LIFE IN THE ARMY 3
Originally published February 1st, 2017 in The Belle Banner.
This week I want to talk about another female soldier, Second Lieutenant (2LT) Sally Smith. She is also single, and she also has been in the Army about a year. Sally was half way through college when she became interested in the military. She didn’t want to enlist, so she talked to the Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Department at her college. ROTC is a four year program. However, the ROTC Department arranged for her to attend a four week Basic ROTC camp at Fort Knox Kentucky, between her sophomore and junior years, which counted for the first two years of ROTC. She had to contract with the Army going into her junior year, but she was paid $450 per month in her junior year and $500 per month in her senior year. She attended a six week advanced camp at Fort Knox between her junior and senior year. Sally was an accounting major, so for her branches in the army, she requested 1st Finance Corps, 2nd Adjutant General’s Corps (Human Resources), and 3rd Quartermaster (Logistics). In November of her senior year she received her branch notification of Adjutant General’s Corps. The Army only takes about 20 new lieutenants a year into the Finance Corps, which is the smallest officer corps in the Army. The Adjutant General’s Corps are the human resource managers for the army.
The day Sally graduated and received her bachelor’s degree she was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Sally received orders to report to the Adjutant General’s Corps Basic Officer Leadership Course (AGBOLC) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (Columbia). She was told to definitely bring her car, and to check in at the Fort Jackson Inn prior to reporting to her student company. Fort Jackson Inn is basically a Holiday Inn Express, on post, run by International Hotels Group. When the army privatized on post housing, Continental Hotels Group got the temporary housing contract, and built nice hotels on almost every post. Sally was assigned a suite with a nice sized living room, kitchenette, large bedroom with a lot of storage space, and a bathroom.
When she signed in, she was told where to be the next morning for an in-briefing. The in-briefing was started by a Major who was the Chief of Basic Officer Training at the Soldier Support Institute, then by other cadre members. Class Leaders were appointed. The remainder of the week was basically in-processing, with medical, dental, and personnel. There were 33 Lieutenants in her class, 13 female and 20 male. PT (physical training) was 06:30 every morning, Monday through Friday, and class started at 9:00 AM. Week two consisted of studying combined arms, military decision making process, a lecture by a Lieutenant General (3 star), who was a deputy chief of staff of the army, and combatives (hand to hand combat) training. Week three was range week. All zeroed their rifle, practiced firing and fired for record on Friday. PT on Thursday morning of week three was the initial PT test instead of regular PT. Also another combatives class. Week four was Land Navigation Week. They received land navigation classes, and ran land navigation courses (with a paper map and a compass, not a GPS reader). They also had their third and final combatives class. On Friday they had their first test. It was on property accountability. Week five was “Dining In” week. That week they studied Casualty Operations, and attended the AG Corps formal “Dining In” on Thursday evening, at the Fort Jackson Officers Club. Week six was dedicated to strength management and strength reporting. On Tuesday afternoon, of that week, Brigadier General Jones, Commandant of the Soldier Support Institute, and his wife, had the class at their house for snacks and fellowship. Dress was civilian casual. Week seven they studied military pay, ethics, and enlisted promotions. The Chief of Staff of the Army, visited and spoke to the class that week. Week eight was about military awards. Also, that week they were visited and briefed by some female Lieutenants who had been on Cultural Support Teams in Afghanistan. Week nine was staff organization and procedures, and a staff exercise. Week ten was FTX week (field training exercise). They spent three days and two nights in the field running various human resource field operations. Week eleven was convoy training and doing convoys on the convoy simulator. Week twelve started with a 12 mile ruck march. Week thirteen was wrapping up classes, review and final PT test. Week fourteen was graduation.
While in ROTC, in college, two of Sally’s instructors were former paratroopers. They told her that the elite of the regular army is airborne. They and their stories impressed her. She started applying extra effort to ROTC, and she started an intense physical fitness regimen, running and strength training. Her Professor of Military Science (ROTC commander) designated her as a Distinguished ROTC graduate. She almost maxed her initial PT test in AGBOLC. So, when she talked to her branch manager at Human Resources Command Headquarters, she asked for an airborne assignment. Her branch manager agreed and assigned her to the 82nd Airborne Division. So, after AGBOLC graduation it was off to Fort Benning, Georgia for three weeks of basic airborne school. She completed her five jumps and reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Post Housing sent her to Randolph Pointe Apartments on Fort Bragg, where she got a nice apartment, completely furnished, with all services included, plus a club house and pool all paid for by her basic allowance for housing BAH. Randolph Pointe is a new apartment complex for single officers, warrant officers, and senior sergeants. It is a “no hat” “no salute” area.
