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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Therese Strohmer, 2009

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Object ID: wv0441.5.001

Description: Therese Strohmer tells of her early life, six years of service in United States Air Force, and civilian career.

Summary: Strohmer primarily discusses her early life, service as Russian cryptologic linguist, time spent at the National Security Agency, and civilian career path. She details her lingual training, and the difficulties of being a closeted lesbian in the armed services of the 1980s. Strohmer also tells of her time as an inter-service athlete in Germany during the cold war, her reasons for joining the military, feelings towards the intelligence community, and how she came to be involved with the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project.

Creator: Therese M. Strohmer

Biographical Info: Therese Strohmer (b. 1962) of West Branch, Michigan, served in the United States Air Force from 1980-1986 as a Russian Cryptologic Linguist, performance evaluator, and instructor for a classified National Security Agency system. She is currently an interviewer for the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project and graduate student at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Collection: Therese Strohmer 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:

Therese Strohmer:

That’s the time starting.

Hermann Trojanowski:

Is it already started?

TS:

Yeah.

HT:

Oh, okay. All right. All right, let’s see how we sound on this tape recorder today. Well today is Wednesday, January 7, 2009, and my name is Hermann Trojanowski. I’m at Elliot University Center on the UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro] campus, and I’m with Therese Strohmer right?

TS:

That’s correct.

HT:

To conduct an oral history interview for the Betty Carter Women Veterans Historical Project. Therese, if you could give me your full name we’ll see how we both sound on this recording.

TS:

My full name is Therese M. Strohmer—Therese Marie Strohmer.

HT:

Okay. [Recording paused] Well Therese, thanks so much for meeting with me today. It’s wonderful to finally do this after, what, about two years?

TS:

I think so, yeah. I think so.

HT:

Well first of all tell me something about where you were born and when and your family life.

TS:

Oh gosh. I was born in Michigan—in a little tiny town called West Branch. And I—it’s a little tiny—I guess there’s about 1,900 people in that town. My dad was a teacher. And my mother was trained as a nurse, but there were seven kids in my family so she wasn’t a nurse the whole time. But I think I had—I always tell people I had probably the best childhood of anyone I’ve ever known [laughs]—even though my parents split up, and my dad left, and my mom was left to raise seven kids on her own. I didn’t realize at the time how hard it was for her. But for me it was a great life, because I got to do—you know—4-H, and all scouting: Girl Scouts, Cadets. I can’t remember—Brownies I guess is the first thing I did. I played sports. I just had a great—I had a great time.

In a little tiny town—we lived on a dead end road. We were in the city—but we were right like on the outskirts—so, we were right next to a corn field. So in the winter time we’d like tie up our dog and race dog—you know—neighborhood dogs with a sled around the field. And stuff like that. So I had a great time.

HT:

Now where in Michigan is West Branch?

TS:

Well I can show you on my hand Hermann, because that’s—you know, Michigan you’ve got the mitten. It’s in the lower peninsula. It’s above—north of Saginaw. Right—it’s right here.

HT:

Okay. [laughter] All right, okay—near Grand Rapids?

TS:

No, Grand Rapids is over here.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

So it’s—do you know where Bay City is?

HT:

No. I’ve been to Grand Rapids, so I—

TS:

Okay. So it’s on the east side of Michigan—above the thumb.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

If you’re using Michigan speak [chuckling].

HT:

What—can you tell me when you were born?

TS:

Yes, I was born August 19, 1962.

HT:

And you mentioned earlier that your mom was a nurse at one time.

TS:

Yes.

HT:

And so she did not continue nursing after—

TS:

She actually did, yeah. She was a nurse for over fifty—she still works as a nurse. So she’s seventy-eight right now and is still working as a nurse. But she—you know—as raising—

HT:

Seven children.

TS:

—seven—when my dad was there she worked on and off.

HT:

Right. Now in the—where do you fit in amongst the seven?

TS:

I’m the third oldest.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

So I’m not like—I’m not the oldest, so I don’t have that responsibility. And I’m not the youngest, so I’m not super spoiled. And I’m not the middle child, so I don’t have any kind of trauma [laughter]. So I’m in a good position.

HT:

So did the older children help the younger children?

TS:

Yeah we did. The first four of us were all just about all thirteen months apart, so we’re spaced pretty close together. But my youngest—the youngest three—yeah, we helped out, sure.

HT:

Now, where did you go to high school?

TS:

I went to high school at a—it was called Ogemaw Heights High School. And it was a high school situated out in the country between two cities: between a city called Rose City and West Branch. They had made a—they tried to—they consolidated the high school for these two towns. So it was about six miles out of West Branch you had to go out there, so that’s the name of the school.

HT:

And was it a large high school?

TS:

Not—not really. I can’t even tell you how many were in my graduating class. But I mean it wasn’t—it wasn’t small. It wasn’t like a tiny one, but it was mid-sized.

HT:

And do you recall what your favorite subjects were?

TS:

Yes, I do. History, of course, was my favorite. But I also loved science. I just absolutely loved science. I liked any—just about any subject. I wasn’t real crazy about math.

HT:

And did you plan to go to college after high school?

TS:

Oh yeah. Absolutely I planned to go to college. I had always wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and had my share of them and I always—that was my plan—was to be a veterinarian.

HT:

What changed?

TS:

Well I worked—I worked in a veterinarian’s office in this little town and it was—you know he’s a country doctor—Dr. Rae, I believe, was his name—and, he was great. And one summer my dad lived in Grand Rapids. We mentioned Grand Rapids earlier. He lived in Grand Rapids and he said, “Why don’t you come down this summer and work for this veterinarian in the city and see how you like it?”

I said, “All right.”

So I went, and I actually did like quite a bit of it. I especially liked the surgeries and things like that. I was never queasy. The first operation he did was like on a tumor of a cat, and I was just fascinated by it. I wasn’t—you know, I just thought—he made sure that I had a chair to sit in, in case I was going to faint or something, but I didn’t. But I really liked that part of it. However, I really did not enjoy that pretty much every animal that came in was sick [laughs]. And you did a lot of taking—I don’t know—a lot of things that just were boring to me.

And also, one of the things that kind of—I don’t—you wouldn’t—I wouldn’t say traumatized me, but it really affected the way I thought about the veterinary school was—or veterinary work—was there was a priest that brought in an Irish setter to be put down. And I was raised Catholic, you know, so I had a lot of respect for priests and they were always very great to me. And my job was to like kind of pet the dog while they were putting the shot in, and stuff. It kind of—it wasn’t great, you know. It was—I didn’t want to see a dog put down. I’d had a couple of mine. But to see this priest just bawling his head off was really disconcerting to me. You know, I mean it bothered me.

And then I got to thinking, “Oh my gosh. This is going to be eight years of schooling to go to vet school?” And I just thought that was going to be forever. And so I thought, “Well what else could I possibly do with my life?” So I—so I think I was like—that was before my junior year. And in my junior year I started thinking about what I could do. And everybody said—you know, I was on the college prep—took all the college prep courses, and was doing just fine. And everybody expected me to go to college.

And I don’t remember why exactly I got interested in the military, but somehow I did. And I can’t say—you know, I even ask this question in my interviews, and I can’t even remember exactly.

HT:

So you don’t remember seeing recruiting posters or anything like that?

TS:

No. No, I don’t. It’s possible I did. I mean I knew about the military. My grandfather was in World War I. And my dad was in during the Korean War, but not in Korea. And my—my—one of my uncles was in World War II. So I mean I came from a long history of military service.

