My Army Daze 🪖

Hi, all—

It's true! I began my military career as an Army private. Why? My senior year of high school, I'd managed to snag early acceptance to the University of Texas. Next concern: tuition. For that, I turned to Uncle Sam. It may sound odd, but the military allows for simultaneous enlistment in the National Guard & a certain 4-year officer pipeline—ROTC. Keep in mind Guard units belong to governors & the US Army, Navy, Air Force & Marines are beholden to the Feds. During crises, federal jurisdiction trumps state. Hence, there's never a doubt as to whom a dual-service hide belongs. This meant I'd get paid for Army basic/advanced individual training & monthly drill days while in college & NROTC. 

So I met with a recruiter, signed my name on the dotted line, wrapped up high school & shipped out for Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Despite the fact that I was my platoon's guidon bearer during basic training, I had a blast. (Note for civilians: the #1 goal of Basic is don't get noticed. Why? Less pushups! Unfortunately, guidons stand out not only to their own torture-happy drill sergeants, but everyone's. I soon excelled at pushups. 😏)

And then it happened. A few weeks into Basic, Guard privates were ordered to muster for specialized training. I wasn't on the list. Yep, the recruiter lied. (I can hear the vets on this list laughing like hyenas at this one.) The dude who handled my enlistment must've been short on his quota, because he slipped me a Reserve contract. I was so green I didn't notice. Cue major panic. I promptly relayed the crisis to my folks via snail mail. My mom's response? Get through Basic & we'll get it fixed. I did as ordered & soldiered on.

After Basic, I headed to Austin, Texas, for NROTC orientation. I was still stressed about the Reserve snafu, especially since my drill sergeants had assured me that I was utterly screwed. But they'd never gone toe to toe with a former captain of a Navy battleship. Back then, qualified female wannabe ship-drivers were hard to come by. My NROTC unit's CO wasn't about to lose one. When he called the Army & was informed that a branch transfer would not be approved, he promptly told them it was too late; I was legally already a sailor. 🤫

This explains #1) why I had a weird NROTC contract that stated if I flunked out, I'd be shipped out to the Fleet as a seaman the next day, and #2) why—unlike the remainder of my classmates—I have photos of said contract signing & an official freshman NROTC swearing in. Oh, and those tuition worries? My unit CO fixed those too. Months later, I was a happy Squid in possession of a 3 1/2-year NROTC full-tuition scholarship. 

Which brings me to #3): Always bet on Navy. Remember that when a certain annual military academy football showdown comes around this fall. 😉

Candace Irving's Army Daze

The above photos were taken a month apart. On the left: Private Phillips, US Army, on graduation day from Basic Training. On the right: Newly baptized Midshipman 4/C Phillips, US Navy. (Yep, as with men, the Army tends to kill women's hair!)




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