Basic Training For Women

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & ProtectedYou wouldn’t believe who taught me to wear make-up. This is me in the 11th grade and the year I joined the Air Force. It was 1975/76 and I was born in 1958. My parents had to sign for me to go in the Air Force cause you had to be 18 to join. I was living in a one horse town and had no future. I was looking for a way out. That one horse we had was your choice of being a furniture factory owner or working at one.

My father was the owner of a furniture factory and I had all of it I could stand in one lifetime. I am glad to be back in NC now and living not too far from where I grew up. But at that point in my life back when I knew all the answers, I wanted adventure.

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It was off to basic training with all my suitcases—–

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I’m really glad we got the clothes on the line in that picture above. I was off on a journey that would  be more remarkable than I can tell you in one sitting. You wanted to know who taught me how to wear make-up, right?

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Above is a very secure moment in my pre- Air Force days when I thought  pant suits were hot. I wasn’t wearing make-up. I was 15ish and that’s my blue American Motors Javelin in the background. That was a funny car. The high beams wouldn’t work at all. I sold it to another Airman for $1,500 at my first duty station. He later cussed me out cause I didn’t tell him the lights went completely out when you hit the button in the floor board to switch them to high beams. I laughed of course. If I sell you a car, check your high beams.

See that big building behind me? That is our garage. My dad built that for my brothers. He said it would keep them out of trouble. Now that depends on how you spell trouble in my family. It did work to keep them off drugs. It did help them to make good grades. But they built a few bad tush race cars in there and refurbished a model T tractor.

This brings us to my qualifications to join the Air Force. I hung with my brothers and learned my way around a tool box. I could look at a set of wrenches and tell you what bolt it would fit. I could torque a bolt and fine tune a carburetor back before the new fuel injected ones came along. My brothers could tell a lot of good stories and like I have told ya’ll before, if you became invisible you could learn a lot about life. I learned a lot about race cars and engines just by being a member of the family. I’ve driven a 454 4 barrel and blow the skeeters off my windshield. That’s something no car wash can do.

In 1975/76 the government decided to cave to the women’s right movement which I was glad to welcome. My dad had told me to find a man and get married cause he wasn’t wasting his time or money putting a woman through college. I am my dad’s child and didn’t accept that. My dad was very smart and I can say almost brilliant inventor type business man. He had lots of faults with one being women and alcohol. He was also extremely prejudice and I never developed a taste for alcohol or prejudice. It was part of what drove me away from the South.

100_5824I left my dog………

100_5842I left these friends. I’m on the bottom left. I left the chance to take my team to victory in the state debate competition. One of my National Forensic League classmates would write…………

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Don’t ever argue with me as you will not win. I have been trained to win and make you run tail tucked to your own grave. I also acted, played on the varsity softball and volleyball teams. And my favorite thing of all….I left……

100_5845Cheerleading. I left the varsity squad in 11th grade to tour the USA with the USAF. I would look back and question my decisions. I don’t regret them now but there were some homesick days that I wondered if I’ve made the wise decision. I’m proudly the one in the back to the right of the Indian. I’m the one holding up one of my very best friends. I’m the only white girl in the trio.

100_5822This is me a couple of months later. I’m in shock. I have just completed basic training where my very foundation was rocked. I’m no longer the cheerleader, the debator, the race car driver, the little girl, or the small town girl. I am confident, trained, toned, disciplined, and courageous. I am ready for Technical school. Oh, I forgot to tell you how the Air Force allowed me in to begin with.

In 1975/76, the government answered the plea of the Women’s Liberation Organization and let women in to non-traditional career fields. When the government makes policy changes, they must meet quotas to fulfill those commitments. The needed women. They needed women to be in the roles traditionally held by men. First, you had to take a qualification test just as you do today. You must have a high school diploma and be an upstanding citizen of the USA. I was all but one of what they were looking for. I didn’t have a high school diploma.

When I left 11th grade to follow my dreams, I left without a diploma. At that time, you could graduate early if you took the classes needed to graduate at a local community college. So I did. In three months, I took senior English, a math, and a science. The test was passed and the diploma received. My parents and I presented it to the AF recruiter and he needed me to pass the mechanics test required at that time. Piece of cake really. Lots of questions about what wrench was used where and a short bit about electronics. No problem and the recruiter did a happy dance. I was in! Check me off the quota sheet as I have arrived.

