Two weeks before graduation I’m sitting in the student union having coffee with my friend, Tina, who says, “Hey, there’s an Army recruiter on campus, wanna go?”
I wince. Ignoring me, she continues, “Can’t hurt to hear the spiel.”
“Nah. No way am I joining the Army,” I say.
“Come on, just tag along,” Tina begs, “I don’t want to be the only skirt there.”
Friday evening, sitting in the back of a room stuffed with men, Tina and I are two of three women listening to the recruiter’s pitch. His khaki, neatly pressed uniform is in sharp contrast to his greasy hair, and a huge gut hangs over his belt. He speaks in a rich baritone voice, but rambles all over the place. My mind wanders until I hear him mention the “G.I. Bill.” In nearly all of my classes at ISU, there were men using the GI Bill to finance their school costs. . . . . . . . .
Thoughts about the girls’ welfare swim around in a murky feeling-center deep inside me, but Big D pulls through again and helps me cope with my capricious enlistment. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Army! I might as well have landed on Mars. I was swept into an alien world far beyond anything this little Idaho gal had ever experienced. Ever! I become the property of the U.S. Army. The early months of my conscription whizz by in a frenzy of activities.
For six months, at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I march to the Army’s tune during basic training. I am far older than the other recruits and commanding officers in my training world. However—looking younger than most, and in much better shape than any of the other recruits—I bound over tall obstacle courses, slog through swamps, and run thousands of miles with a full pack bouncing against my back, toting a rifle—a rifle that I know how to take apart, clean, reassemble, and fire, a rifle that becomes my constant companion at Fort McClellan.
I surrender to the process, letting it splash over me, and learn how to play the Army’s game. Up at 4:30 a.m., on my hands and knees cleaning the floor of the lavatory, (with a toothbrush!) then breakfast, and on to more ridiculous, useless tasks to toughen us up and instill discipline. Much of our time is spent rushing to do whatever, then waiting for whatever was to come next. Hurry up and wait becomes our daily motto, one I subsequently learned is common to soldiers across time and geography. . . to be continued
Stay tuned. Next episode: # 10 Private Perkins