1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Patricia L. Childers, 2002

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0256.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Patricia L. Childers' career in the U.S. Navy from 1972 to 1996.

Summary:

Childers discusses her reasons for joining the navy, the influence the Vietnam War and her family's service history had on her decision, and the Delayed Entry Program. She recalls her trip from Virginia to boot camp in Orlando. Topics from her time in boot camp include: attrition, uniforms, classroom training, swim training, fire watch, dining, marching, and graduation. Childers then discusses her time at Hospital Corps “A” School in Great Lakes, Illinois, mentioning: being a platoon leader; emergency room work; meeting her future husband; greeting returning Vietnam POWs; and a day’s typical schedule.

Topics from her time at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia include: work in the labor and delivery ward; barracks life; leadership positions; leisure activities; civil service workers; structure of the open bay clinics; ambulance work; and uniforms. She discusses her brief assignment to Naval Hospital Orlando, where she was denied the opportunity to attend Instructor School, and reenlisting for orders after postponing her wedding. She briefly mentions working as the lead petty officer of the Family Practice Clinic at Naval Regional Medical Center Memphis; marrying her fiancé, Steve; his attendance at Officer Candidate School; and being stationed at Naval Regional Medical Center Philadelphia together. Childers also describes transferring to personnel work so that she and Steve would not be working in the same department, and their efforts to separate their personal lives from work.

Childers discusses being sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after only one year in Philadelphia; her belief that the assignment was retribution for being married to an officer; the isolation being stationed at Gitmo; and how the distance strengthened her marriage. She also mentions earning a marksman ribbon, learning to be an X-ray technician, training for aircraft accidents; and the fence separating Guantanamo Bay from mainland Cuba. In length she discusses providing medical care for Cubans who jumped the fence into the base.

Childers briefly discusses her assignment to Naval Regional Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida, including her work in patient affairs; earning Meritorious Unit Commendation; a plane crash on the USS Nimitz; and not becoming an officer to avoid conflict with her husband’s rank. Topics from her time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, include: making chief; the construction of a new hospital; and knowing many of those killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut. Of her time at U.S. Naval Hospital in Rota, Spain, she discusses the ownership and structure of the base, her work on the Joint Medical Regulating Team, working with the air force on the Nightingale medevac aircraft, and serving as master-at-arms for the hospital. Topics from her time at Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) includes: assigning physicians to ships serving Operation Desert Shield; the delay in the deployment of the ships; and receiving a Navy Commendation Medal for work in Administrative Services. Childers also describes the honor of being named chief of the Arlington Annex Branch Clinic and enjoying her duties there.

Other service topics include: women’s role in the military; benefits of serving in the navy opposed to other branches; land and sea rotation of assignments; diversity in the navy; social activities like dining-ins; evolution of uniforms; change in navy family policies; retirement and rank policies; change in women’s career opportunities in the military. Childers discusses her life after her retirement from the navy. Childers also describes her work for the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial; her participation in military organizations; and her education on the GI Bill.

Creator: Patricia Lynn Childers

Biographical Info: Patricia Lynn Childers (b. 1950) had a twenty-four year career in the U.S. Navy, from 1972 to 1996, after which she became the director of field operations for Women in the Military Service for America Memorial.

Collection: Patricia L. Childers Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

HT:

Today is Saturday, August 10, 2002. My name is Hermann Trojanowski, and I'm at the home of Miss Patricia Childers, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I'm here to interview Miss Childers for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Miss Childers, if you would, tell me your full name. We'll use it as a test.

PC:

It's Patricia Lynn Childers.

HT:

First question—I'll be asking some biographical information about yourself—which is, where were you born and when?

PC:

I was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, February of 1950.

HT:

Where did you live before you enlisted in the navy?

PC:

I was born and raised right there in Lynchburg, and joined the service at the age of twenty-two.

HT:

Can you tell me a little bit about your family, about your mom and dad and brothers and sisters and that sort of thing.

PC:

I'd be happy to. My parents, who are still living, were born and raised near Lynchburg, one in one county and one in the other, so that's why they lived there in Lynchburg. My father served in the United States Navy in World War II, and also was recalled for Korea after I had been born.

I have an older brother, and he served in the navy as well. So now you see it's a theme here why I joined the navy. But he served during the Vietnam War. Never went actually to Vietnam. He served for four years on an oiler out of Norfolk. I have a younger sister who still lives with her family there in Lynchburg.

HT:

What was the name of the high school that you attended?

PC:

I attended Brookville High School in Campbell County, which is not really in the city limit. It's the same school that my brother and sister attended.

HT:

Did you attend college?

PC:

I did. Part-time at the community college in Lynchburg, Central Virginia Community College, but I got most of my college education through the GI Bill or tuition assistance in the military. So I attended several different colleges. In fact, just Friday I enrolled in Methodist College here in Fayetteville under the GI Bill. So I'll be hopefully completing this degree that's taken years to get.

HT:

What type of work did you do before you joined the navy?

PC:

After I graduated from high school in 1969, I had done a work-study program while I was still in high school with the local hospital, Lynchburg General. So I continued working for them while I attended some classes at the community college, but joined the navy in '72, so that was a short stint.

HT:

Do you recall why you joined?

PC:

I've already mentioned the strong family background. I'm sure that, like many folks, every night with the evening news talking about Vietnam, talking about all the deaths in Vietnam, and with me having a medical background and being very interested in medicine, I just felt like that there was something I could do, and if there was, I needed to do it. So I enlisted. I went and talked to all the recruiters, but with the strong naval background that my family had, I did choose to go with the navy.

HT:

How did your parents and siblings and friends feel about you joining?

PC:

They were so supportive. I think I shocked everyone, though, because I was pretty much a homebody. So I think they were a little bit surprised that I was going to be the one to venture out and leave the nest, if you will. But they were so supportive. I mean, just everyone.

Some of my friends had already served in the military, most of them being male. I had one person that I knew had been in the air force for a short period of time, and I met at the hospital when she returned from her career, but she had done like three years in the air force. They were real supportive.

HT:

Did your parents have to sign in order for you to join? Because you were over twenty-one, right?

PC:

I was over twenty-one, so it was not—I mean, although I certainly discussed it with them before I made such a major decision. And I really kind of agonized, because it was like a four-year commitment, and I had never made a four-year commitment to anything. And I knew that it was going to be a whole different way of life. I had my own apartment by this time, and my car and my belongings. You know, I just took it all home and left it with my parents until I got settled and through some training with the navy.

HT:

This was sort of the tail end of the Vietnam War, and I think you mentioned earlier in the conversation that listening to the news every night brought Vietnam up constantly, and so it sounds like there was some sort of influence there. Vietnam did influence you to join.

PC:

Oh, definitely, definitely. That war, I think, influenced my whole generation. We lost so many people, and there was a young man that had gone to high school with my brother that was a prisoner of war. Originally we thought that he was killed in action, and then it came out that he was a POW [prisoner of war]. We knew his family and we knew him, and then were other neighbors that passed away during Vietnam after serving the country. And so there were funerals at Arlington [Cemetery], and a lot of my classmates went in the service, mostly males, though. I don't think there were any females that I know of that I went to high school with that went into the service.

HT:

Do you recall what people, in general, thought about women joining the military at that time? I know during World War II there were some slanderous attacks against women who joined the WACs [Women's Army Corps] and that sort of thing. Did you have this feeling at that period of time?

PC:

Well, I think it was. Vietnam was certainly not popular, as we know. And, in fact, people coming back really tried to hide the fact that that's where they had been for the last few years or last year or whatever. So I do think it was a stigma attached to it. My brother was really concerned about that, I think, being the older brother, you know, he was a little bit concerned because he had been in the navy and he was aboard a ship and he didn't see very many women in the navy, because women weren't aboard ship at that time.

But I just felt that I could do this and I was needed. My recruiter made me feel that my services were certainly needed. I went into a very traditional field. I stayed with the Hospital Corps, which was very traditional for women. So my job in the navy really kind of mirrored my job in civilian life, so I wasn't really worried about that the job was going to be so different. I already knew what to expect in a hospital setting.

HT:

Where did you enlist?

PC:

Although the recruiter was in Lynchburg, I actually left from the recruit—I guess it was like the regional station out of Roanoke, Virginia, which was like forty-five miles from my home.

HT:

Do you recall what type of tests you had to take—written, physical?

PC:

There was this whole battery of tests. In fact, I joined under the Delayed Entry Program in April of '72. I decided I was going to do this, and I went, and then, of course, found out that I could sign all the papers and I could raise my hand and whatever, but they were delaying the entry. I'm not quite sure why, although during the time that I signed up and went in October of '72, the Recruit Training Command [RTC] for women moved from Bainbridge, Maryland, to Orlando, Florida. So I think maybe that was part of the delay, that they didn't have a place for me to be trained, to go to boot camp. Now, I don't know that officially, but I do know it moved, because I was under the impression—my recruiter had told me that I'd go to Bainbridge. Then when it came time to go in October, then it was like, “Oh, you're going to Orlando.” And I was like, “Disney World?” [laughs]

HT:

So you had to take a written test prior to joining?

PC:

Definitely.

HT:

And did you have to take a physical of some sort as well?

PC:

Definitely, yes. And that was kind of interesting, too, because it ended up that the doctor that did my physical in Roanoke was a doctor that I knew. He was not in the military, but I guess he was under contract with them. And he was totally surprised. We walked in the door and there I sat, because he didn't realize—I mean, I knew him from the hospital, but I didn't know him well enough that he knew that I was going to go in the service.

HT:

You said you went to Orlando for basic training. How long did that last?

PC:

Boot camp is about four—no, I guess it was six weeks. It was from October '72 to December, so it's about six weeks, I believe. I was in Company 13, but we called it Lucky Company 13, at RTC Orlando.

HT:

Is this outside of Orlando?

PC:

It is. It's really kind of near Winter Park, I guess. Part of the base, which is now closed, but part of it actually is right on the outskirts of Winter Park.

HT:

What do you recall about the first day at boot camp? What kind of impression?

PC:

It was a long day, of course. The recruiter picked me up. My father ran a garage, and this was just a great send-off for me. I had a neighbor that was very close to me. These children grew up with myself and my brother. And here he is out there when the recruiter came, he's out there whistling Anchors Away when I left at something like five-thirty or six o'clock in the morning. I think it was six in the morning that they picked me up.

So he took me to Roanoke, and then I didn't leave, fly out of Roanoke till about three o'clock that afternoon. It was my first airplane ride or whatever, you know, flight, so my parents met me at the airport to see me off, my parents and my sister. And then my brother, he didn't live in Lynchburg at that time, but lived further north, around Waynesboro [Virginia], he came in and saw me off, too, which was a total surprise. So I really got a good sendoff from them.

But I remember arriving in Orlando, nice airport, and there was one other girl on the flight with me that was from Lynchburg or from Madison Heights, [Virginia], which is one of the surrounding communities, but I did not know her and hadn't met her until that day.

So we get to the airport, and then we have to wait. It's part of the hurry-up-and-wait routine, because we wait for other flights to arrive. So we didn't actually get to the base until maybe nine o'clock. I mean, we ate at the airport or whatever, and there was no meal involved.

But we arrived there, and the first thing I remember is the doors to the bus opening up, and this woman comes on the bus, and she has got a voice that would just scare you to death. She was barking these orders about getting off the bus and confiscating—you know, we've got to empty our purses. We actually got this detailed mimeographed sheet on what we could bring, what we couldn't bring. I guess some people didn't read that, because they were confiscating candy and gum and all kinds of stuff that they weren't supposed to have, and they were being yelled out.

They had a routine, but it was not something that I was expecting, I guess. I mean, I didn't expect them to come out and escort me up to my private room, but I wasn't expecting all the yelling and the scurrying around, and we were all pretty tired by that point as well. But it was to bed about—I guess it was probably—by the time we ended up with everything, we got to bed maybe eleven or twelve, and then they were sounding reveille in the morning over a loudspeaker. But it sounded like the loudspeaker was right over my head, so it was quite a jolt.

HT:

So that was your introduction to navy life, so to speak. What about the next day? Do you recall what that was like? Your first full day.

PC:

The first full day was like get up really, really early in the morning. I mean, it was before daybreak, obviously. Get up, make this bunk. And I laughed and told my mother, because I don't consider myself a morning person, and I do make my bed, but I don't make it as soon as I get out of it, you know, type thing. But it was get up and make this bed to some fashion. I did have some experience working in a hospital, about hospital corners and stuff, so I think I had a little bit of a heads-up on that.

Then going into the bathroom where the lights were just so bright. There was all this light and all these sinks in a row and all these toilets. And we did have stalls, but they didn't have doors on them. But it did afford you some privacy. And then the shower was this huge room with shower spigots, and no curtains around or whatever. It reminded me of showering after gym class, although we did have individual stalls at the school that I went to.

So there was no privacy, and I think that was my first—and then was a battery of marching. You know, march to breakfast, but you only have so long to eat for breakfast, and no talking in line. A lot of orders, and trying to remember all that and keep that fresh in my mind. It was kind of mind-boggling, I think, even though, you know, I mean, I felt like I was an adult, and there were lots of women there that were younger than I was. But it was interesting.

HT:

When were you issued uniforms, and what did you think of the uniform?

PC:

Well, the uniform issuance came several weeks later. I mean, you know, they told us what kind of clothes to bring, civilian attire, and so we went through a battery of more physicals, more shots, some more testing. There was attrition going on here. People were leaving, you know, for one reason or another. The woman that was with me, that came from my hometown, she left fairly early on because she was diabetic and had not revealed that. I don't know how she got in without that being known, but I guess she didn't bring her medication with her and so she got sick and ended up going to medical, and then she was like gone the next day.

So there was some attrition going on. So I would way we got fitted for these uniforms which were the traditional World War II-era WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] uniform, the blue wool serge. And in Orlando you're like, “Oh, my goodness.” But we didn't get to wear that right away. There was a hierarchy of what you get to wear, and I think the first thing we wore were the dungaree uniforms, which they called dungarees, but they were not dungarees. They were a navy blue slacks that zipped up the side, women's slacks, and a blue-chambray-type shirt. It's not the chambray that we think of; it was a lighter material than that. And then we wore what we referred to as the fore-and-aft cap with that.

