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Day 5: Chompers, The Shakedown, & The Official Epic No Salute Streak

February 11, 2011 | Captain Thomas Harper

I realize that I was in gross neglect of my duties as class blogger yesterday, having not put up my run down of the day.  In the Army, excuses are like [bad breath]…everyone has some and they all stink (pardon my modified reference), therefore in official circumstances; I have no excuse for such oversight.  However, that rule doesn’t quite apply here, so I have a litany of weak excuses lined up to explain away my failure.  In lieu of spelling each out in whiny fashion, my punishment is to wake up earlier before PT to hammer this one out.

            In all seriousness, yesterday was another relaxed day.  To all those PT gurus, you’d have blown a blood vessel, because we went yet another day with no official PT session.  Instead, the class was split for the entire day, and didn’t interact, except to rub it in that we were on some sort of break as we passed each other on post.  Yesterday was also the first day we were in ACUs (digital camouflage uniform), which was a big step forward.  To many, especially the direct commissionees, it was the symbolization of finally being an official officer in the U.S. Army.  Unfortunately, it also meant that we were could no longer be carefully hidden in plain sight, but everyone spent the day looking out for their buddies to try to keep each other from resembling a brand new private.  It was great to see everyone looking so official, and I for one spent a bunch of time looking at everyone’s patches to figure out where they’re headed after training.

As class executive officer (XO), I typically have a few more things going on than the average class member, but that extra work comes with some added flexibility.  My position means that I’m not officially attached to either platoon (although I’d technically be in first platoon if I was, because of my last name).  That means I have some choice in where to go in situations like yesterday, where both platoons break off and do different tasks.  After my amazing luck at the medical clinic the day before, I figured I’d game the situation to be with the platoon that finished first.  I decided to go with 1st platoon, which was heading to dental first (second platoon started with a uniform shakedown).  I figured that while dental might take some time, the uniform inspection was likely to go pretty quickly in the afternoon, which meant an early release.

I chose…poorly.  The platoon had a tough time getting to the dental clinic, as it was a tough to spot modular (temporary) building stuck between other nondescript, poorly marked government buildings, in the dark, on a closed road.  For most seasoned soldiers, it probably would’ve been a relatively easy find.  For 55 new lieutenants, it might as well have needed the Staff of Ra and map room from the first Indiana Jones movie.

(The scientific method for finding Ft. Lee's Bull Dental Clinic.)

We all finally found it, and the clinic was run really smoothly.  If you had no paperwork at all (like me), the entire thing was simply getting two different x-rays done (bite wing and panoramic), having blood pressure taken, and then seeing the dentist briefly for a painless exam.  If you’re in an upcoming class and can get to your local dentist beforehand (and get copies of all these tests), you’ll buy yourself a huge morning break.  As for second platoon, they looked to have completed their shakedown quickly, as their people started filing in I was out by 0830 or so, and bounced over to Clark Gym.  My high hopes from the day before were fulfilled, since this gym was much nicer.  It wasn’t stuck in a time when Will Smith ruled the rap scene, and had a ton of nice equipment, as well as racquetball and basketball courts.  It’s still no Gold’s Gym, but it’ll do just fine.  After some PT, we had until 1230 off, and I proceeded to neglect all duties as class blogger during that time.

The afternoon again moved quickly, as the platoon showed up at the ALU for an inventory shakedown.  We spread out in the main classroom and put every single item from the packing list (and I mean every…single…item) onto the tables.  If you think you can get by with buying 1 set of ACUs and 1 pair of boots, you’ll technically be fine, but you’ll fail the inspection and have to redo it later.  I personally failed pretty miserably.  Money was (and still is) tight before JAOBC started, and after spending a ton on PTs and ACUs, I decided to hold off on ASUs.  You won’t get yelled at for not having anything, but cadre will just highlight what you’re missing, and mark you due for a later inspection.

We finished with everything by 1500, and were done for the day, which was really nice.  I headed over to the commissary to grab some more hotel dinner foods (microwavable soup), and as I was walking through the lot, I reflected on a funny fact.  I’ve been in since late 2002, and commissioned as an officer since 2007, but I’ve yet to receive a salute on a military post.  My only salute so far was the ceremonial first salute at my commissioning ceremony in ’07.  Most new officers foam at the mouth with the chance to snap lower ranking soldiers to attention and eek a salute out of them, but I’m going to take a different tack.  My goal is to see how many days I can go about my business on an active duty post and avoid getting saluted.  I won’t purposefully evade groups of privates, or turn around when I see a NCO coming.  Instead, I’m going to ride on my natural ability to repel all of those people away.

Yesterday made 3 years, 2 months, and 10 days, and I’m gunning to make it 11 tomorrow.


  • W.
    2/12/2011 10:23 AM
    How much money would you recommend saving for uniforms and other general expenses to tide you over until you start getting paid?

    I'm eally enjoying the blog by the way! Thanks!
    • LT Harper
      2/12/2011 7:06 PM
      Thanks and I'm glad you're enjoying it! I'd budget at least $800-1000 for uniform expenses if you don't have any, and probably more like $1400 if you're including the ASU. You can get by without the ASU for the Ft. Lee phase (since it's technically not needed until C-Ville). I'm waiting to order mine until the travel advance comes in next week sometime. As far as expenses, you need to be ready for the hotel at Ft. Lee to put a hold on the money for your entire visit (13 days at around $71 per day). They won't charge you upon arrival, but you won't have access to the money because of the hold. Aside from that, I'd plan to have at least $1500 for food, gas, and other incidentals. You'll have the chance to apply for a couple advances (travel and salary) when you arrive, but those won't be processed and in accounts until the end of the Ft. Lee phase (at the earliest). Hope that helps!
  • Charlie
    5/23/2012 11:21 PM
    You can also look into getting a Military Star Card. It's a credit card through the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES), but it charges 0% APR on uniform purchases, and you get 10% off your first purchase. If you are able buy all your uniforms at once, it's a nice way to save over a hundred bucks. And you can pay it back once you get your first paycheck/clothing allowance, since there is no interest.

    I'm not an AAFES employee, just prior service, and finally got a Star Card myself specifically for the pre-JAOBC uniform purchase. I'm think that once you get orders, you can sign up for a Star Card, and then stop by your nearest AAFES (which you'll be near when you go on base to get your uniform stuff) to get a temporary card till yours comes in the mail.

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