HT:

None of your brothers or sisters had been in the military?

TS:

No, no. But I did know this one family friend whose name was—two—I actually knew two people in the military. A guy named Bill Wood—he was the principal’s son, and the Wood family was a close family to ours. They had lots of kids like we did. And I really liked Bill and I went—and he was in the air force—and I talked to him. And I talked to another gal. Her last name was [Ruth – TS added later] Fitzgerald. I cannot remember her first name. It’ll probably come to me. And she was in the army. One of the things I thought would be interesting to do would be to be—to work with the dogs: you know, like a military police officer working with dogs, or something like that. And so when I talked to her she said at that time they didn’t allow women to do that, basically because of their menstrual cycle. They thought it was not—it would throw off the dogs or something—I don’t—some kind of crazy thing. And I don’t even know if that was accurate, but that’s what she—that’s what I remember that she told me. So I couldn’t do that. And then—so I was trying to think about a way to get into the veterinary thing. And they told me that basically you do—you check meat—you know, USDA [United States Department of Agriculture].

HT:

Oh.

TS:

So that—so I thought, “Well, I don’t want to go that route.” So I talked to Bill, in the air force, and he said, “You know, just go talk to a recruiter and see what interests you.” And he also made the comment to me—because I was thinking about maybe going to a military academy or something like that—he said to me that, “Therese, you know, you’re not the type that is going—you’re not going to want to be an officer because they got to kiss butt all the time, you know. And do a lot of parties.” I was a really very super, super shy girl that—which I’m not so shy anymore— but I was extremely shy then, and not—I mean I was—I knew a lot of people; but I was very, very quiet. So he said, “That’s not going to be—you’re not going to want to be an officer.” He said—so he said, “Check out the enlisted.” And he was enlisted.  [He later became an officer – TS added later]

HT:

I’m assuming there was no ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] available in high school?

TS:

Not at that high school, no. That would have been interesting. So I went and I [chuckles]—the recruiter would kind of—the recruiters would come to the high school, and they’d announce it. So I would go, and it would be a room kind of like this. You know, high schools aren’t quite as nice as this conference room. But it was like a conference room, or a small room. And a bunch of kids would be there and the recruiter would come. He would talk, and I would just sit and listen. And then they’d be done, and I’d go back the next time he came—whatever, every quarter whenever he came. So by the third time I went he—the funniest thing—I wish I could remember his name—but he—everybody was in the room— it was the same recruiter. I sat in the same spot I always sat; and he talked for a few minutes—and then he said, “You know what? I need everybody to leave.” And then he pointed to me and he said, “Except you” [laughs].  And so he made everybody leave the room, and he said “Okay. You’ve—this is the third time you’re here and you haven’t said a word, or asked me any questions. It doesn’t seem like you’re just trying to get out of class. So what—you know, what’s the deal?”

I said, “Well, I’m just wondering, you know, what the air force is all about.”

So he kind of talked to me about it. We talked. He asked me what I was interested in. One of the things I was interested in—at the time I was taking Spanish. I really enjoyed—I really loved my teacher Sally Kemmis. She was fantastic. And I really enjoyed learning. I can’t say I was the best student as far as speaking Spanish or anything, but I really enjoyed languages. He said, “Well there’s a job for people that want to do languages.” He said, “But what I’m going to do is I’m going to bring you a book that has a list of a lot of occupations. Here, I’m going to give you a book.” So he gave me a book, and we went through it. He said, “Take that home. Come—I’ll be back on such-and-such a day.”

I said, “Okay.”

He said, “I’m going to bring—.” He says, “There’s like a form that kind of gives you a real detail about what a linguist can do.” And he said, “It’s called a cryptologic linguist.”

And I thought, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” I didn’t really know what cryptology meant at the time—I do now. So I went home, and I looked through stuff. There were a couple interesting jobs, and I couldn’t even tell you what they were. But I said, “Yeah, this sounds good.” And he told me what the job was. And I could either go to—for training—for language school I could either go to—it was like somewhere on the East Coast—which I can’t remember. It was probably—shoot, I don’t even—I can’t—somewhere around Washington, D.C. I think. And the other place was out—some crazy place called Monterey, California.

HT:

I had a friend of mine—when I was in the air force—who went to, I think it was Syracuse [New York], for Russian training.

TS:

That might be. I just remember it was on the East Coast. I thought, “Well that’d be kind of fun to go to the East Coast, or the West.” I had an uncle that lived down in California, and I liked it when we visited him. So I thought either one of those places would be good. 

So he said, “Well, let’s do the testing and see how you do.” And I did fine. And then he said, “What we can do is we can—you can sign up for a particular job. You’ll go in with a particular job. And this particular job you have the option to—.”

[Conversation regarding tape recorder redacted]

TS:

So he said, “You can actually sign up for six years instead of four, and if you do that you get a bonus.”

HT:

Right then?

TS:

Well you got a bonus once you finished your training. So once you went through the training, and you got to your first duty station, then you got your bonus. And I thought, “Well how much?”

And he said, “Well it’s two thousand dollars.”

And I thought, “That is all the money in the world!” [laughter] So I thought, “That’s a lot of money! Two thousand dollars!”

HT:

But you know now some of the army people are getting twenty—twenty-five thousand dollars.

TS:

Don’t even tell me, Hermann. I know. [laughter] So—

HT:

So two thousand was—

TS:

So I got two thousand dollars. But—so I had actually—then I went and talked to one of my friends. Her name was Cindi Archer now. And she was kind of interested in going in the air force. So when we went down to do our testing and—so we kind of got separated. We were going to sign up, the buddy thing, and do this. So we get through. And anyhow, she couldn’t—she couldn’t enlist because of—I think it was a hearing problem. I couldn’t remember if it was vision or hearing—but one of those things, so she couldn’t. I like raised my hand, and I did an early entry. I did a delayed entry program in March of 1980. You know, I could see her in the room as I’m raising my hand. And I saw her after and she said, “They wouldn’t let me in!”

I said, “Oh, okay.”

So I signed up by myself. So that was it. So I was going to go—I graduated from high school in June of 1980, and in July of 1980 I went into the air force.

HT:

So you were at Lackland during the summer time.

TS:

I was in Lackland. I was seventeen. It was hot, you know. But—

HT:

Because I was there in November and December—

TS:

Oh, yeah—still pretty hot.

HT:

—and it was still pretty hot. But I cannot imagine being there in the summertime. They said it was just unbearable.

TS:

They actually had a hurricane that came through Texas when I was there. And I remember, because our TI [training instructor] was—she was a real tiny woman—petite I guess you would say. She was petite. But she was with the Red Cross, and so she had to go, and they had to bring somebody else in to be our TI while she went and helped out. 

HT:

Well tell me about your basic training days.

TS:

Basic training—we were talking a little bit before about how I gained weight in basic training. Everybody always says they lost weight. Well before I went in the military I was in really, really good shape. I played basketball. I was on a basketball team in the summer. And I was on two softball teams. So I was very active. In the—in the air force—a lot of my friends that aren’t in the air force, and were in the army or something, always tease me about the minimal physical training standards that the air force had at that time. And it’s true. There wasn’t much. We had to work up to running a mile and a half over the course—I don’t remember how many weeks it was—but over the course of however many—went until—I think it was July 15. I was there for my birth—it was at least a month. So probably six weeks—six or eight weeks. So we had to work up to running a mile and a half, which was like really boring for me. And then you’re sitting in classrooms all day. You’re doing some drill. It’s not a lot of physical exertion. You know, you really do a lot of sitting around in the classroom.

