Graded and Recorded Phase – Reality Sets In
All the practice days were over. At this point, we would move into a final week of harder movements, with heavier loads and additional stress added. What’s more, we would not retire to the comfort of barracks and master chef Mike W.’s cuisine. At the end of the day, if you were not pulled from the course for being too slow, quitting, or losing your map or rifle, you found yourself trucked to a gouge in the mountain, free to make a shelter, a fire, eat, and sleep.
During the practice weeks, it was with great hope and expectation that you would manage to pull all of the mistakes from your arsenal of idiocy and shake them out once and for all. At the end of the final practice week, you dragged all your injuries—to both your body and psyche—along to meet the fearful specter of the selection and assessment course. In this phase of the course, where once I felt a harmony of equal participation between my mind and body, my body began to slip away from its contribution to equality. My mind would have to step up and shoulder the extra burden.
Priorities of work once a shelter was set up were:
- Take care of your transport mode (your feet)
- Eat preferably hot food
There would be a great deal of sleeping like logs and babies in the mountains on these nights. The difficulty came in getting oneself up at zero dark thirty, packing up, and making sure you were standing out on the mountain road when the truck drove by to get you. Miss the first truck? The second truck would be by later to bring you back to the barracks, then to the airport.
My First Night On The Mountain
My first night on the mountain, it had poured rain, but my extra attention to my shelter the previous evening had paid off. My cover had remained strong, and I had remained dry for the most part. In fact, through the night, I slept somewhat oblivious to the torrent raging “outside.” When I awoke, my head felt like it weighed 20 pounds. I had to manually bend my lower joints, working them back into motion.
I got up early to have a hot cup of coffee. This was my plan the previous night. The cup of hot coffee would serve as a psychological maneuver to get myself out in front of my mental demons. I packed up quickly first, then slowly burned a cup of cold brown water into steaming java. I was supposed to only suffer this morning, but my coffee was beating down the system, cheating it out of delivering at least one more punch in the gut first thing in the morning. I threw a glance skyward to sift through stars for a wink to a friendly constellation. The firmament revealed nothing.