They do. Maybe not all of them, but some do. I was lied to – I know. I don’t remember the recruiter’s name, but I bet it’s on some of this old paperwork in my filing cabinet.
The biggest lie that I was told was that lieing on my application (is that what it is?) to get into the Army was standard – everyone did it and it was okay. I guess I don’t want to go into too much detail, lest there be legal implications on the flipside, but I enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1997. I did not understand the implications of this action. My recruiter promised me the world. He promised to take me running and work out with me to help me prepare for basic. He promised me that there was no sexual harassment in the Army anymore – it was against all the rules. He promised me that I would form the deepest friendships while I was there (that’s a laugh – I think I corresponded with a few of them for about a year).
Had a been 100% truthful on my application, they would have sent me home as unfit to serve. Had I been left to myself to fill out the papers, I would have been 100% honest. That’s how I am. They have qualifications in place for a reason. How would you like to be under attack with someone who would rather die than defend his/her own life? You don’t have much chance of survival. But I filled out these papers with Sgt. So&So coaching me on the “correct” answers. He told me that, in many cases, mental health issues aren’t severe enough to report. And occasional drug use (without dependence, treatment, or punitive legal action) is inconsequential. And, in many cases, childhood asthma, allergies, and other medical problems can simply be removed from existence without repercussions. Not that any of these situations applied to me more than anybody else. You learn a lot when you have to answer questions about things you don’t normally consider – so you ask about the “what if”. And that’s when you find out that a strung-out junkie with years of manic-depression and medical problems could be your “buddy” on the killing field. Do you really want that? I sure as hell wouldn’t.
Of my military career – it was short. I went to basic training. I screwed up my ankles, and graduated with shin splints and stress fractures in both feet. I went on to AIT (job training) for Railway Equipment Repair. Yeah – it was short – 5 weeks. They gave us our final and let us out a few days early so we could get home in time for the 4th of July. I screwed my feet up some more, running 7-10 miles every morning on already fractured bones and pained shins. I learned how to numb everything with ibuprofen and Icy Hot. You could smell me coming from a mile away, but it was necessary for me to walk.
They say that privates aren’t supposed to “date” each other in basic or AIT. It’s supposed to be punishable by court marshall. People find the most creative ways to use each others’ bodies for, um, gratification and do that in the most interesting of places. Think of basic/AIT as the poor man’s (woman’s) college campus and you sort of get the idea. Only those seriously committed to someone abstain from the flirtation and what follows.
And as far as sexual harassment and “equality”, it’s exactly how you imagine. The majority of people involved in the military are male. Until our society changes completely and women are truly respected by ALL men, sexual harassment and gender-based inequality will remain the norm – especially in male-dominated fields like the military. It may not be as overt as it used to be, but it’s there, threatening every woman every moment.
“But that was ten years ago”, you say. Trust me, if ten years ago this shit was going on – it’s gotten worse since then. Have you seen how our society has changed overall in the last ten years? If anything, the treatment of women has lost ground – not gained it. The military will only reflect that.
Now, I know I was too naive to enter into this thing and understand what I was doing. But at the time, I needed someone to pay for my college tuition and the Army said it was going to do that. And it may have, had I remained an active member and honored my contract. But after I got back from AIT, I went to a few months of drill. I’d say it was about 3/4 of a year. I suffered MORE sexual harassment – and this time I couldn’t get away as easily. And everyone in my company already knew each other (except for the other two people I graduated AIT with) and were buddies. If I tried to make my complaint and make something happen, I had no idea what might happen to me. In reality, I probably would have been reassigned and made to press charges of some sort. However, I didn’t have it in me to put up a fight not knowing what the consequences might have been. So I stopped going. I simply stopped appearing at drill every month. They would call and call. And I would never call back.
I was scared as hell that they would come to my house and take me to jail for going AWOL or just for insubordination, but that never happened. I got a call once or twice from female soldiers I had never met who wanted to help me file my complaint, but I continually declined. At this point, I just wanted out. There was an additional element of being a reservist that made me feel like I was living two lives and I hated it. And the Army had seriously altered my attitude towards everything. I was impatient, angry all the time, and incredibly mean. So I wanted to try to “de-program” myself as quickly as I could so I could get back to my life and be happy again. Eventually, the Army went away. I had to pay back the small part of the signing bonus that I had already received, but after that they left me alone.
At first I didn’t understand why they didn’t seek me out and force me to take responsibility for the papers I signed and the contract that I was ignoring. But then I realized that it wouldn’t make sense for them to do that. Would you want to force people to honor their commitment to the military when they really didn’t want to be there? How good do you think an army made up of people like that would be? Horrible. Any sign of danger and they’d be running home. That’s why they didn’t pursue me. I was less of a threat staying home than I was participating in the Army.
Anyway, that’s pretty much my Army story. There’s more, but that’s the basic overview. My advice to everyone (except the people who feel strongly the need to place themselves in the line of danger to serve the honor of their country) is DON’T JOIN THE MILITARY! And they should make sure people know what they are getting themselves into before letting them sign up.
I don’t really know what kind of discharge I received. I just applied for a copy of my service records yesterday, out of pure curiosity. So we’ll see what that holds in store . . . I can’t wait to see that document in the mail.
If you have your own recruitment horror story or question for me about my time in the service, drop me a line or leave a comment.