Will has been in Alabama for just over two months at this point. It feels like he has been here forever (I’m visiting at the moment). COT came and went and he is now in the JASOC segment of his training. So I thought it might be a good time to fill you guys in on what’s been going on in regards to his “fun-filled” days in sunny Montgomery.
Prior to arriving for training, both Will and I had read a number of accounts about COT (Commissioned Officers Training) that led us to believe that this short five week program would be a watered down version of the 10+ week hardcore program that other officers and enlisted soldiers go through. Less yelling, less push-ups, an all around easier experience. And while that was sort of true in regards to the physical training (but remember Will is a physical fitness champion), and while it may be true overall when comparing the two programs, in Will’s eyes, and in my eyes, it was no walk in the park. He was met day one with “mild yelling”, strict rules, next to no sleep, and a harried sense of mental exhaustion. I finally got to talk to him after three days and he sounded defeated, tired, and completely on edge. Socks had to be folded and put away in a very distinct manner, nothing he did was good enough to please his commander, and the measly four hours of sleep a night were wearing on him fast. Contrary to what we believed, this was a real boot camp and it was in no way easy.
I would like to take a moment here to give some advise to spouses with their significant others going through this experience. I am by no means an expert, and very new to military life, but this is what I learned and was told.
1. Don’t expect to talk to you spouse everyday, or even every (5) other day(s). And don’t get your feelings hurt if when they do finally get a split second to call and all they have to say is “Hey. I love you. Bye.”
2. Try your best to keep housekeeping and admin business to a minimum if not non-existent level. We have a lot going on as well, but there is nothing they can do to help at the moment, and stressing them more will only make an already extremely hard time, more difficult for them.
3. Love notes, emails, care packages, and positive reinforcement go a long way.
4. Don’t be offended if they aren’t ecstatic to talk to you. They are being broken down on a daily basis and their solemn demeanor has nothing to do with you. Try to see through it and counter with as much cheer and encouragement as you can muster.
At initiation your significant other (SO from here on) will be assigned to a flight and squadron. In Will’s class there were three squadrons, each with three flights. Each flight has a commander that does all of the instructing and yelling. The flight is the group they will spend the entire time with.
During the program your SO will experience the following (or at least Will did)…Every morning except Sunday will start at 4:30 am. Each day they will go through a random schedule that may or may not include physical training, LONG lectures (we swear they were intended to test their ability to stay awake after being sleep deprived), leadership obstacle courses, group meals where they will be required to march, sit with their heels touching and backs straight, and eat silently, and marching practice in anticipation of the eventual graduation parade. Lights out happens at 11:30.
For the most part they will eat at the dining hall specifically appointed to the COT program, however a few times they will be required to eat an MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat). Husband packed quite a few Clif bars to keep him going, but they had to be placed in an authorized container.
They are only allowed to keep a very specific list of items in their rooms, and all of them must be arranged to the commander’s preferred organization (we’re talking down to specific inch measurements between items in the drawers) and their uniforms will be inspected daily (Monday thru Friday), rooms weekly, to make sure they are following orders.
During the program each flight works to achieve a high score, which is compiled based on performance on academic scores, marching, physical training, and drills. Demerits are issued when an officer is not performing up to their commander’s standard. These demerits negatively count toward the flight score. As the weeks progress, if your SO’s flight has scored high enough they will be granted privileges. The first promotion allows them to quietly talk at dinner, and to be able to leave the COT designated area of the base. The second level will allow them to leave the actual base on the weekends and drink alcohol. It is a graduated program. At the end of the program one flight will be awarded Honor Flight, and the highest scoring squadron will be awarded Honor Squadron. Officer’s achieving in the top 10% of their COT class will be awarded Distinguished Graduate honors.
During graduation week there are a number of dinners and events that spouses and family can attend, although your SO will still be attending classes and marching practice during the day, so you will not be able to stay with them until after graduation. For Will’s flight, they held a flight dinner at a BBQ restaurant on Tuesday night, a USAA sponsored dinner on Wednesday night, Thursday involved an all day schedule of events including a spouse/family orientation, retreat ceremony, base tour, and a formal dinner called Dining Out held at the Officer’s Club. *Small note here, there is quite a bit of confusion about the dress code for Dining Out. After speaking with Husband’s commander I learned that it is in fact a formal dinner, meaning it’s perfectly okay to wear long formal gowns. However, it will be noted on your SO’s graduation packet as semi-formal. This is so that visiting guests do not feel the need to purchase expensive gowns. I saw everything from nice sundresses, to sequined floor length gowns. I wore a long yet simple gown and was fine. I would write a post on the Dining Out experience, but I really wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for new spouses and family. It was unique and very entertaining to say the least. Finally, on Friday, Will participated in the Graduation Parade where all flights and squadrons do a series of marches and take the officer’s oath. After graduation they are free.
Will was checking straight into JASOC so we left the parade field and went to his COT dorm room to collect his things then checked into the University Inn (on base hotel) where he would stay for the next two months of training.
Stay tuned for a follow up post covering JASOC…