CHAPTER 05: BOOT CAMP- PHYSICAL FITNESS
In addition to daily inspections we had physical fitness but despite preparing for gym it was tough! The P.E.R.I. (physical educational recreation instructor) made us practice sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, running, rope climbing, the six foot wall, fireman’s carry, and swimming; all the things we’d be tested on and have to pass. One day we had to get dressed into our combats and jump off the diving board into the pool to simulate having to cross a river during combat. If you said you couldn’t swim like some recruits lied about you were sent to the shallow end and splashed around with an instructor. They smiled and chuckled at us having to do the exercise! I was terrified like many of us were when the heavy combat boots made us sink like a stone. Somehow I fought to the surface of the water and tried to tread water until the P.E.R.I. stuck out a metal hook that I grabbed for. We also put on our combats to tackle the dreaded obstacle course. All the recruits tried to act all gung-ho and macho about it but it wasn’t easy. First there was the handle bar rope you used to cross a ravine. Then a network of tires, hurdles, walls, nets, and trenches. We were timed to see how long it took us and you were embarrassed into trying to improve your time when we went back through a second, third, and even fourth time.
We also practiced drill every day doing all the moves I already knew but I had to be patient because the majority didn’t have any experience. Doing three hours of drill was tiring for anyone. My feet had huge blisters even though I wore black socks under my grey ones because of the itchy wool. Despite my exhaustion I’d still help the girls with their drill out in front of the barracks.
In the following weeks we had sports competitions such as capture the flag, tug-a-war, floor hockey, volleyball, and basketball. I signed up for floor hockey because I never played before and had a lot of fun until one recruit lifted his stick high to slap shot the puck and hit my eye. I yelled out in pain and dropped to the floor holding my eye as blood streamed down the side of my face. I was driven to M.I.R. and they cleaned the cut and put a small tension bandage to hold it closed. I a few days I just had a small red scar but it wasn’t that obvious because I had a black eye!
Finally the day came when we had all the physical fitness testing. I did the mile and a half in just over thirteen minutes and it seemed that none of the girls failed but we heard a couple of guys had to be retested. Then although I breezed through the sit-ups, the push-ups were a little harder, and I just managed to do the required chin-ups but was really shaky on the last one. I was unlucky for the fireman’s carry and got a huge guy three times my size but I did it anyways even though I felt like I was going to collapse before I got him over the finish line. When it came to climbing the rope I was tired by then and didn’t have much strength left in my arms but I cursed and swore at the thing and surprisingly that gave me the strength to get to the top and ring the bell. Unfortunately I had had no strength left in my arms or legs to control my decent and got painful rope burn. Still I was proud to be the only female to make it to the top and back. The last challenge to tackle was the six feet wall. Like the rope I hadn’t managed to do it yet but I just rose to one challenge so I hoped to overcome the wall. I watched the P.E.R.I. give recruits a little boost to get over and disappointed I was no acceptation when I tried. It was impossible to get any kind of grip with your hands or propel over it with your legs because your foot slipped on the smooth surface. I did get a huge bruise on my leg from trying though. In the end everyone amazingly passed the wall challenge.