Sally was assigned to the Headquarters of a Brigade Combat Team in the 82nd Airborne Division. Staff Sections of army units commanded by colonel’s and below are designated S1 (Human Resources), S2 Intelligence, S3 Operations and Training, and S4 Supply, Logistics, Maintenance, Transportation. The S1 of the Brigade is a Major, and the NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge) is a Master Sergeant. Sally is the Assistant S1 and she is directly in charge of the Personnel Readiness Team, which consists of her, a Staff Sergeant, and two Specialists. They maintain personnel accountability, personnel readiness management, personnel information management, strength reporting, and casualty reporting. She must also be aware of what the other team in the S1 section is doing, in the event the S1 is absent. That is the Human Resources Services Team. It consists of a Chief Warrant Officer, a Staff Sergeant, two Sergeants, and three Specialists. It processes all personnel actions. Each of the six battalions within the brigade have a similar, but smaller S1 sections. Captains are the S1 of the battalions. In many cases First Lieutenants are battalion S1’s. Sally hopes to become a battalion S1 sometime after she makes First Lieutenant, which will be in about six months. Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant at 18 months of service. Sally’s base pay is now $3,035 per month, plus $150 parachute pay, after taxes and deductions, her take home pay is about $2,450 per month, half paid twice monthly. When she makes First Lieutenant her base pay will jump to $3,500 per month, and when she goes over two years of service it will go to $4,000 per month.
One of Sally’s more sensitive duties is to maintain the current deployable strength and the projected deployable strength percentage of the Brigade Combat team. Her team constantly monitors and maintains those numbers. She sends those numbers daily through the S-1 to the Brigade Commander. Occasionally, the Brigade Commander (Colonel) will ask Sally to come to his office and explain the movement of different figures.
One of Sally’s extra duties is to be the Brigade Liaison to the Brigade Headquarters Family Readiness Group. There is a Family Readiness Group (FRG) in each company, comprised of spouses of soldiers. The FRG exists to keep spouses informed, especially during deployments, also the members traditionally help each other, during deployments.
Another of Sally’s extra duties is to schedule “Hail and Farewell” functions, by keeping track of who is leaving and arriving. Hail and Farewell’s are arranged for officers and senior sergeants. Usually when one is leaving, a new one is arriving. She contracts a location, and arranges catering, music, and insures that the proper people are invited. The same for “Dining In” and Dining Out” Both are formal affairs, Dining In is military only, at Dining Out spouses and family are included. The Army rarely conducts Dining In anymore, because families are included in everything possible.
Sally has made four parachute jumps, since her arrival at her unit, and taken her strength section on two field exercises, and participated in one EDRE (Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise). On an EDRE, the Brigade receives a call in the middle of the night, that within 18 hours from that minute, the entire brigade is to be “wheels up”, to jump into a make believe country. Sometimes the exercise is run at another location, in the EDRE Sally was on, they jumped on Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg.
Sally has been Brigade Staff Duty Officer twice. That duty is rotated among the lieutenants in the Brigade. The officer and a senior sergeant are on duty at Brigade Headquarters from close of business until start of the next day.
Sally’s boss, the S-1, just changed. The old major left and a new one arrived. That meant Sally got her first Officer Efficiency Report. Anytime an officer changes jobs, or their boss changes, they get an Officer Efficiency Report. Sally was rated by the S1, endorsed by the Brigade Executive Officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, and reviewed by the Brigade Commander, a Colonel. She received a very good report.
Sally is committed to three years active duty. Then if she chooses to leave active duty, she is committed to another five years in the reserves, either active reserves, if she chooses, or the individual ready reserves, which requires no meetings or activity on her part. So far, Sally is enjoying the Army, especially the 82nd Airborne Division. If she chooses to stay in the Army, she will probably be in the 82nd about four years. When she goes over three years in service her base pay will jump to about $4,600 per month. Officers usually make captain at about four years in service. Base pay for a Captain over four is $5,400 per month. If she stays in the Army, at about the four year mark she would be reassigned back to Fort Jackson, for six months of the Captains Career Course. Then on to another unit to command a company, or possibly to ROTC, Reserve, or Recruiting duty, or graduate school. The Army occasionally sends Captains to school to get a masters degree.
Sally met a single lieutenant, at her apartments, with whom she has had lunch a few times. He, 2LT John Jones, is an infantry officer, who graduated from West Point about the same time Sally graduated from college. He went to Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, then to Ranger School. He had completed Airborne School, while at West Point. 2LT Jones is an infantry platoon leader in another brigade, in the 82nd. Nothing serious yet, just friends.