Who needs Army security when we’ve got our GPS?

We called it a vacation trip to South Carolina, but we really had an ulterior – and better – motive for going there.

We were heading to Fort Jackson, outside Columbia, S.C., for Ethan’s graduation from Drill Sergeant School.

But since we were that close – less than two hours away – we also included a couple of days in Charleston to make it a full week.

No reason why there couldn’t be some fun – and sun, and seafood, and shopping – in the equation.

First though, it was Fort Jackson and Ethan’s graduation.

We were staying on base in one of the civilian hotels, but first we had to get on base.

It wasn’t necessarily a problem with Army security or military police, it was more a GPS issue.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t find it – at more than 80 square miles in area, it’s kind of hard not to find – but more that we couldn’t find a way into the fort.

That’s because our GPS sent us to the east side of the fort looking for a gate on the northeast side of the place.

Apparently, whoever programmed our GPS didn’t figure out that the main gates, including for the public, are along the west boundary of the fort, along the interstate highway that runs right alongside Fort Jackson.

Instead, it sent us to a two-lane road more than 15 miles to the east, then up that road another five miles or so.

Just when we thought we must have crossed into North Carolina by now, we finally found the gate the GPS sent us to and pulled in – only to find it closed and padlocked.

I wasn’t about to try driving through the gate or climbing over the fence – we were there to visit Ethan, not the stockade – so we turned around and headed back to see if we could find an open gate on the west side of the fort.

We made our way north on the interstate and within a few minutes saw a sign reading “Fort Jackson Main Gate next exit.”

I should say that the Army did send us a very nice map with directions on which gate to go to and a visitors pass to get through the gate.

It was with the packet of information they sent us after we RSVP’ed to our invitation to the graduation several weeks before we left for South Carolina.

Unfortunately, that packet of information was in the pile of held mail that I picked up at the post office after we returned home from our trip – it was probably delivered about the same time we were making our tour of the perimeter of Fort Jackson.

We finally got in the gate, got our visitors pass and made our way to the motel where we were staying, all before Ethan was scheduled to graduate – even though we had been having serious doubts about whether we’d ever get there in time for his graduation.

That was Monday night, with the graduation ceremonies set for Tuesday afternoon (pinning ceremony) and Wednesday morning (formal graduation).

We were even in time to meet Ethan and the family of one of his classmates for dinner at a barbecue restaurant just off base.

The barbecue was just another sign that we were in South Carolina, along with the sun, temperatures in the 70s, blooming flowers and more.

The first part of the graduation wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon, so we had some time to ourselves in the morning.

Naturally, Terry had to check out the PX on the base – anything to do with shopping, she’s there.

While she could have made that an all-day event, she controlled herself – knowing she could return later – and we headed to the Army basic training museum at the fort.

In case you’re discerning a theme here, Fort Jackson is the Army’s main location for basic training, so it’s probably natural that the museum is there as well as the Drill Sergeant school.

Ethan didn’t come along with us to the museum – having been through basic training already, then pretty much going through it again to learn to be a drill sergeant, he’d pretty much had his fill of the subject and had no interest in seeing any more about it.

But for those of us without a vested interest in the topic, it was interesting and informative.

I’m probably not alone in stating that basic training is more interesting to look at in a museum than it is to go through personally – and fortunately this museum didn’t have any interactive or hands-on displays on the subject.

NEXT WEEK: Watching Ethan graduate and get his funny hat.


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