So you wore that for several weeks to class. Once the uniforms got issued—once you got those uniforms; let me put it that way—you shipped all of your civilian clothes home with the exception of one outfit. And I imagine that that one outfit was if you had to go home for emergency leave or if you left for any reason, that was your uniform or that would be your clothing that you would wear home. So we were able to keep it. We didn't keep it in our lockers; we had to put that away with our luggage.

That was kind of weird, because being issued these clothes and putting my things away, that made me feel kind of weird to put those away. I mean, I didn't think I had joined a convent, but it was almost like that. It was almost like, “Boy, will I ever see these clothes again?” But I knew I would, because the restrictions on wearing uniforms was not like—I mean, it had changed. I knew eventually I would have a job and go to the [unclear] maybe in a uniform and conduct my life accordingly.

HT:

What type of classroom training did you receive?

PC:

It was really pretty interesting. The classrooms were really nice. They were modern buildings and air-conditioned. We would sit through naval orientation, through first aid. They did a class on health. They really kind of taught us from square one what the navy was about, and I found that extremely interesting because, of course, knowing that my relatives had been in and whatever.

They talked about careers in the navy and what the different classifications were, but then they also had a whole thing on terminology. I mean, in the navy, a wall is a bulkhead, and the floor is the deck, and a staircase is a ladder, and the restroom is a head. So there's a whole jargon that I had to learn, and we all had to learn. And we were expected to learn that quickly and refer. I mean, it was really important that we learn those.

And then we had physical education. They had this huge Olympic-size pool, and you had to pass a swim test. And then you did other training which it kind of tickled me because they had us in this pool, and they'd give us what we referred to as the Dixie cup, which was a man's white hat. But we were not issued that hat. We would never wear that hat, but we had to make it a flotation device and stay afloat for a certain length of time in the deep end of this pool. Because if for any reason we got thrown into the water, they didn't want us to drown. And that just amazed me that they did that with that hat that we wouldn't have. You know, it was like, “Well, where am I going to get this hat from? Am I supposed to swipe it off somebody's head?” You know, that's what I was thinking.

And the other thing that they did was they gave us men's dungaree pants, not to wear, but we had these pants. We had to put them on at the pool, over our swimsuit. We had to jump into the pool. We had to take these off. We had to tie the legs, not together, but individually, and then pull it over your head with such force the air would get into it, and pull it under you and use that as a flotation device. But, again, we weren't issued those pants, so I'm not sure where we were supposed to get those to keep from drowning either.

But at that point in time, women were not aboard ship, so I guess they had these arbitrary rules that we had to do that and had to pass the swim test, and you had to jump off of the high diving board, and that kind of thing. And there was all this talk about, you know, if you ever had to abandon ship, what you would do. The women weren't aboard ship, so that was kind of A-Okay. I served twenty-four years and never served aboard ship, so I was like, “Okay.” But I know what to do in an “abandon ship” scenario or whatever.

HT:

What type of instructors did you have? Were they military or civilian?

PC:

They were all military. They were all military women. I remember that my recruit training commander was a second class, which is an E-5 in the navy. Within our company, we had individuals within that company that were our leaders as well, squad leaders and that kind of thing that took on a leadership role.

It was interesting to see that develop and to see other people's reaction to these people. Some of them kind of bucked their authority. You know, they felt like they were recruits. Why were they getting the special recognition or whatever? But it was interesting to see that, because as I said, I was a little bit older. I wasn't selected to be one of those leaders at Recruit Training Command, because I was interviewed, but I think part of it was because I didn't want that added responsibility.

At that point I wanted to get through what I had to get through, and I didn't want to be responsible for anyone but myself, and I kind of voiced that. I talked to some of the other recruits and I tried to encourage them and whatever, and I actually have a picture. My mother gave me this picture from boot camp that I didn't remember. They had taken this group picture, and reading some of the inscriptions on the back, I guess I helped some of these women get through or whatever. I don't remember it as that, but I didn't take on a leadership role there. Later, in the “A” School I did, but I just felt like this was all brand new to me and I needed to concentrate on me getting through.

HT:

Did you have anything like KP [kitchen patrol duty]? We had KP in the air force.

PC:

No. It was interesting, because they had people in like the chow hall or whatever, but we didn't have to do that. I guess if we did something wrong, you know, you'd get demerits or whatever, but they'd have you do marching or close order drills or something like that. They didn't really give you a bucket and potatoes to peel or anything like that, so it wasn't in that respect. Although there were military people—I mean, there were military cooks and whatever that provided our food, but I don't remember going through any of that.

Now, we did fire watches in the barracks. That was the big military thing. And of course, when you've got that many people in a place, then you have to have fire watches, and we have drills and that kind of thing.

HT:

Can you explain what a fire watch is?

PC:

During the time frame that we were in the barracks on off time, not in the classroom, we would be assigned so many hours to be what they referred to as a fire watch. There was a desk—by desk I mean like a classroom desk, not a big desk or whatever, but it's like a chair with a table area. And you'd have a log. The navy's big on logs. You'd have to maintain this log, and you would relieve another military, another one of your recruits. Another one of your recruits would be there before you, and you'd go up and relieve them, and they would give you keys and they'd give you a flashlight, and you needed to know what the procedure was in case of a fire or in case someone got sick, and who you would notify, and that kind of thing.

And then the fire watch would kind of patrol. I mean, you'd patrol when your shipmates were sleeping. You would be awake. So when you went to sleep at night, you knew that someone would be awake throughout the night. Not the whole night. You'd only do like two or three hours in a stint, but you'd watch out and make sure that you were okay.

And that took some getting used to for me trying to sleep, because although I had siblings, I had my own room. I was used to things being dark and quiet and whatever, and so it was odd for me when somebody would walk by, because you could actually feel them like walking by. The bunks were really pretty close together and whatever. But we weren't in cubicles. We weren't in what we referred to as an open bay situation. So that was a little bit better. There were like, let's see, two, four—there were maybe six or eight people in a cubicle, depending. And we'd have individual lockers. So the cubicles didn't go all the way up to the ceiling. You could look over these cubicles. They did afford you a little bit of privacy. And then if you opened your locker doors—I mean, I got dressed in my locker pretty much, to afford a little bit of privacy.

But that was the main thing. You'd do the fire watches, you'd maintain your log, and that was kind of the first part of learning the military traditions and courtesies. Because when the officer would come, you'd do your “attention on deck” and you'd stand. We didn't salute. The navy does not salute inside or anything like that, so we didn't really have to salute, but you had to be standing at attention and, you know, learning the military courtesy.

HT:

What was a typical day like once you had been around for a few days or a few weeks, starting from the morning till lights out?

PC:

You'd go through—you know, of course, you'd do breakfast. Before you'd go to breakfast, though—the navy has a great term, and it's called “turning to.” It's something I still do today. What you do is, when you get up, or when you're getting ready to leave an area, before you leave that area, you pick up that area. You clean up that area. You empty the trash. I mean, you never leave a trash can with trash in it. You just take it and dispose of it.

The morning routine was, you'd get up to this reveille over the loudspeaker, and you'd form up, and they would do a muster, what they call a muster, to make sure that everybody was there, everybody was still breathing. And you'd be standing right outside of this cubicle. And that was another military discipline-type thing. It was eyes straight ahead; it was addressing whoever was doing muster, addressing them properly. So it was kind of a timed event. For muster you had to be out there a certain length of time, so no lying in the bed rolling over.

Then you'd do your morning routine—going to the restroom, brushing you teeth, fixing your hair, doing whatever. And then you would go as a company, the whole group would march. You'd form up outside and march to breakfast. At breakfast—see, Orlando was coed. There were men as well as women going through Recruit Training Command. So that was always a challenge, because you'd end up being out there. The people in power, the people that were recruit training people, would refer to the men as “trees,” and we don't talk to trees.

But there was lot of eyeballing and whatever. You know, you always knew it the men—and when the men were there, you know, you always wanted to be like standing up a little bit straighter and whatever, but you never got to speak to these men or whatever. But they'd form up, and so if we were marching by, it was always eyes straight ahead. You could get demerits, I guess, for looking over at them or whatever.

So there was that structure, which was kind of odd, because as soon as you got through boot camp, then you went to “A” School with these guys. So it was like, oh, well, now you get to communicate with them. You could only talk after you were seated at breakfast, but you really didn't want to talk very much, because—I mean, you could talk in the barracks, unless you were in formation for muster or whatever. But you didn't really want to talk too much because you had to concentrate on eating, because you only had a finite amount of time to eat. And then as a group, everybody got up and left. You didn't just leave or meander out. You went in as a group and you left as a group.

Usually one of your shipmates who was in a leadership position would be the last one in line, and when that person finished eating, you'd better be finished, because you were leaving. It wasn't really like they told you had ten minutes or twenty minutes or whatever; it was all how fast or how slow that person ate their meal.

HT:

Did you have drill sergeants or something equivalent?

PC:

Equivalent. And that was kind of interesting, too, learning to march. I had been in a band in high school, so I had had some experience with marching. So again, I felt like, “Oh, I have a little bit of a heads-up here.” But it was real interesting, because people don't realize what their left and their right are. It was like, you lead off with your left foot, and they would confuse that issue quite a bit. So we marched a lot. And unlike other services, we marched from Point A to Point B. I think now they actually kind of do a run.

They always referred to us as ladies and they treated us as ladies. We didn't carry weapons. We didn't have weapons training.

HT:

You had none whatsoever?

PC:

None. Although later, when I took my advancement test, I was asked on the advancement test things about a pistol and that kind of thing, which I read out of a book, and was able to pass the advancement. I ended up qualifying with a pistol, but I didn't do that until much later in a “D” session when I was stationed in Cuba and I thought it might be a good idea to know how to shoot, when you're in a Communist country. But, you know, I never had weapons training at all, which I think is different now.

HT:

So that was typical in those days?

PC:

Yes. I mean, we were issued gloves. The other thing that I failed to mention when we talked a little about the staff here, we had international people on our staff. We had a woman from the British Royal Navy who was like an exchange officer or whatever. And so that was really interesting to have her. Not that we really had an opportunity to sit and ask her about her service, but it was kind of neat, because she would come in and she would instruct us a little bit in the roles that women played in other navies or in other countries and whatever. And they were pretty much treated the same as we were, and their uniforms were very similar to ours.

HT:

Were there officers as instructors, or were they all enlisted personnel?

PC:

They were all enlisted, with the exception—the woman from the British, she was an officer. I think she was a warrant officer, if I remember correctly, but she was an officer. But they were all enlisted, the most senior being a chief and the most junior probably being a second class.

HT:

Did you have any free time during those six weeks of boot camp?

PC:

Yes. In the evenings, after your classes and after your PT [physical training] and after dinner and that kind of thing, you had some free time. We actually had washers and dryers, so we were expected to do our own laundry. There weren't that many of them, but it was certainly different than what they related to me Bainbridge was like. I mean, Bainbridge, I guess they were washing it out on a scrub board, is what some people have said. So we had washers and dryers, so we had to maintain our uniforms, polish your shoes, get ready for the next day, whether that means reviewing some of your notes, because we were tested on all this stuff.

So whether it was reviewing notes or write a quick letter home. We were encouraged to write home. They did not want our parents calling and saying, “We haven't heard from Susie.” And mail call was a highlight of every day, is hearing from home. So it was great.

And then on the weekends we would get what they referred to as liberty time. We didn't leave the base. We got to leave the base one weekend, but for the most part we got to go to the exchange so we could purchase things that we needed, whether that be writing paper or laundry detergent. We could actually purchase candy, but we had to consume it. You couldn't like hang onto it to nibble on all week. And there were people that it's a wonder they didn't get sick with the candy that they would consume in one afternoon or whatever.

And, of course, chapel was a big, big thing on Sunday. I happen to be Catholic, so they had Mass for us, but then they had other services for others. And we would go as a group. So the Catholics would form up, and they knew what time they had to be over there for Mass. And then the Protestants would go. But that was a great time, because it was stressful. So, you know, you'd go into chapel and you'd hear encouraging words from the priest or the minister, and you'd get to sing. We got a lot of singing. I think that may have been a carryover from World War II or whatever. But that was a real team-builder. You'd learn your songs. When you were marching around, you'd do these little ditties when you marched. And so that was always a big thing.

I happened to be in boot camp during Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. Not like I'm accustomed to at home. It wasn't my mother's pumpkin pie and whatever, but we were given a traditional Thanksgiving meal. We weren't allowed to mix with the males, but all the females—because there were many companies of us, obviously—we all kind of gathered down in a central area that had picnic tables and whatever, and people had guitars. They weren't recruits that had them; it must have been the staff members, because they didn't tell you, “Bring your guitar or your musical instrument.” But I remember we kind of had like a songfest, and we sat, and it was great day. It was different. It was a break in the routine.

And then right before we graduated, we were allowed to go, in uniform, in our dress blues [formal uniform], to Disney World for the day. And we went with the guys. Surprise, surprise. We were on the buses with them and everything, which was really kind of neat. And it was great to be there and to be in uniform, and to be out in public in uniform. That was the first experience that we had.

HT:

Do you recall what graduation day was like?

PC:

Yes. It was great. I think I mentioned before, when we were chatting, that my aunt and uncle—my uncle was a prisoner of war during World War II, for nine months. They lived in Indian Harbor Beach, Florida, which was not too far from Orlando. And so for me, graduation was great. My parents came, along with my sister, and my aunt and uncle came over for it. I didn't get to see them before graduation. We were on the parade field, and we marched around and whatever. They saw me before I saw them. As I said, there was a lot of emphasis on keeping your eyes straight ahead. So I looked, but it was like a fleeting look to see if I could see them. There was a crowd of people there. The men were graduating as well as the women, so we were all doing pass in review.

And then after graduation was through, we went over and were able to meet up with our families. It was just great. They had like a little reception area, or receiving-area-type thing. It was great to see the family. They all told me I looked better than I had ever looked, more rested, healthier. I don't know. It was a very exciting time. As I mentioned to you earlier, that's when I found out that my aunt had actually been a WAVE, and I'd never known that, because my uncle married her long after her military days, and his as well. So it was great.

HT:

So what happened after graduation? Did you go home?

PC:

I did. What they do in the navy, and they probably do it in other services as well, they encourage you to take leave. You know, you get thirty days a year, and they certainly didn't encourage you to take thirty days, but they did encourage you to take a week or two and go home. And it really is a benefit, because it does give you a little time to decompress and to get ready for your next challenge, which for a lot of us was to go to an “A” School. Some didn't. Some went a variety of places, but I was selected to go to Hospital Corps “A” School.

