24 September 2007

BOLCII: Final thoughts on BOLCII…

One of common themes to emails I received was how to prepare for BOLCII “experience”. From gathering current intel from other LTs at BOLCII Ft Benning and Ft Sill each BN, Co and PLT does things drastically different. You are right, it should not be but it is. In D Co CQ room there was a binder of a high level cmdrs presentation given when BOLCII was still in its pilot phase. It contained a number of AAR comments that were identical to the ones our PLT gave at the final BN AAR now almost two years later. What does that tell you? The Army monolith is slow to change but keep in mind at the same time the units concerned were tasked to run 1000 LTs thru a month in a new program during war time with very little support resources.

A common complaint was “too much time between training iterations” and a “waste of time for IOBC” Maybe it is my perspective of a few more years but for goodness sake used the time you are given even read a professional development book. I know from working with my unit what it is like to have 18-20 hr days with no weekends off. The Army takes and the Army gives –Understand and use it wisely. I still think there is significant value interfacing the Combat, CS and CSS LTs together from different commissioning sources and learning to work together.

But there is a valid point here. In my lowly opinion as a 2LT, BOLCII does not need to be 7 weeks. 5 weeks would be about right IF the programs were resourced properly. For the BOLCII experience to be uniform there needs to be spot checks from the BDE and BN levels at the PLT.

Examples of differences:

PT. Our PLT Mentor placed a high emphasis on PT every day, garrison or at the FOB with the exception of road march days. Moreover, it was “real” PT, no shamming. Other PLTs only did PT until the APFT and quit. Our PLT APFT average was about 273. We had about 10 LTs score 500 or above on the Iron Voyager APFT contest.

Meetings. Other PLTs constantly held “meetings” (I think they were professional development orientated, or maybe just cadre on a soap box) we would walk by and they would be in there for hours it seemed, with all the LTs looked as excited to be there as in a dentist office waiting for a root canal. Our PLT Mentor did believe in these, We had two professional meeting which were very intellectually engaging and that was it.

You could tell the PLT cadre that a “death grip” on their PLTs. Those PLT were the ones that did not display any enthusiasm or initiative, took forever at the arms room and lost sensitive items.

I heard of one PLT Mentor would keep his PLT will 2000+ on Fridays and then individually interview every single LT about their plans for the weekend and deny approve them even with in the 150 mi radius. Another PLT Mentor was a total shammer and got caught sleeping in a car during qualification.

Our PLT Mentor set the tone right away, he was very professional and down to earth. He expected us show responsibility take initiative and then let the PLT student leadership take care of business. Given, a requirements for that plan to work and be successful, is the personality, maturity and experience of the PLT members. If your PLT has a bunch of shammers and scum bags then the cadre will have to be a lot more involved.

PLT Cadre: I believe it is requirement to have several deployments to serve as a cadre and it is regarded as time for the CPT/E7/E6 to spend time with family before another tour. Some cadre will pencil in the training and others will go above and WAY beyond. We were fortunate and for the exception of one, all of our cadre genuinely wanted to prepare us and yet keep it done to earth.

FOB Missions. Our PLT ran 2 missions a day plus PT, other PLTs only ran 1 mission a day with no PT. Who got more sleep? Who got better experience?

I came during the hottest cycle possible for GA (Aug-Sep) and during a record heat wave, which accounts for the high number of LTs going to the hospital in an ambulance. Any other cycle should not experience this degree element of stress but you do need to be in shape. As a baseline, shoot for a 250 APFT with a decent run time and you should be fine. Be smart stay hydrated and used Gatorade /electrolyte replacement in your camel-bak and eat something every meal even though you may not feel like it.

PLT Demographics:

-41 with 1 international
-5 Females
-65% West Point (high % due to graduation timing) 4 LTS were OCS including me, the rest ROTC.
-About 12 IOBC, a few Armor, the rest CS and CSS.

From talking with a current LT a Ft Sill, his PLT has few West Pointers, 50% Female and the majority CS and CSS.

West Pointers: As a general rule a very sharp and physically fit bunch. They have an enviable tight bond after spending 4 years together. They had a few prior service graduates but for the most point had limited experience in the “real Army” Typical age 22. Lots of Airborne, Air Assault, and even SCUBA qualified.

ROTC: Hit or miss depending on the school. Some very high speed and mature LTs and some LTs that should have not been commissioned. Limited practical Army experience with the exception of prior service “Green to Gold” types. Age from 20 (yes 20!) to mid 30’s. Lots of Airborne qualified.

OCS (Federal, NG State and Accelerated): I am biased here since I am OCS, but I think OCS brought the best mix of experience of time inside/out the Army, the only group to go thru Basic Combat Training and a deep appreciation of earning our gold bar. The OCS commissioning source definitely stands above the sources with the level of physical, mental stress received (smokings!) and attention to detail taught during training. Age 28-32.

Note on social activities: Generally, you will have weekends off. You will need to prepare for the next week training (laundry, packing, reading/writing assignments due etc) but for the most part it is for you to rest and refit.

Columbus does have some rough areas so used some common sense and do the buddy team thing and know where you are going (i.e. Victory drive has an average of 3 people killed each weekend.) The historic riverfront is a project in progress and is very nice and is also the location of the better local drinking establishments/clubs. Anything further out and you run into the cougar type establishments. Be advised there can be a lot of testosterone flowing around with all the Ranger regiment and Airborne graduates, do not put yourself in a situation where you get in a confrontation and an enlisted/NCO strikes you because that will have serious career repercussions for them for striking an officer -even off duty. The MPs have an arrangement with the Columbus police and routinely patrol the historic area. Plenty of cabs run to and from base, it will cost you about $5 each.

Exit 7 has the Peachtree mall with a number of name brands and hotels. Exit 10 has a large modern strip with all the major chain restaurants and shopping outlets. The other exits have one or two points of interest but those are the main two exits.

P.S. I am going to try and fill in some of the missing days as I have time so check back.

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