Talk Me Down: My Daughter is in Boot Camp and I'm Worried

Ivygirl had been spinning her wheels and on her own decided to join the Army. She started boot camp last Tuesday, 12/1.

She’s been able to call home twice, once to let us know her mailing address (if anyone wants to drop her a line of support, PM me) and on Sunday (yesterday) to confirm her Holiday Block Leave (I guess they’re allowed two weeks home for Christmas, which is a new one on me.)

Both times she sounded shaky and teary. Before she went in Ivylad, who was in the Navy, and other friends who were in the military, told her to keep her head down and do as she was told, that if the DIs knew her name that was bad.

Well, they know her name. :eek:

She was called a princess because she didn’t get from standing to push-up position fast enough on the first day, her hair is too frizzy (they don’t cut the women’s hair in the Army, but it does have to be bunned back on the neck with no wisps escaping) and she was so excited about getting her M4 she was chatting about it in chow and got it taken away from her (although it was returned to her by another DI, I guess because they were not told NOT to talk about it in chow.)

I told her last night she would get better and she did say the other girls are helping her with her hair, so that’s a good sign. I know this is at least 75% a mental game and she has to be broken down before she can be built back up. But she’s my little girl and I’m worried. I want her to do well.

Can you share your experiences of boot camp, either being in it or having a kid go through it, and let me know I’m fretting over nothing? I keep fearing she’ll call saying, “I washed out, they’re sending me home,” (to his credit, Ivylad laughs at me, saying I always look for something to worry about.)

I’ve written her already, telling her we’re very proud of her and that she can do this.

Here’s mine.

That’s not exactly helping. :slight_smile:

She should tell the DI she has horns and is from Texas.

Maybe his head will explode.

Understandable anxiety regarding one’s child but with all sincerity - relax. :slight_smile:

Bootcamp sucks, by design, especially for the first several weeks. It is meant to be tough but perhaps not in the ways that most people think. In my opinion, it is 90% mental. Yes, it can be physically demanding but the real challenge and reward is mental strength. The primary goal of those first few weeks is to harass, to stress the recruit, to remove from them all that they are familiar with and challenge them constantly in all things. They are no longer individuals, people with opinions, hobbies, interests, ideas. They have every aspect of their life, 24x7, controlled by their DIs. It is the old cliche, tear the recruit down so that they can be rebuilt them the way the Army wants them. And it is a cliche, they don’t create robots. But they are going to push the recruit beyond what they think they can handle. They need to mold individuals into soldiers. They need to instill in them a whole new way of thinking (loyalty, teamwork, following the orders and the chain of command), a whole new cultural identity (Army life!), and new skills (close order drill, marksmanship, first aid, etc.).

The upside is with each passing week the recruit is learning more. It is chaotic and stressful for awhile but week over week they’re internalizing everything coming at them. They’re beginning to build confidence. They’re adjusting to the new environment and finding ways to survive it. And they’re passing phases of their training and feeling a sense of accomplishment. And as they move into later phases of their boot camp training, the DIs will start subtly treating them differently than they do in the first few weeks of boot camp when they were just raw recruits. They’re still recruits and will still get stomped on when they screw up but the stress levels will begin to lower although never go away entirely. They’ll get more free time and the occasional little reward (Get to go to the PX for example). The recruit will also start to see their DIs differently than they have in the past - their not just the guy/gal who screamed constantly at them for no reason. They’ll begin to see them as the educators and mentors in their early Army life who has pushed them beyond what they thought they can do and they’ll appreciate that about them… maybe. :wink:

Anyway, just my comments/thoughts for you. Take it for what it is worth. Send lots of letters, mail call is the best when in boot camp as it is really the recruits only connection to the rest of the world. It is pretty darn hard to wash-out of bootcamp, worst case if she fails a phase she’ll have to restart that phase which really sucks but not the end of the world.

And God would I have hated to be in boot during the holidays. I could not imagine going through the first 3 weeks of basic, then getting to go home, and then HAVING TO GO BACK!!! That would be tough, I’d rather just gut-it-out and be done without the holiday break. LOL

Thank you so much! And yes, I was a bit :dubious: at the Holiday Block Leave too. At first I thought it was a reward, but when my daughter called me it was to confirm I’d bought her plane ticket, otherwise she’d have to do it.

I wonder if that break will affect the indoctrination, but I’ve heard other posts do it too, so it must work out okay in the end.

If you’re not borderline suicidal by the time you hit the rack the DI’s aren’t doing their jobs. :smiley:

'course, I was in the Marine Corps. I understand the Army is far gentler.

My boot camp experience pretty much parallels Full Metal Jacket, especially that jelly donut bullshit! They made sure the entire platoon suffered for the fuck-ups! A couple of blanket parties reminded everyone NOT to be the fuck-up.

She’ll survive, and probably have so damn funny stories afterward.