HT:

What does the “A” stand for?

PC:

It's just your basic. You know, they have the “C” School, the Hospital Corps “C” School. And believe me, they don't have B's. But the “C” Schools are your more specialized, to become an X-ray technician, to become an internal medicine technician, or a surgical technician, or a pharmacy tech. That's “C” School. But “A” School is the basic, what every hospital corpsman goes through. Even though I had a medical background, I went to “A” School.

So my folks, because they picked me up in Orlando, I was home, and went home. I chose—I think they wanted us to like take two weeks. But I mentioned, I was twenty-two when I went in, and so I got to looking at that and I thought, “You know, here we are, the beginning of December. I would much rather be home for Christmas than home the beginning of December and seeing everyone,” even though it was great to see them.

So I made a phone call when I got home, and they didn't tell me I could do this, but I just kind of figured it out on my own. And so I called the Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes [Illinois], and I asked them, “What will be the policy? Will you remain open? Will I go to school straight through Christmas? What will be the policy?”

And they were very helpful. They said, “We will form a company probably right before Christmas, and then we will break, because that gives our instructors the opportunity, because they've been here all year, to be with their families. So we will break for two—.”

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

PC:

So they gave me the opportunity to cut my leave short right after boot camp. The airline ticket was paid for, and whatever, to fly up to Great Lakes to form the company, and then at my own expense to take my leave during Christmas, which was great, I mean, because I really enjoyed that much more than—and so I did that. So I wasn't home long. I didn't stay home long. Once I figured out I could do that, they all agreed that that would be the thing to do. So I was only home a few days, and then left for Great Lakes, Illinois. I flew up there for Hospital Corps “A” School.

HT:

Did you request to attend this Hospital “A” Corps School?

PC:

Yes. My whole background had always been—and my original thoughts were that I wanted to serve four years in the navy, get out, and go to nursing school. It certainly didn't turn out that way, but that was my original plan when I went in the navy. I ended up not pursuing nursing, but pursuing hospital administration. I obviously didn't just serve four years; I served twenty-four. So that kind of changed.

So I went to Great Lakes, my second airplane trip, and I went to Chicago, and arrived at Great Lakes.

HT:

Great Lakes, Illinois.

PC:

Yes.

HT:

Right outside of Chicago. It's right on the water. Huge medical treatment facility there, probably the largest hospital I've ever seen. But the barracks I moved in, which they called the WAVE cage [housing for WAVES], was a new building. Now, the barracks that some of my shipmates lived in, the males, they were in World War II-era buildings, because now it's all new, but back then the WAVE cage was new, but the men were in the World War II-era.

Our classrooms were in the World War II-era buildings, which was a challenge. I mean, it was cold. Chicago is known as the Windy City, and it was very, very cold. I can tell you that that blue wool overcoat that they gave me that weighed a ton, I mean, I kept thinking, “This is such a heavy coat,” it served me well in Great Lakes. It was very toasty in Great Lakes, and I appreciated it there.

But I got there. There was snow on the ground. When I graduated in April of that year, the snow was still on the ground. So it was like a frozen tundra. But Corps School was a great, great experience.

HT:

What type of classes did you attend while you were at “A” School?

PC:

They were centered around teaching us to be hospital corpsmen, and the Hospital Corps has a really proud and rich tradition. They're the only enlisted corps in the navy, and they're the most highly decorated. So they, of course, taught us our history, the history of the Hospital Corps, but we were also taught how to take care of patients, and how to suture, and how to give shots, and how to dispense medication, whether it's in pill form or liquid form, and how to give a bed bath. We learned this by doing it to each other. And how to correctly maintain a patient's health record, making those entries so that they're legally correct.

Even though I had some experience and I'd actually gone through training at Lynchburg General, this was much more in detail. And of course, Vietnam was winding down, but it is still used as an example. Many of my instructors—many of the male instructors, I should say—had been in Vietnam, because Hospital Corps in the navy takes care of the Marine Corps. They are their medical. So many of my instructors had been with the Marines and had been in Vietnam. So of course, that was a day-to-day example for us, to know what adverse conditions would be like and what you hoped for, and the sterile field that you hoped to maintain, that kind of thing. So it was very in the forefront.

But it was a great opportunity and I learned a great deal. I mean, I thought I knew a lot about medicine until I went there, but I learned a great deal. And I felt confident. I mean, I had a sense of confidence before I got there that I knew medicine already, but when I graduated, I knew. I mean, I really felt confident that I could go and do and perform my duties.

When I went in the service, I went in as an A-1, which was a seaman recruit, and then when I went to Hospital Corps School, I was an HR, which was a hospital recruit. I graduated from Hospital Corps School, was meritoriously promoted to third class, which was great pay-wise. It was wonderful. So I think that they recognized the confidence that I was feeling.

I took on a leadership role. I was the WAVE platoon leader of my company. We started off with about fourteen women. We ended up with eight in our class. It was a fairly small class, and we lost them for various reasons; some medical, some academic. Some had tragedies at home and had to leave for emergency leave, and when they came back, they were gone for too long to keep up, because it was pretty quick.

HT:

So it sounded like you had both clinical instruction as well as academic instruction.

PC:

Definitely, yes. And we actually went up and worked in the hospital, which I just fell in love. I mean, I thought, “Man, this is great.” Lynchburg General Hospital now is a pretty large hospital. When I worked there, it was very small. I had worked in the emergency room and intensive care, so I opted and requested to work in the emergency room at Great Lakes. We saw all kinds of things. So we actually did our duty in the hospital, and I worked up with patient care, too.

All this is being evaluated. Your instructors were right there, and they were watching what you were doing. Plus, the other corpsmen and nurses were showing and teaching, and they were there to assist you. So you weren't in there on your own, taking care of this patient, because a lot of folks that went to corps school did not have a medical background, so they taught everyone, even though some of may have some medical background; some didn't. In looking back, it was really amazing to me how they could bring us all along at the same time. I wasn't bored, and the novice or the person who had never worked, they weren't given too much information too fast either.

HT:

Did you have doctors as instructors, or nurses, or both?

PC:

We had nurses. Traditionally, the Navy Nurse Corps has trained hospital corpsmen. That has always been and will probably always be. Sometimes people want to paint an adversarial role between the corpsmen and the nurses, because corpsmen can do a lot more than nurses can. Nurses can't suture. Legally, they cannot suture. Corpsmen can. Because we aren't licensed. So sometimes people try to paint it as being adversarial. I didn't feel that way.

My corps school company commander—that was her title—was Claudette Clunan. At that time she was a lieutenant commander. She retired from the navy a captain, and we still correspond. She was one of my first mentors, I'm sure, in the navy. There was a male chief corpsman who did all the administrative stuff in the military side of the house stuff. Because we were inspected. Our uniforms were inspected, and we had barracks inspections and whatever.

But going to “A” School was totally different. As I said, we were there with the men that had graduated from boot camp the same time we did. Now, some of the men did not go to boot camp in Orlando, because they also had boot camp at that time in Great Lakes. Some had gone to school there, and hadn't left; they had gone to boot camp and now they were going to “A” School there.

Our class was male and female. In fact, I met my husband there. We had a lot of what they call corps school romances, and we actually had a few weddings, which I thought was a little bit abrupt, but anyway. But I met my future husband. We didn't get married till four years after, because I was more conservative than that. I wasn't going to be doing some wedding in a chapel while I was at corps school or whatever.

It was a great time to form that team. The only problem was, after we graduated, many of us didn't—some, they went to larger duty stations, actually with other classmates. I went to a smaller duty station, and I didn't have a classmate there. But I had kind of stayed in the vicinity, which, you know, we kept in touch with and whatever.

Some of the highlights of corps school for me was on a really cold, cold night, and I can't remember the date, in fact, we got word before classes late that afternoon that some POWs were coming back that evening, and they would be arriving at Glenview Air Station, which was just a short distance from Great Lakes, and they would be motored over to Great Lakes, where they would be evaluated. I mean, they were literally coming back from Vietnam. So they would be there and be evaluated at the hospital.

So we all just, impromptu, decided—and we weren't even sure of the time, because of all the time differences, and they were coming by military aircraft, but we all decided that we needed to greet these people. We needed to welcome them home. And so we did. And even as cold as I mentioned it was, we were out there, all of us out there, in our uniforms, lining the street. They would pull into Great Lakes to go through, of course, the gate guards or whatever, and then it's a straight shot into the hospital. The hospital sits way back, though, and all the barracks and all the classrooms and whatever are in between.

We lined the street and waited for hours for these people. And the word would pass, “They're at Glenview.” A roar would go up, and we'd be cheering or whatever. They spoke to us just a brief few moments, you know, and thanked us and whatever. But it was such—I mean, I really felt like this is what it's all about, and to welcome them home, and for me personally to know that my uncle had had a welcome home very similar to that, it was really touching for me to be able to take part in that, to see that little bit.

I never met them personally. They were whisked away to a private part of the hospital where their families were waiting for them. I remember they came out, and although they were very, very thin, I remember thinking, boy, how tan they were. But, of course, they had come from a whole different—and I'm sure seeing the snow was pretty shocking for them and whatever. But that was one of the highlights, I think.

HT:

What was a typical day like at the “A” School? Was it a little less strenuous than—

PC:

Very, very much so. I had two roommates. There were three of us to a room, and then you had to go down the hall to the restroom, to the bathroom or whatever, to the head, as you'd say. But it was almost like a college campus. I never went away to school. I never went away to college, but that's how I would kind of envision it. We had lockers, but you could have pictures out, you know, family pictures or whatever. You could have your own personal items in the barracks. You could have a radio. Most people didn't have TVs, because there was a TV in the lounge. You were only there for sixteen weeks, I think it was, so weren't going to take a whole lot of stuff there.

But we'd get up on our own. There was no more reveille or whatever. So you'd get up on your own, and as WAVE platoon leader, I wanted to make sure everybody was up. So, I mean, I kind of held my own. You know, I'd knock on doors as I was going down to the head, to make sure everybody was awake. We'd go to breakfast on our own. We did not march to and from, but once the class formed up, and you'd go to your first class, and we were all in that together, our company went to each of their classes together. So when we went anywhere as a company, we would form up and march.

So that meant at lunch you'd march up to the hospital, and then you'd break. We had to keep track of folks. If people needed to go to medical or whatever, the women would get—the navy refers to these permission papers as chits. I don't know where that jargon came from, but they'd get a form from there, a little piece of paper that I would sign, that would sign them out of the company at a certain time. And then they would go to medical, and then when they left medical, they'd be signed out of medical and they would bring that piece of paper back to me.

So in every class that we went to, instead of calling roll, which would take time, the WAVE platoon leader and the male counterpart platoon leader would say who was absent, and then we knew everybody else was present. They didn't do roll per se. I kind of kept track of the women, and I had to report that to the chief. I ended up doing some counseling. That was the beginning of counseling peers and that kind of thing.

But our time was—you know, we went to class, and then after class was over, going to dinner you did on your own. You didn't form up and march or whatever. You just went to dinner. And we ate at the hospital, in the chow hall. So you'd go to dinner with your friends. There was no time limit on that. There was always a time limit on breakfast and lunch because you had to get to class.

But on weekends our time was our own, and we would venture out. The train station was right across the street, so we'd venture out and explore the area. But even in the evenings, people actually had visitors, family members or whatever that lived near there, or if they had a family member that was in Chicago for the night on business or something. I know several of my classmates had family members visit them during the week. You know, we were expected to do our homework and be prepared for class.

HT:

So there was no evening duty as such?

PC:

Well, we still stood the fire watches, but once you went into the hospital setting, then you stood duty there. I don't think any of us worked nights, but we would work shifts. So it was really, more or less, you had control of your time, but it wasn't like going to college and deciding you were going to lay out and not go to school for the day or whatever. We were expected to be there and to be accounted for.

HT:

I imagine those sixteen weeks were somewhat intensive, because it was such a short period of time, you have so much to learn.

PC:

Oh, definitely, definitely.

HT:

After you graduated from “A” School, where was your first duty station?

PC:

First duty station was the naval hospital at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Yeah, I joined the navy to see the world, filled out my dream sheet when I got ready to graduate from Hospital Corps School, and said I'd love to go to the West Coast. Born and raised in Virginia, and end up at Quantico. [laughs] So that was pretty interesting. And I was there from April of '73 until March of '75.

HT:

What was duty like there?

PC:

It was great. That hospital, the building still exists, but now it's a clinic. They actually don't have a hospital there. But being a woman, being a corps WAVE, and that's how they referred to us—as I mentioned, I was meritoriously promoted to third class right from corps school, so I arrived there as a third-class petty officer, and I was assigned to the labor and delivery area, which was a pretty busy place. You know, here you are in a Marine Corps base, and Vietnam has ended. Everybody's getting on with their lives. So labor and delivery was a hopping place. It was very busy. We had two delivery rooms and we were very busy.

I was a senior corpsman there. I, again, had a leadership role. I lived in the barracks, and the barracks were right behind the hospital. In fact, it used to be the old nurses' quarters. It was on the Potomac [River]. But I had my own room, individual rooms. Well, later I had a roommate, but for the most part, it was individual rooms.

I was also in charge—I was what they referred to as the master-of-arms of the WAVES barracks. That was a collateral duty.

HT:

And what were those duties as master-of-arms?

PC:

Those duties were to maintain—I did the inspections in the barracks, maintained cleanliness, maintained order. If things needed to be repaired, I would report that to the proper authorities so they could be repaired. We could go and come in that barracks at will. A lot of folks worked different shifts, so you were always cognizant of that, so you weren't slamming doors. But if there was a problem with slamming doors, people would come and expect me to resolve that.

HT:

Was this duty on top of your corps duty?

PC:

Yes.

HT:

So it was an additional duty.

PC:

It was just kind of an additional duty. And then I also stood duty at the hospital. But as I said, it was not a daily routine that I had to go around and fuss at people and tell them to turn their music down or whatever. It was a rare thing. People were pretty much responsible adults, and that's what we were trying to teach, was people to be responsible. They could go out on dates, they could stay out all night, they could do whatever. They could not bring their male guests back to their room, but they could bring their male guests back to the common area, the TV room, or the sun porch. We had huge Monopoly tournaments out at the sun porch.