And plus there were—at chow hall they made you eat three meals a day. And that’s something that I never really did. I never really ate three meals a day. I maybe eat one and a half, or two, or something; which probably wasn’t good for me. But they had some pan—I didn’t like eggs at that time at all, so I wouldn’t eat the eggs. And I didn’t really like greasy food, [laughs] so I didn’t have a lot of—a lot of the things didn’t look very appealing to me. But pancakes were good [laughs], so I ate pancakes in the morning. And I’m sure those pancakes put on most of my pounds. And plus I wasn’t running or doing anything.

HT:

Right

TS:

So basic training was really pretty—it’s so funny because I remember when the recruiter—my mom had to sign for me because I was only seventeen when I signed up. And the recruiter said something to her about, “Now the job she’s going in—she can’t really talk about it a lot.”

Mom says, “Well she doesn’t talk a whole lot anyhow [laughs], so it’s not going to be a problem.” And he said something about how, “she is going to have to, you know, fold her underwear.” And she said, “Now that might be a problem.” [laughter]

But not really, I mean it wasn’t—you had to like follow the rules. I mean there’re guidelines. They’re trying to make you follow rules. And I have always been a rule follower, you know. And yeah, so I mean it really was really pretty simple. You put—you make sure your stuff in your locker a certain way, and you make sure you fold your underwear. You get your bed made a certain way, you know. I mean I learned to like to make my bed and sleep in it in a way so that I could just slip out, and then kind of tuck it back in. I wasn’t really a restless sleeper, so I could sleep just basically in a prone position—kind of come out and tuck it in. So it was, you know, you’re marching around. It was great. I had no problem.

But the problem that I saw were all these girls who were just whining about having to buff a floor, or clean the bathroom, or—I mean it was such easy work. I mean it wasn’t hard work, really, when you think about it. It was just follow—you know, follow these steps.

I remember one—I didn’t have any demerits for a really super long time—through most of the—through most of my training. And near the latter part of the training the—there was—you know you did dorm duty—dorm guard I think they called it. And we got done with our training and the TI said, “Hey, they need somebody to be a dorm guard in this other dorm because of some emergency thing—you know—who wants to volunteer?” So I always volunteered. I didn’t have a problem volunteering, so I volunteered. And you had a flashlight they called the “Lackland Laser.” I don’t know, maybe—did you have—?

HT:

Yes, yes.

TS:

So they have the—you had like a flashlight with a little like yellow cone on it, and then you had like an armband that was like an orange arm band. And I had to give those to my buddy, right. You always had a buddy. And I gave the sleeve and the flashlight to my buddy, and she had to put that in my locker, right. So I go and do the dorm guard. In our dorm they had an inspection after—you know, while I’m over. And apparently my buddy put—did not put it back into my locker properly. I’m not quite sure how she put it in there, but she didn’t put it with—the sleeve on the flashlight properly—upside down or something.

So at the end of the day they went through demerits and told who had demerits and stuff like that. I remember the TI looking at me and she was—and I had no idea, you know, that I was going to get a demerit. And she was just like a Cheshire cat. She was so ready to pounce on me and just—you know, because it was like my first demerit. And it was like the first day that we were going to be—one of the days that we could go down and use the phones. So anyhow, she was like, “And Airman Strohmer,” you know, “she’s been here for how many weeks and she doesn’t even know how to put her flashlight back?” She was just ragging on me. You always had to say—you had to learn to say, “No excuse, ma’am.” You know you couldn’t like—

HT:

You couldn’t blame it on the other person.

TS:

You couldn’t blame it on the other person, right. And I wasn’t about to blame it on anybody else. But my buddy was like sitting there just shaking afraid that I was going to rat her out or something, and I didn’t.

So my punishment was that I couldn’t go down to the phones and call my family, or whatever that night. And so I’m like, “Well whatever I’ll just study.” So—but my buddy stayed with me, so I thought that was nice—a little loyalty thing. So that was cool.

But I really didn’t get very many demerits. And there was another time, too. Do you remember how like you couldn’t put trash in the trashcan?

HT:

Yes.

TS:

So you couldn’t put trash in the trashcan for a certain—after a certain hour. Because, once you clean it, and they come in and inspect it, you know. So for women you have certain female hygiene things that you have to kind of deal with it. It doesn’t—they aren’t on some kind of schedule. So you had to like put your tampon packaging somewhere. So I would put it back in my box, and put it in my locker. I would just put it back in the packaging. I know Hermann’s like, “Ah!” But so I didn’t—I didn’t want to put it in the trash, so I’d roll it up in toilet paper and put it back in my little box. We had an inspection early on, and the TI came in my locker and she discovered this. And she’s like, “Don’t you—don’t you think this is disgusting, Airman Strohmer?”

“No, ma’am.” I just didn’t you know—I didn’t crack. I didn’t—I think that they were trying to break you to see emotionally what you could do. I was so used to my sister Julie yelling at me—somebody yelling in my face—that it didn’t really bother me too much. So I—and my sister Julie: love you, Julie. I just, you know—[laughter] You have two sisters living together in the same room—you always have to wrangle. So anyhow, it didn’t bother me. And then she never bothered me again up until that time of the sleeve.

But basic training was really easy for me. Like the obstacle course was a piece of cake. I actually even got sharp shooter, which—I don’t know—whatever—I actually thought maybe the gal next to me was shooting my target [chuckles], because I don’t think she hit hers. But I got that, and I got honor grad. It was easy, but emotionally it was interesting to see how a lot of the other girls handled it. And a lot of them didn’t handle it very well. We had one girl who was—I don’t know—I don’t—she might have been from Jamaica, or somewhere or other. And she had—she was having a lot of problems emotionally and physically. She couldn’t keep her bed straight. So when she’d go down to chow we’d go back, and straighten her bed up and get it ready, so she’d stop getting demerits. So we could like—you know, because you’re whole team is looked at.

HT:

The whole squad, yeah.

TS:

Yeah, so we would fix it. Well one day she caught us fixing it, and she just went crazy. She thought we were trying to sabotage her, or whatever, and we weren’t. But so they—she actually got a psychological discharge I think. And but we had to like carry her bed down the stairs to the CQ’s [charge of quarters] office at night, and then bring it back up during the day. So they had to—they watched her until they discharged her.

But it was—it was just interesting to see a lot of the girls crying at night.

 

HT:

Was it—they were all very young. [It was] probably the first time they’d been away from home perhaps—

 

TS:

Yeah.

 

HT:

—for any length of time.  That sort of thing.

TS:

I think so. There were a couple of women—I think there was one woman who had been—maybe somehow she’d been through it before. I don’t know if she had ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] before, or what she had done. So she was okay. She was little older. But most of them were—you know—I’m sure I was one of the youngest at seventeen. But—

HT:

So most of them were what, maybe between the ages of maybe like seventeen and maybe twenty-five max?

TS:

Oh, absolutely.

HT:

Yeah.

TS:

Pretty much. I don’t—I don’t think there was anybody older. There could have been. We could look in that booklet and see faces. But no, they were pretty young. But it was striking to me just how little things like having to buff up you know a floor would set somebody off [laughter]. I mean I was used to a coach telling me, “Do this,” or my mother, “Do this.” And I just would—

HT:

I guess some people came from a background that didn’t have that.

TS:

Yeah, maybe so. So that was always—I think I fit in—the military structure wasn’t a problem for me—doing things by the book or whatever.