She’ll be fine. The first couple of weeks are designed to stress the shit out of you to get you to pay attention. Trust me, your daughter is not getting singled out any more than anyone else. Everyone is getting yelled at for not doing things fast enough. That’s what week one is. Chances are slim to none that she’ll wash out. Don’t worry about that. She’ll be fine.

I’d worry more about everyone (DI’s included) trying to get into her pants in the later weeks.

Serious question: What’s the worst that can happen? They kick her out, for being unsuited for the military? Well, then, she won’t have to deal with boot camp any more.

Surely you joke? Yikes!

Thanks everyone. I’m breathing a little easier now.

My son went thru this. Your reactions are completely understandable, and not at all necessary. All recruits feel like this - it is more or less the point of boot camp to make you feel inadequate and a failure so that you start thinking of yourself as part of the group and not an individual.

Everyone hates boot camp, for lots of perfectly valid reasons. You are not fretting over nothing. Boot camp is designed to look impossible, but the average recruit can get thru it with nothing more than ordinary determination.

Advice, based on what my son went thru -
[ul][li]Send lots of letters to your daughter. Do not expect her to have any free time to answer, but keep sending. My son said he was consistently the one in his unit who got the most mail (both from us and from his friends). Talk about “normal” things. Boot camp is almost entirely divorced from “normal”.[/li][li]DO NOT SEND ANYTHING THAT IS NOT ON THE APPROVED LIST that you should have gotten. No candy, no treats, nothing like that. Small pictures are good. [/li][li]Don’t send money.[/li][li]Don’t decorate the outside of the envelope. The DI will notice. As you heard, being noticed by the DI is Bad. [/li][li]She is not going to wash out. Based on my son’s description, you really have to work hard at getting sent home. Some of the people he met did work hard at it. Most of them got their wish.[/li][li]The news that “the other girls are helping” is really good news. You are supposed to hate the DIs (she will) but be friends with the other recruits. It’s working.[/li][li]Did I mention to send lots of mail? Two short letters twice a week is worth more than one long letter once a month. She is not going to have a lot of bright spots in her day. Mail call can be a bright spot. [/ul][/li]

Okay, then I will admit I mailed off the second letter today. :smiley:

Mostly chatty stuff about what her dad and I were doing and such. I remember from when her dad was deployed in the Navy and he needed to know everything was okay on the home front.

I’ve shared her address with some friends on Facebook…some of them have already dropped her a card, even though they don’t know her, just to be supportive. Which I think is beyond cool. :cool:

Unfortunately, Lowdown is not. Sexual Harrassment does take place in the Military, and is considered serious enough that there is specific training about it and pretty harsh penalties for committing it.

While I doubt anything untoward will happen in regards to your daughter, anymore than it might at school or work, it is a good note that she is making friends and in a ‘group’; loners and those who are ‘lost’ or have low self-esteem are most vunerable.

Not trying to be a downer, I know lots of women in the services who are quite happy and fulfilled in their careers, but like every place, it ain’t perfect.

Just hope she doesn’t end up in Third Platoon, Reception Station.


Not to worry. There’ll be a comic obstacle course montage culminating in disaster, and then she’ll be confined to barracks in disgrace before the elaborate manoeuvres the next day in front of visiting military dignitaries . At her lowest ebb, she’‘ll overhear a plan by the visiting dignitaries {who are in reality Middle Eastern agents} to steal the top-secret prototype fighter during tomorrow’s exercise. She’ll rally her spirits, and with the aid of her misfit buddies {a snooty WASP, a sassy black girl, a skinny nerd and a musclebound lunk} she’ll triumphantly foil the agents’ plans before everyone, win the respect of her crusty drill instructor, and triumphantly graduate. There may be power ballads involved.

And this is why I’m trying to muffle my screams of laughter into my keyboard at work.

I went through USAF basic training when I was 23, I cried and sounded like a complete mess on my 2 phone calls home as well. The first 2 or 3 weeks are rough (by design); you’re never alone, you’re under constant stress, and you have absolutely nothing remotely resembling “leisure time,” when you would normally de-stress and get to grips with your emotions. When it’s phone call time, a lot of us cried just from the way you’re suddenly able to let go and talk to someone you know.

By week 3 or 4 she’ll just be miserable; at least, that’s how I was. I just got to a point where I accepted my misery and was able to trudge through the rest of it. Keeping sending letters though, they help. In retrospect it’s hard to see what the big deal was, but when I was there, oof, it was terrible.

The letter writing idea seems to be good advice. We had a friend join the Army late in life (like 28ish). He was more of a bar acquaintance than anything, so we were surprised to get a letter from him at boot camp. We started writing him back, and when he got out, he told us that everyone’s letters really kept him going. Said he almost cried reading them a few times. So yeah, write. And get other people to write.

When I was in Great Lakes, company commanders encouraged recruits to come up with their own cadence. Perhaps Ivygirl’s DI would appreciate the same?

They’ll probably all bond over a shared love of lip-synching old Motown hits into hairbrushes after lights-out, too.