Rico Suave and I went blackberry picking to fill our freezer up with berries for our morning smoothies. The blackberries were so plump, juicy, and fat, they were falling off the vines. Picking the blackberries was a much nicer experience than black raspberry picking. We only spent about an hour picking at Butler’s Orchard but ended up with 2 big buckets full.

I had only been blackberry picking once before this year.

I was at Ft. Knox, Kentucky for Leaders Training Course (LTC) in July of 2002. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I was angry and wanted to do something – anything. I had entertained the notion of dropping out of school and enlisting in the Army but I only had 2 more years left to finish my degree. I was so close to the end of the tunnel, I didn’t want to derail the train. I decided against enlisting, instead joining the Wildcat Battalion at the University of Arizona with a 2-year ROTC scholarship. Since I didn’t have all four years of ROTC training, I had to go to LTC for 4 weeks to make up for the 2 years I missed of ROTC Training – or as the recruiter called it, “ROTC Boot Camp”. LTC, as it’s known now, has evolved a lot in the 12 years since I’ve been (OMG, has it been 12 years?!). When I went, it was basically a Boot Camp for ROTC cadets.

Plump, juicy, delicious berries

I was so proud when I signed my LTC contract that was about to whisk me away to Kentucky for 4 weeks, the first person I called was my dad. “Dad!,” I exclaim. “I just joined the Army! I’m going to Boot Camp this summer!” To which he replied, “That’s great, honey. Um, you know they yell at you in boot camp, right?” (I was a sensitive, quiet, shy, and naive child growing up who turned into a sensitive, quiet, shy, and naive young adult.)

“YEP! It’s gonna to be awesome!”

Little. Did. I. Know.

(I’m getting to the blackberries, I promise)
The major part of LTC was our capstone which was just about the final week of training. It was Squad Situational Exercises, otherwise known as STX Lanes. In STX Lanes you run squad sized infantry missions; everything from defending a perimeter to assaults. After the completion of every mission, we have an After Action Review and the instructors gather around with us and tell us what was good that we did, what was bad, and what we could do better. It was a week in the field eating MREs and sleeping in the rain. All-in-all, it was good Army training.

A handful of blackberries for you, a handful of blackberries for me!
A handful of blackberries for you, a handful of blackberries for me!
We were probably 4 days into STX training when on a particular mission, we had to cross an open area. We cross the open area into some bushes, regroup, and carry on our way. That’s when someone noticed we were traipsing through a patch of wild blackberry bushes! Alerting each other to the utter joy of finding fresh blackberries, after eating nothing but MREs the past few days, we started grabbing handfuls of blackberries and stuffing them into our smiling faces as we marched on. By the time we cleared the blackberry bushes every single one of us had purple-stained faces and hands.
Rico Suave and I went blackberry picking to fill our freezer up with berries for our morning smoothies. The blackberries were so plump, juicy, and fat, they were falling off the vines. Picking the blackberries was a much nicer experience than black raspberry picking. We only spent about an hour picking at Butler’s Orchard but ended up with 2 big buckets full.

This is what 10 pounds of blackberries looks like
This is what 10 pounds of blackberries looks like
I had only been blackberry picking once before this year.

I was at Ft. Knox, Kentucky for Leaders Training Course (LTC) in July of 2002. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I was angry and wanted to do something – anything. I had entertained the notion of dropping out of school and enlisting in the Army but I only had 2 more years left to finish my degree. I was so close to the end of the tunnel, I didn’t want to derail the train. I decided against enlisting, instead joining the Wildcat Battalion at the University of Arizona with a 2-year ROTC scholarship. Since I didn’t have all four years of ROTC training, I had to go to LTC for 4 weeks to make up for the 2 years I missed of ROTC Training – or as the recruiter called it, “ROTC Boot Camp”. LTC, as it’s known now, has evolved a lot in the 12 years since I’ve been (OMG, has it been 12 years?!). When I went, it was basically a Boot Camp for ROTC cadets.

Plump, juicy, delicious berries
Plump, juicy, delicious berries
I was so proud when I signed my LTC contract that was about to whisk me away to Kentucky for 4 weeks, the first person I called was my dad. “Dad!,” I exclaim. “I just joined the Army! I’m going to Boot Camp this summer!” To which he replied, “That’s great, honey. Um, you know they yell at you in boot camp, right?” (I was a sensitive, quiet, shy, and naive child growing up who turned into a sensitive, quiet, shy, and naive young adult.)

“YEP! It’s gonna to be awesome!”

Little. Did. I. Know.

(I’m getting to the blackberries, I promise)

The major part of LTC was our capstone which was just about the final week of training. It was Squad Situational Exercises, otherwise known as STX Lanes. In STX Lanes you run squad sized infantry missions; everything from defending a perimeter to assaults. After the completion of every mission, we have an After Action Review and the instructors gather around with us and tell us what was good that we did, what was bad, and what we could do better. It was a week in the field eating MREs and sleeping in the rain. All-in-all, it was good Army training.

A handful of blackberries for you, a handful of blackberries for me!
A handful of blackberries for you, a handful of blackberries for me!
We were probably 4 days into STX training when on a particular mission, we had to cross an open area. We cross the open area into some bushes, regroup, and carry on our way. That’s when someone noticed we were traipsing through a patch of wild blackberry bushes! Alerting each other to the utter joy of finding fresh blackberries, after eating nothing but MREs the past few days, we started grabbing handfuls of blackberries and stuffing them into our smiling faces as we marched on. By the time we cleared the blackberry bushes every single one of us had purple-stained faces and hands.

Still purple stained, a day after…

When we gathered for the AAR, the instructor for that lane remarked, “what in the world happened to you all?!”

I chuckle every time I think what a group of young cadets – future leaders of the US Army – must have looked like to those instructors. Hey, never take for granted what mother nature has to offer…and blackberries are a delicious example.
When we gathered for the AAR, the instructor for that lane remarked, “what in the world happened to you all?!”

I chuckle every time I think what a group of young cadets – future leaders of the US Army – must have looked like to those instructors. Hey, never take for granted what mother nature has to offer…and blackberries are a delicious example.

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