I was recruited by a civilian co-worker who was serving in the Army Reserves. I enlisted Oct. 29, 1979 at the age of 23. My train ride to Basic Training was to Ft. McClelland, Anniston, Alabama. It was only for three weeks. We had to cram six weeks into three in a program called Civilian Acquired Skilled Program (CASP). I had gone in with a college degree. This program ended in 1980.
I remember having to eat, sleep and train with women from different states and from different educational backgrounds. What was so surprising was that most of the women were older than I was. My platoon was “Foxtrot,” an all-female platoon. I remember the uniforms were called “fatigues” and the dress was a skirt and blouse in a loud color of green.
One of my fondest memories was marching back to the barracks after a long training day and seeing the sunset behind the mountains. I really got to appreciate the beauty in seeing sunrises and sunsets.
One of my worst memories was that I did not have to walk through the gas chamber training because I had sensitive skin and other skin issues. I was always at the end of the platoon. One breezy night the winds blew the gases off the uniforms, and when it hit my face, it would burn very badly. My face was so red and irritated. That was not a good night for me.
I also remember doing a crawl on my back under barbed wire, and the button on my uniform jacket became entwined in the wire. It took my drill sergeant and lieutenant to unloosen me, and the sergeant was not too happy about that ordeal.
I also remember having to zero in my M-16 weapon. I had never used a weapon before, so I had to learn to overcome my fear. We only had two days to zero in, or we would be discharged. The first day I did not do well, and I had to try again the next day. That evening I called home and cried to my grandfather. He said, “You can do it.” I said my prayers and went to sleep. The next day was a beautiful, sunny day. I fired 36 out of 38 bullets and was awarded an “expert” badge for my uniform.
Mostly, the training was a challenge for me, and it gave me an internal feeling that I was strong and could accomplish whatever I set my focus on, at that point and for the rest of my life. It taught me discipline, survival, and perseverance.
I proudly retired as sergeant first class from the U.S. Army Reserves on Oct. 29, 1999.