HT:

Well if we can just backtrack for a minute. How did your family and friends react when they found out you were going to join the military?

TS:

Well that’s interesting because I—my mother was fantastic. I mean she was very supportive. And my dad is not a real emotional person, but he—and he said—he gave me nothing but words of encouragement; but I never really was sure how he felt about it. I think my godfather—I remember he came up to me in church and said, “Therese, I heard you were going into the air force.” He said, “I thought you were going to college.”

And I said, “Well I was going to, but I decided to do this.”

And he said, “Well if it’s the money” —he said, “I’ll pay your way—help you pay your way through”. He didn’t say pay. I think he said, “Help pay your way through college.”

I said, “That’s all right. I’m not really sure what I want to do in college, so I think I want to do this.”

So he was concerned for sure. My friends gave a big party. There were two of us from my class that were going. There were maybe more, but two that we knew—Randy Schnowski, that went in the navy, and I went into the air force. And they gave us a big party. So they were pretty supportive. I think they were—most everybody was surprised that I wasn’t going on to college, because I had some scholarships and offers to MSU [Michigan State University]—to play sports. You know, I could go on a softball team pretty much anywhere. So it was—I think they were surprised.

But I found out actually just recently, my mom told me—she said, “I was never really worried about everybody leaving the house.” She said, “But I was worried about you in the military.” She said, “I didn’t know what—what—you know, what it would be like for you.” So she was worried, but she never ever let on. She never said anything negative about it. She was always super supportive. But I never found out she was really super worried about it until a couple of years ago. So that was pretty odd.

I mostly had support. I would say everybody was supportive, but people were curious as to why I wasn’t going into college.

HT:

Well, after you got in, did it meet all your expectations? Or did you have any expectations before you went in?

TS:

I’m sure I probably did have expectations. “Did it meet all my expectations”—that’s too broad of a question for me. I guess. I—and I’m sure in some ways, yes; and in some ways, no. The structure of it was pretty much—the negative part—and I think this is just basic—any bureaucracy is—the paper work, you know, you have to—in fact in that booklet I brought I saw one of the—you had to have a form for everything. Like, I had to have a form signed by my commander to say I could move from this dorm room to this dorm room. Or to buy a car I had to have my commander sign—you couldn’t just buy a car. I had to have my—and this was in Germany—I had to have him sign to transfer it from one sergeant to me and stuff. So, just the paperwork that seemed a little excessive—it didn’t—I mean I knew you had to do it. You had to fill it out and check—you know, mark off whatever you had to do. But it just seemed a little bit nutty to me. But the structure of it was really good.

I think that—probably getting ahead a little bit—in retrospect most of the people that I worked with in the military were really sharp. I mean they were really smart people. They were all in intel [intelligence]. They had a good brain on them. Not all of them had good common sense, but they were smart people. And I would say very few people did not have a really strong work ethic that I worked around. And so it was to get the job done—you know whatever the job was you worked to get it done. And you worked—you just worked to get it done. You didn’t bitch and moan. Not that nobody bitched and moaned—of course they did.

HT:

Right.

TS:

But you got it done, and then you went and bitched and moaned later [laughter]. It’s not so much while you’re doing it.

And that sense of like a team effort, and just mission—you know, mission minded. I was really surprised to not see that so much in the civilian world. I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and it just seems like that—in the military there’s just an atmosphere where it’s much more about doing—getting the job done rather than a lot of petty backstabbing and stuff—although, that stuff went on too.

HT:

Well after you finished your training—I guess you said six weeks in Lackland.

TS:

Yeah, something like that.

HT:

Okay, because that’s [unclear]. Now where did you go next for technical training?

TS:

Yes, I went—well I signed up to be a cryptologic linguist. And I didn’t know what language I was going to get. And I didn’t know if I was going to go to that place on the East Coast, or Monterey.  But I got to go to Monterey. And I didn’t know much about Monterey or what DLI—Defense Language Institute—would be [chuckles]. It was like heaven on earth. I mean just—have you been to Monterey?

HT:

No.

TS:

Oh my gosh, it’s just the most beautiful setting, you know—up on a hill, overlooking the Monterey Bay. It was just unbelievably beautiful as far as scenery goes. And as far as the base went— it was an army base, but it was—you know, all the services were there. You had the Marines, you had the [U.S.] Army, you had the [U.S.] Navy, and you had the [U.S.] Air Force. And I don’t know, Coast Guard might have been there too. But I’m not sure.

HT:

And what was the name of the base? Do you recall?

TS:

Well I always remember it was the Defense Language Institute, in Monterey, California—DLI. I’m sure there’s some other name for it, but DLI is—I think they still call it that. But it—but it’s an—yeah, it’s an army base. So it had—I’m sure there’s a name to it. We can look that up, I guess. [The Defense language Institute Foreign Language Center is located at the Presidio of Monterey, California] 

But when I got there I did not—they were full in the air force barracks. And so there were two army barracks: one was up at the top of the hill that was C barracks, and one at the bottom of the hill—A and B barracks or something like that. And so I got put with—up on the top of the hill with—in this army barracks. And I—well whatever, you know. Whoever I’m going to stay with it didn’t bother—you know—what—it didn’t bother me. But I remember I walked up with my little, you know, bag; and I walked into the dorm. And there were a couple army people standing around the hallway talking. And they saw me and they go—they said, “Zoomie.” And then they kind of looked at each other, and then they like went back into their rooms. It was like, “Huh.” I’m not quite sure if they’re trying to—you know—if they’re trying to insult me or what. But I was like, “All right.” So I went in my room, and my roommate wasn’t there. But she had—she had been there very cozy in this room because, you know, in a barracks room you get—it’s 50/50, right? Well hers it was more like 75/25. She had like 75 percent of the room, and there was this just really squished area for this—for whoever came in after her. And I think she might have probably known someone; and she made sure she had the room to herself—you know. So I had not very much room. And she was like a—I do not remember her name—but, she was [pause]—it looked like she wanted to be a jockey. She was very, very petite. And she had like a saddle—like an English saddle—and, maybe some other jockey type things like a—you know—what do you whack your horse with?

HT:

The whip?

TS:

A whip, yeah, and a hat kind of on her side. And I just thought, “Well that’s really curious.” And—so anyhow, I finally met her, but she didn’t really talk to me for the first few weeks. And then one day she said, “Do you want to go to eat?”

And I’m like, “Okay.”

So we went out to Jack in the Box [California fast food chain]. She had a car. And she—so she finally talked to me, but I think she just was studying hard, and had this disruption of a person that was coming into her room and stuff.

But so I was up in the army barracks so I didn’t really know anybody—you know, because you meet a lot of people in the barracks. But the army people didn’t really want to talk to me very much for some reason. So I was like, “All right, whatever.” So I just studied—

HT:

They called you a zoomie. Did you ever find out what a zoomie was?

TS:

Zoomie was like air force. Zoomie, yeah. You’re “squid” was navy. “Jarhead,” you know, Marines. So, zoomie. What were the—what was the army? What did we call them? I’m sure that was had—“grunt” probably. That’s probably [laughs]

HT:

Little nicknames.

TS:

Yeah, yeah. Something like that, so—

HT:

Well did—did you roommate ever give you more space in the dorm room?

 TS:      Oh, no. No, never did. I never got any more space. But I—eventually they opened up a space in the air force barracks and I got to move in to a room there, and I had my half. So I don’t know how long I was there—probably—maybe it was a month, or a month and a half, or something like that.

