Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I Joined the Army in 1976

September 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

I joined the Army in 1976 when the Womens Army Corps (WAC) was still in place however, midstream.  On my way to Basic Training I was suddenly a “regular” Army soldier. I was sent to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina and upon arrival was told that we would be bunking in barracks with the guys living a floor above us.

I was a young even for eighteen, and now I had guys living in the same dorm.  Normally, this would have been a thrill, but we soon found harassment in the form of the Drill Sergeants, fellow soldiers and even visitors. Many times while on duty, I witnessed these Drill Sergeants harassing the women by leering at them while they were sleeping and even pulling off their covers. Once I made a stand and said something. I soon found that was a mistake because I wound up being stared down in such a threatening manner that I became constantly afraid. I lost almost 20 pounds and eventually lost my voice.

No one would listen. Even the female Drill Sergeants said I was the one that joined the Army and just needed to “learn to deal with it.” During this time, several young women got injured. One soldier was tossed down the stairs and broke her hip and another was put into detention for two weeks because she had a habit of sucking her hair when she was nervous. When she returned from detention, she refused to make eye contact with anyone.

Despite all this, I had enlisted and I was determined to make it, so I was relieved when it was time to go to my school in Augusta, Georgia. I was more relieved when I saw we were in individual rooms with locks. I was so happy, until I met my instructor… This instructor proceeded to stalk me for two years. Eventually, he followed me from Georgia to Texas. I was stalked, my room was vandalized, things were taken, letters read and phone calls were a continual threat. I tried to tell my Sergeant and my Commander, but they told me that I had to deal with it and that I “must have done something to attract him.”  Their solution was to “GO OUT WITH HIM” and that “HE JUST LIKED ME.”

Near the end of his second year of stalking, he must have decided that since he was not getting anywhere, he was going to kill me. Literally. He came after me with a gun and if a friend had not shown up, I would most certainly be dead.

If you are wondering what happened to him? Absolutely nothing. He chased us to a Military Police station. The MPs took him down and then *poof* he disappeared and I got shipped to Okinawa, Japan. No one asked if I was okay, or asked if I needed to talk to someone. I was and still am traumatized. I have real issues when men try to talk to me. I get suspicious and standoffish because I still feel if I am too friendly that dreadful situation could repeat itself. I am 50 years old now and cannot believe it still bothers me so much. I think it is a sad state of affairs when women want to serve their country and are treated in this manner.

I look back and cannot believe I stayed in the Army as long as I did. I credit a Sergeant in Okinawa with that decision. He was a saving grace and made sure I was watched over and that I always had an ear. It’s sad that it took me so long to finally realize my worth. Even through all of this, I was proud to have served then and still am now.

Yours Truly,
A Military Woman


8 Responses to “I Joined the Army in 1976”
  1. Deborah Heley says:

    I joined the USAF in 1975 after college. I was stationed at Edwards, AFB, CA. I was assigned to the Social Actions Office working with the Substance Abuse Program.
    I was attacked and sexually assaulted by the TSgt working at the same building. No one believed me. To this day, I still have nightmares and can see that bastard’s face.

  2. Military says:

    I was raped by a drill sergeant in basic training at Fort Jackson in 1976. It was before the corp became integrated. I didn’t say anything because I thought no one would believe me. I have lived with it all these years and regret that I didn’t speak up.

  3. Patty Bills Snyder says:

    I joined the Army Reserves in 1976 along with my 2 older sisters. We were at Ft Jackson for Basic and had a fairly decent experience. Our Drill Sergeant SFC Lake was a good man and had respect for women. But, the US Army,overall, in those days was definitely sexist. Fortunatey, I nor my sisters, suffered the abuse that these women have written about. I do remember filling out a survey at Ft. Leonardwood during AIT and stating that the women soldiers were discriminated against and although it was ANONYMOUS, the Co. Commander addresssed my survey statements at a company formation. I don’t recall exactly what he said at that time but he definitely did not OWN IT. I like to think we have come a long way in the past 4 decades but current events seem to indicate otherwise.

  4. Colleen Mills Sabot says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I joined the Army in March of 1976 and your truth, plus the others’ comments, certainly reflect the reality of the times. I was 24 yrs. old, when I joined in March, 1976 – married to a civilian (who had served in Vietnam Nam two times), and we had two young children. During the first week of Basic, women’s status changed from WAC to Regular Army and our job classifications were changed to roles previously held only by male soldiers. During AIT I was in a group of about 10 women. Our formal protests ignored, we were trained beside Reserve males instead of the Regular Army males. Later, we were ordered to just watch when the Reserves had their riot control training. So, we again sought an opening, requesting to be put with Regular Army training. Ignored, again. When it came time for duty assignments, the women’s names were grouped first instead of being mixed in alphabetically with the Regular Army males. That distribution meant every woman was sent overseas instead of having an equal shot at stateside duty. Again, formal protests ignored. I found that, along with threats or actual danger, and casual dismissal of reporting harassment or discrimination, the constant crazy rumors surrounding every young woman remained to demean and chip away at our humanity on a daily basis. The experiences unique to female soldiers mixed into the usual highs and lows of military service was definitely a heavier load. Once out of service, there certainly was no help processing the female soldier experience. Years later, I contacted a female veteran organization and the members were all WWII WACs. They were flustered and hadn’t considered accepting younger Regular Army females. It was before social networking and it didn’t seem enough of us to start a new local chapter. So, I’m glad to find this post and the comments. Thank you, everyone.

  5. Sherry Williams says:

    Does any one know Drill SGT Valerie McCarthy

  6. Janet Jordan says:

    I spent 7 1/2 years in the US Army. I enlisted in 1973, attended basic training at Ft. McClellan, AL from Dec 73 to Feb 74. It was still the WAC then so no co barracks. When I reached my permanent station at Ft. Ben Harrison, IN, the barracks were still segregated but within a couple of years they were co barracks. I never experienced any problems at all with the living arrangements. I did receive some sexual harassment but nothing that caused me any real stress. I have no problem telling people how I feel and will intimidate the most insistent of stalkers. I only had one at Ft. Ben, young guy, followed me outside of the USAEREC building late one night. Once I was tired of his tirade I turned around and gave him both barrels (verbally). Ended that problem right there. If you’re strong enough to be a woman joining the military then hopefully you’re strong enough to stand up to the bullshit that can occur. I won’t even mention the part about being armed with an M-16 and being quite proficient with it. Basically, my attitude has been and still is “don’t F**K with me.”

  7. Brian Grant says:

    I’m male and was there in 76 it was pure hell rape drugs you name it .I will not even get into my story.
    Lets just say I tried to help some black guys to read and write home and remember there general orders I was attacted and beaten then arrested for starting a riot . By my own race I don’t about you ladies but we were always being told we were going back to nam . I would have rather been in nam at least then I would have know who to fight.

  8. Sharon G says:

    I was st Ft McClellan in 1976. Once there we were told we were a test group and would be doing everything the men did but we also had to do the things that just the prior females recruits had to do. Ex. We did all our own starching and ironing of uniforms while my husband had his done for him. The men on base treated us with disdain. I was brutally raped and when I tried to speak up about it, my male drill sergeant told me I better keep it to myself. The same guys came after me a second time, I was so afraid I became extremely ill and hospitalized. I was treated poorly and encouraged to request and early out as that was the only way they could protect me. I’ve never told anyone my story, not even my husband. I’m almost 60 now and continue to struggle with the trauma. I still cry uncontrollably, through fits and periodically want to just give up.

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