Now this next bit of information has never ever been told and you are the first to hear. I didn’t pass the requirement to lift 75lbs over my head. Why did I get in then?….cause they needed me and I looked strong. When I got to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas, they administered a test as the final step to enter the field of flight-line mechanics. They sent me in to a room with no one in it. In fact, there wasn’t anything in it but a set of weights weighing 75lbs and me.

When I came out of the room, the ask me if I lifted the weight over my head. At 17 and hoping to conquer the world, you say yes and know you just snookered the government. We all winked and I entered 6 weeks of torture. Wondering all the time if I could go back and try that 75lbs again. This time I’d say—are you nuts–that’s 75lbs for fricking sake. I’m 110lbs soaking wet. Are you nuts—was I nuts.

They had no clue what to do with us non-traditional women. They didn’t know if we needed feminine products or tissues. They didn’t have the proper uniforms. The first three weeks of basic training we wore the women’s uniform of that time. We had a light blue shirt and navy blue cotton trousers. We looked pretty and I loved that uniform. We were sent off to make-up classes;) and taught how to wear our hair. Gosh we were drop dead gorgeous.

That didn’t last as the Air Force knew our jobs would rip those clothes to shreds. Here came green fatigues and combat boots. I kid you not….I was in the first graduating class from basic training to wear combat boots. They had to special order many of our boots cause we all wore a size 4 mens. For the last three weeks of training, we wore those hot fatigues and we no longer went to make-up school. We looked trained but not so pretty. Looks like they could have figured out how to be pretty and prepared. Maybe they do that now. Times have changed since 1976.

We marched, marched, marched until our combat boots rubbed blisters on our feet and we kept on marching. We fainted from the heat. We lived all 50 of us in one room without killing each other. We learned to bounce a quarter on the bed, learned to skin our knuckles on the bed springs making it happen. We learned to survive the obsticle course and run our designated distance in the time they needed—I think.

We graduated lean, strong, victorious, proud, and finally beautiful. All 50 of us went in different directions off to train in the non-traditional roles we had been assigned. We would face more challenges but had survived basic training and could meet those challenges too. We did! We met them and exceeded. My technical training was long. I learned how to maintain and operate 75 pieces of equipment.

I thought technical school was a breeze except for the bitter cold. Why do you people live where there is frozen fog? Are you nuts? My final destination on the journey was Williams AFB, in Phoenix AZ. But to get there, I had to go through 8 months of Chanute AFB, Rantoul Illinois. Go fighting Illini! But boo hiss to the bitter cold. This NC gal will not be going back to reminisce about the good old days in Illinois. I made it and excelled cause excelling was directly un-predicting what my dad had foretold to happen. I was going to be a success if it killed me. I would show him.

100_5834I had to learn how to put out fires in case an airplane or piece of equipment spontaneously combusted and the fire department called in sick. Good thing I didn’t get in the AF on my fire fighting ability cause I could not move in all this garb. I forget what it weighed with the boots on? but I nearly fell over and then they handed me the hose. So I stood by the fire truck with the hose still attached to the engine so they could snap the picture for the government. The government needed to see I could fight fires.

100_5829Then I got to Williams AFB, in Gilbert Higley Arizona on the outskirts of Phoenix. You can read about my arrival on my sidebar under Mr. Delicious. This is my room mate Sandy. Sandy talked me in to playing softball for the base women’s team. I made it and was the primary pitcher. I was good at picthing cause they needed one and women at that time in the AF didn’t fail at nothing. The coach made sure by rigging me up with two sets of boxes. Every day I would pitch to those boxes until my arm would fall off. The Air Force let me keep my day job:) They let me travel with the team cause it made us look like a fun bunch of Air Force Women! That was good PR.

So there you have it. I was good at it all. I was good at being away from home. I was good at being a woman in a man’s world. In fact, it was down right awesome being one of the only women amongst all that testosterone. Thank you Lord. Thank you dad. Thank you mother nature.

100_5821I went on to win Airman of the Quarter and competed against MrD for Airman of the Year. He won. I was mad at him for awhile. I got over it and had his kids.

