‘I am nothing without my weapon, and my weapon is nothing without me.’
Finally. That one-hundredth copy of the same sentence, written through physical and mental exhaustion, fighting to stay awake senior Aniston Ramsey would never leave her weapon unattended again. Not only was there the thought of getting smoked with physical muscle failure, but she had a legacy to represent.
She was part of something bigger than just herself. She was now a part of the U.S. Army.
“My dad inspired me,” Ramsey said. “I joined because it would continue a family tradition and help me with college.”
For Ramsey, being a member of the United States Army is a family legacy which she decided to continue in December of 2016. While her family has a lot history in the army, Ramsey is the first female in her family to enlist, and she is the first to enlist of three girls and and four boys from SHS who are considering joining the army. She was the only student last year who enlisted. Her best friend, senior Hannah Vogt, was surprised by the announcement that Ramsey decided to join.
“It happened really fast,” Vogt said. “She was just like ‘by the way, I’m going to basic’. So it was really crazy for me, but I was really proud of her for making that decision.”
She is a PV2, or Private Second Class, and wears the PV2 insignia on her uniform. This is the second rank of thirteen in the enlisted army.
Enlisted soldiers enter basic combat training as a private. Ramsey was promoted to PV2 for good test scores during her ten weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina this summer. Her graduation was the big finale of basic training, and Ramsey got a little surprise to cap it all off.
“I went out there with her dad, Grant, for her graduation,” Vogt said. “It was like 16 hours. I surprised her, she had no idea I was coming. She couldn’t even really see me at first. I was hugging her and then she was like ‘oh my gosh it’s Hannah!’ She was really excited and we cried.”
The graduation itself had unique aspects, but also saw some traditional rituals that could be seen at any other graduation.
“It was a really big ceremony,” Vogt said. “There were hardly any spots for people to sit because it was so full. They had the soldiers come out of the forest and they had all this green smoke that they walked through. They had everybody walk up there in their platoons, and then they called their names.”
This ceremony is a big day for the graduates, as it marks the end of basic training, and is only earned by achieving good scores on the pass-or-fail testing grade.
“I had to pass all requirements such as training, weapons, and a physical training test, Ramsey said. “My physical training score was a 272 out of 300. I had the best score of my platoon and only one more female beat me in the entire company.”
A platoon consists of forty to fifty soldiers, while a company generally consists of about three to six platoons. Also due to Ramsey’s good physical training score, she was rewarded with ten minutes of phone usage, which was otherwise completely restricted.
“We could not use any technology,” Ramsey said. “No phones unless we did something right. We could send letters though.”
However, it was difficult to find time to write letters. A normal day started with an air horn at 4 a.m. Physical training would fill the time until breakfast at 7:30 a.m., which was followed by training and weapon practice.
“We did many events,” Ramsey said, “like training for weapons, obstacle courses, and ruck marches.”
Before more training in the afternoon, there was lunch. Sometimes it was eating in the DFAC (Dining Facility), other times it was eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) while out training.
“The food was actually really good,” she said. “They had like stuffed cod and waffles and pancakes.”
After dinner at 6:30 p.m., there would be hydration formation until 9 p.m., then toe the line.
“My favorite part of the day was breakfast because we got waffles or pancakes,” Ramsey said. “My least favorite part was getting smoked for other people messing up.”
‘Getting smoked’ is a form of punishment that consists of push ups, sit ups, bear crawls, or other hard physical activity until the drill sergeant says to stop.
“If we broke any rules,” Ramsey said, “we would be smoked or had to take extra shifts during the night.”
“The hardest part was not being able to see Aniston or talk to her at all for about three months,” Vogt said, “and not being able to consult with my best friend.”
Separation can have good effects and bad effects, and this was something that was a worry for the two friends when it came to their unique relationship.
“We operate like an old couple,” Vogt said. “We fight a lot but she always takes care of me and I take care of her. Being away from somebody is really hard, but I think that we were both able to grow in different ways.”
This growth included being able to be separated but still share experiences with each other when reunited.
“We were both worried about what it would do to our relationship,” Vogt said, “but ultimately I think it made it stronger.”
Ramsey said besides being unable to talk to family and friends, special expeditions were the worst.
If you are headed to basic combat training, Ramsey says to be prepared mentally, respect other soldiers, and recognize the big picture of helping protect our country. If you have considered joining the army, but aren’t sure if it is for you, she says it’s a good idea to weigh your options carefully.
“I did it too fast. I thought about it and within two weeks I was enlisted. I wasn’t thinking about how huge of an impact it would have on my life. It’s nice to be in because I’ll be able to help others, and I’ll be able to be a part of that one percent that’s hopefully changing the world in some way. But definitely think about it before you just jump into it. There’s a lot to think about,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey was changed when she returned from basic, and these changes did not go unnoticed by her best friend. Both of the friends grew in many ways.
“I think she was able to see things differently,” Vogt said, “from being part of something bigger. She really has a lot of respect now for our country and people who fight.”
Aside from physical and army training, basic also included training in honor and respect for our country and troops.
“You have to be respectful and you have to be nice to others,” Ramsey said. “Once you put that uniform on you can’t think about yourself you have to think of everyone as a whole and you have to treat them like they’re your best friend. You’re representing that flag and you’re representing the patch that says U.S. Army. You’re a part of something bigger than just yourself.”