I spent five hot, muggy months of one year in Fort Benning, Georgia. I enlisted in the Army after high school and decided to join the Infantry. From May to September I was miserable. Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training, Paratrooper Training. The only places I didn't march to were the ones I ran to.
One of the last training exercise in AIT was the Field Training Exercise. FTX was four to five days of field training that was to be the culmination of everything we had learned so far. We marched, in combat formation, under full combat gear, twenty or so miles into the boonies of Georgia.
Once an appropriate area was decided on we formed our Assembly Area and then spread about in two man teams by platoon to from a defensive perimeter and dig our fox holes. This was five days of simulated war games. We were under full security and were constantly being attacked by the other platoons in the company. Lots of male bonding fun.
It takes a long time for two men to dig a drill sergeant perfect regulation foxhole with only entrenching tools. Every time we thought we were finished, the drill sergeant would come along and tell us different. We dug that hole the entire time we were out there.
Because we were under full security each hole had to post a guard all night. That meant that while one of us slept the other was awake guarding/digging. At first my team mate and I would do two hour shifts. I would lay my sleeping pad and blanket out and carefully remove my boots and shirt, and lay down for a pleasant nap.
As the exercise wore on, and we got more tired, the shifts got shorter and shorter. By the middle of the third night we were down to 30 minute shifts. We simply couldn't stay awake any longer than that, and getting caught asleep at the post was a big No No. By this time, when it was my turn to sleep I just fell down and slept on the ground. No blanket, no pad, just dirt. If I was especially uncomfortable I would make a nice pile of dirt or leaves to support my head.
You may not know this but Georgia is famous for its ants. They are monstrous! Big Georgia red army ants, some as long as an inch and a half and with a very painful sting. Here's a word of advice for all you campers and outdoors folk. When you make a pillow of dirt and leaves, make sure you don't scoop up dirt from an ant hill. I know it sounds obvious and it is, but remember, I was delirious with lack of sleep, it was dark, and I hadn't eaten a decent meal in about three months.
The ants were enraged by my destruction of their home. They swarmed over my head and under my clothing. In my dazed state it took me a couple of minutes to realize what was going on. Simply put, I freaked out. I started screaming and running through the AA tearing my clothes off and batting at my flesh to try and dislodge the stinging beasts. My shirt came off rather easily but my pants were cuffed into my boots and refused to come all the way off. I tripped on the trousers around my ankles and began to roll through the underbrush, thrashing and screaming all the way.
In my thrashing I managed to crawl through an area that had been gassed with CS the previous day. CS isn't really a gas, but a particulate and will settle unto the ground for quite some time. Now I was rolling through the leaves and stirring up CS gas too. There was no end to my misery.
It had only taken a few minutes thus far and I was starting to gather some attention. The drill sergeants were attempting to figure out why I was acting like a fool and my compatriots were all laughing. When I managed to gibber out the broad spectrum of my problems, the drill sergeant had everyone start dumping their canteens on me, in the hope that the water may soothe my problems and drive the ants away.
The whole incident was resolved rather quickly. I was later reprimanded for disturbing the noise and light security of our position. I was a muddy, messy, wreck. i had ant bites everywhere, and they began to swell painfully. The CS gas only amplified the swelling and my eyes were bloodshot for days. Two days later, with the rest of the company, I marched the twenty miles back to post, again under full combat gear.
Ever since then I have had a terrible dislike for ants. I wouldn't call it a phobia, more of an obsession really. They drive me nuts, and if I find ants in the house I spend hours crawling around on the floor crushing them and spraying bug killer everywhere.