HT:

So how long was your training at—?

TS:

At Monterey—

HT:

Monterey.

TS:

—it was a year. And I got assigned Russian as a language, because you could say, you know, what languages do you want. So you kind of ask around and see what’s the easiest. [chuckles] Well they had German, and they had Russian, and they had Arabic. I think [those] were the three languages at the time—and Korean. So you could—you could sign up for them. So I put down—I put down German and Russian. And I don’t know if I put another one down, but—because I heard Korean and Arabic were the two hardest. So I thought, “Well I could—.”

HT:

Well Russian could not have been easy, seeing as they have a different alphabet.

TS:

But—yeah, it’s real similar though. I mean it’s “ah, bet, ve, ghe, deh, yeh, yo.” I mean a, b—it’s really similar, so. It really—it’s not, I don’t think, that difficult of a language when you’re talking about learning a Chinese script or—

HT:

Because you had not had any kind of language training.

TS:

Just Spanish.

HT:

Just Spanish.

TS:

Yeah.

HT:

Wow.

TS:

So it was a year in Monterey, which was just awful.

HT:

What was a typical day like for you?

TS:

A typical day I would—I’d get up about six or so and I would study my—study my vocabulary, and then go to chow, and then get dressed—well I’d be dressed. But I’d get ready for class, go to class, and then you’d like have a particular lesson. You always had a vocabulary quiz every day. And then you’d have—maybe not every day but pretty often. And then you did like you spoke it, and then you did read. So you did reading, and you did writing, and you did listen—

HT:

So it was total immersion where you could speak nothing but Russian after a while?

TS:

You know it was not total immersion. They do that now, but it wasn’t total immersion. You—they tried to get you to speak—they spoke in English, and—

HT:

The instructors?

TS:

Your instructors. And you know then as you progressed it got more immersion. But I was never, never, never good at speaking it. Because I was—I was a shy person and so I didn’t—I didn’t like to speak anyhow. I’d rather write—you know, I could do the writing fine, and I certainly could do the vocabulary—that’s just memorization. But speaking always made me nervous.

HT:

So did class last all day long?

TS:

Yeah, it was all day. You had a lunch break and then—yeah, you went in the morning session and then you went in—went to lunch, and then you had an afternoon session.

HT:

Wow.

TS:

It’s just like an eight hour day, though. It wasn’t anything—it seemed—it didn’t seem—

HT:

It seems kind of intense though to have classes—the same thing, you know, for four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. I guess in order to learn that you had to do that.

TS:

Yeah, I guess so. I mean I didn’t know anything different, so—[laughs]. You know, it just seemed normal to me.

HT:

While you were at Monterey did you have parades—anything—military type endeavors?

TS:

Very little. I mean we had—

HT:

Inspections, [unclear]

TS:

Yeah. We had inspections in our dorms, and they had, you know, surprise—what did they call it?—health and welfare inspections: where in the middle of the night they’d come in and make sure you weren’t sleeping with somebody; or whatever, and you weren’t doing drugs. And things like that. And you’d have to go out and do pee [urine] tests occasionally, and things like that. But really we did—for the longest time we really didn’t have a lot of formations—you know, what is that?—in the morning we’d line—I can’t even remember the term, Hermann, that’s how awful. But we’d go in the morning for—to line up for inspection. Until the end, and we got a different commander, and he started having us do more of that. But I was up in the army barracks, you know, at first; so I was not even connected to the—to the air force.

HT:

So you had all these barracks around, and then you had, I guess, a school—

TS:

Yeah, you had—

HT:

—building somewhere?

TS:

—classrooms kind of all—there were buildings all over for the school, because there were different sections. There was—the air force—like each—[pause] each language—well, like the air force had its training and its—it was all air force I guess is what I’m trying to say. We didn’t mix, like the air force and the— army.

HT:

The different services were not mixed.

TS:

No, no. And mostly it was all enlisted that I had. I might—Tamara—Tamara, my partner, had German little later. And she was in an—unusual in that it was—she was like the only enlisted person. She was with a lot of officers. So it was—so that was unusual. And I think—but I think it was still air force. I don’t know if she had mixed. But yeah, so the army would have—like they had their—the Russian classrooms down the hill, and ours were up the hill. And then the Korean—all the languages had different things. So we were spread out all over—all over DLI.

HT:

And I’m assuming you were in school Monday through Friday only, no weekend.

TS:

Right.

HT:

So what did you do on the weekends?

TS:

Oh, just—they—you know, some of my friends that went to training there with me said it was just like a college campus, really. I mean and—it was—you know, certainly more so for me in the air force than the army—where they did run. They ran every morning. You know, God bless them. [Laughter] Because we never ever ran in the air force, except for like we had to do an annual— your PT training. So we did that, and you weighed in, and then you—you did your run—little mile and a half run. Or some of them could walk [laughs] in the air force.

HT:

So your weekends were free, so I guess you would do some—

TS:

Yeah, your weekends were—

HT:

—sight-seeing.

TS:

—free, too. You were free. Oh—

HT:

Except for study time. I’m sure you had to study.

TS:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I studied all the time. But I always had been a person who studies. I could study—take my flashcards with me because I’m going, you know, out at the office, or whatever, and practice my vocab[ulary].

So yeah, so we’d go down to—I didn’t have a car, so I started to meet people when I joined the basketball team. So there was a base basketball team, and that was all services. So it was most—there was a couple of people in the air force. It was all sorts. I don’t remember marine, but there was navy, army, and air force. And we were actually—interestingly—so we’re on an army base, but the navy post-graduate school was in Monterey; and so, basically, we would play on their schedule. We played navy teams. So we went around and played like in Alameda [California]. We actually went to Reno, Nevada, and played. We—I can’t even remember, but a lot of places in California. And I remember we did go to Reno. And we went to some other place in—around—you know outside of California. So that was great. So I got to travel with this team all over, seeing great things. So that was a lot of fun too, playing basketball. And so that was actually how I started, you know, to meet a lot of my friends and stuff.

HT:

Well, do you recall any interesting or unusual things that might have happened to you during that year?

TS:

[pause] You know I did have one interesting thing happen to me. [pause] I— [pause] on the basketball team there was a gal who came up to me and said—at night—we were walking back to our barracks or something. She said, “I just want you to know,” and she gave me a card, “you need to keep this card. There’s a witch hunt going on on this base, and so you need to be careful. And if you need to contact an attorney, that card has the name of an attorney for you to contact.”

And I’m like, “What are you—what are you talking about a witch hunt, you know?” [laughs] “A witch hunt for what?”

And she said, “Well, for gays in the military.”

And I said, “Well, I’m not gay.”

And she looked at me like, “What?”

And I was—you know, I was lying to her but—because I wasn’t going to tell her! I had told—I had—wasn’t in a relationship. I hadn’t, you know—but so that scared the bejesus out of me for sure. And so I thought, “Gosh, what’s that all about?” So they eventually did kick out [some people – TS added later] while I was there—it was an odd number—I think it was seven or nine, something like that. They were mostly men and one female. And so while I was there there were a number of witch hunts. And some of the people I associated with—mostly in the army—they were investigated, and called in, and things like that. And—

HT:

And you were totally unaware of all of this going on?

TS:

I was aware of it going on. But I think part of the deal was the services didn’t talk to each other as far as their investigative things. So I was fortunate that I was in the air force, because investigations were mostly, at that time, in the army and the navy. So I—but yeah—one—yeah, there was—so that was kind of—that was kind of interesting. So I knew to be really wary of that.

