Army Basic Training Graduation at Ft. Jackson and My Ruminations

The good news is I got back on my bike yesterday. Finally. Here are the stats for the indoor trainer ride:

Distance: 21.5 miles
Time: 1:00:25
Average Watts: 171 watts
Normative Power: 173 watts
Average Heart Rate: 159 bpm
Total Work: 616 kJ
Average Speed: 21.4 mph

You can tell it has been two weeks since I rode because of my average heart rate. Comparing this ride to one of two weeks ago that had a similar level of average watts and normative power, my heart rate should have been closer to 145 bpm. I may have been a little dehydrated for this ride, but my fitness level definitely slipped. There is just no way to keep up your fitness levels when you are on the road for two weeks straight. I skipped some runs last week to spend more time with my brother, who you will hear a little more about here in a minute, which is a decision that I know was right. There are times when your personal goals and endeavors have to take a back seat to what is going on around you.

There is a grant we specialize in at work. The Department of Education should announce the guidelines and RFP soon, which will kill most of my workouts for about a month. Literally all of my energy will go into this project. I have done this for 10 years now, so I am accustomed to this busy time. The good news is I get a ton of freedom the rest of the year for this small sacrifice. What I am saying is once the RFP is published, then my workouts will be few and far between. If anyone would like to make a guest post during this time, please let me know and I would love to hear what ideas you have for a post or series of posts. Ladies, this especially means you.

Army Strong at Ft. Jackson

All last week I was attending my brother Jake’s graduation ceremony from Army Basic Training. If all you read is these next two lines, know this: The sacrifice our soldiers make to heed the higher calling they have decided to follow is beyond what many of us will ever experience. I am grateful for the path they have all selected. If there was a recruiter stationed at the Parade Field at Ft. Jackson, my brother James and I may have dates to report to Basic Training ourselves.

Here is the sign that is posted at the far end of the Parade Field at Ft. Jackson:

After being at the ceremonies, I can tell you that victory indeed does start at Ft. Jackson. For my brother, regardless of the contribution that he makes to the Army or those around him, the victory was and is a personal one. Jake is one of the nicest people I have ever known, which is in no way a weakness. But during his time at Ft. Jackson, he was transformed in a great way. He immersed himself in his training and the culture of the Army. He volunteered for guard duty and took really crappy shifts. He became a leader in his Platoon, and made sure to keep an eye out for those who needed help. Because of his hard work and efforts, he was nominated as the Soldier of the Cycle by the other members of his Company. He took all of the positive aspects of his personality and focused on how they would help others around him. To say he took himself up another level would be an understatement.

Jake is now at his Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) at Ft. Jackson where he will be for the next several weeks. He has several other schools and trainings to attend until it culminates in his attendance to Ranger School in about another year or so. I have three brothers and a sister and I cannot tell you the amount of pride that it gives me to know that one of us will be making such a positive contribution to our country. It is almost funny that it is Jake. When we were kids he was always the peacemaker and would always walk away from confrontation. But when you think of it, that is the type of guy the Army needs. He will be a fantastic addition to their family.

Enough of the philosophical rant. :) There was some really cool stuff at graduation.

On Wednesday we attended a more informal ceremony. I have to say it was really, really inspiring. I swear if you did not come out of that ceremony proud of our military and their families, I would argue that you are dead. At the Parade Field, you are sitting in a large set of bleachers that probably hold about 5,000 people. The Parade Field is about 500 yards deep and three times as wide. Directly across from the bleachers are woods bull of really big pine trees. I can’t even imagine how many soldiers those trees have seen in their 100 year lifetimes.

The ceremony began and the “barker” — think of a midway barker — is pumping up the crowd and then some smoke grenades are thrown from the woods. Of course you had no idea there was anyone in the woods. There are some explosions (I wouldn’t want to insult anyone by trying to tell you what they were, but I think they were very small concussion grenades) that really set the tone. Shortly after the soldiers of Companies A, B, C, D, E, and F all run from the woods through the smoke to their formations. It was amazing. Check this out…

This is about 10% of one Company, so imagine how cool this looks with six companies rushing the field. It was incredible. The ceremony continued until the families were released from the stands to meet up with their soldier.

Now in my opinion one of the greatest sacrifices that is made is done by the families of soldiers. In Jake’s case, he has a wife and two little kids. Obviously his wife and kids miss him terribly. There are lots of things that Jake will miss because of his time spent away from his family. But a supportive family will make all the difference for him and that is one of the reasons why so many members of his family were at his graduation. More family members were at his graduation from Basic Training than went to his graduation from college. Go figure. I kept a camera on my person for more of the week, and here are some of the better shots I got of the two of them at their reunion that day:

And one of my favorites…

I will spare you the rest of the details of what we did in the time that we had together. We spent as much time as we could with Jake. We asked a ton of questions, played a lot of cards, and just really enjoyed each others company. He took us around the parts of the base that he could, we ate at Bojangle’s — which may be one of the better pieces of fried chicken I have ever eaten — and we took pictures. Lots. Lots and lots. I wanted Jake to be able to remember this moment and the pride in him that his family felt that day.

Then came the actual graduation ceremony. This was much more formal and I loved it. The ceremony was steeped in tradition and honor, and the focus of the entire ceremony was country and the soldiers. You begin to realize how important tradition and culture is to the military. The sociologists in the audience would say the shared experiences and passing down of history and tradition in the military helps the new soldier begin to feel like they are part of a group. Even if the soldier was not at the Battle of Midway, the stories and told and retold so the soldier has that knowledge and feels they belong to the family that is the military. I just thought it was cool. Here are the pictures that I wanted to share…

Here is Jake as part of the parade ceremony at the end. He is on the far row and looking towards the stands…

I have to say Jake has one of the best game faces in the business. I think soldiers spend time practicing their game face because this is not a look I have ever seen from Jake. Here he is waiting to be dismissed after the ceremony…

And then the requisite photo of the family who were present at the ceremony…

Of course Jake and his wife are seated. The top row left to right goes me, my wife, my Dad, Mom, my sister-in-law Linda, and my brother James. Missing were my sister, Debbie, my bother Joe, and my sister-in-law Anna. Five grandkids were missing, but that was just fine that week. It was good to get together as adults.

We are all grateful for the example that Jake is providing to all of his nieces and nephew. I am working on a wall hanger to put on my son’s wall that will remind him every day of his Uncle Jake and the amazing things he has done and will do. Hoss prays for his Uncle Jake every night and man do I hope his prayers are granted…

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...