Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Bit About Me--G.I Me

First off, I've noticed that there's been a surge of new members this week and that makes me ecstatic! Welcome, everyone!

I hope you're liking it here so far. I serve tea and crumpets on demand, so kick off your shoes and stay a while! :D

There is a weekly schedule that I stick to--Monday is when I offer an update on my progress on Aurumenas, my current fantasy/sci-fi WIP, Tuesday and Wednesday are whatever suits my fancy, Thursday is my About Me day, and Friday is when I start my weekend.

So today, I'm going to be talking about my little stint in the U.S. Army. Eight years, to be exact. I actually just received my honorable discharge last March. I still have to get a frame for my certificate. I'm very proud. :)

I joined when I was nineteen, got a nearly perfect score on my ASVAB, picked Civil Affairs as my MOS, and went off to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO for basic training in the summer. Ah, nine weeks in the blistering heat of Missouri with thirteen people screaming at you and calling you knuckleheads all the time--priceless. We even had a stapler thrown at our heads once. *shakes head* That Drill Sergeant was very angry.

I was gassed, smoked, pushed to my physical limits and then some, and turned into the ideal soldier. I can look on it with fondness now, but at the time, I assure you, it was not fun. We certainly did some exciting things, of course, like rappelling, learning to fire a rifle, etc., but the constant mental strain makes it impossible for you to ever really relax and enjoy the training.

When I was done with basic training, I went home for a few months for college (I was a split option) and then went to Ft. Bragg, NC for AIT (Advanced Individual Training). All throughout basic training, the Drill Sergeants assured us that AIT was going to be easy, like going to college. Apparently they were right, for everyone except those of us in the only two Special Operations MOS--Civil Affairs and PSYOP. Let me tell you, dear readers, Civil Affairs AIT was ten times harder than basic training, and it was three months long. Why? you might ask. Well, let me tell you. Civil Affairs and PSYOP soldiers can be attached to anyone in the military. Anyone. As in all those top little groups for the best of the best like Rangers, Seals, etc.--we can be attached to them, too. That meant we had to be trained to keep up with them. Ultimately, I never was attached to any of those units, but there's the possibility, so we had to be prepared.

Another reason for the harder training? Civil Affairs deals with the affairs of the "enemy" civilian populace. I put enemy in quotes because it's actually a lot broader than that. It's our job to make sure the unit we're attached to doesn't go blowing up a holy place or anything else that's important to the civilians in the occupied territory. We also work with the civilians to rebuild the infrastructure during and after warfare. We make sure they have food, schools, hospitals, water, etc. So we're there, quite literally, in the front lines all the time. We're with the first guys to enter a country, and we're with the last guys to leave.

Because of these close quarter encounters, we were required to spend a rather large portion of our training focusing on hand-to-hand combat. So yes, I do know how to kill someone with my bare hands. Mwahahahaha! We were trained so constantly and proficiently in it that I remember precisely what to do even after all these years. It makes me laugh because I'm a tiny person and I know that a lot of people disregard me physically, but the things we were taught made size obsolete. It doesn't matter how big you are if your achilles tendon has been snapped. Yes, I am sadistic sometimes. :) I told you my mind was Alice in Wonderland with a dash of Platoon.

So I finished AIT in the best physical shape I had ever been in in my entire life. I had no problem maxing the PT tests. Push ups, sit ups, two mile run? Bah! Bring it on! And then I was deployed to Iraq. I met my husband during pre mob training. I was attached to his Civil Affairs unit in Syracuse, NY because most of my company was already gone and I had missed their deployment.

We were stationed in Baghdad--me in the south, him in the north. They purposefully separated us because when we met, I was a SPC and he was a SGT. Our relationship was a no-no. I went through a lot of drama while deployed with certain personnel and now suffer from PTSD. I can't hold a job because of it. No it has nothing to do with loud noises making me go crazy, though I did wake up numerous times from mortars landing just a couple hundred yards from my trailer. Let me tell you...scary. My PTSD has more to do with the mental abuse I went through. I'm actually thinking about writing a book about my experience, so I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say I now have a crippling fear of authority. Like I said in a previous post, this blog is actually a type of therapy for me to learn to work past my fear. It's hard. Sometimes it takes me a whole day before I can even stand to look at the comments. I only do because I know that they're most likely positive, not hurtful. And they are! Thanks for all of your support, by the way! I really do love reading those comments. They make my day.

To be honest, other than all that drama, I loved my deployment. I loved the Iraqis, the food, most of the soldiers I met. The heat was bearable. Seriously, 145 degrees on the first day. Craziness. The rainy season was interesting, especially when all of Camp Victory turned into a lake. The palaces all over the city were beautiful, and the Iraqis really were great. They loved us and it was wonderful going out to see all their smiling faces. You will never comprehend how utterly grateful most of them are for what we did. It makes me sad to think of it sometimes, especially when I think of the palaces I visited where Saddam and his sons would bring women to rape them for a couple of weeks and then feed them to their tigers and lions. Ugh.

I don't mean to be judgmental or anything, but the vast majority of Americans have no idea the horrors that go on in other countries. In Iraq, when we first got there, there literally was no middle class. You had people living in their marble mansions and then you had the squatters that set up little huts on trash heaps. Yeah, some people had more permanent dwellings than the squatters, but they weren't much better.

After my deployment, I came home, married my fiance in November, had a few kids a couple of years later, and went into IRR. My rank when I left was SGT. I was quite proud.

So there it is, my abridged military career. There's a lot more exciting and funny stuff that happened, but that's going into the book. :D

~Emily White


  1. Wow, what an interesting life you've had. I'm surrounded by military men (including my fiance) and I can't imagine what kind of things they go through. It's awful that you suffer from PTSD. I hope you recover soon, :)

  2. I absolutely love me days!!! This was really cool to get to know you! What an exciting life to be a part of something so big.

    It's awful that you did have to gain PTSD but I guess we are given only what we can handle and I think it's amazing that you are here writing this blog! I really enjoyed this!

  3. Thanks everyone! I will admit most people don't look at me and think army. Most of my drill sergeants didn't think I'd make it. Haha! They actually voiced their awe when I graduated from basic training. One of them called me his little killer because I excelled so much in hand-to-hand. Like I said...I'm slightly sadistic. Hehehe!

  4. My father was a Vietnam veteran, and while I've never served in any capacity, I have absolutely nothing but respect for those who do and have.
    From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service.

  5. Emily, thanks for the warm welcome and the tea and crumpets. I always had a gut feeling that there was something more to the smiling face in the pic, a 'steeliness' if i can call it that. Now i know, you're a tough gal ! :)

  6. Aww, you guys are so nice! I really am one lucky person to be surrounded by people like you. :)

    And Pan, enjoy those crumpets! And you better believe I'm tough! Hehehe!

  7. Wow, that is a lot of adventure for one person. Thank you for what you've done, sharing your journey with us and you are seriously kick-ass. Great post!

  8. Wow, such an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing on your blog! I think with work and life experiences, there's so much that we can use for our writing, all the best with your book! PS: I also love tea and crumpets so I'll be stopping by again! :)

  9. Emily, Thanks for sharing - It is nice to get to know you a little more through your incredible experiences. VERY impressive!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your military experience with us! I've always had tremendous respect for all soldiers and veterans, and reading about your experience has only compounded that.

  11. Thanks for all the comments, everyone! I really love my About Me posts. It's kind of fun letting myself out there in an unnerving way. :D


Yay! Comments! Oh, how I do love them! :D