Contrary to what most believe, a military base can rival any college or university campus! We drink, we learn, we get pregnant, we cheat, we do drugs and get arrested. Being a service to your country does not instantly change your character and who you are as a person, it simply reprograms your mind for duty, but the core of you remains the same. Yes you might become more responsible because of the new rules, you might maintain a career, and become very successful and decorated.
My expectation was that people in the military were somehow perfect, cut from premium cloth, and what I would soon learn as I finished technical school, and headed to my first duty station in Minot North Dakota, would sadden and break my already unnerved heart. The desire for greatness is your own, it has nothing to do with any branch you join, medals given or stripes earned. The person who was undisciplined in life, never accountable for their mistakes, becomes a service member who does the same, they just learn how to transform the behavior into something different. I did not change, I adapted to my new environment and learned how to live in a world that allowed me to be successful while suppressing my desires simply because I didn’t know I had choices.
I had only seen young marriages that were arranged for religious reasons and in the insanity of passion, a family had to prevent the scandal of their daughter being an unwed mother. The Air Force thrust me into the reality that many 18-21 year old airmen had a spouse or were on their way to a union before they finished a full first year at their duty station. Tech school romance was what they called it, a running joke of sorts by senior service members, easily translated as that “first shot of ass after basic training that has you thinking you are in love”. I thought it was quite ridiculous, especially since there were men from all over the world in every direction, why the hell would you want to be married here, and are we old enough?
Even stranger, there was no type of counseling, mentoring, the only benefit if you listened closely, was getting the extra money they allowed you to afford an apartment off base. What resulted in many of these unions was children, financial distress, frustration, anger and extended periods of loneliness. The life of a service member is never easy, separation is a constant reality and that flutter of fondness quickly changes after a six month tour in a remote location with limited phone access and no options to visit. Watching relationships develop and quickly dissolve was normal, but there were others that resulted from a genuine connection that maintained.
Nobody prepares you for the excessive advances of men from all ranks. While in basic training your instructors drill the rules of fraternization into your head, but it seems like all of that is disregarded once attraction takes place. I was first confused by the many advances of senior enlisted men, but when officers behaved in the same manner I was appalled. These were both single and married men, with children, yet none of that seemed to phase anyone but Nyri.
I had to learn how to maintain a professional facade at all times to make it clear I was not interested, not because of my own relationship status, but because extramarital affairs could result in jail time, loss of rank and public shame. Above all, Nyri follows the rules, and breaking them seemed unimaginable at the time. But if I am being honest, I was not attracted to any of them and from my perspective at that time, 35 was old! The meat on display behavior that women endure daily in the civilian world never changed, now it’s just wearing a uniform. Many young, naive, inexperienced girls fall into the trap and end up heartbroken or pregnant, by men manipulating their emotions while looking for a fresh conquest. Sadly, the advice of older enlisted women is much the same, “enjoy that man spoiling you, these young airmen don’t have the money or the means”…
Much love from the brown girl, sharing stories of life for Blogtober. Please keep writing, I promise you, someone is always reading! Enjoy
Airman Nyri H Rhodes~The Unnerved Traveler