I will be adding stories, poems & reflections as the year marches on. Take a gander today!
I am writing this for "HONORING OUR VETERANS " , a contest for stories or poems related to the military. My story is going to be me remembering some of my basic training experiences.
Where do I start? Well, first, I will tell you I was OLD when I went to basic training. I was living in Illinois at the time. The state offered a free college education to anyone who joined the Air National Guard. That was my motivation to join. I wanted to go back to school.
At that time, my aspiration was to become a physician. I did some research and discovered one of the best background training for beginning that pursuit was Medical Lab Tech. So I opted for that.
I was thirty years old at the time.
What Have I Done?
I remember clearly the realization I had signed my life away! It did not hit me when I signed the paperwork. It hit me when I started basic training. I suddenly realized the seriousness of my decision.
Uncle Sam was now in almost total control of my life. I had voluntarily surrendered my life to the Air Force. For the next couple years, I would be told when to get up, when to eat, when to go to bed.
I looked at the young people around me and wondered if they realized the magnitude of what they had agreed to. As I write this today, I can see that it might not have been as drastic a change for a youngster enlisting straight out of highschool as it was for this old lady who had been running her own life for many years prior to deciding to be submissive to this military organization.
For me, the initial decision had been made prayerfully and I continued to endeavor to put God first.
While in Basic Training, I sometimes stood dorm guard during the night. While performing that duty, we were allowed to read our Air Force manual. I really can't remember what the book was called but it was the only thing we were allowed to have at our station. I wanted to spend that time reading the Word of God and I figured a way to make that happen: during our free time, I wrote Bible verses all through my manual. That way, I had God's Word on hand whenever I opened the manual. I filled my heart with His Word while standing dorm guard at night or any other time we were allowed to read our manuals.
The first day of Basic Training, we were all given a lock for our top drawer. It was called our security drawer and we were to put anything of value in that drawer under lock and key. We were issued a lock with two keys and two chains to keep the keys on.
One of the chains was long and went around our neck. One key was to be put on that chain. The second chain was a tiny chain for the second key. It was then attached to the first chain.
The instructions we received were: keep the keys on the chains at all times. Keep the long chain on our neck at all times. Keep the small chain attached to the long chain unless we went somewhere like the hospital or something. If they happened, we were to leave the short chain and key with the sergeants. That was the ONLY time we were allowed to take it off the longer chain.
So, after having both chains in place, we were told to lock our security drawer. This meant we had to put the lock in place and, of course, latch the lock. There was one problem. The key would only come out of the lock when it was in the locked position. We could not open the lock and put it on the drawer and snap it shut without the key actually being in the lock at the time.
Our security drawers were about ankle-high. Several gals started to take the chain off their necks to put the lock in place. Of course, they got yelled at.
I was the first to realize what we had to do. I knelt down and locked my drawer and the other gals followed suit.
Oh the lessons we were to learn.
Outstanding Academic Monitor
Well, I another thing I can't remember is if the position I am about to write about was actually called "Academic Monitor" or what. If you are reading this and know the correct terminology for the position or anything else I mention here, please let me know.
My job was to prepare my flight for the written test over policies and procedures (over the stuff in the manual). We had certain periods designated as study sessions and I was in charge of those sessions. (I am not sure how I got that position but I did. I bet I volunteered. LOL
My flight hated my study sessions.
I knew the test we would have to take at the end of Basic Training would be a multiple choice kind of test. The way I had my flight prepare for the test was by giving them test after test after test. However, my tests were all fill in the blank kind of tests. They had to know the answer because, unlike multiple choice tests, there was no easy way to guess an answer.
Then, after I graded their tests, if they got a wrong answer, I made them find the right answer in the book. Believe me, there was always lots of grumbling and complaining. They did not like my study strategy at all.
BUT—they all PASSED!!
AND... I was awarded a "ribbon" as Outstanding Academic Monitor. I put the word "ribbon" in quotes because I don't think it was an actual ribbon but, again, I can't remember for sure. I just know I earned that reward and I was DELIGHTED by it.
The members of my flight were also delighted with the test results and were then appreciative of the torture I had put them through during those study sessions.
I am allergic to wool. This allergy forced me to make my bunk more often than the other members of my flight. Instead of the green wool blankets normally used by servicemen, I was given a white blanket—a white blanket that had a stretchy kind of weave and was very hard to get tight and neat when I made my bunk. Bunks that failed to have that tight neat appearance would get flipped by the Sergeant. I had to remake my bunk more than anyone else.
Two Kinds of Contraband
The first story about contraband could have gone under the God First section. It has to do with my desire to continue to hide His Word in my heart. I had a small Bible. When we went to bed at night, we were not allowed to have anything in bed with us. I violated that rule. I often tucked my Bible under my pillow to have it available to me to read a verse or two in the dim light available to us after lights out.
My fellow airmen knew I did this and, unbeknownst to me, so did the sergeants. I later discovered that the dorms were bugged and they listened to our conversations whenever they wanted to. They let me get by with this infraction. I was blessed.
In a sense, I did not get by with the second offense.
During the day, we were to carry our military ID in our breast pocket. At night, our uniform for the next day was put on a chair by our locker (if memory serves) and our ID was to be locked in our security drawer.
One night, I forgot and left my ID in my pocket and a sergeant found it. It was considered a security violation and was my one demerit during basic training. I was very disappointed because I was in line for Honor Grad and I really wanted to earn that ribbon.
Well, I mentioned that "in a sense" I did not get by with that offense but let me tell you what happened.
I was standing dorm guard and I was praying about getting Honor Grad. I told God I really, really wanted to get it. There is a verse that says "Whatever you ask in my Name, that will I do that the Father might be glorified in the Son." I had discovered that verse the very day I was given my first Bible. (I think I was in third or fourth grade but I might have been a bit older.)
Anyways, I so wanted to receive Honor Grad, I was tempted to ask for it in Jesus' Name but I knew that was not the thing to do. If Jesus did not turn stones into bread when he had gone 40 days with no food, I should not pray in His Name for something so unnecessary as a ribbon in the Air Force.
However, as I stood there one night, I sort of opened my heart to God and showed Him my desire. The Bible does say God gives us the desires of our heart. I let Him know the desire for that ribbon was in my heart.
Well, I say I let Him know but we realize He already knew but I did talk to Him about it. As I did, in my mind's eye, I saw myself getting awarded an Honor Grad ribbon.
That was BEFORE my security violation...
But, even after receiving that violation, I could still see myself getting the ribbon and I still wanted it. There was a part of me that sincerely believed I would receive it.
The day of the awards ceremony arrived. As we were gathered, Honor Grad was awarded—but not to me. Then something usual occurred. They announced they were award a second Honor Grad ribbon—TO ME!!!
I have to admit something to y'all though. It was a bittersweet experience. There was another woman in my flight that all of us adored. She was amazing and probably really deserved Honor Grad more than I did. She did not get it because she also had had a security violation. One night, the sergeant had found a nickel in her pocket. I ended up in tears because of some folks who had gotten really upset about me getting the ribbon when she did not.
She was kind and gracious about it though and that helped.
Oh my, as I write this story, I find myself being flooded with many, many, many more tales about that time I would like to share. I do need to write these things down for my kids and grandkids sometime. For today, these stories will suffice for my contest entry.
I hope y'all enjoyed this glimpse into those days of my life.
Word Count: 1837
~ ~ ~ JESUS is LORD! ~ ~ ~