Military Career

I found myself on a Greyhound bus traveling to California. I knew that I had to change my life. My spirit was broken, I had the clothes on my back, no ID, and no real idea what I was going to do when I got there. Self esteem had left me long ago; but I was headed home. I had to start somewhere.
I found a woman’s shelter with a warm bed and a safe place to be until I could make up my mind. I was 29 years old, divorced, and very little money. The shelter gave me two weeks to get a job and a place of my own. I would help cook meals and earn my keep doing my share of chores. I was just shy of being on the street.
Although I was a little messed up in the head, there was this voice inside that seemed to be directing me to do the right thing. I walked into a Recruiting Station that had all branches of service. I thought I would go into the Navy, as my uncle served. I was told that I was too old for all services, except for the Army. So, I sat in front of the Army Recruiters desk and filled out paperwork. I.D.? Uh, no I lost it. That Sgt. went to great lengths to verify my citizenship and a few days later, I was raising my hand to take the Oath for service in the U.S. Army.
I was flown to Ft. McClellan, AL to be trained first as a soldier then specialize as a Military Police. MP. MudPuppy. I was offered MP, nurse, or truck driving. I wanted to know what I was made of, so signed the papers for MP School, 95 Bravo. I had prepared myself mentally for basic training, after all, I was a pro when it came to being yelled at by someone else.
The Fort was located in woods and hills. During my training, I would get to know pretty much all of it via marching, running or by helicopter and from the back of deuce and a half trucks. I got to the reception station, where inprocessing took place, and was told it was 2 more days until my Basic Training cycle truly began. So, this is what it’s like to live in barracks with other females who were just as antsy as I was over military life.
Get on the bus with your gear. We were packed in with no seats to spare and when we arrived, a female drill with a white Australian hat stepped into the bus. She ordered “You have two minutes to get off of this bus, and one of them is gone. Move it!” Ah, my new life had begun.
The Army was given a female with little self-esteem; no idea what happens next with no real worldly possessions, and gave back a woman with sense of self and a part of a larger family. I learned how to handle myself in combat. How to care for myself. Make a bed with smart tight corners. Fold t-shirts, organize closets and drawers, spit shine boots to a mirror-like shine, to shine brass, to measure and align ribbons, rank, belt buckles, and to apply camouflage paint with bug juice. To handle all sorts of weapons. How to care for them, clean them, disassemble and reassemble, how to shoot, throw live grenades, firing machine guns, shotguns, side arms, grenade launchers, crawling in mud with them, combat tactics, under live fire, and to sleep with one. I learned communication with radios and learned to say Alpha for “A”, Bravo for “b” through the whole alphabet.
I learned that there is no red, yellow, black, or white in the Army, there is only green. I learned how to react under stress. I learned military bearing and ethics. I learned duty and taking responsibility for my actions. I learned that the person next to me could one day save my life and I could save theirs. Pay attention to detail. Memorized General orders and to follow them.
I learned to strive. I learned how to read a map, figure coordinates, use a compass and map to find my way to a given point. I learned how to be a combat MP and a Garrison MP. I learned urban warfare and police tactics. I learned to use only the amount of force necessary to defuse the situation. To use my baton like an extension of my arm. I was taught how to handle suspects and prisoners of war. I learned the effects of tear gas first hand and how to use chemical protection gear. I specialized in crisis intervention. I even learned how to care for my feet while on marches with the full weight of 80 pound pack, weapons, chemical mask, tent, ammo, food, and my own medical supplies.
I was taught sayings, cadence, and respect for those in charge. Questions like What is the effective range of an excuse? Answer: Zero Meters. Every soldier knows this. I would march to a drill Sgt. talking in time with my Left. Right Left Right, my left right, and singing Mamma mamma can’t you see, what the Army’s done to me. Or, There’s no point in looking down. There’s no discharge on the ground. And Two old ladies sitting in bed, one looked over to the other and said, I’m gonna to be an airborne ranger, I’m gonna live my life in danger.
The Army instills everything they need me to be. and these things never leave you. They strip you of everything and then they rebuild you. Some things are so ingrained that I move in reaction before I think “Wait. Halt. I am a civilian now and they are too.” The Army trains through repetition and we did it until we did it perfectly. Tests? It was a “Go” or “No Go” and they taught you the answers to the test. Actually tests were about letting them know that I knew what they taught me. There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Army’s way. In other words, you do it in the Army’s way. I was asked, you and what army? I now respond, I am all I need. I am an army of One.
In 3 months time, everything I have told you, took place. And now I am 63 years old and I still have duty, honor, country. The Army is still an influence within. I tend to be direct, to the point, and love the Reader’s Digest version, which is why I am sometimes perceived as not nice. And yes, I am a nice person, even when I need information. Just tell me so I can get on with what I’m doing. Some people say that the devil made them do it. I say that the Army taught me to do it that way. It’s true.