A fresh set of ACUs is vital

ACUsCredit: from LenDog64 via Flickr Creative CommonsCredit: from LenDog64 via Flickr Creative Commons

You Don't Want to Show Up at Your First Duty Station Looking Like a Hot Mess?

Then read this article, and make sure you have what you need.

Coming out of US Army Advanced Individual Training, you as a young soldiers are most likely lost.  For the last 6 months or more, you have had Drill Sergeants, Platoon Sergeants and other Non-Commissioned Officers telling you when to wake up, eat, utilize the latrine, do physical training, sleep and anything else that you did.  Now, you are a soldier in the United States Army, you have a piece of paper in your hands that tells you what city to go to and when you have to be there.  The rest, GASP, is up to you.

If your experience was anything like mine, you feel completely unprepared for reporting day.  I wish I had someone to tell me what I needed to have with me.  So here is my best shot at helping you.

First, a fresh set of ACUs is vital.  If you were able to get your uniforms "DX"ed prior to leaving AIT, then awesome.  If not, bite the bullet, go to the post's clothing sales store and buy a new set.  Make sure they fit.  Don't rely on what you were fitted with at the beginning of basic training.  Your body has probably changed a lot since then.  Try on different sizes until you have the size that fits you best.  You aren't going for style.  Remember, it is a uniform, not a fashion statement.  If you aren't sure if it fits right, ask one of the store's employees, or find an NCO.  Most NCOs on an everyday post are not like your Drill Sergeants.  They will not only appreciate that you want to be squared away, but they will be impressed with your effort.  Try to get a fresh US Army tape, name tape, flag, rank and if you know it, Unit badge.  Keep this set clean, and put together.  You'll never know when you need to impress someone, so a nice set of ACUs is always something you will want.

Second, get your ASUs (Dress Uniform) cleaned, pressed and squared away.  Keep them hung up in the bag you get from the dry cleaners.  The easiest way to impress your first line NCO is to already have your ASUs put together.  If you aren't sure of how to do it, there are shops on or off post that charge 20-30 bucks to do it for you, and 99 times out of 100 they are perfect.  Have your beret shaved and shaped, and know how to wear it.  Guys, know how to tie your tie.  Your first inspection may be the day you get there.  Don't make your NCO's life difficult, otherwise he or she has every right to make your life difficult.  Make their life easy, and they will help you make yours a little easier.

Third, have knowledge of who your unit leaders are.  Do a little research during your leave time, and figure out who you are going to be assigned to.  It may be difficult, based on your orders, to know what company you will be assigned to, but your battalion should be simple with a little online research.  Know your Battalion Commander, Command Sergeant Major, and the rest of your chain of command.  When you get done in processing, you will meet an NCO who will likely ask you a few random questions just to see if you are squared away. The more you know about your unit and your unit's history, the more impressive you will be.

Next, have all of your paperwork, to include (but not limited to), your DA-Form 31, Copies of Orders, Official High School and/or College Transcripts, family information, and any and all other paperwork that you may have been given as you left AIT.  You would think that the Army would find a way to store all that stuff electronically, and could send it over the network to your duty station.  However, that day has not yet come, and therefore, you are responsible for all of it.  If you don't have a copy of your transcript when you get to your duty station, even if you had it at MEPS, BCT and AIT, then your Enlisted Records Brief will not reflect that you have any college credit.

Most importantly, have confidence.  You made it through basic and AIT, just like everyone else wearing the Army uniform.  Sure, most will outrank you and have more experience than you, so don't be cocky, and do show them the respect they've earned. Nevertheless, you are a soldier in the United States Army.  That means you have the confidence somewhere in you to figure out what you need to do.

Lastly, have fun.  If you don't have fun, then you will hate your Army experience.  You are about to work hard, miss birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other important events.  If you don't have fun while you can, you will be miserable for the next 3, 4, 5, 20 years.