And the other thing was that there was a sexual harassment charge brought against my basketball coach; and I had to testify on his behalf, actually. Which in retrospect I look back and I wonder, because I—he never did—you know, I had nothing but good things to say about him; but I don’t know now if he was guilty of—

HT:

Now, was he in the military?

TS:

He was in the military. I believe he was in the army. I don’t remember his name or anything. I think he got cleared, but somebody had brought up sexual harassment charges on him. Other than that, it was just going to school and checking out Monterey and Carmel. It was great.

HT:

Well, after you left Monterey, where was your next duty station?

TS:

Well, my training wasn’t done yet. So I—in—at language school you learn the language, wherever—you know, Monterey. And then you go and you learn to apply it to your job, the technical aspect. So you have to learn the technical aspect of it. So I went to Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas—in San Angelo, Texas. I was there for—well let’s see, I left Monterey in probably July or August—no, it was August of ’81. And then I went to Texas in the middle of summer. And I was there until I think it was March of ’82.

HT:

So you had a year and a half of language training.

TS:

I had quite a lot.

HT:

Yeah, gosh.

TS:

So, yeah so I went to San Angelo, Texas, next. And that was great.

HT:

You said you actually learned how to apply your language skills at Goodfellow. Is that correct?

TS:

Right.

HT:

You were listening or transcribing or—explain to me exactly what you did, because I’m not exactly sure—if you can.

TS:

We went to a place called “Secret Square” [laughs] to learn the technical aspects of our job. And I don’t know actually how much I can say about it. I’m sure that there’s a lot out there. It’s like you learn language, and then you have to learn how to do skills associated with those things you described.

HT:

So reading and listening.

TS:

Yeah.

HT:

But not a whole lot of talking?

TS:

No.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

Thank goodness for me. [laughter] And you learned a lot of the technical terms too. So that was another part of it. So you learned—in Monterey you learned—actually it was a lot of military terminology, but also like common words. It became more military terminology too, so that was part of it.

[End CD 1—Begin CD 2]

HT:

Well, did anything interesting happen at Goodfellow Air Force Base?

TS:

Oh gosh, you know, I don’t—nothing—

HT:

No witch hunts or anything like that?

TS:

Oh, I’m sure there were, you know. We had—you’re told—you know, do you remember like having briefings where they say, “You can’t go to this bar or this place, it’s off limits”? Do you remember any briefings like that?

HT:

No.

TS:

Okay. So that would always pique some of the interest of some of the people that I hung around. They’d: “Oh, I wonder what this bar is that we can’t go to.” And in Texas you were—where we were it was a dry—well it wasn’t—what was—it was the kind of county where you went in a restaurant, and you had to like buy a club card to be served alcohol. Did you go to Texas at all? Do you remember that? So you had to—

HT:

Nothing like that.

TS:

So you had to like buy—it wasn’t—so it couldn’t have been like dry. But you had to like buy a club card, so you had to give them a name. So some of these clubs we went to, we gave a lot of fake names. You didn’t give your real name. And I remember one of my friends did give her real name, but it was pretty common so—it was interesting. So we would go to some of the clubs that were off limits and stuff. It was interesting, because it’s like, you know, you’re tempting fate a little. I mean we had a clear—a security clearance and stuff like that.

HT:

And could you have been in kind of hot water if they had found out you had gone to these “forbidden places?”

TS:

Yes.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

Certainly. Yeah.

HT:

Gosh. Well where did you go after you finished your training at Goodfellow—Goodfellow—

TS:

I got to go to—

HT:

—is it Goodfellow?

TS:

Yeah, Goodfellow. I got to go to Germany.

HT:

Oh, okay.

TS:

I got to go to Germany.

HT:

And where in Germany did you go?

TS:

I went to Hahn Air Base.

HT:

And where is Hahn?

TS:

Hahn is in the Hunsrück of Germany, which is—it’s south of Frank—

[Tape error]

TS:

—away from the base it was, so it was a—so you had to commute up to the—

HT:

So as a student—so did you live on the economy [not in base housing] or—

TS:

I lived on base at first, and then I decided that it would be wise to move off base. So I did live on the economy.

HT:

And how did you like living in Germany?

TS:

Oh, it was fantastic. I was there three years, and it was really, really, fantastic. Great people, just—it just was a wonderful country to explore. The food was great. The people were great. You could go and sight-see the ruins along the river. There were lots of festivals, you know: wine festivals, beer festivals, pig roasts. There were just—every weekend there was something you could do, so it was really great.

HT:

So your job was 8[am] to 5[pm], Monday through Friday?

TS:

I did—I was fortunate that I didn’t have a lot of shift work when I was in the military. So I did work a lot of, you know, 9 to 5, or 8 to 5, or whatever. But I—I did—at first I had some shift work, and then they made me an evaluator of the other—after a very short period of time. And I thought they were crazy to make me an evaluator.

HT:

So you would evaluate the work of other people?

TS:

Yeah, all the other—

HT:

Wow.

TS:

I think there were sixty Russian linguists there, so I evaluated them.

HT:

So were you their supervisor, or you just evaluated their—?

TS:

Well, I was—I was not their supervisor. I was—there was a department of evaluation, and there was a department of operations—department of training. And I was in the operations aspect: being a linguist, and doing the job, and stuff. And then there became an opening for another train—evaluator for—in the Russian in the eval—in DOV [Department of Evaluation ?], and I didn’t even apply for it. They just assigned me to it. And I like—I was so young. I mean how old was I then? I was in my early twenties—eighteen, twenty, twenty-one maybe; something like that—maybe not even. Maybe I was twenty. But I can’t evaluate—these guys had been doing this job [laughs] for, you know—

HT:

Were all these people—

TS:

—a long time.

HT:

—military, or were they—

TS:

All military.

HT:

All military. All air force?

TS:

All air force, yeah. Yeah. So that was great, but it was interesting to—I learned that evaluating it was great for me [pause] in a lot of ways in that it made me—it gave me more self conf—I mean I was always—I’ve always been a pretty confident person, but I certainly didn’t think that this was a responsibility. And you learn in the military that they really don’t give you a job that they don’t think you can do. You don’t get promoted. So that gave me confidence even though—I can’t say I was intimidated; but I always felt a little out of place sometimes, you know, evaluating guys who had been like doing that for ten and fifteen years, or whatever. I just always—but what I found was that I could—I was never the best linguist, you know. I was never—I could never speak it really all that well, because of what I told you before. But I had a good knack of understanding what was going on. I could catch on to the situation quickly. So I had that analytical ability that was useful. So that—that was a good talent I had. So even though maybe I couldn’t catch every single word I could know the important words, and know what was going on. You know what I’m saying? So that ability, I think, benefited me. And so I could—and then I knew who the best linguists were, so I would have them help me transcribe things. So we could get like—I could get the whole picture together. So it was great. It was—it was great. I mean it was a fantastic job. I’ve never had a job that was so fantastic.

HT:

What—during your time in Germany, did you get to travel a great deal around Europe?

TS:

I did. I traveled as much as I possibly could. That’s where I spent most of my money, was traveling. I went—I went to France a couple times. I went to England a couple times. Plus I played ball still—

HT:

Okay.

