Late afternoon we marched to a night infiltration training site two kilometers away. Once there we sat and listened to a couple of hours of instructions and lectures and a couple more hours of waiting and sitting. At this point keeping your eyes open is like the last mile of a marathon, but to sleep even for a moment is to suffer greatly. Finally we lined up to cross the course. The course was about sixty yards across, sand with logs and barbed wire, and flooded with water. It was November and a cold day at that. We had to low crawl across the course very slowly and methodically, keeping proper bearing the entire time. Keeping bearing was difficult because in the low crawl you have your face down in the sand and they were firing live rounds a few feet over our heads from heavy machine guns. In the center of the pit were huge steel rings lying on the ground.
In those twenty foot rings mortars were constantly exploding showering you with sand, water, and fear. The noise was deafening. Once across, you charged a field and did the usual waiting for hours. Only now it was cold and dark and you were soaked and shivering and dreading the night ahead. The night ahead was worse yet. We got back two hours later than our usual bedtime. Everyone had to take a two hour watch. You had time to change or sleep and almost everyone slept in their wet fatigues. The watch was horrific, almost beyond what I could bear. It was raining all night and you had to be vigilant as it was rumored the drill sear gents were going to try to raid your perimeter and if you didn’t see them you would be toast. I won’t even get into the ways you can be made into toast.
There was no raid and we woke in the morning surprised we could still stand. I got about two hours sleep. We did field exercises all day that weren’t so bad accept for the fatigue. The rest of the bivouac is a blur to me. I was deliriously tired and hungry the entire time. At two the last morning we woke to the usual unflattering screams and shivered around fire barrels wondering what was going on. They lined us into marching formation and told us to move out. We marched for hours up and down the steepest and longest hills I have seen away from The Rockies. We marched fifteen kilometers with our sweat freezing on us, blistering feet, rubbed raw crotch, and far beyond fatigue. I really can’t describe the pain of this march on a soft American boy like myself. It was the worst thing in a long line of worst things that I had ever experienced to that point.
At the end of the march near our barracks there was a ring of tiki torches in a small field. They turned and marched us into the ring in a single file line. My entire company stood there in circular row. You could see every one of them, faces barely lit by the dancing light of the torches in the still dark predawn. Our company commander was there with even higher officers beside him. Our first sergeant was there with even higher sergeants beside him. A colonel I didn’t recognize gave us some rousing speech in which we were honored for the first time in weeks as humans, and more as soldiers. Sergeants came around the circle and pinned little round gold US pins on us and congratulated us on becoming soldiers. These were the same sergeants that had belittled and dehumanized us for two months and now they spoke to us as humans.