Quantico was great. I think everybody that I know of, anyway, always thinks that their first duty station was great because it's all new to you. I wasn't too far from home, which made it great. My folks actually came by to see. My father couldn't believe that I could decorate my room any way I wanted. It wasn't the navy he remembered. You know, that kind of thing.

HT:

Did you work with just military, or were there any civilian doctors and nurses?

PC:

There were civilian nurses there, but a lot of them had been from the military but had gotten out. As I mentioned earlier, the navy, if you became pregnant, or if you adopted children, or if you married a man that had dependent children, you were forced out of the military, no matter how much training you had, no matter what your job was. And so a lot of these women, these civilian women that I worked with, that is exactly what had happened to them. They had married and become pregnant, and that ended their naval careers. Many of them were navy. I think most of them [were].

HT:

So they joined the civil service.

PC:

Yes. They went into civil service jobs. But the great thing—and then I worked with military nurses as well. So, in Quantico—unlike Great Lakes, which was a huge medical treatment facility—Quantico was very small. We didn't have individual rooms. Here these women would have these babies, and they were in like little cubicles very much like what I had experienced in boot camp, where they took an open bay area and they put these cubicles that would go up about to your chin, to give you some privacy, but no doors on these. But there was a curtain that you could pull around a bed or whatever. They still had those.

HT:

But you still have the noises from all that surrounds you.

PC:

But you had all the noises. And on the other wards besides labor and delivery, because we had an orthopedic ward and we had a medical ward and a surgical ward, they were all open bay. Now, as a corpsman, I can tell you that it's so much easier to maintain a ward like that, because at night the corpsman is kind of it on the ward. You may have thirty patients, and the nurse will be roaming. She'll be carrying the narcotic keys maybe, but she'll be covering several different wards on p.m. or on night shift.

So, clinically, I can tell you that it was great. Open bay wards were wonderful because you put your patients with their IVs or that were sicker up near the nurses' station, so you could look right out and see. We were still using the glass IV bottles. So you could look out and see. Because nowadays when you're in the hospital, they hook it up to a pump, and that pump will alarm when it goes dry or whatever. We didn't do that. We didn't have that there. So we had our glass IV bottles, and we were monitoring the drip, and we were making sure that the patients are all taken care of.

So as far as clinically, I thought it was great. No privacy for you, you know, for the patient, but in a way it was good also, like on orthopedic wards, so many of those—and they were mostly Marines; there were some sailors, but so many of those guys were in there for a long period of time with their broken leg or broken whatever, and so they formed friendships so they didn't get depressed. They may have gotten somewhat depressed, but they had activity. There was a guy in the bunk next to them they could talk to. They weren't isolated in room with maybe just one other roommate, you know, type thing.

So, I mean, it was challenging. It had its challenges and whatever. Because Quantico also is where they trained the officers, part of our responsibility was to provide medical support for their Officer Candidate School. And so when these Marines were like out in the field and whatever, we had to provide corpsmen out there.

That was the first time I drove what we referred to as the cracker box ambulance, which was made famous with M*A*S*H, you know, that type of vehicle. It's an all terrain vehicle. Because when you go out in the field, you're out. This isn't in your backyard. You're going miles and miles and miles. It's a huge base.

So you go out there, and if they get injured or whatever, then you would transport them back. So I started getting outside the hospital by being an ambulance attendant or ambulance driver, which is something I had never done before.

HT:

Were you all rotating shifts?

PC:

Yes, we were.

HT:

Eight on?

PC:

It was usually, you know, you'd do a day shift or a p.m. shift or a night shift. To go to p.m. or nights, you had to have a certain level of proficiency. As a senior corpsman, I was responsible for making sure that in labor and delivery, when I worked there, I was responsible for making sure that the corps—it was corps WAVES. The men did not work labor and delivery. Not that they weren't qualified to do that, but for the patients' comfort, they weren't expected to do that.

And so therefore, I would say ninety-nine percent of the women who got stationed there, if you talk to almost anyone in my era, they're going to tell you that they spent some time doing labor and delivery, because that was an automatic. You had to go to labor and delivery for at least a certain period of time. I was responsible for training these women to make sure that they could maintain a sterile field.

So our training continued. I mean, corps school was a great foundation, and we built on that foundation all along. We relied very heavily on the nurses, on our senior corpsmen to provide that training.

HT:

How did the corpsmen get along in general with the nurses and the doctors?

PC:

I think we worked as a team. I mean, team-building began with corps school, I think. And that's why I kind of think this day and age just trying to say that we want to keep women separate from men in training situations is ridiculous. We grow up with the—you know, I just don't agree with that philosophy, that they would separate that. But some branches of service still do. Marine Corps is a great example of that. They still do. But the Coast Guard has—I mean, the women in the Coast Guard can have any job in the Coast Guard. So that's the other spectrum. It's the other end of the spectrum.

But we started building our teams, I think, in corps school, and we continued it. We were a healthcare team, and that included the doctor, the nurse, the dietician, the radiologist, and that's really how the medical department in the navy perceives us. We are a team. I think, to compare it to my civilian experience, I was respected for the knowledge, where in the civilian sector the doctors, I don't know how much respect they had for me. Maybe they did. They knew me personally, but by my uniform, by my rank and my insignia on my uniform, they knew that I had a certain level of expertise, and I was respected for that.

HT:

Speaking of uniform, what type of uniform did you wear at Quantico?

PC:

At Quantico we wore usually our uniform, but they would put a smock over it. Now, of course, in the delivery room we were in scrubs, you know, with no rank insignia, and we would actually put tape on our scrubs and write our name in Magic Marker. We didn't even have a nametag that we wore on the scrubs, because you changed scrubs.

So I wore a kind of smocklike uniform, and then they changed the uniforms to medical, and they came out an all-white pantsuit. It was like a blouse—not really a blouse. It was almost like a jumper-type thing. It came down, it had good large pockets and whatever, and white pants. They looked like civilian nursing uniforms or whatever. And so we wore those, but the weird part about that was, if you were enlisted, you wore black shoes with that white uniform. If you were an E-7 or above, male or female, you wore white shoes, and that included the doctors and nurses. The doctors didn't wear those white uniforms. Also the navy had a white uniform with an open-collar shirt and white pants or a white skirt.

HT:

No hat, I assume.

PC:

Now, going to and from our cars or the barracks or whatever, we were always covered, so you could salute. But in the medical treatment facility itself, no, you'd never be covered. In fact, it's kind of a tradition that out of respect for the dead and dying, or the sick or whatever, that you would remove your cover [hat] as soon as you came in to a medical treatment facility.

HT:

After Quantico, what was your next duty station?

PC:

Well, from Quantico I went to Naval Hospital Orlando. So you see, I'm getting a pattern here. I'm an East Coast sailor. It was kind of weird, because at Quantico they originally gave me orders—the detailers are located up in Arlington, Virginia, and they originally gave me orders to go to Orlando to teach. By the way, I made second class while I was at Quantico. I don't remember the exact date, but before March of '75 I was E-5.

So once I made second class, the detailers asked me if I would like to go back to Orlando, to RTC, and teach first aid. And I remember—I mean, the woman I was going to relieve, I remember her. She taught me just a few years before that. So I was like, “Sure.” That was a great opportunity.

When I got there, and because they had not sent me to Instructor School before I got there, I missed out on that opportunity, because Orlando RTC did not want to pay to send me to Instructor School somewhere else, in Memphis or Portsmouth or wherever. They felt like the detailers should have covered that cost.

HT:

You mentioned detailers.

PC:

The detailers are the people who assign you to-and they're corpsmen. They are fellow corpsmen, but they're senior. They're chiefs.

HT:

They're in personnel, I would assume.

PC:

They work at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. So it was a great opportunity, but I missed out on it, because even though I arrived there ready and eager to do it, they had not sent me to the proper school before getting there. RTC said, “We're not sending you to school.” And they ended up keeping the woman there that had been my instructor. I don't think she wanted to leave either, to tell you the truth.

But I ended up with a good job anyway. I ended up being the senior corps WAVE at the internal medicine clinic there. It was wonderful working with a great group of doctors and corpsmen. I didn't stay there very long, becaus—and this is a perfect example of how the needs of the navy supersede the needs of the individual. I mentioned that I met the man that I married at corps school. We continued our relationship even though he went to Key West, Florida. That was his first duty station. He had a great first duty station.

He went through a program. He went to Key West and made second class. We were contemporaries. We were making rates about the same time, because we were meritoriously promoted to third right out of corps school, together. So he made second class, and he applied for and was accepted in the navy's program to educate nurses. So he was accepted, and this was a wonderful program. It was called the NENEP [Navy Enlisted Nursing Education] Program, and I'm not sure what all the initials stand for. It was the navy education nursing program, something. I don't know.

But anyway, it was great because it paid his tuition and it paid him his E-5, or HM-2 salary, and he carried a green ID card all while he went to college. So it was a wonderful program. And they moved him to where he went to school, and they moved him when he graduated and was commissioned.

So we had planned on getting married. I knew that my tour at Quantico was going to be winding up. It ended up ending a little bit shorter because I got that opportunity. I say I got the opportunity; I was told to go to Orlando. I didn't really know, but I wasn't expecting orders that soon. So we had planned on getting married in May of '75, and my orders came through in February. I mean, like I got these orders like in February and I had to be gone by March. I had to be in Orlando.

So that postponed our wedding, obviously, because my husband had been accepted to school. He had just started schooling in Kentucky. So he couldn't transfer schools. He wasn't my husband at that time; he was my fiancé. But anyway, he couldn't transfer schools, so we postponed our wedding. I went to Orlando. Then they said, “Well, you're not qualified for this job.” I was not a happy camper at this point, but anyway, I lucked out, though, because the doctors in the internal medicine clinic were phenomenal. And there was one doctor in particular that was in charge of that clinic who assisted me in getting orders.

So I was only there from March of '75 to December of '75, because he saw the situation I was in and he understood that. He was a captain in the navy. I later ran into him in Europe. It was great. So he helped me to work with the system to get orders. And what I did was, I reenlisted for orders, and the navy allows you to do that occasionally. I had never done it before.

HT:

What does that mean exactly?

PC:

I signed up for four more years if they would send me to Naval Hospital Memphis, Tennessee, which was three hours from where my fiancé was going to school. And it works out they won't do that unless there is a billet or a job for you, and they knew. The detailers kind of knew that they had done me wrong, I think. I had gone and that proved to me a valuable lesson: that you accept it and you go, and you do the best you can, and it'll all turn out right in the end, which it did.

But it was a big discipline to me to end up with those quick orders. I think I would have been better satisfied if I had gotten there and actually assumed the job that they had rushed me to get there to assume. But when that fell through, I was really not too pleased. In fact, I tried to get the navy at that point—I told them I would drive myself and use my own leave to go to Memphis if they would just modify my orders to Memphis, Tennessee. But they weren't going to do that. They modified them to the Naval Hospital Orlando. But it all worked out.

So, after a short stay in Orlando, I ended up at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Memphis, in December. The other good thing about it was Dr. Smith worked it out so that I left right before Christmas, and, of course, my husband had like three weeks off from school, so we had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's together, and then I reported in in January.

HT:

January '74?

PC:

Of '76, to Memphis. Because I left Orlando in December of '75. So I was at Memphis till June of '77 when my husband graduated from college.

HT:

What was the name of the college that he attended?

PC:

He attended Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. This is a funny one. He grew up in Pennsylvania, and his biggest desire, he had some college before he came in the service, but his biggest desire was to go to one of those Ivy League Pennsylvania schools, but he didn't have the money to do that. So he went in the navy to get his GI Bill, so he did continue school, as many of us did. So when the navy accepted him to this program, they sent him this list of schools that he could apply to. So he applied to several of them, because they also warned him not to make it too narrow because this money was allotted and he needed to get into school. He couldn't wait years to see if he was going to be accepted. He needed to be accepted fairly quickly.

So he applied to a half dozen or so of these schools, some of which he didn't even know where they were, because they did everything. The navy said, “Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky. This is who you write. This is your application—blah, blah.” So he did that, and he did it for the University of Pennsylvania and he did it for other schools.

Now, the first school that responded to him was Murray State. So, being a little naïve, he told the navy, “I've been accepted at Murray State in Murray, Kentucky. I don't know quite where that is, but I've got an acceptance letter.” You know, whatever.

And they're like, “Good.”

Now, he thought that if he got other acceptance letters, because it wasn't time for him to transfer yet, or whatever, that he could change that. No. So when he got his notification that he had been accepted at University of Pennsylvania, the navy said, “You're going to Murray State.” It was a lot cheaper. Even though it was out-of-state tuition, it was much, much cheaper. But I think all things, again, work out for the best. The dean of nursing at Murray State University was a captain, retired, Navy Nurse Corps. He didn't know that. None of us knew that. But that's why that was on that; she had made sure that her school was on that approved list or whatever. And Murray was great. It was a wonderful school. He enjoyed it. He thoroughly enjoyed it.

HT:

Was this a four-year program?

PC:

It was, but because of his previous college, he got through in like two and a half years. He went to summer school and finished up really quickly, which was to the navy's benefit, because they were paying or whatever, so he was able—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

PC:

So anyway, so Steve graduated from Murray State in June of '77, and went to Officer Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island. I'll never forget his first phone call to me, because he had been one of the ones that had gone through boot camp in Great Lakes, which was World War II-era barracks or whatever, so he called me from Newport, all excited to tell me that this was not Great Lakes. [laughs] So he thoroughly enjoyed his six weeks up there.

I remained in Memphis until he finished with OCS, and then we were stationed together. I guess I should say I was the leading petty officer of the family practice clinic in Memphis, so I started working more in outpatient medical care and doing work with dependents of the active duty or retiree population.

So I left Memphis in June, and he and I reported to Naval Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia in July. In fact, we drove into Philadelphia on the Fourth of July in the evening, and the fireworks were going off. It was really kind of neat.

As I said, that was the first time that we had been able to be stationed together since corps school, but now the dynamics had changed. He was an officer. He was ensign, and I was a second class. So we went on the housing list, the junior officer housing list, because they go by the male for housing. At least that's what they used to do.

HT:

Had you gotten married by now?

PC:

Yes, we got married in 1976. Once I got to Memphis and knew that I would be close by, we got married in May of '76.

