June 22, 2006 I shipped off to Basic Training for eleven weeks. The start of summer and I was going to be spending it in South Carolina at Fort Jackson. Summers in South Carolina were miserable, hot, muggy and humid. “Eleven weeks of hell”, being yelled at and pushed to my physical limits; constantly doing push-ups, jumping jacks and flutter kicks; by the time the Drill Sergeants got done “smoking” us my fellow battle buddies and I were exhausted.
Eleven weeks later on September 8, 2006 I graduated from basic training and went onto A.I.T (Advanced Individual Training) for ten weeks to learn my M.O.S (Military Occupational Specialty) 89B Ammunition Specialist. I went through the ten weeks of class; did countless APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) doing two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two mile run in 18 minutes and 45 seconds or less. Finally, ten months later in July of 2007 I finally passed my APFT and was on my way to my first duty station.
August 14, 2007 I arrived at Fort Riley in Kansas, in the middle of nowhere. Fort Riley was two hours from Kansas City; 1 ½ hours from Topeka; and one hour from Manhattan, so being stationed at Fort Riley, having a car was mandatory, and I – was without a car and no driver license. I did eventually get my license but no car. May-June of 2008 my unit went to NTC (National Training Center) at Fort Irwin in California for 30 days to train and gear up for deployment to Iraq in a few months.
October 2008 my whole Brigade deployed to Iraq, and I was nervous, since this was my first deployment. Even though I didn’t see any real action or get into a fire fight (firing my weapon) I was still nervous, because I worked with ammunition of all...