As I build this blog and share with you funny stories, successes and failures as a mom and woman, ways I have finally decided I’m worth it to take care of myself so that hopefully this will encourage and help women, I feel it’s important to share some things about my past that may also help some of you. Help so you don’t feel alone if anything similar has happened to you, and help in knowing that faith can get you through.
Most of you that find this probably wouldn’t know that I spent 13 years in the Army. I was first in the reserves for six years, then went active duty for seven years. I can attribute the Army for some good things…if it weren’t for being an idiot and actually reenlisting for a little place called Ft. Irwin, California I never would’ve met and married the man of my dreams and father of my children. But the majority of my time in the military was downright miserable. Let me preface to say that obviously I did dumb things once in awhile and made mistakes. BUT I have ALWAYS been a stickler for rule following and doing the right thing. As a matter of fact, these days I don’t get strung up on many bad things people say about me. But if there’s one thing that really gets me going fast, it’s questioning my integrity. Many times in the Army I felt like my integrity and my faith in God were the only two things that kept me from really going off the rails and hurting someone else or myself, as well as keeping an ounce of sanity.
I want to bring some things to light because I think it’s important to really be educated about what is going on. About how women are treated and even some of the ways we tend to bring that treatment on ourselves in the military. I am not going to get into that part at this time, but just wanted to share this story for now. When I went from the reserves to active duty, I was already disappointed because I really wanted to be a combat medic so I could earn my way onto the Blackhawks and be a flight medic. Unfortunately because I was already a non-commissioned officer, they wouldn’t allow me to do that. I even offered to give up my rank so I could get that job, but it was a no-go. So I was given several complete BS options, and I chose the one I thought I would end up getting screwed the least in. I was a truck driver in the reserves and was always just bullied and run over by everyone, so I thought going into this particular field would at least give me some respect by peers. I got my first active duty assignment after training and it was for Korea. I don’t even really remember why now, but I did not want to go to Korea. I called my branch manager in charge of assignments and begged for different orders. “Please send me somewhere that will deploy me again. I’d rather go back to combat.” I knew there was no help when the answer I received was, “You can’t get more combat zone than Korea.” Ummm…okay.
When I got there I had to go through a week of orientation and a week of leadership orientation before being assigned to my unit. Every single person that came to talk to us-whether it was finance or the lawyers or admin-told us that at some point while we were there we would most likely get raped. WHAT?!?! Then in leadership orientation we were told that our Soldiers would probably at some point rape someone and if we didn’t stop it from happening it would be our fault. WHAT?!?!!? I mean, this was bananas!
I get to my unit which was full of combat arms guys that feel like women really only have one job in the military, which is to service them. So I’m harassed on a daily basis, which really isn’t new to me so I just go about my day and do my job the best I can. I am in charge of 25 brand new Soldiers with an attitude because they think they are smarter than me and don’t have to listen…sorry, that’s just not how the Army works. And then, because I was promoted to non-commissioned officer while I was in the reserves I had to go to training for it now that I was active duty. Training was four weeks away from my unit.
LOTS of basic army leadership skills is what we were supposed to be learning. Instead, our instructor decided to graze over some things about talk about drinking and sex. He had a wife in the States, but was really enjoying himself in Korea. He was a white guy, but made it known that he wasn’t into white girls. Lucky me, because boy was I really impressed with him. So while I was really wanting to learn things and become a better leader, it was complete nonsense and a waste of time. When we had to go out and get graded on our skills, I was graded harder because I was a female (my instructor actually told me this). I was also talked down to and treated like crap from my peers simply because they didn’t believe I had the knowledge to make good leadership decisions.
There was a guy that actually got paid to play the tuba in the Army band that really thought he knew how to be an infantryman. My job was to collect intelligence so I could make recommendations to our combat arms guys and make suggestions as to what the enemies were most likely going to do.
He and I were paired to lead a squad into a known ambush so we could get graded on our reaction and how we led our squad to fight. We did a quick recon to see where we could be attacked. When we came back to brief our squad, he belittled me and told me I was wrong on the location on the most likely attack and our squad was told not to listen to me because I was an idiot and didn’t know anything. So naturally, when we got attacked where I said we would, it was a mess. He fell apart and the squad fell apart not knowing how to react. Needless to say, we didn’t receive a great grade, which was extremely frustrating. And guess who got blamed? You got it…me.
Close to the end of training we were in formation waiting to go eat. My instructor had skittles and was munching on them while he broke our formation to come right to me and whisper, “I slept with a white girl last night.” I was supposed to be impressed, which I wasn’t. But the funny thing is I have no idea what reaction he wanted from me. For me to fall out of formation and start doing cartwheels? To ask him if he would be so kind to sleep with me?? I ended up not making the honor grad list even though I knew I was one of the best Soldiers in his class. I ran into him outside of training soon after and I asked him why I didn’t make honor grad. He said to me,” You were the better than most of the class (males) so I had to grade you harder. If you come back, I’ll make sure you get it.”
Needless to say, it was a miserable month. Bullied. Harassed both sexually and just because I was a woman. Graded “harder” because I was better than the men. There was no way in hell I was putting up with that again. Besides, I had to go face hell at my unit anyway….but more on that later.
What I want from this story is to make people aware. This sort of thing is happening so rampantly, but it’s not just in the military. I don’t want women to get hardened and hate men. I don’t want this to incite hate. I want it to incite a respect for everyone. We do need equality. But what does equality mean to you?