Philadelphia was great. It was our first big duty station. Neither one of us had—he was from northeastern Pennsylvania, very small town, one-stoplight-type thing. And Lynchburg, although it's got more than one stoplight, it's still a smaller town.

Philadelphia had subways, they had a theater, they had the symphony, they had a professional ball team. I mean, there was just everything. So we really enjoyed it. We got into housing fairly quickly on post, or on base. See, I've been around the army too long; I call it on post. We were on base, so we were right there almost in the center of Philadelphia, because right at the end of Broad Street is where the base is located. The hospital is actually off the base just a little bit and right across from Veterans Stadium there.

Now, I at this point took a change in my direction as far as my professional growth. When I arrived at Philadelphia, because Steve was going to be working with nursing service and was an officer, we had kind of talked about this, and we kind of decided that it would be best if I was not working in nursing service, to kind of separate our careers, if you will. So I went to work in my first job in personnel, and it was great. I loved it. So I worked in the personnel office, which at one point, when I first got there, was physically not even in the hospital. So that made it great because there was no conflict, I mean, just with us or whatever. If I had the duty and he called me, you know, because he needed something—because the duty I stood at that point was at the main desk to the hospital, so I was standing an administrative-type watch, so if he called me, and if I answered the phone, and he said, “This is Ensign Rowett,” I knew it was all professional. Or if he called me and said, “This is Steve,” then I knew it wasn't.

But we really enjoyed that duty station. We got a lot of support from the staff at that duty station because we were older. We didn't eat lunch together, we didn't eat dinner together, you know, that kind of thing. We just went in our own circles.

Outside of work, we did things with friends or whatever, but at work, he actually worked a different shift than I did. I worked Monday through Friday, and he was working nights and p.m. and days. His days started much earlier. Personnel didn't open until 8:30. He had to be there at 6:45. So we were really kind of separate, to the point that I went to a function with him—the hospital was run by a gentleman, a naval officer, he was an admiral, Admiral Baker, and I went to this function with Steve, and I was in my civilian clothes, of course, because it was an evening function. It was like a dance-type thing.

So I am dancing with Admiral Baker, because he'd asked me to dance, and he's like, “You look so familiar to me.” You know, because it was like we hadn't been there very long. And so I was trying to figure out how to tell him that I worked for him, you know, or whatever. I did tell him. He goes, “I think we've met before. Have we been stationed together?” And we hadn't.

I told him. I said, “Well, I work for you, sir.”

And he said, “Oh.” And he was thinking that I was a civilian there. So he said, “Oh. Are you a nurse, too?”

And I said, “No, sir. I'm a corpsman. I'm a second-class corpsman, and I work in the personnel office.”

And the light bulb kind of went off and he remembered me or whatever, but he was fine with that, which I think speaks volumes for the navy teamwork. Because I think if we had been line instead of medical, I don't think it would have worked.

HT:

How did it work out that you were enlisted personnel and your husband was an officer? Was that any problem with anyone?

PC:

Oh yes. It was a problem with some people.

HT:

Because I thought the 'twain never met.

PC:

Well, but, you know, in the medical field, though, it does. I used to tell folks, when I married him, he was a second class. I didn't commission him. You know, the navy commissioned him. And we were older, as I said. We didn't force it on anybody. I saluted him. If for any strange reason we were outside—and it did happen occasionally or whatever—I saluted him. That was the official—I mean, that was natural for me to do and that's what I would have done anyway, no matter what.

I think my maturity helped, because we were older and whatever, but the navy didn't—I would say the navy hierarchy did not like this, though, because I was only there in Philadelphia from—really, we got there in July, so it was July of '77 to July of '78, and then I went, unaccompanied, to the naval hospital. Well, I was attached to the naval hospital, worked in one of the branch clinics in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One year, arduous, unaccompanied tour. So that's when the navy let me know what they thought of me being married to an officer.

HT:

Right. So it was frowned upon, but it was not against official rules and regulations, was it?

PC:

Well, I think what would have been against, what would have been considered fraternization would have been if I met him and he was an officer. Now that's kind of what they teach, and that's the school of thought now, is that even in the enlisted ranks, you don't fraternize with the lower enlisted, because familiarity breeds contempt or whatever.

And the admiral, I mean Admiral Baker, he was shocked. When I got these orders—because I wasn't real happy. I'd only been there a year, you know. I mean, that was not the normal tour for me, and I felt that they, Washington [D.C.], was being vindictive, or whatever, with this. My evaluations were fine. Steve's evaluations were fine. We were willing to go overseas together anywhere, but he was too junior as a nurse. Even though he had corpsman experience behind him, they didn't send nurses to those types of isolated duties until they were a lieutenant.

And by this point, by the time I left, Steve was a JG [lieutenant junior grade], and by the time I got back, he was a lieutenant. So I mean, he was making rank and he was doing well professionally and whatever. So he couldn't go to Cuba with me, and so we actually pursued the route of writing to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and asking to be sent overseas together at a later time. It was denied. “The needs of the navy,” you know.

And at that point I actually considered getting out of the navy, although I was making rank and I really enjoyed my career and whatever, but I was married and I wanted to be with him. But as it all turns out—there's a thread throughout my life—it all worked out. The one year in Cuba taught me so much. When I really considered, even though I'd joined the navy or whatever, I had always—you know, my parents were right there or something. So, they weren't, and they weren't a phone call away in Cuba either, because back then, unlike today when you can get CNN News and whatever, we had six hours of television, and our news was the Military News Command or whatever, people in uniforms, sitting there, reading us the news. We had Stars and Stripes newspaper. Telephones were very limited.

So I was essentially—I was there, you know. And we wrote, of course, but it was not like e-mails today. And I think we both really grew a lot with that, because even though when he went to Key West and I was in Quantico, we had always talked once a week on the phone, and still wrote and whatever. We'd talk on the phone and see each other. I took ninety-six-hour liberties and flew to Florida to see him. So, I mean, this was totally different for me, to be somewhere where I didn't have daily contact, or even weekly contact sometimes.

But anyway, we got through it. I learned a lot in Cuba. That's where I got my marksman ribbon, so I learned to shoot with a pistol. I worked at Leeward Point Clinic, which was on the leeward side of the island, and it was actually where the air station was. So we did a lot of drills about mass casualties. Luckily, we never any aircraft accidents while I was there, but there was always the potential.

The clinic was very small. They told me, “You're going to shoot X-rays.”

And I said, “I'm not an X-ray tech.”

But I learned to be, and I learned to be a lab tech and a pharmacy tech, so I got all kinds of experience that I would never get in the States in a medical treatment facility. And that paid off, because when I left in July of 1979, I left a promotable E-6, first class, so I made rank. And I know that that knowledge and the fact that I went had a direct impact on my promotion.

So by the time I left Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay], Steve was ready to leave Philadelphia. The other thing about Cuba—before I get to where we went—there's a fence line in Cuba. I don't know whether you've ever been there. I know you've probably seen it on TV since the detainees are there, but we have no diplomatic relationship with Cuba, with Communist Cuba, so there is a fence line. And they told me that there was this fence line in Cuba.

Well, in my mind, I got the attitude that it was like the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall, because that's what I had seen to divide countries and whatever. I get there, and imagine my surprise when I found out it's about a seven-foot chain-link fence. That's it. It's got the concertina wire on the top and on the bottom and whatever, but that's it. You can shoot through it; you can see through it. Now, there is minefields on either side. But it was totally different.

We stood duty. It was multitask, but we stood duty. I stood twenty-four-hour duty every three days, so that year flew by. Steve came down for two weeks, because he was active duty. Because that's the other thing; there's military aircraft in and out of there. You don't take a civilian plane or whatever, although they do have families that live there, but they were brought in on military aircraft.

So Steve took two weeks of vacation, and he had his Caribbean vacation, but I was still working. I took a couple of afternoons off or whatever, but I worked. I didn't take leave while he was there. But it was great that he got the opportunity to see where I was.

HT:

So you never left?

PC:

I did leave, because he came down. We arranged for him. I got there in July. You have to ask permission for anyone to come to visit, so as soon as I got there, I put in to have him there for Thanksgiving, and the permission was granted. He was active duty. There was no problem with that. And so he came down for Thanksgiving.

The staff at the clinic was so great. Most of them had their families with them or they weren't married. But only one person at the clinic could have leave during Christmas, and they voted that it would be me, which I thought was great. So I ended up-he was there at Thanksgiving, and a month later I came back to Philadelphia for a big Christmas. I think I was back there before New Year's, but, you know, I took a leave and was able to come home for a week. But essentially I was there for eleven months and three weeks.

But it was great. It was great weather. The first time I ever had a good tan. And professionally I really grew there, so I think it all worked out. We ended up Jacksonville, Naval Regional Medical Center Jacksonville, Florida. And, again, even though I had had a short stint there in Cuba of patient care again, I pursued my administrative avenue with the Hospital Corps, and I worked in patient affairs at Jacksonville. Steve worked in intensive care.

And, again, lots of folks didn't know we were married. It was really funny. Unless they knew us personally, they really didn't know that. Like in the office, I didn't have his picture on my desk or whatever. We just kept a pretty low profile.

HT:

What was the name of the installation at Jacksonville? Was it a naval air station?

PC:

It's a Naval Regional Medical Center at the Naval Air Station, yes, in Jacksonville. It's still there. They've done some building onto it and whatever. I got my first Meritorious Unit Commendation there when there was an aircraft crash aboard the USS Nimitz in May of '81. That's where my training in Cuba really helped me out, because Corps School really hadn't taught that. You know, that's what I mean about you just keep building on this. Corps School is groundwork that you just keep building on your skills, depending on where you're stationed and what you're expected to do.

So that call came in in the middle of the night, and we were back there setting up. Of course, the Nimitz was an aircraft carrier, so we didn't know how many casualties or injured we were going to get. It worked like clockwork. We had a few patients that we couldn't identify and a few patients that we needed to send downtown for neurological help, because we couldn't provide it. But for the most part, we took care of them all, and it was great to be able to use those skills and to know that, “Hey, I know what to do. An aircraft crash. Okay. This is what we're going to do and how we're going to do it.” And, of course, I was a first class, so it's a good thing I knew at that point.

But our careers kind of took another turn after that. By this point, I'd been in ten years. I was a first class in ten years. I mean, I had been fully committed to I was going make a career out of the navy. I had been asked if I wanted to go for the Medical Service Corps, which would have meant a commission for me, but I decided that that would be too hard to try to arrange, so I said, “No, I'm going to stay enlisted.” Steve got his education [unclear] get my education, because I thought it might be more difficult if I was a junior officer, and then he, a mid-grade officer. You know, then we might run into the same thing of him having to go overseas and I couldn't go with him or whatever.

So I stayed enlisted, but by doing that, I took the opportunity to go—I went to two different trainings, back to back. One was at the Naval School of Health Sciences at Portsmouth, Virginia, and that was from February of '82 to August of '82. And then right on the heels of that, I got accepted to Instructor School in Memphis, Tennessee, to become a naval instructor. And I thought, how funny, how ironic that I would get selected for that after not getting that position so many years before.

So I did those, and when I graduated from Instructor School, I ended up at a Naval Regional Medical Center Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune. That was my first trip to North Carolina.

HT:

Do you recall when that was?

PC:

Yes, that was September of '82, and I was there till September of '85. I got there, I was a first class, but I had taken an exam for chief. I had taken it the year before, and I was passed but not advanced, because it would have been a very early promotion for me. And so I was the leading petty officer by that time. I was the leading petty officer of education and training, staff education and training. But then the very next opportunity, I passed the chief's exam and I was selected for chief.

HT:

Chief is E-7?

PC:

Yes. So I really made it fast, and I credit all this experience. Gitmo [Guantanamo] really helped me to make chief that early, I think, in doing that arduous duty, because in the navy—just a quick aside. In the navy, our advancement structure is, you take an advancement test for E-1 through E-7, but then for selection for E-7, you have to pass the advancement test, and then your record stands up before a board of master chiefs in your rating, in the Hospital Corps. If you're in the Dental Corps, dental technician, but still, you know, I don't appear before the board, but my record did.

So I made it in '83. Now, I wasn't paid for it until '84, but when you make it, you get initiated and you wear the anchors, and you take on the responsibility. But I was such an early select that I didn't get paid for it for a year, but I didn't care. I was a chief for over half of my naval career, which I think was just a wonderful opportunity, because I got great jobs. Those anchors just flung doors open for me as far as jobs and professional growth and whatever, and it's probably why I stayed past twenty.

HT:

Is that unusual to stay past twenty?

PC:

Yes.

HT:

Really?

PC:

Yes. And now they actually have where you can't. If you're an E-7, you have to retire at twenty-four. Twenty-four is the max. That's what I did. An E-8, which is something like 3 percent of—it's mandated by Congress. Three percent get to make E-8, and something like 1 percent get to make E-9, you know, in the enlisted ranks. So it really gets—competition gets there. I think an E-8 can stay twenty-six, and an E-9 can make thirty, because for years, twenty was the norm. You did twenty and got out.

So, Camp Lejeune, back with the Marines. It was great. Steve, at that point, was at Portsmouth. He was at the naval hospital there at Portsmouth, so a short distance away.

So I did a couple of different things at Camp Lejeune. We actually built a new hospital and moved the hospital from Hospital Point to a new facility which was all the way across the base. I had never done that before. I had never moved patients and that, so that was a challenge in itself. We orchestrated that for many months and planned it. Since I was in education, I got really involved in that because they needed people that were in patient care settings to orchestrate that, so I did that.

The other thing that happened while I was there was the Beirut bombing [of U.S. Marines barracks in Lebonon, October 1983], and I knew every medical person that was killed in that bombing. They either worked with me at some point or I knew them, because education and training, I just met everybody that way. One was the husband of a nurse. He was first class, and he was married to a nurse, so, of course, we had that in common. They had a little girl. And he was killed.

So that was a big impact on us, because that was the first time terrorism really hit home. It's a whole new playing field now, which we all know all too well now, but that really was a wake-up call for me that we'd be in harm's way. I mean, I was in that Communist country. I didn't feel like I was in harm's way like that, you know, although I wasn't going out into Cuba, either. So that was profound.

We did the memorial service in a driving rain outside, and I was responsible for getting the patients—because we had several that were injured—getting them over for the service, because the president, President [Ronald W.] Reagan, was there for that, he and the First Lady [Nancy Reagan]. And I was in charge of getting all these patients over there and back to the hospital or whatever. But it was just a really interesting time. So that was what I remember most about Camp Lejeune.