TS:

—and I did in Goodfellow too. So I played—actually—and I played softball too in DLI. So I was always on a softball and basketball team the whole time. So I got to travel around and play at the different bases in Augsburg, and Bittburg, and Frankfurt, and Rhein-Main and—we actually got—we actually got to go to Berlin too, with the softball team. This was great, because it was East, and West Germany; and East and West Berlin at the time. So that was kind of fun. So yeah, I traveled a lot. All of—my mom came and visited me in ’84, in the—in the autumn of ’84, and we took a trip all over the place. We went down to Switzerland and all over Germany. I went to Holland and I went to—

HT:

Did you ever go to Italy?

TS:

I did not get to Italy. No, I always regret that I didn’t get to Italy. I did go to Spain. I went to quite a few places in my three years.

HT:

Did you drive a car while you were over there?

TS:

I did.

HT:

You did?

TS:

I did, yeah. I had three cars while I was over there: one for every year, I guess. I bought an Audi. Great little—my first car, a little Audi Fox—orange car—Germany’s very colorful with their cars.

HT:

Because the climate is so bleak most of the time.

TS:

[Laughter] I don’t know if that’s the reason, Hermann [chuckles]. Is that it? So I had—I bought this car because some of my friends said, “Oh, this is a great guy to buy from. And I hear this car is really good.” So I went and I looked at it. I didn’t drive it—I just bought it. And I gave the guy the money and [laughs] he goes, “Okay, here you go.” And it was a stick shift, and I never had driven a stick shift. So I had to call one of my friends. You know, you didn’t have cell phones then so you had to like—I had to call the base, and get his room, and anyhow. He came out and drove it back for me, and then taught me how to drive it. So that was my first car. And that was actually a great car, but it had one little problem where the fan didn’t kick on. It wouldn’t turn off, so I’d have to open the hood up and click the fan off. They kept trying to fix it, and it never got fixed. So I finally sold that car. I was sick of that problem, even though it was a great car. I sold it to one of my friends who totaled it like the next week. And then I bought a—what was my second car?—a Fiat.

HT:

Oh, okay. All right.

TS:

Exactly. You know what the Fiat stands for?

HT:

“Fix or repair daily.”

TS:

Yes, or “Fix it again, Tony.” Something like that. Yeah, fix it—

HT:

I had a Fiat one time.

TS:

Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what it—yeah. So that was nothing—and I bought that from my supervisor, and that was nothing but a pain. I’m sure he was delighted to get rid of it. So I had that one for about eight months, and I think I drove it for a month. And then I got a great [Volkswagen] Beetle Super—the Super Beetle, whatever they call them. Anyhow, it’s got the extra room on the dashboard. That was a great car. That car, I remember we—I had to—you know how Volkswagens are. The defroster doesn’t work, but the heater works great, right? So I was driving once and it was like an ice—it was sleeting, so my windshield was freezing and I couldn’t—you know, I couldn’t keep the ice off of it. So I had to park it, and I parked it at a friend’s on my way out to work at this off-site thing. And I couldn’t make it there because my windshield was just total ice. So I had to park it, and then I went with this friend and we continued on. And went back, I don’t know, a week later, because we had this big storm. And the snow and it was like—so there was like a pile—I don’t know, a foot of snow at least, and just my little VW is just buried. Opened the door, turned the key, and that puppy just starts right up. [chuckling] You know what I mean? That was the great thing about that car. So, yeah.

HT:

Well after you—what—do you have any interesting stories that you can tell about your time in Germany?

TS:

What do you want to know about?

HT:

Well [pause] some military stories or—

TS:

I have a story about when I [pause] was on the softball team, and we were going to go to Berlin. And I got a TDY, temporary duty [yonder], to England right—it was like right at the time that we were supposed to go play Berlin. And I was really mad, because I wanted to go to Berlin. I had never been. So I was in Mildenhall and I talked to my supervisor. And he said, “I tell you what, I’ll—we’ll get you—you need to do this TDY, but you can go from Mildenhall—I’ll let you get a pass to go back to Berlin, so you can meet your team there and play, and then come back. So I got a military hop from Mildenhall to Berlin, and I took a plane through the [West Berlin Air] Corridor. So that was kind of neat flying through that corridor you know where the MiGs [Russian military aircraft] are kind of checking you out and stuff. So that was kind of neat going there. And then looked at—in Berlin it was really neat walking around, and seeing the [Berlin] Wall. That was quite interesting. I don’t remember much about the game but I wish I’d had more time there.

And then we took the duty train from Berlin back to Frankfurt. So I had—we’re on the train and we’re—you know the military. There’s a lot of people that like to drink, and especially if they’re athletes, I think. So they—the men’s baseball team and the women’s softball team played in Berlin, and then took the duty train back. And they were just being pretty wild on this train. And at one of the checkpoints, somebody shouted out at the Russian guards some obscenity or—I don’t know if they mooned them, or what they did. They did something that made the Russians basically get on the train and take—and ask for every person’s papers on the train.

HT:

Oh, I got you. Now you were in East Berlin at this time?

TS:

We were in East Germany. I don’t even know where we were in East Germany. We were somewhere in the middle of the night in East Germany, because they only let you travel at night on the duty train. So—because they didn’t want you to see, right, so it was dark. So I’m thinking, “Great. I’m just going to go sit in my room.”

And my friends are like, “Oh! Speak Russian to them!”

I’m like, “Don’t you tell them I know Russian.” I was really nervous that something would happen.

They were like, “Oh, speak—.”

And I’m like, “Just shut up about it, and I’ll just so sit in my room and be quiet.”

So they—they took all our papers, and we waited for a while. I don’t even know how long, but it seemed like forever for me. But the finally let our train go. But when we got back to Frankfurt, our coaches made us all sit on the floor in the train station and they—they had our I—our military ID and our papers for going in and out of East Germany; and they would not give them to us until somebody confessed. And we were there for hours, and hours, and hours. And I couldn’t even tell you. I’m sure somebody finally, you know, ‘fessed up, because they weren’t going to let us go. And they weren’t going to let us play another game again until somebody confessed, you know. So that was kind of—

HT:

That could have been kind of a scary situation.

TS:

Well, it was just kind of frustrating in Frankfurt, but it was extremely nerve-wracking on the train.

HT:

Right. Well, after Germany, where was your next duty station?

TS:

After Germany I went to Fort Meade, Maryland, to the NSA [National Security Agency]. And that was great. That was quite—that was quite an interesting place to work, for sure. Because I mean you’re—when I first got there, I can’t remember who the commander of that base was, but he was more the mentality where he wanted you to blend in. So they didn’t—you didn’t wear a uniform—you wore civilian clothes to work and stuff.

HT:

In Germany, did you wear civilian clothes?

TS:

No.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

Totally wore—it was—we were a mobile unit [in Germany – TS added later], so we were like tactical, so we actually wore our greens a lot. Had alerts and all that stuff. And so it—and at NSA, it was like the first month I was there, you wore civilian clothes. And then a new commander came in, and I wish—I do know his name, but I just can’t think of it. He totally is like, “No. We’re going to be—go back to the military way” —so that you had to wear your uniform. Which was fine with me, because it was a lot harder for me to pick out something to wear [laughs] than just put on my uniform. So that was—that was great.

HT:

And so how long were you at Fort Meade?

TS:

I was there about a little over a year. It was—so I got there in ’85—in the spring of ’85. And I was off for—pretty much all for—I didn’t know if I wanted to reenlist or not. Because I signed up for six years—

HT:

Right, and your six years was almost up.

