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Day Fifty-Eight - Another Weekend Not So Off (?)

August 29, 2010 | Captain Patrick Sandys

Its Sunday, and normally I wouldn't write another blog posting when there is so little "Army Activity" to cover, but there were two really great questions posted on my last entry, so I figured I'd take a moment, get caught up on the chronology and answer those questions while they're fresh.

So... Friday is always a good day, for the obvious reason that you know you're going to get to sleep in the next two days and hopefully recover. However, morning PT is always a little stressful for me because it is "long run day" for Run Group 1. This Friday was no exception, except this time we didn't do a Scorpion Death Run up O Hill, instead we did a really nice run all throughout the UVA campus, which as you might imagine is very beautiful. The run was a little over 5 miles, at about a 7:30 to 8 minute pace, really a nice way to start the day.

Friday morning for class we had a three hour block specifically on Military Construction; how it is funded, the legal analysis in determining which funds to use, and other unique eccentricities of the law surrounding this issue. I know it sounds boring, and you're probably asking how can it really be that difficult? Well, it is very complicated and I am not looking forward to this part of the exam, nor having to try and work through these issues out in the field. Particularly when you know the professors are dumbing it down for you, and there are really 100s of little nuances that we'll have to figure out for ourselves once we're at our duty stations.

After lunch we had a briefing from The Judge Advocate General (TJAG), which was a really cool hour. Its not every day you get to meet THE top officer. I know in all the DAs offices I've worked in, I never once got to meet The District Attorney. So TJAG spoke to us about the Corps, welcomed us, thanked us for our service, and basically briefed us on what he expects from us and what we can expect from him. I have to give another shout out to my Bestie, she was selected to introduce TJAG to the class, and did an outstanding job, I think just about everyone was very impressed. After our time with TJAG, we went back to our seminar groups and worked through some practical application questions before being released for the day. Battle Buddy Boggs, Captain Powell and I went straight to the gym, where Captain Powell and I had a Scorpion Death Squash Match to play. I'll spare Captain Powell the not-so-fond walk down memory lane, but suffice it to say I won. After that hour long match a small group of us went back to Duners, what I think is the best restaurant in C'Ville. All of us basically agreed that we needed a good, hearty meal because we hadn't really had one in a while, and Duners certainly provided that for us. The rest of the night was really very mellow, we all wanted to get some sleep because we were all granted passes to go to Virginia Beach this weekend.

Saturday morning a group of eight (8) of us assembled at 0800 and carpooled the three hour trek down to VA Beach. Now, I have never been down to this part of the Atlantic Coast, and in my head I had thoughts that it might be a lot like the Jersey Shore. I hope I don't offend anyone when I say that I was pretty much right, except you were missing the juiced up dudes walking along the board walk and replaced them with lines of lifeguards who each had a whistle they would blow constantly to try and control the masses in the water. The Life Guards had their work cut out for them because Hurricane Danielle, currently off the East Coast of Florida, was sending some pretty heavy surf. I couldn't believe my eyes, and the first chance I got I was in the closest surf shop renting a board for the 36 hours we were there. I was not disappointed either, the surf was amazing. About head high, total beach break so the crowd was dispersed well, and I was probably in the water for a good three hours that afternoon.

After the day at the beach, we were allowed to check into our hotel and the eight of us got ready for the night ahead. I actually had an awesome dinner with family friends right along the marina before catching up with the crew and this great bar/night club where we spent the rest of the night partying like VA Beach intended us to.

This morning I woke up at 7am to near perfect surf again, and was in and out of the water before the rest of the party even got out of their beds. We were all a little worse for wear, but we checked out in time and went to get some "breakfast," but the place we were referred to was slammed, so we got some nasty Italian food instead (grease is grease regardless of the cuisine, I guess). After a short return to the beach, which none of us were really feeling, we loaded back up in our cars and headed home. Needless to say, none of us are looking forward to our run in the morning...

Okay, so now to the questions; (1) how feasible is it to really have your family with you while at C'Ville? AND (2) What is the eye glasses/contacts policy? Both of these questions are excellent, and they are questions I had before I showed up at Ft. Lee and I really didn't get an answer to until I got here.

