The first few days of AT were filled with the usual settling-in activities- privates sleeping wherever and whenever they could; sergeants grabbing groups of privates to go unload supplies; specialists generally trying to stay out of the way and under the radar. A specialist's rank insignia looks like a medieval shield- they commonly refer to it as a "sham shield" because of its appearance and their mantra of "Out of sight; out of mind".
After everything was settled, we moved quickly into training. Three days of ranges (Demolitions, Rifle Qualification, and Pistol Qualification) were followed by two 24-hour mission rotations where we split into 8-man squads to be graded on our performance on a total of 16 squad tactical exercise lanes. At stake were the titles of Best Squad of the Battalion and Best Company of the Battalion (based on the sum score of squads from the companies).
This was the demolition shot that went awry and set California on fire. Unfortunately, my pictures of the fire didn't turn out very well- I got a lot of dirt on my lens while trying to multi-task photography and demo.
The coastal highway 101 runs through part of Ft. Hunter Ligget, and we occasionally used it while traveling between lanes. We had just turned off of 101 on our way to another lane when I took this photo. It was near sunset, a little over five hours into our first 24-hour mission rotation.
The lane we were moving to was run, graded and supervised by our company's ROTC cadet (a former 82nd Airborne Sergeant), and my platoon's Platoon Sergeant (a decorated combat veteran of the 2nd Ranger Battalion). The lane was set up to evaluate squads on their ability to conduct a dismounted combat patrol. In this photo, PV2 Engel checks his helmet-mounted night vision device. We actually ran the lane to old-fashioned way- in soft caps and naked eyes.
We had a day of rest between the first 24-hour rotation and the second; it just happened to include some rappelling. There are a number of ways to rappel a cliff face: this is the most common way.
This is also "a way".
Out of our 16 STX lanes, 2 involved live fire marksmenship, and 2 involved live demolitions. Here, my squad's Fire Team Alpha demonstrates breaching a door with a detonating cord linear strip charge. My Fire Team Bravo followed with a detonating cord water impulse charge.
Finally- the last night of Annual Training. The gear is packed away for the return trip, all the errands are taken care of, and all the time left is free for tradition. In the case of Alpha Company, tradition means Worm Races. You take a junior enlisted soldier, put a helmet on his head, and zip him into an old cotton sleeping bag. He races another soldier down a track made of bunk beds pushed together. They may not stand, hop, roll or jump. They may not have any portion of their bodies leave the bag before the finish line. Violence is highly encouraged.
PS: For those of you who are wondering: The top company was ours, with the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th place squads (out of 16 squads).