The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

HOOAH! Army Training Update

Posted on | February 9, 2013 | 35 Comments

At 1440 hours today, telephonic communication was received from Recruit McCain at the military installion where he is being trained as a fearless warrior to destroy America’s enemies. HOOAH!

Concern for operational security forbids disclosure of the training location, although (a) any Army veteran could figure it out, (b) historians would be aware that the site is named for a military figure known as “Old Rock,” and (c) the installation’s namesake played a crucial role in a battle at a famous bridge my son visited often in his youth. Nevertheless, operational security shall be maintained. HOOAH!

Recruit McCain sounded strong and cheerful during the telephonic communication, which was limited to five minutes. The “Snowmaggedon” storm was responsible for the decision to permit recruits this privilege, since many had family members living in the affected region. Recruit’s family is not near that area, but what the heck? HOOAH!

Recruit McCain was informed by his father of the communcation from Uncle Kirby (formerly of the 101st Airborne) that the recruit must not disgrace the family honor by scoring less than “expert” in marksmanship. Recruit McCain replied that, while live-fire training does not begin until next week, he is in the top five of his training unit in electronic marksmanship testing. High-tech Army these days. HOOAH!

It has been a month since Recruit McCain shipped out. Processing at the training installation occupied the first week or so of his duties, so that he has just completed Week Three. Recruit McCain transmits further data via postal communication, written in a special encryption called “chicken scratch” that would baffle any enemy attempt to decipher it. However, I’ve managed to make out a few details. HOOAH!

His wake-up call is at 0430, first formation is at 0515 followed by physical training at 0530. At 0700, they change into ACU (Army Combat Uniform), eat chow at 0730, attend classes/activities until chow again at 1200, more classes/activities until chow at 1730, followed by “clean the company area” — “this is when we get smoked a lot,” Recruit McCain reports — then mail call at 2000 and lights out at 21000. HOOAH!

What does it mean to “get smoked” in training? Extra PT (physical training) ordered at random times or as discipline/punishment. On one military forum, a recruit is advised: “Be prepared to get smoked and do an ungodly amount of pushups for no reason.” In his postal communication, Recruit McCain describes a rough day when the platoon got “smoked” twice, in addition to morning PT. HOOAH!

In one postal communication, Recruit McCain writes that he “just got back from camo (camouflage) class, that was around 3 miles away, that we marched to.” So, six miles round-trip, the marching equivalent of a 10K, but that’s going to seem like child’s play by the time they’re through with him. The final “Ruck March” (in full gear) to Honor Hill is somewhere between 12 and 20 miles. HOOAH!

Recruit McCain writes that he got a bad rope-burn on his hand, but refused to go “on profile” for the injury. The term “on profile” refers to a situation where a recruit is medically exempted from certain types of training exercises, which can delay completion of training. Recruit McCain endured full training despite his injury, is now fully healed and writes: “Profile is a bitch’s excuse to do nothing.” HOOAH!

Recruit McCain’s contemptuous attitude toward weaklings and malingerers must be understood as evidence of his own high morale, a corollary of commitment to excellence. Army veteran Charles G. Hill explains the philosophy of basic training: “Laggards bring down the whole unit, and identifying them quickly is a priority.” HOOAH!

A psychological commitment to completing the mission — that is to say, the mental focus necessary to get through basic training — requires the recruit to develop a certain indifference to hardship, and this should not be confused with callousness or a lack of empathy. Recruit McCain writes that he feels bad for fellow trainees who suffer serious injuries (one guy “blew out his knee” and may be medically discharged), and also writes that he wasn’t the only recruit who was fighting back tears when they got their first letters from home. HOOAH!

In case you didn’t know it, the U.S. military is all about acronyms and “HOOAH!” actually derives from an acronym for the reply to an instruction: “Heard. Understood. Acknowledged.”

The last line of Recruit McCain’s postal communication instructs his father, “Blog about your patriotic son.” HOOAH!



  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Good news, Keep up the great work Young McCain. Make the family proud and the country safer. Thank you for your service.

  • WJJ Hoge

    Ah, the memories of Basic Training at Ft. Bragg in ’69. Best wishes and Godspeed to Recruit McCain.

  • Dell Hill

    48 Years ago to the day I was in exactly the same type of basic military training. They try their damndest to break you, but you ignore the pain and agony and beat them at their own game. Soldier On, McCain!

  • rosalie

    You brung him up good. He sounds like one heck of a fine young man. Thank you, Recruit McCain!

  • Bryan

    Good for Recruit McCain – sounds like basic is proceeding as it should! Thanks for his service, and to you for raising a wonderful young patriot. Would that we had more of them.

  • Raxter

    I thought HOOAH stood for Head Up A**….

  • Steve Skubinna

    37 years for me. Fort Ord, CA, long since fallen victim to BRAC. I’d like to say we really had it tough and these kids today are slackers, but I know better.

    Kudos to the FNG.

  • richard mcenroe

    Only with regard to officers.

  • Good Stuff

    would not do it again…

  • richard mcenroe

    Ft. Benning, 1982 and various times thereafter. I think I got that same rope burn (vertical ropes?) and then had to do the inclined descent with it. Got to show of in front of Reagan’s Secretary of the Army and must have pulled it off, the drill sergeants didn’t obliterate me.

