I work very hard and am attending college to obtain my degree in the Human Service field. Writing makes me feel alive and gives me the opportunity to touch those whom I would not be able to otherwise. Last but not least, I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me completely and support my dreams. Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or feedback.
Upon graduation from high school, I attempted one semester at a technical college. I spent more time in the game room rather than class, made some friends and studied a bit. Yet, I knew it wasn't for me. Not being sure of what my long term goals were, I knew the Army was a full time gig and would give me some employable skills. At the ripe young age of 18, I signed on the dotted line. Little did I know what would happen upon my enlistment.
This is an experience I rarely discuss. When asked, I can honestly say I joined to get away from my home. My mother and I didn't have a close relationship, older sister was doing her thing. Having my own bedroom for the first time in my life didn't suffice for a good enough reason to remain. I knew I had to do something to get away.
Being a young girl, not even the youngest to enlist, I was a target. Basic training, as tough as it was, brought upon it's own challenges. Drill Sargeants, one in particular who paid special attention to the likes of me, made it a point to spend down time chatting, expressing his interest. Married, with children, like most in his position, he and others took advantage of their positions. Rumors of other Drill Sargeants meeting with soldiers during their late night Charge of Quarters duties. Flirting, standing close, giving special treatment, this was the norm across the board. I escaped basic training with a signature in my book. Seeing it today, signed "DSA" for Drill Sargeant A, reminds me of his acknowledgment of what could have been.
Moving onto AIT (Advanced Individual Training). This was a 10 week Medical Specialist course upon completion of Basic Training. Once again, Sargeants and those higher up expressed interest in trainees. Married soldiers, spending time with singles or other married individuals. Parties a-plenty, with upper and lower class of soldiers spending time together off base. Once again, I became the target of those in charge. Threats of discipline, the rumors swirled. I did not escape unscathed. I was one of many girls targeted and abused by those who vowed to protect.
Active Duty, my long term assignment, held within one of the most beautiful bases at Fort Lewis, Washington. I believed at this time I would be free from the likes of those described above. Little did I know how much worse it would get.
The main issue within the Military is the amount of control men have over women. Very few women have positions of power within any Company Command. The barricks consist of co-habitation. In my particular unit, there were 3 floors of soldiers who resided. The first floor consisted of Sargeants and those within that arena. The second floor consisted of male soldiers. The third floor consisted of men and women, each residing on half. The bathrooms were not locked, yet they were specified towards men and women.
These are my experiences regarding Active Duty. They are true, accurate and still burned into my mind.
Upon returning to my room one afternoon, I encoutered another soldier. I asked him how he was able to get in and he informed me that he had crawled on the outside of the barracks from his room to mine. Since my window was unlocked, he was able to enter at will. Fortunately, when I asked him to leave, he did as I requested.
Having worked in the Troop Medical Clinic, I worked with men and women within all races. I was friends with everyone and we got along well. One day, while I was showering in the barracks, I turned to face a co-worker watching me while I did so. I screamed at him to get the (blank) out of the shower. After hiding behind the one wall separating our two showers, he finally left. I went to the room of a female Sargeant and she directed me to talk with our First Sargeant. Unfortunately, no discipline was given and the soldier was allowed to leave the military soon after with an Honorable Discharge.
The main reason young women are targets, especially during Active Duty, is the fact that whomever is in Charge of Quarters has a master key, which opens whatever soldiers room they desire. There is no accountability held, the key is at will and the responsibility of whomever is in charge for the evening.
While getting ready for bed, on more than one occassion, I heard a key being inserted into the door of my room. A soldier, one with the title of Specialist, entered my room. He had shown interested in me since day one. He insisted on staying, I insisted he leave. He approached me and I became gripped with fear. I knew he was married with a young child yet regardless of that, I knew the guy was trouble. He grabbed me and told me I would do what he wanted "or else". But for the grace of God the gal residing next to me knocked on the door. He let go and eventually walked out. I told her what happened, but as usual, we knew that nothing would happen regardless.
Another time, the same thing happened. Another Specialist, in Charge of Quarters, entered my room without invitation. This soldier, also married, had expressed an interest in me from day one. I insisted he leave and he fortunately did as he was told. He was looking to "fool around" during his shift and chose me as his target.
I was targeted by many men. From Privates to Master Sargeants and above, some men have the ability to target and victimize young girls at will.
One man, a Physician's Assistant, married with daughters not too much younger than myself, took a liking to me. We worked together at the Troop Medical Clinic. He would request me for all of his procedures and eventually suggested an affair. During a party with the other medics, I was informed he was waiting for me in the back of his van, hoping I would come and "spend time with him". I refused and once again told a female Sargeant. Upon hearing rumors of a possible affair, I was moved from the Medical Clinic only to be forced to work in the basement with medical supplies, locked away as if I had been convicted and tried.
When asked about my experience, I have very little to say. It is filled with shame, disgust and memories which go much deeper and darker than those above.
The MIlitary must begin to protect female soldiers. They must insist that these men be held accountable. They must give women a safe haven to expose this behavior. They must insist that male soldiers not be allowed to enter the room of any female without a female escort. Last but not least, they must punish those who harm, harass or endager the mental, physical or emotional well being of any soldiers within their command.
This is my experience. I am not the only one. Yet, because I have the ability to express myself in written forum, I have decided to break my silence. I am not looking for sympathy or a pat on the back. I am simply hoping to give strength to other women who have and may be going through these types of experiences. If you are in need of direction, assistance or need someone to vent to, I am here for you. It's time we place the blame where it belongs and not carry it one moment further.