Drill, Baby, Drill

The backbone of America

The backbone of America

My time in Bahrain is short. A westbound flight beckons through the haze of the next two weeks, with demobilization shortly beyond. A return to civilian life follows.


I’d better keep my uniforms crisp. That one weekend a month – or something roughly equivalent – will endure for a good, long time. Drill weekends lie in wait.

You: What do people do on drill weekends?

Me: Thanks for asking.

To follow that awkward transition, here are some links – I did some actual research (consisting of very well-typed Google searches) and found a couple of good Reddit threads for those considering affiliation. Also, your parents are proud of you two out of every thirty days. And apparently the Army calls it “Battle Assembly,” which is either really cool or super lame.

Enough research. Here’s what I’ve experienced.

At minimum, you have admin to do. It’s the military – no matter your status, the paperwork never goes away. There’s a fitness report to review, or a medical evaluation to attend, or some mandatory Navy-wide training to sit through with drool spilling out your mouth. Depending on how squared away your unit is, you might be able to knock out the main requirements in surges just a couple times a year, but more likely the bothersome stuff will be spread throughout.

Some degree of physical training will hopefully transpire. Twice a year there is a required physical fitness test, just like on active duty, and it is only fair for you to have some time to work out while on Navy duty. Before I left, my unit did command PT at the end of the day on Saturday afternoons. That twice-a-year test will be administered on drill weekends, too.

Of course, your unit has a reason to exist, too – it supports some mission the Navy does. So after all the time spent going through the motions of simply being Reservists, there should be at least a few hours that you can work on your mission. Depending on the nature of your unit, you may have actual exercises to plan, point papers to write, or maintenance to perform.

However, it should be stated that most of that direct support to the mission is performed during Annual Training periods (a minimum of twelve days) or while on other long-term orders. Mission-oriented time on drill weekends is most likely to be spent preparing and scheduling Reserve Sailors for their AT; i.e. getting ready to do the mission, but not actually doing it – yet.

This goes to the nature of the Reserve Component as a force-in-readiness; as a Reservist, you may not be doing anything of particular value right now, but you damn well better be ready to go at the moment you get your mobilization orders. Drill gives you the time (and compensation) to do what is required to stay ready. Any additional mission support that takes place during those periods – well, that’s lagniappe.

Of course, you may join a unit that operates differently. Some are “flex drill” – they only meet twice a year for that mandatory PT test, and use their drills at odd times throughout the year. It depends on the mission. The best example is probably units that provide watch officers to 24/7 operations centers – Reservists take some of the load from the Active Component by filling slots during the week and the month, not just a single weekend. Or you might be with a unit that writes a lot of reports, and you can literally phone it in (yes, telecommuting is possible in the uniformed services). And still other units might bunch up all their drills and AT into one continuous month to do some kind of team training or support a big exercise.

So there’s a lot to ask about if you’re considering a unit with an irregular schedule. I’m not sure what’s next for me, as by January I expect to be with a new unit, hopefully closer to home. But these are some of the things I’ll be considering.

As I demobilize, I do look forward to drilling again. I’ve enjoyed the last eleven-plus years in uniform – but after a certain point, it comes best in small doses.


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