As a retired U.S. Army MSG, I would like to tell you about my military career in hopes to recruit women into the military. Out of high school I was not very academic and had no advanced schooling, nor had the encouragement to do so. I looked into joining the Navy as a chance to escape poverty and a life of low-paying jobs. I knew I had to do something with my life. I failed their entrance test and was heartbroken, and went into a slump thinking my place was at the same minimum-pay job I had in high school. My mother, rest her soul, suggested I look into joining the Army. This was a major turning point in my life. I took the Army entrance test and passed. Before I could officially enlist I had to lose weight, which I did thanks to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I went to basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. This was in the early '60s, and us trainees were not allowed in town due to race riots. For the first time in my life someone expected something from me, not something I was used to. I found we live up to expectations. I was also introduced to my first female role models, another new for me.
To say basic was hard is an understatement. Folding clothes, shining shoes, running a buffer and being respectful toward superiors was a challenge. I got in trouble for using profanity and got an Article 15 and had to do extra duty.
After AIT at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., I went to Fort Sill, Okla., where I was assigned to the WAC Battery. This was another major crossroads in my life. I was there three years and had a terrific first sergeant who although she got frustrated with me I am sure saw leadership skills in me and encouraged me to be a better WAC. I went from E-2 to E-5 during my tour there. She helped me change MOS from clerical to medical as I was not doing well as a clerk. I did very well in the medical field.
I later went on assignments in Germany, statewide and Korea. Another crossroads was being recruited into the counterintelligence field as a special agent. I excelled in this area after initially having to work a lot on my grammar based in part on poor schooling as a youth. I greatly improved in this and went on to be a leader in this field, commended at high levels for my interviewing and interrogation skills in conducting background investigations and Legal Traveler Debriefings. I was often assigned to interview senior officers and teach junior staff. I retired from the Army in September 1984. I might add, years later I found that a recruiter at the processing center noted in my recruitment papers that “private Avritt should do o.k. in the Army if she had no positions of responsibility.” I think he greatly misjudged me.
After retirement I went on to work for the State of Iowa Workforce Development as a claims deputy and veteran representative, where I worked another 20 years.
In summary I thank the U.S. Army for giving me a chance to excel and, to use a previous recruiting slogan, ”be all I can be.” While in the Army I received a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Maryland.
I do recommend the Army to professional and non-professional young women such as myself trying to find their way to a better life. Even though there is no longer a WAC, female role models are out there as well as excellent male leaders. So ladies out there, consider the Army as a viable career option. There are many benefits, but most important the confidence and pride of serving.
MSG, Retired, U.S. Army