible. One way they do this is by throwing sporadic enemy contact at the FOB, so the Soldiers had figure out how to secure the local area and their base from the threat.
"The FTX has felt very realistic," said Pvt. Justin Mendez. "It has opened my eyes about how the Army operates around a FOB. We have to pull security and switch off with people to eat. We can't just all stop and eat at the same time."
Drill sergeants also provided them with intelligence reports of a well known Improvised Explosive Device maker in the vicinity of their FOB that was planning future attacks. Their mission was to execute combat reconnaissance patrols to develop intelligence, locate the IED maker and protect the local population.
Waldrop said the final FTX is meant to be as mentally challenging for the Soldiers as it is physical.
"There are some civilians on the battlefield and some insurgents, so they have to discern who is who before they engage. Everything is mental before it is physical. They have to decide what to do before they can do it," Waldrop said.
This FTX was the culminating exercise of their BCT. It was designed to evaluate everything they've learned while on Fort Leonard Wood.
"This basically puts everything we have learned in BCT into three days," said Mendez.
While on the FOB, Soldiers were miles away from the barracks, so they slept in C-huts, small wooden buildings, with no heat and temperatures dipping into the 30s. This is also meant to be part of their training.
"They have to get use to the elements. They have their sleeping bag systems to keep them warm -- if they use it properly," Waldrop said.
As the sun rose Saturday, the Soldiers formed up around a bonfire lighting the morning sky for their Rite of Passage ceremony.
Capt. Ryan Evans, Co. C, 1-48th Inf. Bn. commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Dokey, 1-48th Inf. Bn. command sergeant major and Lt. Col. Erik Anderson, 1-48th Inf. Bn. commander took turns speaking to the Soldiers.
"All of you have joined the Army at a time of war. Many of you will end up in harms way, so I appreciate what you are going to do," Dokey said. "Every one of you all can achieve high standards. You have to remember the Sergeant Major of the Army stood in a formation just like you are today. The next Sergeant Major of the Army could be in this formation right now."
Following the motivating speeches each Soldiers received a 1-48th Inf. Bn. coin.
"On the front side is our regimental crest -- on the back is our campaign history -- now you represent that history and our heritage," Anderson said. "Monetarily, it's probably not worth a whole lot of money, but to those of us in the regiment will tell you its value is priceless. It represents the blood, sweat and tears of those that have gone before us. We don't give these away lightly."
The drill sergeants, company and battalion commanders shook each Soldiers hand, welcomed them into the Army and congratulated each of them on a job well done.
"As you leave Basic Combat Training your drill sergeants won't be there to guide you anymore. You have to take the self discipline that you have learned here and carry that forward," Anderson said.
The Soldiers spent the rest of week nine into week 10 preparing for their final Army Service Uniform and barracks inspection.
Company C is scheduled to graduate today.
Pvt. Tayler Douglas, 18, Los Angeles, Calif.
MOS: 68P Radiology Specialist
How does it feel to officially be a Soldier: "I am so excited. When we were marching through the battalion and we rounded the corner to the bonfire it was emotional for me. I can't believe I am so close to graduating. We have been through so much to get here."
What surprised you most about your performance: "When you first interviewed me I told you I hated running. I never thought I could run two miles in under 18 minutes. I have surprised myself a lot."
Who was your favorite drill sergeant: "Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt. Andrew) Randolph. He is so motivating. You can tell he wants to be here. He is really cool."
How was your final FTX: "The march turned out to be easy. Working as a group was tough. We kept getting horrible feedback."
Pvt. Andrew Jobes, 18, Eminence, Ind.
MOS: 13D Field Artillery Automated Tactical Data Systems Specialist
How does it feel to officially be a Soldier: "Awesome. They played one of my favorite songs during the Rite of Passage Ceremony, 'Bad Company.' It was great."
What surprised you most about your performance: "That I made it. I felt like I could physically do it, but I had to build up my mental toughness. I made it."
Who was your favorite drill sergeant: " Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt. Joshua) Schlueter. He reminds me of my older brother. I got along with him okay."
How was your final FTX: "Long, tiring and cold. It rained. It was fun though and very realistic. I enjoyed it. I liked patrolling at night when the drill sergeants shot at us. It was a good experience. I learned to keep a FOB going."
Pfc. Darwin Rivera, 21, Puerto Rico
MOS: 91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic
How does it feel to officially be a Soldier: "It feels great. I was afraid I would not make it because I didn't speak English."
What surprised you most about your performance: "I tried my best. I think now I can do better than this. I was sick the whole cycle. The change of weather made me sick." (referring to acclimating from Puerto Rico's climate to Missouri's climate)
Who was your favorite drill sergeant: "Drill Sgt. (Sgt. 1st Class Derek) Afalava, Drill Sgt. (Sgt. Patrick) Waldrop and Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt. Nicola) Morris because that have a great combination. Drill Sgt. Afalava is the serious one. Drill Sgt. Waldrop is the funny one. He knows his job and answered all of my questions. Drill Sgt. Morris because she is like a mother to me. She gives great advice and if you don't hear it, she will punish you. They are all great."
How was your final FTX: "It was good. I am ready for more. I liked the time we had to patrol. The squad attack was hard because we had to break contact and attack again over and over."