I was known in my hometown as the good girl, the girl who would never have been expected to the join the Army. I did, though, wearing a pink polyester suit made by my mom for just this occasion. I stepped on the plane for the first time; I was 23 years old. I arrived at Fort Jackson, S.C., for basic training among many younger girls wearing hole-y jeans and T-shirts, so to say the least I looked out of place. I remember that my father had surgery that day and I needed to know how he was doing. I had to learn the chain of command quickly as I was not allowed to call home until I had been in basic training six weeks. I went up the chain of command that day and was able to call my father finally from the general's office. He was fine, so I could go on about the business of basic training.
I only weighed 99 pounds so had to gain to 110 just to get in, and the first thing I remember about basic training was being given the duty to run the floor shiner which was huge. I remember turning it on and flying through the air knocking over every bed in sight because I was so little I couldn't control it.
I remember loving bivouac. I had never camped before in my life and this was a new experience - making moats around your tent so water wouldn't get in, climbing a tree every time the drill sergeant said snake, and walking into the outdoor toilets with your gas mask on because it was so stinky.
I remember all the girls I met while I was there and how it felt like family from the beginning. Human relations was a big experience for me because every time I turned around, it seemed like they were saying that I was prejudiced and I wasn't - never have been and never will be unless given a good reason.
I passed everything in basic training with flying colors except I didn't receive my driver's cert. nor my rifle merit. You may ask, "Why?" I did not receive my license to drive because someone was placed in my path who wanted more from me than I wanted to give. I did not receive my rifle merit because the first day, the drill sergeant yelled at us and it scared me and I shot straight up into the air. He took me off the range because he said I was a danger to myself and others. I was not recycled and received all that training once I got to permanent place of station. You might say I was a Private Benjamin, like the movie; however, I learned so much from basic training, especially to defend myself. I know that because of the Army, I am a better person.