Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Part Of My Past

Yes, that's me. No one bothered to tell me that you shouldn't smile in your basic training picture. I was one of the only doufus' smiling in the yearbook. Heck, I was excited about going to basic. I went to Basic Training in Fort Jackson, SC and certainly did not have the easiest of times. I realized the horrible foot problems I had once we started doing road marches. My feet would blister and split open, literally filling my boots with blood. I know that sounds gross and disgusting, but I never fell out of a road march. I eventually made it through, having massive foot issues, knee problems, and horrible marital woes (my first marriage, don't ask me about it!).

Upon graduation from basic, I attended the Airborne Orientation Course at Fort Lee, VA. Oh, the horrors! Primarily physical training for three straight weeks, we also learned about basic parachute rigging principles. I enlisted as a Parachute Rigger, gosh knows why I did that! I thought it would be exciting to jump out of airplanes! I unfortunately dislocated my hip in AOC, but having met all the requirements for graduation, I was sent to Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. Needless to say, I didn't make it very long in Airborne School. I held a lot of grudges about what happened there, and having been sent there injured knowing I would never make it because. But "failing" Airborne School allowed me to pursue the Military Occupation Specialty that was, what I felt, my true calling.

I spent many months as a holdover down in Fort Benning. From there I went to Redstone Arsenal, AL where I attended Advanced Individual Training as an Ammunition Specialist. I learned the most amazing things here like how to rig C-4 and other explosives (yes, as a female it is a shocker to most men that I know how to do that!)

This pack that I was wearing for our end-of-training field problem weighed 65 pounds. That was over half my weight.

This was my baby...she was 63 feet long. Ever wonder why people refer to there vehicles as "she"? They are temperamental and pull "attitudes" (hmmm...just like a female!)

From AIT, I was given orders to Fort Drum, NY. I cried when I received my orders because I had heard the horror stories about that place. To give you an idea of just how bad it is, I knew soldiers while I was stationed there that had come from Alaska. And they told me it was colder in Fort Drum than in AK! I worked hard, got injured a lot (laceration to the forehead, partially severing a finger, and breaking my toe and ankle), but was promoted fast (at least faster than my peers). I was deployed to the Joint Readiness Training Center, LA twice, where I found out that I was allergic to fire ants. Lovely! I was sent to the hospital seven times in one rotation because of them!

I was at JRTC on 9/11. We were training up for a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo. Fortunately, for us, we still proceeded with peacekeeping plans. However, a lot of my friends weren't so lucky and were sent to Afghanistan when the war was first declared. We were deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo for 7 months. Kosovo was amazing! I learned a lot about myself while I was there and about how much I could endure. I held a horrible job as the Battle Non-Commissioned Officer and held the night shift. My seahut roommates did not allow me the luxury of sleeping during the day. Women can be so trifling sometimes! Even more important to the things I learned about myself while I was there, I learned a lot about other cultures and about humanity itself. The atrocities that the people of Kosovo endured forever remain with me to this day. It is the one place that I have felt like we, as soldiers, have actually done some good. It feels good to know that I might have had my small part in making someones life a little easier, less frightening, and more safe. I cried when I left Kosovo.

The beautiful Kosovo sunset. I had never seen a mountain prior to being deployed to Kosovo.

I was promoted to Sergeant deployed in Kosovo. I achieved that rank in a little under two years. I was a definite fast-tracker and a lot of my peers were angered and jealous of me because of it. I re-enlisted to be deployed to Afghanistan, as I felt like my commitment to the Army would not have been fulfilled if I did not serve in a combat capacity.

I hold some varying opinions on our place in Afghanistan, and it is probably best if I keep those to myself. While I learned a lot about myself in Kosovo, I learned a lot about others during my 11 months living in a tent at Kandahar Airfield, some things one could never possibly imagine that others' were capable of. You really learn about who people are when they are living in the horrid environment that we were living in.

I was promoted to Staff Sergeant a little bit after returning from Afghanistan. I made that rank in under 6 years and I know, had a stayed in longer, I would have made it much farther. I got pregnant and decided it was best to get out, as my husband was still in. I felt my children needed one person who was a stable parent in their life. I was not going to be that parent who left my children to be raised my family while my husband and I deployed. Not that there is anything wrong with those families that choose to do that. It is not the way I want my family raised.

So, I went into basic a shy, reserved, self-conscious girl and came out a outgoing, confident, and strong woman. Who I am today has most everything to do with the countless experiences I encountered while in the Army and the people that I know (sadly, a handful who are no longer with us). I hope that you enjoyed reading this little bit about me and have gotten to know more of who I really am, and what I have accomplished with my past.

My last photo prior to being honorably discharged.


MayRae said...

Just wanted to say Nice to meet ya :)

terryann said...

You have done a lifetimes full and are still at it... ! something to be proud of! I hope you attain your dream of college! Thank you for all you have done and are still doing! You are a great american!