AMEX is the field portion of our training here at Chaplain school. It is focused on the Green side of things (The Marines). The whole week that we were out in the field all we heard was a "Marine would experience this", and "this will help you know what they all go through." I won't lie, not all of AMEX was all that fun but overall I had a very good time.
The week began with the setting up of camp and the constant yells of our Gunnery Sergeant to go faster. I am pretty sure that no matter what speed we did things the yells to go faster would still be there. As soon as we go camp set up we tore into our first round of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). This was my first experience with MRE's and I had cheese omelet. Apparently it has the reputation of being one of the worst MRE's but I actually liked it. (At one time in the week I would eat the Country Chicken MRE, now this thing was terrible. I mean I can eat anything pretty much but WOW I was gagging trying to get this thing down.) After the MRE we headed out to the confidence course. These are various obstacles that are to be navigated in a certain way and I guess once done give you some confidence. Overall they weren't that physically demanding, but some of them (the weever) gave me some nasty bruises. I must say that I was impressed though with my fellow chaplains in my group and our class as a whole. I am 27 and sorta in shape, but the chaplain corps as a whole is a little older and maybe a little more pear shaped. This didn't stop anyone though, I remember looking at some of the obstacles and then at some of the other chaplains and just thinking NO WAY! but they did them all. Way to be class B09030!
On Tuesday we sat in a classroom and looked at powerpoint all day. Yes out in the field STILL LOOKING AT FREAKING POWER POINT. I know that I will see alot of powerpoint over my Navy career (apparently the Navy trains almost exclusively on powerpoint) but after 3 months straight of power point I hate the stuff.
On Wednesday we went to the leadership course. There we were split into teams and made to rotate between 17 problems that had to be navigated within a certain time frame, only using certain materials, and making sure to never touch the red (red is dead). Half of the problems were just over gravel and lacked the anxiety of real consequences for failing. The other half on the other hand were over water and if you failed you took a swim in full uniform. I TOOK A FEW SWIMS. It was great to see if you could come up with a plan, get your team to buy into it, and then execute, and to get a little beat up and wet.
On Thursday we woke up , broke down camp, and had breakfast. We then went back into the classroom to begin our land navigation training. We finally got out to the field to practice some of our new found knowledge around 1700. We were given the task of finding as many targets as we could until the exercise was called off. Our team set off right away and started making quick work of tracking down the various targets all over the base. Around 1900 it started to rain and at first it was a fun experience to trek around the woods in our gear looking for little markers pinned to some random tree, but soon the rain picked up and everything got soaked. After finding 10 targets (the closest other team found 7 targets and everyone else found 5 or less, so we kicked butt) we were all called back into the classroom around 2200. I thought that our day might be over and maybe some food would be on the horizon, they had let us eat breakfast but nothing after that, but it wasn't to be. After a brief lesson in night navigation we were paraded back out into the pouring rain which had been joined by a strong gusting wind. It was that kind of rain that is whipped by the wind right into your face with a little sting. So out to the night navigation course we went. Our class had 31 people at AMEX but the night NAV course could only hold about 6 people at a time. I was one of the first people to go and after I was done I had to sit on some bleachers and wait for everyone else to get done. I was soaked, getting rained on, and because of the wind I was freezing cold. I sat on that bleacher for an hour and a half.
Finally the word came from Gunnery Sergeant that we were going back. So we marched back over to the classroom and formed up outside. We only had to stand there outside the classroom for a few minuted but it felt like alot longer, I was tired of being in the rain and all of my skin felt the way your fingers get when you sit in the tub for too long. When we got in the classroom our class officer began with another class of instruction and another set of power points, it was 2am who can pay attention to power points at 2am? The whole thing was a ruse though, he quickly went through the power point and then revealed that there was pizza and chips and drinks in the room behind ours and sent a few guys to bring it in. We pigged out on cold pizza at 0230 while watching a documentary of Chesty Puller (a famous Marine General), what has my life turned into?
After the pizza they let us take a shower (first in five days) and sleep for a few hours in some bunk houses on base. When we awoke the next morning though we were told that we had to put our wet stuff from the night before back on in order to go back to Newport and form up for an award presentation. It wasn't that much fun to put those things back on and we all stunk something nasty. By 1700 on Friday though I was back in my room and AMEX was behind me.
The experience, as I stated earlier, was a good time. I wasn't sitting there the whole time thinking this is so much fun, but for the most part I felt like a little kid again playing in the woods in Mabank TX, getting dirty, stinky, and still pretending that I am a soldier in a war situation. I also learned that I might not be the toughest guy out there but I think that I can easily handled anything physical that the chaplaincy will ask of me. The hard part will be the time away from my family and the fact that I will be the person who will always have to be on point with my attitude and having a positive word to say. Prayerfully Annie, Bella, and I will rest upon the strength that Christ will provide, seeking to rest always upon the solid foundation of the cross.