It was 10 am on a Sunday, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I was standing in men’s World War II Barracks with a can of Comet in one hand, a toothbrush in the other. What had stopped me dead in my tracks was a series of very large, oddly-shaped white porcelain objects attached to the wall right next to the line of sinks.
Never seen anything like it. I was a farm girl from Florida. Barely twenty-one. I could recite Shakespeare or Shelly, name most Beethoven symphonies from their first several bars, and I had an extensive vocabulary. I was sophisticated.
But this thing, with a handle at the top that distributed dribbles of water down the inside of it smooth, curved, but badly-stained surface, was an utter mystery.
We Need More Women!
In 1973, the Great Eminences in the Pentagon decided that it was time to get more women into the Army. They decided to open up all kinds of Military Occupational Specialties (Army speak for jobs) to women, many of them without thinking much about the physical requirements (like, field medic), or for that matter, the kind of physical training it was going to take to get the average female grunt into shape to actually perform those jobs.
But such is the great wisdom of the Pentagon.
I’d had the good fortune of dating a young man who had joined as a grunt out of Kentucky. He had wised up quickly and used the Army to pay for his entire flight training program. He was just finishing up his Reserve commitment. He was my guide as I looked at each of the services’ offerings at the time. I chose the Army, and journalism. I had a two- year commitment.
The single best piece of advice that Guy gave me just before I got on the bus was that I shouldn’t taken anything personally. What happened was to make me a better soldier. It wasn’t about me. I wore that advice like a lucky charm around my neck the entire time I was in Basic.