Re: Need advice on how to get started with my goals
How to pack it so it won't damage your back?
Don't know. I also suffer from back pain, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
We always packed our pack with what we would be using most often at the top, and the less significant items closer to the bottom. And you will most likely only be using an Alice pack while in bootcamp. I don't know if it has changed, but the standard issued pack is the MOLLE pack. It's a a lot different than the Alice pack. And it generally never weighed less than about 40lbs, except when we were short timers, and then we just packed our packs with our sleeping bags.
By the time I was getting out in mid 2008, they were no longer allowing us to use Alice packs. This may have been just a unit discretion thing, as many things are. And for what it's worth; a lot of Recon and Snipers I knew still used the ruck sacks.
Hope this helps.