From there I went overseas again, but I went unaccompanied again. Steve remained at Philadelphia. Not Philadelphia, but at Portsmouth. I went to Rota, Spain, the naval hospital in Rota, from October of '85 till October of '87. It was a great tour. Before I even left, they had picked me to be on the Joint Medical Regulating Team. So I got to work with the air force some, with the Nightingale [military version of the DC-9 jet], because Medical Regulating was moving patients, and we relied on the air force to do that, the Nightingale.

So I was an [individual mobilization] augmentee, which required me to have a top secret clearance, because of the ship's movement and the aircraft movement and whatever. So I got to play all these war games—that's what we referred to them as—up at U.S. Europe [Command?], which was up in Germany, in several locations within Germany. And the funny part about it was, I got all this training and learned all this and left there because I was a noncommissioned officer in charge, and I worked with an air force major. It was joint. It was NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] is what it was, so it was joint, and also multinational as well. But we played all these scenarios, war in that part of the country and whatever, and then I left and came back to the United States, and the Gulf War happened. Everything I was trained for, I couldn't go to. So that was another irony of it all.

But anyway, we did have a threat condition level three for about eight months when I was in Spain. It was when we attacked [Libyan leader Muammer al-] Quaddafi, and rearranged his furniture or whatever. But the interesting thing about Rota is that naval base belongs to the Spanish. You don't see the American flag until you walk inside the hospital or walk inside one of the other buildings. We do not fly an American flag outside the building. The gates are guarded by the Spanish. We're their tenants, if you will. And so I never felt very threatened. I actually lived out in town there, and enjoyed it. It was beautiful. I mean, I'd go back there in a heartbeat. It was great.

I did something totally different as far as career. Even though I was a corpsman, they asked me to be the master-at-arms at the hospital, which is like the MP [military police] in other services. I was also the head of Operating Management, so it was strictly administrative-type work. But that was a whole field that I had never worked in before, as far as being master-at-arms and whatever, so I had to learn a lot.

But it was fascinating. It was great work. I really enjoyed my tour there. I really enjoyed being part of the multi-force for Medical Regulating. I learned a lot about what our capabilities are, and it's phenomenal what we can do, and what we do with other services to get the mission accomplished.

HT:

So you were working with other U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Marine Corps personnel?

PC:

There weren't so much Marines, because I didn't see—I mean, after being stationed with Marines a lot, I didn't really see Marines, but we definitely-I worked very closely with the air force, because we were using their aircraft to transport patients. And then the army, of course, had so much in Europe that we definitely worked with the army.

It was really ironic to me when I got selected to be the NCOIC [non-commissioned officer in charge], which is not a title that the navy uses. You know, noncom, or non-commissioned officer in charge, we don't use that title.

HT:

That's army terminology, isn't it?

PC:

I think it must be. So I had to learn a whole new jargon, a whole new lingo, or whatever, but it was fascinating to learn the differences in the services. The army are really specialized. They have their medic. Their field medic is a field medic, and that field medic is not going to shoot an X-ray, where I had the opportunity of learning how to do X-ray or lab or whatever. So I really found out the limitations, and I really feel like I got a great background. It was just by chance that I chose the navy, because I could have gone into any of the services, any of them that had a medical career. I wasn't interested in going into the Marine Corps because they didn't have medical.

So I really am appreciative of the background I got, because that really pointed out to me, because even when doing these exercises with these people, they would be like, “I can't type a message.”

And I'd be like, “What do you mean you can't type a message?” You know, things that I would have expected a corpsman to be able to do. They just weren't cross-trained the same way we were. Now, I'm not knocking them. It's just the way that their structure was. I mean, they could probably put a tent up a heck of a lot faster than I could. I mean, you know, that kind of thing. But our training was so different. It was a great opportunity to work with them and to realize, because you needed to know what their limitations were, what the differences were.

That's where I ran into Captain Smith, the one that helped me get [unclear]. He was in London. He was up there for an exercise. He was in charge of EUCOM, U.S. European Command, or he was the medical up there. So I ran into him again after all these years. So, from there, you always have to come back from these great duty stations.

HT:

Let me ask you something about that. Why did the navy take this huge expense? Because I'm sure it's expensive to move people from place to place. They do this for such a short period of time.

PC:

Well, the navy has what they call a sea-shore rotation, because the bulk of the navy, unlike—I mean, I'm just a miniscule part. Medical is just a miniscule part. The bulk of the navy—the people in the navy rotate from going aboard ship and out to sea, and rotating back to land. Or if you're in the airedale [naval aviator] side of it, you deploy on these ships and come back to land.

They have this rotation set up so that everybody is not always at sea, or everybody's not always on land. What they try to do to make it equitable for everyone is they do the same thing. They rotate medical. It's not exactly the same, but we rotate pretty much like—but because I was in the medical field, I never went to sea. That was an unconscious choice on my part. If I had gone to independent duty school in the navy, which was like a sea school, if I had done that, then I would have gone to sea, even though I was a woman, because they were the women that they were sending to sea, the independent duty corpsmen.

And when I say independent duty, what that entails is, they work without a doctor, the majority of them do, because some of these ships are pretty small. They aren't all aircraft carriers with ORs [operating room], and some of these destroyers, or cruisers, or whatever, they're small. Or the sub tenders, whatever, they're small. You're going to see a large number of women on these support vessels, and the medical side of that house is going to probably be an independent duty corpsman without benefit of having a doctor or a nurse or anything; they're it.

But I didn't choose that field. I made a decision to stay general duty, but got training as a navy instructor. But I stayed general duty and did administrative, so I went overseas to a duty station, but I wasn't eligible to go to sea. Most of the women that you see today that make rank, high rank-senior chief, master chief-in the navy have got sea time, I mean aboard ship. Because to get selected for E-8 and E-9 in the navy, it's all board. You don't take an exam. Your exam's finished at E-7 level, so it's all board, and it depends on how many medals you've got on your chest, and it depends on what your duty stations have been.

I firmly believe that that's why I didn't see eight or nine. I didn't realize that, but I wouldn't have wanted to be an independent duty corpsman anyway because I just think that's a heck of a lot of responsibility. I have friends that did it and loved it. One went to Greece and was there for eighteen months without a doctor, and she had two or three other corpsmen that worked for her. She only had one death while she was there, and that person got hit by a vehicle and died instantly. And she felt, “I've had a successful tour.” And she made senior chief. And so that's why I stayed with the career pattern. But I think that that is kind of a little bit of background on the rate structure.

So I left Spain and went to the headquarters for navy medicine, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, commonly referred to as BUMED, because we always have bureaus. You have Bureau of Naval Personnel, BUPERS, and Bureau of Medicine, BUMED, and that's located in Washington, D.C., right next to the State Department. It used to be the old Naval Observatory. I worked in a building that [President Abraham] Lincoln had looked at the stars. It was great. It was a great, great tour.

I was there from October of '87 to March of '92, and I did two different jobs while I was there, primarily. The first one, I did Medical Corps Plans and Analysis, and that was fascinating. I worked with a navy lieutenant who had graduated from Postgraduate School at Monterey [California], and we were the number crunchers. We maintained a database of every medical officer in the navy, whether they were in the reserves or on active duty. We maintained whole database of what their backgrounds were, what their expertise was in, if they had secondary expertise, everything.

It all came to light when [Operations] Desert Shield/Desert Storm happened, because we had to pull from that database and determine who was going to go aboard these hospital ships—who was going to staff these hospital ships, and they were going to be deploying immediately, practically. Immediately to us. It took a couple of weeks, but it was still very fast-paced.

We had to be careful not to pull physicians who were in a training program, because we had spent a lot of dollars to put them in that training program, and if you pull them out and they don't finish it, then you've wasted your money. So it wasn't just pick every surgeon; it was selectively pick the ones that you needed, and the expertise that you needed.

So that was a busy, busy time, and, as I said, it was a little frustrating for me, because after coming back from Spain, and I knew so much about joint medical regulating, and that was going to be what we had to rely on until those hospital ships got in place, and it took months to get those hospital ships in place. They got out there, but it took them a while to get there.

So the medevac system was the name of the game until they got there, until the hospital ships got there, and then it ended up that they were pretty underutilized. Luckily, we didn't have the casualties we thought we might and whatever.

Then when I left Medical Corps Plans and Analysis, I was the head of the Admin Services there, which was a great job. It was strictly administrative. I got a Navy Commendation Medal from the Surgeon General for my activities. Because we were a Headquarters Command, we were non-deployable. That was the irony of it all. I knew all this stuff, but I couldn't go anywhere because I was Headquarters.

Though we did recall 750 medical and dental personnel to active duty from either being reserve or retired. So I had to do all the administrative stuff with their records to get them paid, to get them there, to cut their orders, all that. So it was interesting. That's what I did at BUMED.

When I left BUMED, really I should have gone to sea or overseas again, but as the way of the navy or whatever, they just sent me a roundabout way. I went to the Naval School of Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland.

[End Tape 2, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side B]
PC:

That command is the “C” School. You know I told you the difference between “A” School and “C” School. So, Naval School of Health Sciences at Bethesda is a “C” School command. We were teaching OR techs, lab techs, nuclear medicine technicians, all of these more technical fields. So that was interesting, and I did basically administrative work there and taught some classes. I didn't teach in those particular fields; I taught some military classes, you know, military rights and responsibilities, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS, CPR, those kinds of things. I didn't teach the specialized. So that was an interesting tour.

When I left there, though, I got the best job I ever had in the navy, and it was a fluke that I got it. I was just so pleased because it ended to be my last tour in the navy. But I ended up attached to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, but I was the chief for the Arlington Annex Branch Clinic, and that is one of fifty-seven branch clinics that come under Bethesda's supervision. It is where those detailers I told you, where they reside. It's right up the hill. Arlington Annex is right up the hill from the Pentagon.

It was a great job because it's an E-8 billet rather than E-7, and I got it. At first when they asked me to do it, I thought I was just going to fill in until a senior chief came. The master chief who asked me to do it said, “No, Pat. It's your clinic.”

So I was just tickled to death. Any corpsman, to have their own clinic, to have that opportunity to have their own clinic that is theirs, that they're responsible for, it just doesn't happen that often, so I was just thrilled. We covered 210 commands, and it was about 12,000 people, active duty, Navy, Marines, because the Pentagon took care of the army and the air force, or Andrews took care of air force. We were an active-duty clinic only, so we didn't deal with the dependents or the family members, or whatever. We were active duty only.

We averaged about 16,000 patient visits a year. We had a pharmacy, X-ray lab, optometry, the hearing booth to do physicals, the whole thing. I had twenty-four enlisted corpsmen. Some of them were technicians and some were general-duty corpsmen like myself. I had two civilians who were like secretary, receptionist, or whatever, and then I had eight health care providers. Some of them were doctors, some were nurse practitioners, and two were independent duty corpsmen that were seeing these active-duty patients.

So it was great. It was the best job that I ever had, most responsibility I ever had, obviously. But it was really the highlight of my career, and to have it be the last just was icing on the cake. Sometimes I teased the master chief that selected me for the position. I told him, I said, “What is it, Lee? You know that I'm going to retire, so I don't have to brown-nose anybody over there,” or whatever, because the detailers were still there, and it was a high-profile place, obviously. You know, admirals. Chief of Naval Operations is at the Pentagon, but they were up there quite a bit as well. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy's office is right there in that building, and headquarters for the Marine Corps was in that building. So it was high profile. I thoroughly, thoroughly loved every minute of that tour, and so I was there from November of '94 until October of '96, when I retired.

HT:

Did you have to retire at that time?

PC:

Yes. Twenty-four years is the max that you can do, so, yes. Although, I chose—I mean, I knew that. The navy had experienced in the years previous to that where they had too many people, and they were RIF'ing, or they were reduction-in-force. In fact, my friend that I mentioned, the woman who made senior chief and was an independent duty corpsman, she had been to the Gulf War on a hospital ship and she been in independent duty over in Greece. She got RIF'ed out of the navy, and it was amazing to everyone that knew her that that happened to her.

But what happened was she made E-8, and then Congress controlled how many E-8s there was going to be in the navy, or in any branch of service for that matter. It's a percentage of numbers, and when they start lowering those numbers, bingo. So she ended up retiring at twenty years, and she was lucky that she did twenty years. Otherwise she'd have been out at nineteen. You know, and it was like, good grief.

So the luck of the draw, and I really feel that I was blessed, because I saw people that did extraordinary things that did twenty years, day for day, you know, and didn't get clinic, you know, didn't get the opportunities that I got. But, again, I don't know. I mean, I did my job, and I did it to the best of my ability, but the navy, for the most part—you know, if they didn't pay for training—because I took classes. I've been going to school forever. You know, that's what I told the counselor at Methodist. I go back Tuesday. “This is just common for me to go to school at every opportunity.” I'm a student forever, I guess.

So I took classes that I think helped broaden my—you know, I pursued my health care degree on my own, which, of course, helped me when I was in charge of that clinic. I knew how to read a budget. I knew how to project personnel and assets and that kind of thing. So I think that that did help me, but it was a learning experience. The navy gave me a background that I could never have gotten-I guess I could have gotten it in another branch of service. Maybe I would feel that way. But I could never have gotten it staying in Lynchburg, Virginia. I tell my family that often because they wonder why I don't come back. But, see, I couldn't have gotten the experiences I've had.

HT:

Right. And the training.

PC:

Yes. And just the diversity. I mean, I must have grown up in a very sheltered life, because the guy that sat in front of me in corps school had to go on emergency leave because his brother was found in a trunk or backseat or something of a car with barbed wire wrapped around his neck and he was dead. They thought the mafia had done it in Detroit or somewhere like that. I was dumbfounded. I didn't even realize the mafia existed. That's how sheltered I was, I guess, when I went in the service.

And to deal with and work with and live with the people and cultures that I have, it's been phenomenal. I'm just truly blessed. And the people I've met, it's just—I don't know. I guess that's why I have stayed active with WAVES National and whatever, because I just think it's really important. I have a lot to give back for, I think, a lot to be thankful for, because it's been a great ride.

HT:

It's been wonderful, yes. Well, I just have a few more questions for you. I know you're probably getting tired; we've been talking so long now. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically?