To the first question, I do not know of any classmates of mine who have their entire family staying in C'Ville the entire time we are here. Also, I should mention that you are not "guaranteed" a room at the Residence Inn even though you will have family visiting, but the Cadre does their best to get you into that hotel. If you just have a spouse that wants to come and stay, I know several classmates whose spouses are here almost the entire time we are in C'Ville, and they all seem to do just fine. Generally speaking, while we're in class, the spouses are out and about together, and from the looks of it, they're doing just fine. As for kids staying at the hotel the entire time we're in C'Ville, I don't know of any classmates who are doing that. Clearly you would know your family dynamic far better then I would, so you'll be better able to predict how living in a hotel room will affect your family, but generally speaking classmates with kids have them come to visit for an extended time (one to two weeks) but I don't know of anyone who has their kids here the entire time. With that said, there is nothing that says you can't have your family with you the entire time, but I think the real issue becomes whether living out of a hotel room for 10 weeks is really something you want to do.

To the second question... This is an excellent question and has a couple different issues. First, you are allowed to wear contacts 99% of the time you're at Ft. Lee and C'Ville. In fact, the only time you're not allowed to wear them is when you're doing NBC training (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical), where you go into the gas chamber. Clearly, you do not want to expose your eyes to tear gas with your contacts in. With that said, I do not know whether I'll be allowed to wear contacts at Ft. Benning. I hope I am allowed to. Which brings me to the second issue... what kind of glasses can you wear. When you arrive at Ft. Lee, Cadre will allow you to wear your normal civilian glasses UNTIL you have your medical day and order your BCGs (Birth Control Glasses) which are the super ugly Army issue glasses. Once the BCGs have been ordered and you receive them, then the policy changes. You can still wear your civilian glasses, SO LONG AS they are either solid black or brown, they have NO LOGO of any kind, and do not look "too trendy." What does "too trendy" mean? Its one of those things that you know it when you see it. Basically, I would ensure that there is a frame that extends all the way around the lens of your glasses, and the frame needs to be conservative looking, the closer you look to Drew Carey and the further away from Bono you can get the better. An ancillary issue to glasses is Sun Glasses. You can have sunglasses, but they either need to be Army issued or look like they're Army issued, i.e. all black and not "too trendy." I'm sorry but that is about as specific as I can get. If you're glasses don't cut it, then trust me Cadre will let you know.

I think that is all I have, these were great questions. Sometimes what you might think is an obvious question really isn't when it comes to the Army, so please ask whatever is on your mind. I know there are more questions out there. Thanks for reading, hope everyone had a great weekend...


  • James Creedon
    8/29/2010 9:13 PM
    I can speak a little bit to the issue of having family here the entire time. My wife and 9-month-old son have been here with me since the Fort Lee phase; they moved with me, they haven't left once, and they'll be coming to Fort Benning.

    In terms of being cooped up in the hotel room, that was definitely a problem in Fort Lee. There is very little to do there, and very few students had families with them. Luckily, it was only two weeks, and my wife was a trooper. She did a few day trips to Richmond, and Williamsburg is a reasonable drive.

    As for Charlottesville, family members will be quite happy. There are plenty of restaurants, cultural sites, and activities. Also, many more students have family here, so the wives (and, I'm sure, husbands) can meet each other and plan activities for the day. If they get bored, Richmond is close enough for a day trip, and the outdoors lovers will find great hiking nearby.

    I do have two recommendations for those with children. First, stress to the cadre as early as possible that your kids will be here. Don't be afraid to bug them a little bit -- you really do need to be in the Residence Inn to be comfortable. Second, once cadre confirms that you'll be at the Residence Inn, call ahead and make sure they know you have children. Ashley (who is here during the week) is very nice and will be sure to put you in a suite. If you call early, you can get a corner suite, which is noticeably larger and more suitable for a family.

    Last thing: warn your spouse that being an Army dependent is a bit disconcerting at first. There are coffees to attend, formal events to plan for, jargon to learn, and TRICARE to master. Being here throughout the training has been great for me and my family, but it has its difficulties. Plan ahead and remember that, as confused as you are, they are even further in the dark. Communication all around makes life a lot easier.
  • J.
    8/30/2010 12:53 AM
    Thanks for the thorough explanation of the contacts and glasses issues. I wear contacts and am really hoping to avoid the dreaded BCGs.
  • Jessica
    8/30/2010 4:52 PM
    Thanks for the post, and Mr. Creedon, thanks for the comment. My husband will be in the 183rd starting in October and I'll be coming down with him as we'll have a 1 month old baby at that time and I'll be on maternity leave. It's good to hear the perspective of a student with a family, and it's helpful for my husband to know exactly what he needs to do to ensure that we can get into the Residence Inn and all that surrounds that request.
  • Rachel
    9/1/2010 11:14 AM
    Thanks for the help everyone. Glad to know it's worked for some to have their families with them. We'll have to decide if it'll work for us.

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