Sunday is Veteran’s Day. And at the expense of writing about a topic I think will be covered heavily on most blogs Sunday, I am going to write today about being a veteran. I am a veteran. I joined the Navy at the age of 17. My mother signed the papers for me to enlist early…..(do you think that should have clued me in to something?????)….. For those of you who don’t know my *real* age, that means I joined the Navy in 1983. When I went in to the Recruiter’s office I was sure I wanted to be in the medical field and told them I wanted to be a NavyCorpsman. He said, “We need electricians, do you want to be an electrician?” “No, I want to be a Corpsman.” “Are you sure you don’t want to be an electrician??” At which point my mother stepped up and politely (but firmly) said, “She wants to be a Corpsman. So recruit her as a Corpsman, or we will go somewhere else.”
He looked over my ASVAB scores and said I could be a Corpsman, but I would have to take high school chemistry first. So I did. I went to a summer school class and took high school chemistry and then went back to the recruiter. I joined the Navy and was placed in the Delayed Entry Program until I left for Boot Camp on February 6, 1984.
Boot Camp was not too bad. Not fun, but not awful. I had two Company Commanders, but I only remember one of their names: AZ2 Creva Lee. One of the things my CC’s taught me was that I should be very proud to be a woman in the Navy and I should always wear my hat low on my head so I had to hold my head up high to see under the brim. That stuck with me all throughout my career. When I was in Boot Camp the women and men were separated and our Company Commanders were allowed to yell at us. I remember one time I had my leggings laced up incorrectly and good old AZ2 Lee snuck up behind me and yelled in my ear , “Kaufman, why are your leggings all FUCKED UP??” I nearly jumped out of my skin. You can better believe I got that shit squared away QUICK!!
Things have changed since then. Now males and females are housed together, train together, and the Company Commanders can no longer swear or yell. AND recruits are allowed to say when they are having a hard time and give a sign if they need a “training time out”. You have got to be fucking kidding me!! When I went through boot camp you took what was dished out, and I know it made us all stronger people when we left. They broke us down and then built us back up. We cried when we left and felt like a team. Where else can 80 perfect strangers spend 12 weeks together and end up a cohesive unit?? I am pretty sure the military leads in that regard.
The Navy I joined in 1984 was a VERY different one than the Navy I retired from in December 2004. When I joined, men wore beards, there was no drug policy and people would go out to lunch and have a beer with their meal, then go back to work. The Navy was mostly men, and there were St Pauli girl posters and Farrah Fawcett posters and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader posters up in almost every office. Men were allowed to call you “honey” or “sweetie” and the men were told their families “didn’t come in their sea-bag.” Women didn’t serve on ships and they CERTAINLY did not serve in combat zones. Oh how times have changed!
I was in the Navy during the TailHook scandal that forever changed the military’s attitude about sexual harassment. I saw the posters come down and people (men) stopped calling me “honey”. Of course as with any policy change, it went too far in the other direction, but eventually settled somewhere in the middle. I was on Active Duty when women started being stationed on ships, and I was there during the FIRST Gulf War with Iraq in 1990. I served under 4 different Commander In Chief’s, and 14 Secretaries of the Navy. I lived in 9 different states, and moved almost every three years. I spent 10 years as a “black shoe” which is the seagoing Navy, and 10 years as a “brown shoe”, which is aviation. (although I did love Aviation more).
I was trained as an Navy Corpsman, an EEG Technician, a Derm Technician, an instructor, an Aviation Medicine Technician and a whole plethora of other duties. I worked at clinics, hospitals, Reserve Centers, squadrons and even served two weeks of temporary duty on the USS Constellation. (that was before women were allowed on carriers, so I had to have special permission from the Commanding Officer to work on board for 10 days while their Aviation Med, Tech was in leave). I will say that for a young single woman, being the only one on a ship full of men was good for my ego……. I was the prettiest one for once…… !!
My Navy career spanned for 20 years, and took me to places I would never have otherwise gone. Bahrain, Spain, Amsterdam, among others. It was an amazing time in my life, and I have never regretted my decision to join!!
When I retired and went to work in a civilian job it took me over a year to stop saying things like, “Roger that”, and “aye aye”, and to stop calling the hallways “passageways” and stairs “ladders”. To this day I still use the terms “skylarking” and “scuttlebutt”.
Yesterday when I was leaving my job at the Dermatologist office, I happened to hear people shouting. I looked over to my left as I walked to my car and noticed a group of young people standing in ranks outside of the recruiting station. They were shouting. I distinctly heard one of them shout, “Recruit Jones, To call the Officer of the deck in any case not covered by instructions, General Order 9, Petty Officer.” Then all the recruits shouted it. I realized they were reciting the “11 General Orders of a Sentry” I smiled, and silently wished them all as wonderful a career as I had!
To all those who have served, I thank you!!! To all those who have loved ones who have served, I thank you too! Without your sacrifice and support, we could not do our jobs to the best of our ability!!