PC:

You mean physical strength?

HT:

Yes, physical.

PC:

Physical strength-wise it was Gitmo. It was in Guantanamo Bay, and we trained for aircraft accidents. And by that I mean that the chief would get a plane, put it at the end of a runway that was not being used, and get volunteers to get in that plane. Now, this is eighty-some, ninety degrees, okay. Cuba was beautiful, but it was hot. Put them in there, no air-conditioning or whatever. The corpsmen in that clinic had to go get those patients off that plane and in the ambulance and then have all this mock casualty training or whatever.

Since I never was in a combat situation or whatever, that has to be the hardest thing physically for me because, number one, I realized what dead weight really was, because you'd go to pick these people up and they weren't supposed to help you at all, because the chief wanted us to be trained so if anything should happen, we would respond. So people were sweaty. I mean, you'd go to pick them up and your hand just slipped, because they had been sitting in that poor plane for twenty minutes before they called. I mean, we thought it was the real McCoy until we got there and saw that the plane wasn't really destroyed or whatever.

But as far as physical strength, picking these people up and getting them off these planes, and all the shouting, but it wasn't a true emergency. That and probably when we had the Nimitz incident, although, see, I don't put that in the same category because I was in the medical treatment facility in Jacksonville when they brought the patients to us. And they had already been critically assessed. Some of them had already been to surgery because it was an aircraft carrier, you know, so they had been stabilized.

So as far as brute strength, I guess it would be just the drill in Cuba, physically picking people up and moving them off of an aircraft, which is not easy. The chief wanted to see if we could actually move people if we needed to. We did but it was not easy.

HT:

What about emotionally? What was the hardest thing you had to endure emotionally while you were in the service?

PC:

I think the Beirut bombing and losing so many of our shipmates, people that I had worked just months prior to that, people that I knew. And definitely the nurse that lost her husband that I worked with, and I had to work with after, you know, and trying to give her the moral support. He was missing for days, and we were just camped out at her house waiting with her and her family, and his family had come. It was awful. Emotionally it was very awful, and having to deal with death and deal with all the emotions, and then all the funerals after that, all the memorial services or whatever after that. It was very sad.

The terrorist threat was right there. I hadn't had that before. I was more acutely aware of it when I went to Spain, which I think made me a lot smarter over there after Beirut. But I think that was probably the most emotional thing.

HT:

Do you recall being afraid or being in physical danger, especially in Spain?

PC:

No, but the weird thing was, in Cuba, we actually had people that jumped the fence, I mean from Communist Cuba into the base. And there were times when I had to go out to the fence line and pick up these people. Some of them were dead, and some of them were alive. And when you'd go out there, you'd go out there with a flak jacket on and a helmet, because, as I said, this fence line, you can shoot through it, and you'd see the Communist soldiers. We'd see them right through the fence line.

HT:

Did they ever shoot through the fence?

PC:

There were never any incidences of that, but we were always acutely aware there could be. The protocol for that was that when you went out there, you picked that body up as if it were dead, and you put it on the stretcher, and you put the stretcher in the cracker box and you closed the doors, and they actually had coverings over the back windows so you couldn't see. And you did not start any form of resuscitation or medical aid or anything until you were safely in the ambulance with the door shut. The Marines would drive the cracker boxes out and back.

But when you went out there, you'd have maybe two Marines, one with a weapon, and we only had a thousand Marines there, you know, to guard that whole fence line. I have never had such admiration for a group of men, and they were men, essentially. When I was there, they were all men. They were the only thing between me and them, you know, as far as I was concerned, the Communists and—but they drove the ambulances out.

So, yes, there was a physical danger there, but I never had an incident where anybody shot at me or whatever. It was weird to me that these people were not being hurt terribly. There were some that were dead when we got out there, so you didn't have to act like they were dead. You know, you'd get them in the ambulance and you'd just go back.

But then I had this one guy who was shot in the foot. So I'm like, “Who did you pay off?” You know, I'm wondering. But then I don't know. There was a lot of unknowns. And that's something that the government—I mean, they didn't like debrief me and tell me I couldn't talk about that. So I don't know whether that was some of our people getting out of there, you know, whether they were CIA or something. He never spoke, this gentleman that was shot in the foot.

HT:

Was he Cuban?

PC:

He looked Hispanic, but I don't know that he was Cuban. When we got back to the clinic with him, all of a sudden there was a plane on the airstrip to pick him up. So I think he must have been CIA, but I don't know, and they never debriefed me and said I couldn't say it. So there were weird situations, you know, no explanation for. But he was probably the least hurt of anybody I ever saw. I mean, here he is, climbed over this fence that's got—first of all, you've got to get through this field of mines, and it's sand, and they shift and whatever. And then you're going to jump over this fence. I was like, “I don't believe it.” And then you only get shot in the foot? And these people were sharpshooters. Other people I went out there to pick them, they had like one bullet and they were dead. So I don't know. It's hard to tell.

And different things happened. We had a Russian submarine that was right off the coast, and we were in kind of an alert status with that. You know, things like that. But as far as being afraid, I don't think so. Not like if I was in a combat situation or whatever.

HT:

What about embarrassing moments or hilarious moments? Did you ever have any of those?

PC:

Oh, let's see. I don't know. Well, one of my embarrassing moments was before I even left home, when I went to introduce my parents to—there was a chief that was a navy recruiter. And I don't know why, I just got nervous, I guess, and I introduced him as a sergeant. That got a big laugh, because my dad, of course, knew he wasn't a sergeant. I don't know. I was just nervous, I guess, when I went up to introduce him. So that was an embarrassing moment, but I don't know. I'm trying to think. Not really.

My sister was up visiting at Quantico, my first duty station. She's seven years younger than I am, so she was still fairly young. She was visiting, and we were walking from the barracks across to the hospital. The commanding officer of the hospital, who was a navy captain, he always walked in the mornings. He had has his shorts on and whatever, you know, civilian attire, because he lived there on the compound, but he'd always walk in the mornings as exercise or whatever. I was in uniform, so I'm saluting him because I know who he is and that's how we're trained. We salute and acknowledge the people that we know.

So I'm saluting him, and my sister very loudly says, “What are you saluting him for? He's in shorts.” So that was a little embarrassing or whatever. I used to babysit for him. His wife had a child while I was working up on labor and delivery, and she was a former navy nurse. I was their babysitter, so I knew him fairly well. But it was kind of embarrassing that my sister would be so vocal. [laughs]

HT:

Well, we haven't talked about social life. What did you do for fun, off duty, in the various places?

PC:

Well, when I was in Cuba, I learned to sail. It was great sailing weather down there, so I learned to sail. I've always loved the outdoors and whatever, so in various different places we camped, we hiked, you know, that kind of thing. Got involved with volunteer work a lot, either surrounding the hospital, because they're always looking for volunteers to do something—Special Olympics, that kind of stuff. We're always pitching in for that kind of thing.

The Hospital Corps, as I have mentioned before, is very historic and traditional and whatever, so every year we have a Hospital Corps Ball in June to celebrate our anniversary. So I was involved with the Hospital Corps balls for years, so that was always a highlight, social highlight or whatever.

And then, of course, once I became a chief, the chiefs' community does dining-ins, which are formal—when you have a dining-in, it's just the military. You don't bring a spouse. And they did have one dining-out that I went to, but of them were dining-ins, which are very formal, and you sit by your date of rank. It's just a great tradition to learn and to do, and it's a lot of fun.

So we did those kind of things, but not too much else, unlike during World War II when they were having their canteens and USO [United Service Organizations] shows and stuff like that. I did attend one USO show, but it was in Memphis, and some of the stars in Nashville came over and gave a show. I never saw entertainers overseas or anything like that.

HT:

And when you were stationed in Rota, Spain, did you have the opportunity to do any traveling throughout Europe?

PC:

Oh yes. Oh yes. And I thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I got to go to Germany quite a bit for training. They knew that every time I had to go for training that I was going to put in my request for leave in conjunction with my training. It got to be almost like a joke, because they'd see the message come in that I had to go for an exercise or something, and then my boss would always say, “Okay. How much leave are you going to take this time?”

But I did. I went to Portugal, Germany, England, France, Gibraltar. I mean, Gibraltar is a great little treasure, right? You always hear of the Rock of Gibraltar. And, of course, it's owned by the British, so whenever I got tired of trying to speak Spanish, I would go to Gibraltar so I could try to understand English, understand the Brits or whatever.

And I've been to Italy. I went to Italy and Greece with a reserve squadron. I wasn't part of the reserves, but they needed someone administratively, with a clearance, to do some administrative work for them while they were deployed. And so I got to Italy and Greece for two weeks with them, with VR-58 out of Jacksonville, Florida, which was great. I told them I'd go as long as they promised they'd bring me back, because I couldn't afford to pay to come back.

So, yes, I traveled quite a bit. The rocking chair that's in the living room right there, that's olive wood and it came from Spain, up in the mountains of Spain. So I've gotten several trinkets. All my [unclear], came from Spain. Yes, I enjoyed my tour there.

HT:

What impact do you think being in the military for twenty-four years has had on your life, now that you've been out a few years?

PC:

It's funny. I was just up in Raleigh. I work for a private company now. We do parking enforcement. The company is McLaurin Parking [Company]. I don't whether you've ever heard of them, but if you've been up around the Raleigh area, they do most of the parking downtown and at some of the medical treatment facilities. But anyway, they're all throughout.

I was just at a managers' meeting this week, and one of the things that someone else pointed out about me—my general manager was speaking about me, and he told the group of my fellow managers—because I just came to work for them in January—that I had such attention to detail and I persevered. You know, I wasn't swayed if something didn't work or whatever, that I would persevere and overcome any obstacle to get the job done and do it professionally and whatever.

And someone said, “Yeah, but didn't you say she was retired military?” And I think that that is what I learned, that I'll carry with me all of my life, because I know that with perseverance you will accomplish things.

HT:

After you got out in '96, what type of endeavors did you get involved in?

PC:

Well, I had volunteered for this organization which you're aware of, the Women in the Military Service for America Memorial. I had volunteered for them for seven years as a field representative. And so I retired, and originally I was not thinking—I was kind of inside-the-box thinking, if you will, and thinking that I had to work in a medical field because that's what I'd always done and that's what my training had been in.

So I originally worked for a medical group, an ear, nose, and throat medical group in Washington, D.C., outside McLean, Virginia. But I didn't work for them but about seven months, because I went over to WIMSA [Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation], the Women's Memorial, to volunteer, knowing that our dedication was coming up, and I knew that they were going to need volunteers. They've always needed volunteers.

General [Wilma] Vaught [U.S. Air Force general and president of WIMSA] wanted to see my résumé, and I'm thinking inside the box. You know, I'm like, “I have a job, General. I'm working,” blah, blah, whatever.

And she was like, “Well, I may have a job here for you.”

And I'm thinking, “Medical? What would she have for me?”

Well, as it turned out, she did have a great job for me, and I was in charge of the field reps that I had been one for seven years. So I was the director of field operations and I worked in public relations, and I worked for them for four years. And that was phenomenal. It was a great opportunity. I got to meet a lot of folks. I got to know a lot about other branches of service, and the women that have made such an impact, and I got a real appreciation, because I firmly believe, and have always felt this way, that I would not have had a career in the military if the women of World War II had not been successful, because they would always call us up in times of conflict, but then they would release the women.

So I know that I had a career thanks to those women of World War II that opened the doors for so many women after. So I got to meet some of these great women. I got to meet two World War I veterans, and just all kinds of other people, so it was a great opportunity.

I left there, regrettably, last October to move to North Carolina. The whole reason I left and moved was because the military will pay for your final move up to five years after you retire. I had to make a hard decision that as much as I loved the job, it was a very high-cost-of-living area. My husband died in 1995, so I needed to provide for myself. My original plan was to go back to Camp Lejeune area, Jacksonville, because I still have a home there, but I researched that a little bit more and found out that I get my care through the VA [Veterans Administration], and so the closest VA Hospital to Jacksonville is here in Fayetteville. So I thought, “I don't want to be two hours away from medical.” So that's why I ended up here in Fayetteville.

HT:

Do you enjoy living here?

PC:

I do. I love it. I'm here on the lake. I grew up on a lake. My folks live on a lake. So that's a natural for me to be on the water. It's a great community. And, of course, we're here with Fort Bragg, so I'm surrounded by army, but I'm finding navy as I go around. And so I am enjoying it.

HT:

Let me backtrack just a minute. Can you explain what a field rep does?

PC:

Yes. The field reps for the Women's Memorial are the volunteer force that represent the memorial in their local area, and so they research to find membership, to find women who have served and to recognize them, and to let them know that the memorial exists, which will recognize them. We have about 1,900 field reps worldwide, some active duty, so naturally they're worldwide. I would communicate through e-mails and phone calls. We had a 1-800 number so they could call me.

It was just a great opportunity. They've done so much for the memorial. They are the reason all fifty states have donated to the Women's Memorial in Arlington on behalf of their women veterans, because the field reps have asked their home states to do that, and to recognize the women in that manner. A lot of these states were very slow to do that, because they actually had laws that said that they wouldn't donate to anything outside of their state, that kind of thing. But these women persevered, and they got it done. So that's pretty much what the field reps do. They have a very small staff at WIMSA, so the volunteers are the heart and soul of the whole operation.

HT:

Quite an organization. I'm assuming that you would join the military again if you had to do it over.

PC:

Oh, definitely, definitely. Although, I don't know. PT [physical training] would be hard now. As I'm in my fifties, I don't know.

HT:

Can you describe briefly your adjustment to civilian life once you got out of the military after twenty-four years?

PC:

It was real interesting because I loved the navy. I loved it before I joined it, and I certainly loved it after I had served. And everybody laughed at my retirement. They said that I just smiled from ear to ear. There were no tears, but it was joyous. I had done my job and completed it and done almost everything I wanted to do that I could think of. So the transition was okay. I have friends that really miss the navy every day.

I think going to work for the Women's Memorial kind of helped with that transition. Even though I worked at a doctor's office for a little while, I found out that military medicine and civilian medicine are different. You wouldn't think so, but it is. People aren't held accountable in the civilian setting quite like they are in the military setting. The doctors are certainly held accountable because of potential lawsuit or whatever, but the other ancillary staff are not held to the same accountability. So I was a little disillusioned with civilian medicine.

