Basic Training

Tales From A Brown Girl Traveling The World Trying To Make Something Beautiful

You have no idea what to prepare for, unless you come from a military family which I didn’t, you are completely at the mercy of your individual sanity. Being thrown in close quarters with 50 women from across the United States is trauma in itself, let’s not add in 90 second showers, no sleep, homesickness, periods and a drill instructor who was strictly about the business of turning each woman into an Airman.

It’s interesting how your mind adapts when thrust into a new environment, behaviors become automatic, and your view of the world has transformed. Now, you recite the reporting statement that was so difficult for you to grasp automatically, frantically salute officers with such a fear of forgetting that you salute seamen because the insignia on their hat mirrors that of a lieutenant. You can scarf down a full meal in 2 minutes flat, even though you are a slow eater, that steaming hour shower you enjoyed is now taken in cold water, and seconds with all parts clean. You’ve figured out how to keep your unruly hair in a perfect bun, and falling asleep as your head hits the pillow is now a given. You can use spray starch like you run the local cleaners, and waxing a floor to a mirror sheen finish requires minimal effort. Now you know if you sleep in your tee, you have time to wash your face and brush your teeth before breakfast, and if you wake before reveille you have extra minutes to make sure your area passes inspection. Washing the drawers of 50 other women with yours still drives you insane but you have decided to let the hot water and detergent do their job and pray you don’t inherit someone else’s yeast infection, or worse, crabs. Don’t be offended by my honesty, what do you think happens in the heat of Texas, half ass showering, high stress, lack of adequate fluids, barely eating, and a group of people who came from across the country are forced into close proximity? Shit gets real, real uncomfortable.

I begin to look forward to the days I have kitchen patrol, because you have time to actually chew your food and you can eat a full meal and have seconds, the suds and sounds of plates clanking becomes therapeutic. Performing CQ means you have a few moments of silence from the anxious chatter of women as you guard the door, ready to scream “gentlemen entering the dorm” even thought you never realized you needed it. You have never enjoyed church, but now, that non denominational service on Sunday means freedom so you wake up ready to praise the lord. Finally you have gotten a few pieces of mail and a care package, but that 5 minute phone call home on Sunday afternoons during laundry duty is what brings a tear to your 18 year old eye. You aren’t really home sick, you just want the privacy of your bedroom, a hot shower with soap, a phone conversation that isn’t scripted, and an afternoon chilling with the friends who love your crazy ass simply because your name is Nyri. Yet now you are becoming Airman Rhodes, and that comes with new challenges and an identity that makes you feel like a stranger in your bronzed brown skin.

Guys who looked weird with their awful buzz cut and basic issue glasses , had now figured out the game just like us ladies, and mini romances began to blossom as their handsome faces emerged. Notes were passed and secret meet up sessions began, as in times of high stress, you need something pleasurable to fill the days dread and the uncertainty that lingered moment to moment. A few opportunities for a dance where you feel like meat on display, a professional basketball game with nose bleed seats, morale boosters I guess, all qualified as a date. No, we weren’t allowed to receive mail from other trainees, yet who said we couldn’t send a letter using our home address as the return, though it was postmarked from the shopette, we had to be creative. Those with boyfriends and even husbands at home fell into the trap of “needing a friend” tears and the scrawl of pens on paper were heard late in the night when a relationship was on the end from lack of communication and the distance between states. But what did I know, i was just a girl who was looking to travel the world, someone having a husband at 18 was beyond my comprehension, yet I would soon find out, it was completely normal.

Your final weeks are full of classes, tests that need to be passed for graduation, a confidence course, fitness goals, and waiting to hear what job you secured and where you will attend technical school. So now, this group of women who you have grown to trust, built a sisterhood of closeness, will once again change. Some will be sent to Mississippi, others will stay in Texas, some go to Colorado, it all depends on your AFSC and where you will learn the skills to do what will become your daily service and sacrifice for country. On graduation day you will be filled with optimism, march with precision, make your drill instructors boots tap with pride and watch your family cheer you on out the side of your eye. Your loved ones will want to know everything about your experience, see the base because surely this transformation of you couldn’t be possible, they need hard proof. Though you enjoy the day, love seeing their faces, its the first bit of real freedom you have had for weeks and you want to chill and hang out with those that understand the struggle that is a shared reality. The days following are bittersweet, you finally see a glimpse of your TI and know that she is a real human, has a sense of humor and real wisdom, but its time to pack up and get ready for the next unknown……

Stay tuned for further Air Force adventures, if you are active duty or prior military, does this resonate with you? Drop me a comment and let me know. Much love from the brown girl, traveling the world, trying to make something beautiful!

Let’s connect on social media, you can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @UnnervedTraveler, drop in and say hi!

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