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The chow hall will be a nightmare come true during zero week. Here is what you should know so you DON’T DIE. However, no matter what, the first 3 weeks will be torture. It’s just the way things are.
First, you should know that your entire trainee life is built around Chow. You will be hungry all the time because you are burning so many calories throughout the day. Unfortunately, a lot of your time will be spent standing and waiting at the position of parade rest. Most of this time will be right before your meal.
Before you go into Chow, you will be sent to wash your hands at the outside washing stations. Then you will file back out into your formation and will slowly – element by element (you’ll know what this is when you get there)- file into the building. You will have to sign your name on a sheet for every meal, so keep a pen handy during these times.
After you’ve signed the sheet, you will wait in a long line of other trainees to get your food. Do not speak, smile, or snicker at anyone. MTIs are everywhere and they show no mercy to any trainees, whether they recognize you or not. Also – males must stay at least two paces away from the females (and vice versa) at any given time.
You will be told by a dorm chief (most likely yours) when you can proceed into the line where you grab your tray and start getting food. After grabbing the tray, make haste in choosing your food – keeping your hands flat on your tray, and ensure your feet are facing frontwards. You will side step through the line. Do not look around. Only speak to the people giving you food, and again… be quick. Some days, there’s going to be nothing that you like. EAT IT ANYWAYS. You will die without food.
Once you get through the line and drinks (you must get at least 2 liquids too), you will be shown where to sit by one of the Chow Runners. Do not speak at the dining table. Eat your food quickly and quietly and then take your tray to the dishwashing people. There’s a special, organized manner in which you must take your tray, but you will learn that there. It’s a madhouse. Your first few weeks will be terrible. There’s simply no way around it. It’s part of the training process. Even if you do everything right, you will be yelled at.
Do not leave the Chow Hall area until you have a wingman. Then you will march to wherever you were told to meet. In the beginning, you probably won’t know where that is. You’ll just look dumbfounded and someone will yell at you. Usually, you go back to the place you were before (under the large building in the shade).
You will wait there until the MTIs come and tell you what to do next.
In the first couple of weeks, people in your flight will be assigned jobs. I’m not talking about dorm details… those come later. There are three very specific jobs that are assigned during your initial processing week, and I’ve outlined them here:
CHOW RUNNER – “Chow runners go!!!!” This will be your life mantra during BMT if you are a Chow Runner. Pray to God you don’t get this job. I truly believe if I had been a Chow Runner, I never would have made it through BMT. This job involves going into the chow hall and reporting in to see if your flight can eat. They call the area the “Snake Pit.” It’s where all the MTIs sit during chow, and they basically belittle you and treat you like crap, three times a day, every day. It’s awful. Our Chow Runner cried at every meal for the first two weeks. That would have been me.
If you’re the Chow Runner, you have to be on point with your reporting statements, speaking, and drill movements. Otherwise, you’re going to be destroyed. Again, say a prayer that you do not get this job. Lay as low as you can, but not too low. Sometimes they pick the quiet ones for this job.
FIRE MONITOR – The fire monitor has the easiest job. They simply hold the door for all the trainees as they head into the chow hall. It’s a sweet gig, especially if they offer it up for volunteers. If you want to be safe from the Chow Runner job, volunteer for this one. You’ll still get yelled at, but it’s cake compared to what the poor Chow Runners go. You will usually eat last because you’re always the last in line. You also have to yell to the elements to proceed into the dining hall when there is room.
WATER MONITOR – This was my job. Also, not a bad gig, but tough the first few weeks. You have to get in before the rest of the flight so you can start pouring water for your flight. Sometimes, you’ll have to serve numerous flights because other water monitors from other flights won’t relieve you soon enough. You will nearly always be the last to eat, but there are usually 4 of you, so you switch on and off throughout the weeks or meals. You’ll work it out.
The worst part about being a water monitor is that it coincides with being a road guard. Road Guards wear little orange and yellow vests and have to march 6 steps in front and 6 steps behind the flight when marching to appointments. This is also tough the first few weeks, because you have no idea how to march and the MTIs will yell and scream at you because you have no idea what is going on. Still, it’s not so bad as the weeks go on.
That’s about all you need to know about CHOW. Just keep your head down, eat fast, and get lots of peanut butter, because that will be the sweetest thing (besides french toast) you will eat in the Chow Hall. :)