But working for the Women's Memorial, it was like being back in the navy. I worked for a general. I didn't work for a general in the navy, but I worked for several admirals. So that, I think, helped my transition. Here, though, in Fayetteville, I am kind of away from that, although I'm still keenly interested. I went just recently to hear Michael Durant, the helicopter pilot [portrayed] in Blackhawk Down, the chopper pilot. He was speaking. AUSA [Association of the United States Army] had him on the post with the NCO Club, speaking about Somalia and about his experiences there, being shot down, as a POW, and whatever. It was very good to go and hear him speak. So I am still very keenly interested.

I love the Airborne [and Special Operations] Museum. I mean, after working for the Women's Memorial, of course, I gravitated to the Airborne Museum when I first got here. I had hoped that I could get a job there or something, because I felt like I could contribute. They just haven't had any positions. But it's a wonderful, wonderful museum.

So I'm getting involved. I'm getting more involved with veterans organizations. I'm a lifetime member of DAV [Disabled American Veterans], member of American Legion, member of Fleet Reserve [Association], WAVES National. At the end of this month I will go to a convention in Portland [Oregon], where I am running unopposed as national treasurer. So as my father said, “Boy, won't it be embarrassing if you don't win?” [laughs]

So I'm looking forward to taking a role with the veterans organizations, and I think that helps with the transition, too. I enjoyed the military, but I'm also enjoying being a civilian. I like getting that retirement check the beginning of the month. That always helps. And just recently, as of Friday, in fact, I enrolled in Methodist College [now Methodist University]. So I'm going to utilize my GI Bill, finish my degree requirement.

HT:

Which degree will you be getting?

PC:

It's a BS [bachelor of science] in business with a concentration in healthcare administration. That's been essentially my background, and there's no point in reinventing the wheel.

HT:

When do you anticipate finishing that?

PC:

I don't know. What their requirements are is that I take six hours, credit hours, and they will then review all my credits. I have like thirteen different schools I've gone to. So I need to float a loan just to get the transcripts for all the schools. Then they'll review all that and then they'll tell me. I know I have 132 credit hours, which should have a degree in it somewhere, but it doesn't. And because I took some of those classes in the late eighties, I would expect that I will need to take more about managed—managed healthcare was not part of the curriculum. So healthcare has changed, and I'm hoping to get more up-to-date, current.

HT:

Once you receive your degree, what do you anticipate doing with the degree? Are you going back to work in the healthcare field?

PC:

I probably will. I probably will. Although, I don't know. I would like to work for something like the VA. I get my care through the VA. I'm really, for the most part, very pleased with that. I think it's really made some big strides in women's healthcare, because that was a real issue, because it was nonexistent. I got excellent care at the VA in Washington, D.C., women's health clinic, and for everything, and specialty clinics and whatever. I've only been to like two appointments here in Fayetteville, and I'm hopeful. The only thing is, it's very limited. I will wait almost two years to get routine GYN checkup, which is not good medical practice, I don't think. But they just don't—I got an appointment, but it's a year out.

And so, the funding, and that's a funding thing. That's not their fault that they can't get the funding for it. So I think they could use some help, but I don't know. But that's another funding issue, I think. I wouldn't mind. They also have a North Carolina Veterans Home here. I'm sure in North Carolina they have several, but they have a North Carolina Veterans Home.

HT:

Is that in Salisbury?

PC:

No. It's right here in Fayetteville. It's right down from the VA Hospital. So I'm going to explore that avenue. Who knows? I'm kind of interested in geriatric care. I've taken care of active duty and enjoyed that. So I think that that is maybe in the future for me, is to do something like that. But I don't know. We'll see. I'll take these classes and see where it goes.

I'm enjoying what I'm doing right now, although it has nothing to do with medicine. I would like to get back into medicine. My whole life has been medical.

HT:

Whom do you admire and respect? Heroines and heroes and that sort of thing.

PC:

Well, I don't know. As far as someone that was a mentor for me and had a big impact for me, both while I was on active duty and after I retired, I think I'd have to say that was General Vaught, the president of the Women's Memorial, because I knew her. I volunteered, so I knew her before I retired as well. She retired in 1985, and she's just an extraordinary woman. So that's somebody that I really know.

If it's somebody that I have read about and admired or whatever, it would probably be amazing [Rear Admiral] Grace Hopper, who was a military admiral, a navy admiral. She was the mother of computers as far as she actually wrote the computer language COBOL [Common Business-Oriented Language]. I never met her, but I read about her and I think that she was phenomenal. But as far as someone that is living and breathing, I think it would have to be General Vaught.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person, and do you think military made you that way? Or were you always independent?

PC:

Well, no, I don't think I was always independent, although I think it took a certain degree of independence to say, “I'm going to join the navy,” and leave home and leave everything I knew. But part of that, see, didn't take independence, because I knew that I was going to have three meals a day, and I was going to have a place to lay my head, and I was going to get paid and whatever. So it wasn't that big of a plunge.

But I do think the navy has taught me self-reliance, and it is proved out. I know that I'm a survivor and that I can take care of myself and whatever, and I know that I can use the skills that I've learned to improve a situation. That's kind of how I go about life.

I'm working in this Fayetteville parking service. What that has to do with anything that I've ever done in my life, I don't know, except that it's customer service-based. It is management of people and resources, and I manage it for a large organization, which is the City of Fayetteville. I managed people and resources for the navy, so some of it does correlate, but it's not healthcare. But sometimes people can be just as angry outside of healthcare when they have a ticket or whatever.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a feminist?

PC:

Yes, yes, definitely. I think that I have always been a feminist. I think that that was something that I was born with. I don't think I learned that in the military. I had some excellent role models there, my mother being probably one. My grandmothers both were very—the one grandmother was a teacher, was a schoolteacher, and the other grandmother worked in a doctor's office, but raised my mother as a single parent. My mother's father died when she was seven. So, raised my mother and provided for her and whatever.

My mother has definitely taken a nontraditional role. My parents ran a garage, but my mother could tell you just as much about your car as my father could. They worked as a team, so I learned teambuilding skills long before I joined the military. But definitely I'm a feminist.

HT:

How do you feel about women in combat positions? We were talking earlier about the Gulf War, and women are being taken prisoners of war and that sort of thing. How do you feel about that?

[End Tape 2, Side B—Begin Tape 3, Side A]

HT:

We were talking about women in combat, particularly during the Gulf War period, and what your feelings on that were.

PC:

I think that women proved in the Gulf War that they could do the job that they were sent there to do, and do it well. I know that women such as Rhonda Cornum, Colonel Rhonda Cornum, who was a prisoner of war during the Gulf War, proved that theory. I also know that women before her proved that theory, that the army and navy nurses, the eighty-eight nurses that were held prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II for over three years, and left there alive, and who had continued to take care of patients, even in captivity, with nothing to work with, they proved it, too. So I know that history will show that this is true.

I don't know that the American public knows that history, and that's why I think things like this project, like the Women's Memorial and the veterans organizations and whatever are so critically important, because there are people out there that would want you to believe that the hospital ships in Desert Storm were “love boats,” that these people had no morals or whatever. I mean, that stigma still exists today.

Then there are other folks out there who have never served a day in the service, the Elaine Donnellys [president of the Center for Military Readiness] of this world who can get Congress' ear and say that women and men shouldn't train together, that it's all a sexually-charged atmosphere, that women, you know, what are they going to do if they're PMSing [Premenstrual syndrome]. I mean, none of it is founded, but they will say it, and there is a certain part of society that listens to them, because they don't know any different or because their experience—probably never served a day, okay, but their experience, living in Podunk, wherever they live, you know, see women in a more traditional role.

An excellent example is Eileen Collins, who is a colonel in the air force, who is a wife, who is a mother, who is the first women to ever command a space mission, who has been to space. But when you read articles about her or you see articles about her, they don't really talk about the fact that she's in the military; they talk about the fact that she's an astronaut, and they don't even mention that she has family.

I've meet women who are in the astronaut program and have purposely decided when they are going to have their children, have their family, so it doesn't interfere with that program, because they want to go to space and they want to do the jobs that they've been trained to do. And I've met career military women who have made those same choices, which are really the same choices that civilian women make every day, because civilian women work, you know, and they have families and they have careers.

I think it's an education process. There's not a lot of women in Congress, and most of the men who are in Congress never served a day in the military, but yet they have a big impact on the military. And I'm really pretty critical of that. I mean, I just am. I don't mean that it's a litmus test that they have to serve in the military, but I just think that they need to have an appreciation and to know the history, and they don't know the history. They don't know what has been done.

The media could do a better job of letting people know that Eileen Collins is a colonel in the air force. I mean, they could do that. They don't choose to. When they interview her or whatever, and they put her in a spacesuit, you can't tell. So that's where I think we're lacking.

HT:

Pat, over your twenty-four years in the navy, what kind of changes do you see from 1972 to 1996?

PC:

A lot of changes—and I was jotting those down right before you came, because I wanted to make sure I remembered them. The first one that I saw was that when I came in in '72, a woman, whether married or unmarried, could not have a family—you know, children, minor children. That's what I guess I need to say. Whether they had them or adopted them or they were stepparents, and remained on active duty, that was just not—you know, it was the law, and that was it. And we lost a lot of women who were well qualified to do their job, because they either got pregnant or had these children through marrying someone who had children or whatever. So we lost a lot of our resources that way. So that was a major change.

Just in title, when I came in, I was issued a uniform, which was the World War II WAVE uniform, and I wore it proudly. I was in for a few years, and they changed the name. According to the history books or whatever, the WAVES per se went away after World War II. They did not refer to women in the navy as WAVES, but they did, really. The acronym stuck. I was a corps WAVE. I was a WAVE platoon leader. So they referred to that. I lived in the WAVE barracks. So the navy referred to it, but as far as on paper, it was not there any longer.

So then they changed our name to WINS, Women in Naval Service, WINS. And now today there are navy men and women, period, navy personnel. It's not a distinction between male and female.

The uniforms definitely changed. We stopped using the World War II era uniform. The uniform remained the same looking, in that it was dark, but it was more black than blue. The World War II era was a blue wool serge, and the uniforms that I retired with were more black, more blue-black. The style remained the same, a skirt and a jacket, but they did a lot of variety of that.

Now, today's women in the navy actually wear a white uniform during the summer months that mirrors the male. Enlisted women, I should say, E-6 and below, were the traditional uniforms the males wore, in that they were sort of crackerjack—it's what we called like a blouse that you pull over your head, and it's got the bib in the back, and a v-neck, and you wore a white t-shirt under it, and you've got the neckerchief that hangs low.

But the women in a formal setting would wear a skirt. In an informal setting or if they were aboard ship, they would wear pants. And that uniform was not a uniform that I had in my sea bag, ever. But they don't wear the same headgear. They would wear what we call the traditional bucket hat, which is a white hat with a black brim. Or they would wear a beret, a black beret, with that. So I've seen uniforms change.

Job opportunities have certainly changed. Women at sea—I did twenty-four years and never went to sea. And also women in nontraditional career fields. I just didn't see that that much. Most of my contemporaries were my shipmates from boot camp, either went to personnel school, to radiomen school. They didn't go to learn how to work on jets. But that's slowly evolved, and now women are in more nontraditional fields.

I really like the fact that when Desert Storm occurred, the news media did immediately say “the women and men of Desert Shield/Desert Storm,” but I think it was because of the sheer numbers that went. We kind of talked about that, the role reversals, you know, the dads that stayed home with the children and the mothers that went to war.

Also the recognition of the women's contribution with the Vietnam Women's Memorial being built right there adjacent to the Vietnam Wall to honor those nurses who served, with the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington that I was such a part of and still am a part of, with that being opened, with the number of military women who have been inducted into the [National] Women's Hall of Fame at Seneca Falls, New York. I'm really surprised at that, but they've recognized their contributions all along. And with programs such as the Women Veterans Historical Project with UNC-Greensboro. And as you have mentioned, there are other schools like in Texas or whatever, that have this program, so that they recognize this and get this history before it's lost.

Also with breaking the glass ceiling, if you will. I can't tell you the number of articles that I've seen in Redbook, in Good Housekeeping, in Reader's Digest, you know, all of these mainline media, whether it be Time magazine, you know, news magazines or whatever, about women in the military and what they're doing, which is great. It is wonderful, because I think that will educate the public. And with women in space like Eileen Collins.

Also with women accepted at the academies, Air Force and Naval Academy and West Point, and the women taking leadership roles, now that they've been there awhile, taking these leadership roles in the academies. And something near and dear to me, because I'm originally from Virginia and paid Virginia taxes my whole naval career, is that women are now allowed at VMI [Virginia Military Institute], which is a state-supported school. And they fought and dug in and screamed and kicked, and those guys, it just about killed them, but now they're there and they're there in numbers, which is great.

And then, as I mentioned, the increased awareness in the medical care available to me, as a woman veteran, at the VA, and to countless other women veterans now, that we are now finally getting care through the Veterans Administration, which we should have always gotten, but didn't. Those women of World War II didn't, and now some of them are getting it because they were made aware that they're eligible or whatever. But so many of them didn't get it, which they should have immediately.

So, big changes.

HT:

Pat, I don't have any more formal questions for you. Do you have anything you'd like to add to the interview that we haven't—we've discussed so many things this afternoon.

PC:

I know. I really don't think so. When I retired from the navy, I paraphrased a quote, a famous quote, at my retirement, and I also had it put with the front of my retirement program. I used the phrase that was at Bainbridge on a big wooden sign, and they moved it from Bainbridge, Maryland, down to RTC Orlando, and it's right as you walk in to the door. It said, “Through these portals pass the women of the greatest navy on Earth.” So I had that on the front, but on the very back of my program I quoted President [John F.] Kennedy, but I paraphrased it, because his quote said—and this is how I paraphrased it as well—“Any man”—and I paraphrased it to say “or woman”—“who may have been asked in this century what they did to make their life worthwhile can respond with a great deal of pride and satisfaction to say, 'I served the United States Navy.'” And that's how I feel.

He didn't mention women in his statement, because I think that was the era that he was in or whatever, but I think that that's essentially how I feel. I am very proud that I served in the navy, and I feel very privileged that I was able to serve for twenty-four years.

HT:

Thank you so much. It's been delightful hearing your story.

PC:

I bet you didn't expect to have to be here all day with me. My goodness.

[End of Interview]