Some things I'm thankful for:
1. The culture of my unit
My unit is NOT perfect, in fact we have A TON of work to do, and with that being said I really fit in their culture. See I'm from Florida, and I went to the midwest for college and I experienced the worse culture shock. Yesterday I was driving to meet my friend and there was a Trump rally at one of the lights. As I looked at them I thought to myself, "people up north really don't get it".
The second day of my drill, one of my SSG (sergeant) asked if I was in a hurry to do my PHA (periodic health assessment). I said, "not at all". He asked if I mind that we stopped at his house to help his wife feed the horses. Off course, let's go. In that moment I realized this is what I've been looking for. To simply get to know and get along with the people that I work with. I felt crazy for having wanted a sense of community, and feeling like I didn't have it in Chicago, where I invested so much of my self and time. And the second day of my drill, here it was. Not forced and just naturally at the farm of my SSG.
The other 2LT (lieutenant ) and I got off the car and met his wife and kids, and helped his family feed the horses. I talked to his wife and asked them questions about the horses. I'm actually scared of horses because I know that one of their kicks and you're flying across the sky. I was amazed at how easy it was to talk to them and get to know them, and how welcoming they were.
That's only one person from my unit, but it set the tone for me. Just that one interaction, made me want to be my best self for them. For their families.
2. My job
I wish someone would have told me how fun being a 2LT was going to be. You mean I get to care for my whole unit and observe everyone? Like binch, I already do that for free. I'm definetely thankful to be a newly commissioned officer. I love it, ROTC was so miserable compared to this!
3. Physical fitness
Not only am I finally strong, but I also eat every day. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I've eaten every single day since January 1st, 2020!!! I have noticed so much change in my body. I am no longer fatigued, and I can feel myself getting stronger. Yeah I looked good before, but now I FINALLY FEEL GOOD.
I can give a workout my 130% and not feel like shit after! This is so exciting to me. My first day at drill I had to prove myself. Our PT was ACFT prep, and although I've never actually done one, I was excited because I had been working out so hard. The relay came up and I was in the lead for the drag, by this time my entire unit came outside, but then I slowed down on the turn back. I mean, shit was getting heavy. Then I was last, and the female that always gets a 300 (perfect score) and a man were ahead. Then we got to the carry and we were all dying, and that's when I heard it, "beat the ma'am, beat the ma'am"!!!!
Wait, fuck, I'm the ma'am! Do they want me to lose? Oh hell nah, fuck, I have to try? And that's when I realized. Yes, I have to always give it my 100%. I have a whole unit looking up to me now. I have to show them what's right and what's wrong and the first thing I need to excel is my fitness. How am I going to lead from the back?
4. My ROTC experience
Okay, so I have some tea. You don't understand, I've been waiting to get out to spill it. Actually it's not bad at all, it's just that the ROTC program I was part of did not help me grow. It did not cater towards my needs, and now I wish I would off transferred to U Kentucky when I had the chance, but I was too scared to have "the talk" with the LTC (lieutenant colonel). For those that don't know, one night I got way too drunk and angry. I walked home from Benchmark and transferred to UK. No I'm serious. I woke up the next day with my application completed and all I need to do was submit my official transcripts.
See my program was weird. First off, DePaul doesn't have it's own "ROTC program", instead we have a host school, Loyola. So that meant that although they liked to say we are all treated "equal", Loyola kids are the favorite. I'm not going to get into all the details, because that is another article. I'm pulling out all my journal entries, so you know I'm going to send it fully.
While my ROTC program showed me everything I didn't want to be and do in the Army, my basic and advance camp showed me the people I was missing, and the leader I wanted to be. Don't get me wrong, I met amazing people, but the environment was so toxic that most days it was hard to remember why I was doing it.
5. Basic and Advance Camp
Basic camp was the summer of 2017. First time in Knox and I had no idea what I was doing. To say no idea is an understatement. Have you guys seen Cadet Kelly? Yeah, that was me. I had just come back from my study abroad, and I decided to stop by Tuscan, AZ to visit Niko. I flew into Knox in my sorority clothes and big suit case. As soon as I landed, I got all of my caramel waffle cookies confiscated.