  • robertstacymccain

    I’m not sure how the robe burn occurred, but it was bad enough that they offered him the choice of going “on profile” and yet — perhaps conscious of the high standards expected of his MOS, or maybe just naturally stubborn — he refused the offer and managed to soldier on, rope burn be damned. My hunch is he aims to be the highest-rated recruit in his unit, and wasn’t going to let that injury impede him from attaining that goal.

  • Matthew W

    Congrats on having high quality offspring !!

  • Donald Sensing

    Congratulations! You are justly proud of your son and it sounds like he’s doing great. I remember the basic training – for me it was Ft Bragg, 1976 in the dead of summer. But I assure you that basic is a Scout camp compared to an actual operational pace.

    Respect and regards,

    Donald Sensing
    US Army Field Artillery (ret.)

  • Taxpayer1234

    Way to go McCain the Younger!

  • Bob Belvedere

    It gives one hope to know such young men still exist.

  • Garym

    Definitely a good man. Congrats Stacy.

  • McGehee

    Army veteran Charles G. Hill explains the philosophy of basic training: “Laggards bring down the whole unit, and identifying them quickly is a priority.” HOOAH!

    I would have been famous. They would still be telling stories about me — and about the medical examiner who couldn’t spell “4F.”

  • Dustyn Hughes

    I still consider basic training and AIT as the FUNNEST time period I had in the Army. Yep. I still have some fond memories of Ft. Jackson, SC where I took basic in 1989

    Congrats on raising such a fine young man. He sounds like he’ll do well.

  • Dana

    “Recruit” McCain? When my daughters were in Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, they were referred to by rank, either PFC Pico (my older daughter had two years of college when she enlisted, so she began as an E-3) or PVT Pico (my younger daughter started straight out of high school, and was still an E-1).

    “Recruit” McCain will find that his unit gets smoked a bit less in “white phase,” which he must be entering shortly if his unit will be going to the range. The initial “red phase” is where the drill sergeants break down civilian thinking. Ask him about “Iron Mike,” a harder-than-it-sounds bit of smoking.

    On “Family Day” at Fort Jackson, the day before my younger daughter’s graduation, we were treated to the spectacle of an obviously still-in-red-phase unit which had had their unit guidon taken away for some sort of infraction, and they were marching behind a mop. 🙂

  • Dana

    This is an important thing: going on “profile” means a physical restriction, and my older daughter just suffered through the blisters rather than go on profile.

  • Quartermaster

    I like his attitude on profile. Rope burns, unless very serious (and I’ve seen some as a result of fast roping) are something I disregarded in Basic. As he seems to recuperated already his seems to have fallen in the minor category.

    The stories remind me of the poster of about suckage I saw about 5 years ago. It starts with Rangers, “I love how this sucks,” to Army SF, “It doesn’t suck enough,” to Aviation “It sure sucks down there,” to the Air Force, “What? Cable’s out? man that sucks.”

    No self respecting trooper would want to be accused of being Air Force. Even in jest.

  • Robin

    I received the “mandatory” letter just the other day. I laughed when my son said going to bed at 21:00 hrs was better than Christmas morning.

  • richard mcenroe

    Agreed. Tells the drills they’ve got a serious recruit.

  • richard mcenroe

    Embrace the suck, man.

  • richard mcenroe

    I think the ‘recruit’ thingummy is a bit of poetic license on Stacy’s part. Kipling and John Ford have the oddest effect on civilians sometimes.

  • Dana

    In the Army, that spin-off service is referred to as the Chair Force.

  • Dana

    And the ID patch photo at the top could be used as an alternate blog header here on special occasions; I like it alot.

  • Wombat_socho

    Seconding this. Fort Leonard Wood in the winter of ’78 was no picnic, but 24-hour tactical ops in Western Europe showed you where your limits were, because you crossed them every night.

  • Wombat_socho

    Ah, Planet Ord. I remember it well.

  • Dana

    When the letters from us were not properly addressed — black ink, not blue, everything right, including “Bulldawgz” being spelled properly — our older daughter had to do ten pushups for each error we made. Our younger daughter didn’t have that, but she had to do ten pushups for every letter she received.

  • Dana

    When my older daughter did the Victory Tower rappelling exercise, the first or second week, she had so much fun she asked her drill sergeant if she could go again. She didn’t get to, but that told the drill sergeant that she was a serious recruit. She really didn’t have any problems in BCT.

  • Pingback: Another one in Basic Combat Training « THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL.()

  • Quartermaster

    Or Air Farce. The Navy called the A$$ Force. MY father was career Air Force, so I heard it all. I chose the Army for Pilot Training, rather than the AF. I saw a lot of AF types at Ft. Rucker because the AF was sending there Helo types to Rucker for training. The Navy was looking at starting the same thing. I spoke with the officer that had been sent to Rucker to evaluate the Army’s program and he thought very highly of it. He said they had far better simulators than the Navy had even thought of acquiring. The Admirals shot it down, of course.

    I hear the Navy has had second thoughts about it and has decided to start sending their Helo selectees to Rucker as well.

  • Quartermaster

    Only when it sucks enough, my good man. I refuse to lower my standards on suckage. :^)

  • Quartermaster

    Such wussage! :^)