Friday, February 20, 2009

Made it to the Weekend

It turns out I did improve my time up the 1/1 Trail by :31 seconds. I finished the trail hard and when I touched the handrail and stopped my watch I was smiling as I sucked air in and out and tried to get my heart rate back to normal. From there we ran to the highest point on West Point and I needed a hand to get up that hill, but I knew that I'd made progress, so that was okay. Some people from our company set up a scenario for us to practice problem-solving too so we ran down another hill and from there we had to memorize a 'message' for the 'village sheik' something about communication. We headed up the slippery hill and into the wind and swirling bits of ice in the air.

It wasn't snowing, it wasn't raining, it was just tiny particles of ices falling and bouncing off our noses and sometimes sticking to our eyelashes and gathering on the guys' short haircuts. The weather was sort of beautiful and thanks to the more relaxed pace of the scenario I had time to enjoy it. I was cold, but warmed up because of the running, and since I had stepped in several puddles my feet were soaked. I had two choices, either be purely miserable because of the weather or at least appreciate the fluctuating amount of ice that was drifting down all around at one point thick enough to catch flurries on your tongue.

There was still some 'smoking' during the scenario. That is we were told to do diamond push-ups, flutter kicks, and jumping jacks. One of the things they wanted us to do was push-ups in a line, but stay in order of our message. Unfortunately doing pushups with someone's feet on your back is hard enough if your back is half as wide as everyone else's and then I forgot that being of similar weight usually helps. When we started the first rep I collapsed and could not for the life of me get up. At first I thought it was just a lack of trying, but then I realized that I had my feet elevated on someone else's back and that the person in front of me weighed almost 180 lbs! I realized that I don't bench that much, in fact I've never benched that much. I also realized when I stood up that I pulled a muscle in my back trying to do something I just wasn't physically strong enough to do yet.

That day was good though. We ran down a trail and the PX hill past Michie Stadium and then took the cadet chapel turn-off and down those stairs till we took a right behind Brad-Long Barracks and upstairs to Pershing. It was a Spirit Dinner night, and the theme was Mardis Gras. Sometimes these Corps-wide mandatory dinners just mean we are wearing the seasonal (and drab) uniform and getting a speech, but tonight it meant we could have fun with a theme and the plebes were expected to try to dress up for the theme with only issue items. All upperclassmen are allowed to wear civilian clothes to themed dinners.

I love Mardis Gras, so even though it was a Thursday and I had almost nil time to get ready I grabbed my pink halter-top because it is covered in a flower design that is basically outlined in sequins and shiny bits. This was the most mardi-gras-esque piece I owned and I paired it with jeans and closed-toed blue heels. I wore a jacket to dinner because it was still cold outside even though it was only about a 150-200 meter walk to Washington Hall. Towards the end of dinner, a junior who is also in my chain of command came up to me and said she needed to speak to me later that night about what I was wearing. I asked innocently why? It was Mardi Gras theme, right? She curtly told me that what I was wearing could be offensive to others. I agreed to talk to her that night. As soon as she left the table, the guys jumped to my defense.

I ended up talking to her later that night where she lectured me about what was appropriate clothing and what wasn't. She printed out two pages of SOP indicating what civilian clothes were strictly prohibited. She said she understood that you could hardly walk through a mall without seeing haltertops and tube tops, but that my rule of thumb should be asking myself, "Would I be embarrassed to wear that in front of General?" She also told me that having that much cleavage showing was setting a bad example.

I didn't argue, nor am I arguing here that she didn't have a point. However, things that I thought of that I wisely didn't bring up at the moment were things like the fact that the SOP says verbatim,

"Examples of clothes that do not represent... well and therefore are not allowed include: cutoffs, any shirt that exposes the midriff, shirts inteded to be worn as undergarments, tank or halter tops, mini-skirts, shower shoes / flip-flops, or..." etc. etc.

Yet the SOP also says in 5-2 the page before that within area 4-1 cadets are allowed to wear a "modified" Casual civilian standard "which includes collarless shirts, pants without belts, flip-flops and any clothing printed without offensive material or language that references or promotes the use of drugs or alcohol"

I was within 4-1 and it was a Spirit Dinner which does not have defined limits of what to wear and my shirt didn't promote drugs or alcohol. Additionally I would not have felt embarrassed to wear my halter top in front of a General given the situation and the fact that it is a halter top that fits me and I wouldn't have worn it to a formal or semi-formal event.

I still only nodded my head, took the papers and gave the proper emphatic, "Of course" whenever it was required of me. I haven't really changed my mind, but neither has this girl. It would be administrative punishment anyway, and not really worth the time or trouble of fighting.

Friday morning we did hill repeats, which really had me riled up at first because I thought after two days of hills that a third hard day was a bad idea. We were wearing our gas masks and carrying our "rubber ducks" (hard rubber casts of M-16 rifles with metal barrels and sight posts). We did four hill repeats regular, and then three wearing the gas masks. It feels like you are inhaling the same air you are exhaling. After the 6th repetition up the hill I was getting ready to throw in the towel, but all of sudden we were done. We had to run up the hill to get home, but that was understandable. I felt ten times happier I finished the work-out and the week and what's more is that about three of the hill runs I finished a lot closer to the rest of the team than usual. Progress!!

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon we did weapons disassembly and reassembly. We worked on the 240B machine gun, the M249 Squad Automated Weapon (SAW), and the AK-47. For some weird reason I ended up bruising my hand, but all of my disassembly/reassembly times were reasonable. I am not the fastest, but I am okay with that I know I will improve steadily and my combined skills are at a level that I am happy with but know has room for improvement.

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