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Army Physical Fitness Test, photo from http://www.veteransunited.com

We stood on the cable line in our PT (Physical Training) gear.  The stars in the heavens were still bright!  Of course it was only 0345 hrs.  The 55-degree weather in Georgia can be relentless.  My neck stiffened up and my knees shivered.  I didn’t pack my PT jacket and pants because I didn’t want to carry a bigger luggage from the High Desert in California.  Besides, when I asked my Educational Officer what to bring, nothing was mentioned about the cold weather accessories.  Tomorrow I will borrow a jacket from another officer.

So Day-1 is the proving time whether or not the black hats will allow the soldier to begin training for Airborne.  All we had to do is pass the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test).  The minimum is as follows: 1) push-ups, 42 [19 for females]; 2) sit-ups, 53; and 3) 2-mile run in under 15:54 [18:something for females].  They stopped us once we reached the minimum.  My weakest event is always the sit-ups.  I don’t know why–I’ve always been able to appear to have a six-pack!  LOL!  No really, I think it’s because of my wife’s delicious home-cooked meals that I seem to have a growth in my tommy.  If Brittany sees this, she’ll probably say, “It’s not my fault that you’d had second helpings!”

I did just fine today.  Forty-two push-ups, piece of cake.  Fifty-three sit-ups, with a little difficulty.  But thanks be to God, I passed.  The running, however, was another story.  I heard a rumor somewhere that they don’t start the clock until the last person passes the starting line, so I made sure I was in the very first row.  In a class of 349 students, I would have had a great head-start.  The “Go!” bursted through the still dark air.  Only a car’s headlights showed us the trail.

A quarter of a mile past and it seemed that more than half of my class has passed me already.  I slightly turned my head towards the back of me.  Sure enough I could see only a handful.  I uttered a brief prayer.  Actually, I did that throughout my run because I was already feeling the pain with still a mile to go!  A small relief came though when one the scorers at the half-way mark blurted the time.  “Six minutes and 20 seconds!”  Obviously that meant if I kept my pace, then I would make it way under the time.  With more people passing me, no, I could not keep my pace.  The last time I ran like this was back in February.  Because I suffered from a very bad and painful bacterial infection, I didn’t have the inclination nor the stamina to practice running.  So I decided I’ll just have to keep on striding.  Yes, I uttered a prayer again.  Strength to finish.  Fortitude to not quit.

Well, God answered my prayers.  I made it in 14:21.  (The female officer who stands next to me in formation did it in around 13 minutes.  Ugh!  And then she ran some more right after the test.  She said, “Well, we had an hour for breakfast!”  I tried to console myself by thinking oh, she’s a lot younger than me!)  Sadly there were a couple dozen soldiers that didn’t pass the test.  Some failed in running.  Some failed in push-ups and sit-ups.  (They re-test tomorrow for one last chance.  If they can’t pass that, then they will be dropped from Airborne.)  Interestingly, many of them that didn’t pass looked like they had just finished boot camp.

We broke for breakfast.  In our ACU (Army Combat Uniform), we were back on the cable line again to tackle the rest of the day’s events.  From here on now, we “double-time march” to everywhere–the latrine, water, the bleachers, the mock planes, etc.–everywhere they want us, we ran.  Yes, in our ACU plus helmet plus a canteen in hand.

At the bleachers we watched a demonstration of what’s to happen in the next 2 weeks.  Putting on the chutes.  Shuffling in the mock planes.  Handing the static line to the jump master.  Waiting for the jump master’s commands.  Proper form jumping off.  Counting to 4 seconds for T-10 (a type of chute), counting to 6 seconds for T-11.  Checking and controlling the canopy once it’s deployed.  The demonstration was also watched by several tourists.  These took lots of pictures of us, too, who were also spectators of the event.  These visitors videoed us while marching and double-marching past them.  It was kind of weird, but it kind of motivated me because I think not a whole lot of people get to do this kind of stuff!

For PT tomorrow, a captain is lending me a PT jacket.  He is an optometrist.  With my background as a Hospital Corpsman put me on edge in striking an acquaintanceship with him.

My body ache.  And it’s only Day-1.  I’m glad I brought Ibuprofen (Motrin) with me–a whole new bottle of them!