100_5840I went on to win…Most Professional Looker. Good grief…this was a good name when the base was all men. But I got a lot of razzing about this title of Most Professional Looker. It was honest to gosh…a real award and here is the proof. An unattractive picture of me pulling a piece of equipment and hooking it to a tug.

A tug is a torture vehicle used to haul equipment around on the flightline. Affectionally knows as the hemmorhoid maker. We pulled little things and big things. You have to be real careful when pulling a plane. Can you imagine the calculated turns and manuvers? I can and only missed once. I towed the airplanes to and from various hangers for maintenance and washing. One time..hehehehe, I was thinking about MrD and hauled that bad boy right over a curb. I learned that you can not dislodge the wayward wheel back up over the curb with a tug. You must enlist the help of a crane and several hundred slap happy men to get it back on track. I know cause I looked in to the eyes of every jovial man on that flightline…that day. I lived and laughed too.

100_5849And because I learned to wear make-up correctly, I met and married MrD. This is what we looked like when we married in 1978. I would continue to be an Airman until I was 4 months pregnant and in 1980 I left the Air Force to be a mom and full time wife. That is when I stopped looking back and have continued to look forward. I look forward to seeing this brave journey right to the end. I’m not done living it. I’m not done being a brave and courageous woman. I do it for you and I do it for me. I do it for every little girl or boy who gets told they won’t amount to much.

35 Comments Add yours

  1. Heather Jackson says:

    I am a mother of 2 , at the age of 21 I am a stay at Home Mom. I am Joining the airforce soon. This story Inspired me !! thankyou!

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    1. I wish you the very best! Thank you for sharing that it inspired you. I appreciate that.

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  2. A.L.L. says:

    What a wonderful glimpse into a curious piece of history!
    I really enjoyed reading your story.
    My name is also Anna and I am leaving for basic training in less than two months. I am physically and mentally prepared for the experience, knowing that there is no such thing as being fully prepared. The only thing I am really struggling with in my decision to join the military is the lack of freedom and opportunity to spend adequate vacation time with my family. That is the only negative I see right now that I cannot overcome easily. Anna, how did you deal with being away from home? I know people may say this is fact of life that we have to deal with, but for me it is especially difficult. I am very attached to my mother and sister and I am frightened that I will be de facto severing my close ties with them through the service.

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    1. Congratulations to you! You ask me an easy question—and than you for reading my story.

      You’ll miss your family–but if you sign up for 4 years….that is not long enough to lose the family ties. It will only make it stronger. They will love coming to see where you are stationed. Now once the 4-6 yrs are up–you can reevaluate. By then, you are adjusted and know if that will be the life for you. Right now—you are on a adventure–a hard one–but most people don’t have a clue what they want to do in life until they are 30ish. Even then a person these days came change careers easily.

      I enjoyed North Dakota and I would consider that our most extreme assignment—but you get close to the AF family–those airmen around you but they still don’t take the place of back home family. Trust me—you will only grow more close to those you are leaving behind. So even if you get ND==it will still be all good.

      And those kinds of assignments prepare you to help your family even more–they strengthen your character so that you become the rock. Here in our family we are 4 people who stand out from the rest. Since my kids were military brats—they are some tough cookies. They were chosen to fulfill leadership positions in their civilian schools. Both were on the student council when we moved back to our NC.

      It will be a tough life for awhile—but those who are never challenged in life—have very narrow experience. That AF door has opened many a path in life for me.

      Let me know how it goes after you get stationed at your first base. I’d love to hear back from you.
      Hugs, Anna

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      1. Anna says:

        Thanks so much for replying and sharing your family’s story.
        You definitely made me feel much better!
        I totally agree with what you said about facing and overcoming challenges in life. It certainly gives a person depth. And the very reason why I joined the AF is for the challenge and adventure.
        It will be a while before I get to my first base. I will have to go through language school in California for at least a year and then more training in Texas. But once I get my first assignment you will be hearing from me!
        Best -A

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  3. Marissa Hunter says:

    I was at Lackland in July/August 1976 going though basic. 3743, W144. Just wondering where you were during that time? I was sent to Chanute, Ill. for training as a Jet Engine Mechanic. There really weren’t too many of us then and “PC” hadn’t come in to play. Pretty rugged stuff.

