Today Caleb marched out to "Jack's Valley", for phase two of the Basic Cadet Training boot camp. Here the squadrons will pitch their tents to camp and be run through endless obstacle-course type drills. Scaling walls, crawling through mud, climbing ropes, firing weapons, learning first aid, running, and practicing war maneuvers. They have been told this second half will be much more physically demanding than the first half, which is saying something. Caleb lost three pounds the first week from his already minimal frame, and got put on three-times-a-day calorie supplement drinks. We got to talk to him on Sunday (OH JOY) and he sounds OK. It is certainly no fun to be awoken at 4:30 every morning, yelled at all day long, always at attention, always on edge, doing uncountable push-ups til your hands start to blister, and constantly pushed to the limit. But he believes he is doing the right thing, and that means a lot. Please do pray for him. And ask God to bless the Stuarts, his sponsor family. For "Doolie Day out" the one day all summer they can leave the Academy and talk on the phone and eat in peace, they picked him up and took him to church and grilled him a steak and prayed for him and let him use their phone for hours. They are saints. I have the image of Caleb out in the ocean, working hard to stay afloat, and the sponsors are lifeguards who pull him to shore and give him rest and nourishment so he can jump in again.
All of the abusive sleep-deprived treatment is easier to understand with some context, and for that I am thankful for this book:
It tells the story of an Olympic runner turned Air Force bomber in WWII. He and his pilot and a crew of ten slammed into the Pacific on a search and rescue mission for another downed plane (the number of men lost to accidents in that war is chilling). Only two survive and drift 2000 miles over almost 40 days on a life raft circled by sharks until they are captured as they land on a Japanese-occupied island. The following two years of POW camps involve unimaginable physical torture and starvation. About 1% of German POW's died, but over 30% of Japanese POW's died. The book advertises "redemption" which is one of my key book criteria. . . if you read it, stick with it to the final chapters.
The experience of Air Force pilots and their crew members as POW's I believe informs much of what takes place in BCT. They want to weed out anyone who will quit when the going gets tough.
For all of us, faith means hanging on in very hard times, and we are made more Christ-like through suffering. Caleb is getting a lifetime's worth of this in a few weeks, so pray for him to keep his eyes on the goal and stay strong.