Thankfully I met Broomes, whom to this day is someone that I know I can always go to. Basic was so much fun. During the 4th of July, I participated in my first Spartan race. Obviously we didn't expect to win, but instead just helped each other complete the course. The best part of Basic was that we were the best platoon, and we had the best Drill Sergeant.
No, I'm not kidding. Our platoon was so good that we had a secret pizza party. It was our cadres' way of rewarding us. I felt really close to everyone. Once in a while I kept in touch with some other guys, and these people actually got engaged from our platoon.
Advance camp was a little different, in a good way. By the time advance camp rolled around, I had my shit together, kind of. I was definitely more disciplined, but... I had yet to master my fitness. At advance camp I met my bridesmaid. I couldn't have done camp without Owens and Lee. I'm not sure what it is about women in the Army, but I get along with them so much better. My MSG is one of the best leaders I've had. He would tell us stories of how his ROTC program is so close, that guys come over to his house for dinner, or if they had issues with their cars he would teach them how to change the oil. After hearing him say this, that's when I knew. I knew I was in the wrong program with the wrong culture that did not help me develop to the best of my ability; because the culture MSG Derrick was talking about is the encouragement and culture I need.
Advance camp was lit. MSG Derrick would drive us to get food, he got Lee a cake for her birthday, we ordered food, he let us finish our day as long as we got our shit done. It created such a better comradeship and it bonded us more than the trauma ever could.
6. Women in the Army
I'm not sure how to explain this, and honestly it may be confusing because I'm trying to figure this out myself, so please, bare with me.
While I was in the latrine, I overheard a private conversation. This conversation hit home, because I thought I had overcame this obstacle, and although I might have, it's around me. I'm not sure if this has always been around or is a new wave of social media detriment.
Women that don't eat properly. I have been hungry for the past 5 years of college. I know I hid it well so this is going to shock some, but my close friends know it all too well. I may not have ever said it, but the signs were there. The fatigue, the fainting, the acne and the binge eating. During college, I was afraid to "bulk up". Yes, I was in ROTC, but I was scared to have a masculine body, so I starved myself. I wanted to have the best of both worlds. I wanted to be "feminine", while respected by men. For some reason I thought that I could do this by starving. It kept my body "soft and curvy". But the reality is, it caused eating disorders, mental and health issues.
Now looking back, I'm glad I didn't cause permanent damage, more than the health issues I now have from it. Since I would try to not eat during the week, and instead would try to drink coffee to trick my body into believing it wasn't hungry, the acid from the black coffee was hurting me. One thing led to the next, and acid reflux and heart burn. I don't even want to know what it was doing to my muscles. My legs starting getting cellulite and I was constantly bloated. My hair was falling out, and no matter how much biotin I would take, it kept falling. And then my acne. The more I refused to eat, when I would eat my face would flare like crazy. Long story short, I fainted 3 times in 4 months from not eating and that's when I hit rock bottom.
No wonder I was never able to improve my pushups, because you need muscle. It was a toxic cycle. I was hungry and not feeding my body enough for the calories it was burning, and then it was eating itself. I was always dizzy and I couldn't stand up too fast or I would faint. My breath smelled like actual death, and I had to brush it 4 times a day. My point is, I'm thankful that I am no longer that same person, but also that now that I see it around me I can help women. I am so fucking sorry if you ever turned to me for advice and I told you not to eat.
7. Crime Junkie: Fort Hood
Awareness. Vanessa Guillen, Kyle Antonacci, LaVena Johnson, Tina Priest, do I really need to keep goin? The Army is held at a higher standard, especially compared to other cultures. The thing that I would like to remind people is that the Army is not bad, it's some of the people.
I decided to join ROTC in 2016. By 2017 I knew I wanted to be an officer. Sadly, the difference between an enlisted and officer is not just a rank, it's an entire culture. I consider myself super fucking lucky. I know that the experience that I've had in the Army only happens to like 1%. The stigma associated around sexual harassment in the Army is toxic. The one time I had to file a SHARP (sexual harassment/assault response program) they took it serious. They talked to the me right away and the guy too, and not once did I feel like I was questioned or doubted. But I still know that this is not the case. I'm glad that there is awareness being brought to this. It's hard not to get angry because everyone makes it seem like it's worse in the Army, but have you looked at college reports? Sexual harassment is not just an Army issues, it's a world issue.