    Marissa

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    1. Sounds like we were there at the same Marissa. wish I could do it over again but have the knowledge of today. I was just too young at the time. So we did our basic training and our technical at the same place. Congratulations to you. Nice to meet you and I’m sure we saw each other a few times. In fact—I’m thinking you were very pretty if you are who I think you are. Best Wishes and sorry for taking so long to get back with you. I have been very sick. Hard for me to see.

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  4. Mary S says:

    You know, it’s funny that I stumbled onto your webpage… I was looking for photos of the old green fatigues worn by the AF in the late 70s, early 80s and I had a giggle at your basic training photo (no offense, it was that horrible hat they made us wear.) I went through basic about a year and a half after you, I was also born in 1958 and they pretty much forced me and my friend to go into ‘non-traditional’ jobs although I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it. I remember that weight test, it was called the X factor test if I remember correctly and I failed miserably at it. I had been assigned to airborne radio and back in those days, the boxes had tubes and weighed about 60 pounds. There was no way I could haul one of those things up the ladder into a KC-135! I didn’t last long on the job even though I had spent six months at Keesler. Oh well.

    It was fun reading your reminiscences.
    OH gosh–so glad you left a comment. So you too didn’t pass the weight lifting test? How funny. They were desperate. Now you have a point about that dress blue hat or the fatigue hat for that matter. Either made your hair look awful.

    Sorry to hear you didn’t have a positive experience. They matched you badly with your job. If you made it through Kessler–you were doing great. If you could go back and do it today, what would you do differently? Would you still join the AF? I wish I could go back and choose a different career field.

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    1. Mary S says:

      I ended up working at the clinic which was a fun and interesting job (mental health, of all places!) but I really wish I could’ve gotten into pharmacy tech. I would definitely do it all over again though, I had a pretty great time in the military. By the way, I got stationed at Beale AFB, in Northern California. Ever been there? It was a giant cow pasture back in ’78 when I got there, and I mean that quite literally. They had just had a pretty bad accident on the runway… several cows had wandered onto the flightline, causing a crash which left steak all down the pavement. Someone showed me the photos, it was pretty grisly. Not a great base for a young woman’s first assignment, there wasn’t much to do there except hunt, fish and pray… several people tried to convert me, for some reason *snicker*. Unfortunately, none of those things interested me.

      Sorry this all sounds so negative, because overall my experiences were very good. It’s just that the kinda bad stuff is more interesting. 😉

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  5. Samantha says:

    I leave for basic training in November and become more and more inspired and deteremined everyday. Thank you for your story and from woman to woman, I know I can do it and I know we all can do it.
    Excellent! I wish you all the best. Pick your career field wisely and use this opportunity as a tool to launch the rest of your life. If you have days—and there will be some–when you wonder what the heck you’ve gotten yourself in to……then just get through the moment and live on for what’s beyond. I can tell you that I’ve never regretted going in the AF. I have wished I would have taken better advantage of their schooling opportunities.

    I was enrolled in the CCAF but didn’t take nearly the classes offered. But YOU CAN!!!!!

    Basic training will be hard–very hard–I actually enjoyed the physical part but the mental was a bit challenging. They were stern and in your face. I needed that. I needed to be knocked down a peg or two so I could learn to obey orders. I use to be the know it all type not realizing several other 100 people know a better way too. I thought mine was the best way to do something. You’ll learn to work as a group and be stronger.

    My very best wishes to you and let me know when you graduate! I want to know your first duty assignment. What is your career field.
    Anna

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  6. Ashley says:

    Wow I can relate to your story but in different ways, but that is very inspirational. I am planning on joining the Airforce soon and prove to everyone that a woman can do a mans job and could do anything they set their minds to
    Oh Ashley–that means a lot to me and I wish you all the best. You can do it!!!!! I’m so proud of you. Take one day at a time. Don’t look back but only look forward. New beginnings and new hope are all yours. You are brave, strong, and beautiful.

    Wrapping my arms around you for a steady journey!

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  7. Stephanie says:

    Wow… It’s really neat to learn how it was from one of the first female airmen. I actually leave in seven days for Basic. I’m nervous, but I’m bound and determined to get through. I bet you at one point or another, I’ll think of you while I’m doing push ups or something.
    Good luck and you’ll love the AF life once the training is over. I’m proud of you!

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  8. Good grief! What an adventurous spirit you have!

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    1. I do most def have an adventurous spirit. It gets me through life.

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