TS:

—for the two grand, yeah. And then they started having—one of the things was that I got promoted, and I was an NCO [non-commissioned officer], and they started wanting to make you do a lot more jumping through hoops, and supervising people. And I wasn’t interested in that. I liked the job. I liked doing the job. And then plus I was—it was this civilian/military mix of people, a lot of smart people, so there was a lot more bureaucracy at Fort Meade than anywhere I’d been. And a lot more—I don’t know—waste I think. A lot of waste I thought, as far as people’s time: taking really long lunches and you know, just—

HT:

So did you work with civilians, as well as—

TS:

I worked with—yeah. I was—

HT:

—some military, at Fort Meade?

TS:

Yeah. I actually was a trainer there. I trained civilians, enlisted, and officers—foreign people too—on a particular system. And kind of rewrote the training [manual – TS added later], but that’s what I got my, you know, medal for. But it was—it was a great job. I mean I loved the job. But you just started having—they’re like, “Well you need to start doing these different things as an NCO.” And I wasn’t so sure—I didn’t want to move away from the job. Although, I was more removed from being a linguist than most of the linguists. The job I did as a trainer was not so much linguist stuff anymore.

HT:

So what type of training did you do?

TS:

I trained on a—basically a computer system—how to use this computer system, which was really a lot of fun. It was like in ’85. And I think about today, the technology that we use—it seems so mind boggling. And I remember I took—COBOL [Common Business Oriented Language, computer programming language]? Is that the—?

HT:

Yes.

TS:

I took that class, and I—I have to say it was the most boring class I’ve ever taken in my life. And I usually like school, but that was super boring. And then you’re like, “How do you add two plus two?” You know, all the DOS [Disk Operating System, early computer operating system] based commands, things like that. So you—so I learned a lot about computers then, which was really quite interesting to me. And you just look back today and think—you don’t even have to know that stuff now. You just push a button.

HT:

How things have changed in the last twenty-five years is just amazing.

TS:

Oh, yeah! I mean talk about there’s more technology in my cell phone than I’m sure in that whole system that I—

HT:

I know. Yeah.

TS:

So no, it was great. So I didn’t know what to do, and they were starting to have—the Graham Rudman[-Hollings Balanced Budget Act] bill came into effect. They were starting to do budget cutting in ’85-’86. I don’t know if you remember anything about that. So they made this—everybody who was—who their ETS [expiration, term of service] was within in a certain time-frame had to decide whether they were going to enlist or not. And they were actually offering bonuses then to reenlist. And I was going on twenty-three. Think about that. I was going on twenty-three. Did I get out when I was twenty-three? Let’s see. Yeah, twenty-three. So I was twenty-three when I got out. But I was thinking, six years—you know, look at how much I had done in that six years as such a young person, and what responsibility I had. And I thought that I didn’t want to turn into some of the people that I saw NSA—who I thought were lazy, and taking advantage of the system. And so I thought, “You know, I wonder what else is out there for me.” Plus the hassle of being a lesbian in the military at that time when they wanted to kick you out, and having the clearance, and the pressure of that—if you stayed in any one place long people get to know you too well, you know. So I was worried about that. So—but there was a lot of things—reasons that I wanted to get out. But I loved the job. I loved the military.

HT:

Because it sounds fascinating.

TS:

I had a fantastic time. I had a fantastic time, but I just—I just—I couldn’t even put my finger on it. There were a lot of different things going on then. So I thought, “Well let me try—let me try some different things.” And I—as a civilian, some of my friends were like—they had connections to the civilian jobs—and they were like, “Therese, I could get you in this office, and you could work.”

And I’m like, “I really don’t think I want to do that.” [laughs] I kind of wanted to move away from this intel community. And one of the things that I did not like about the intel community, it was not the majority—it was just a tiny fraction of the people, but I—I would meet people who because they had—they knew secrets, and they had intelligence: they were arrogant about it, and thought they were better people than people who did not have this knowledge. It was such an arrogance that I just thought was out of—really out of place. And it really, really bothered me quite a lot, especially at NSA. And to see it so—I did see it in other places, but not so much as here because your contact was—it was a huge thing. So that really bothered me quite a lot. And it still bothers me to this day when I think about all that has gone on. But I had a lot of respect for the way that rules were in place, you know, for securing—you know, for secrets and things like that. And there was a lot of checks, so I had a lot of respect for that whole process in the intelligence community.

HT:

In the six years that you were in the military, did you ever run across any discrimination because you were a woman?

TS:

I can’t—I can’t say that I ever did. I think that I was fortunate. I mean I got promoted. I got these great jobs. And I had mentors that—men and women that really helped me—you know, steered me into doing things, taking certain classes, and doing certain things that enhanced my career—that I didn’t even know was doing that.

HT:

Did you work mainly with men?

TS:

When I worked as an evaluator, I was the only female in that office. And that was okay. But it—it was funny because it was a tiny—much smaller room than this—and there were—how many were there? There were seven or eight. And everybody smoked in the office, except for one guy— his name was Dion. I wish I could remember his last name. But Dion, I think he had asthma too, and he basically sat by the door and would open the door and get—because they had to close the door because of the secrets. And so yeah, I felt—I look back and I feel really bad for Dion.

HT:

So did you smoke as well?

TS:

I smoked at the time.

HT:

Oh.

TS:

And I also drank a ton of coffee. And one day I remember—because you just drank coffee all day long. And I remember one day I went to write something, and my hand was just like shaking. And Dion was sitting there.

And I go, “What the heck?”

And he goes, “Therese, do you know how much caffeine you put in your system every day?” He says, “That’s what it is.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “Yeah.”

So I really—I started cutting back on coffee then. And I smoked. And I quit in—was it ‘90? So I haven’t smoked since ’90. But it was like, you know—I actually didn’t smoke before I joined the military. And I didn’t smoke in basic training. I picked it up casually in Monterey, and then it just increased. It just kept increasing. It was so cheap. I mean now it’s what, forty bucks for a pack?

HT:

Or more. [laughs]

TS:

And you could—I could get a pack of cigarettes for $3.50, I remember. I mean not a pack, a carton.

HT:

A carton, yes.

TS:

A carton.

HT:

Oh yeah.

TS:

So—I forget what the question is [laughter]. I’m sure I didn’t answer it. Well harassment: no—or, discrimination.

HT:

Harassment, discrimination, yeah.

TS:

I did have one incident at Hahn where I was going to the NCO club. It was great because they had slot machines there. It was kind of fun, new. I’d never played slots. And you could put like nickels in and play for hours. I didn’t care about winning. But it was like a time killer thing if you’re waiting for somebody. So I met—I was meeting some friends there, and I was sitting up at the bar. And this guy came up to me and was talking to me. He was just drunk, just extremely drunk. And he wanted me to go with him. And I’m like, “No. I’m not—I’m with some friends. I’m not going to go with you.” Well he grabbed me by the arm, and he started pulling me out of the NCO club. And you know how like where you have doors—like you have a door and a foyer and a door to go outside? Okay. So I’m in this—he pulled me to this area, and was kind of trying to get me out the door. And my friend Cynthia saw me and she was sitting next to a couple of very large men, African American men. And she saw what was going on and got them. And they came and pulled me off. It so—it just so happened that he was the SP—like a—he was in charge. He was a sergeant in charge of all the other SPs on the base, security police. And the two guys that came and got him were actually under him, and they—

HT:

So he had just had too much to drink?

TS:

He’d had too much to drink and he was—yeah. So I mean I never—I didn’t press charges or do anything like that. I was just glad that somebody came to pull him away. But that—that, you know—that was my only incident like that. And I didn’t—I didn’t have any kind of discrimination or harassment that I can even think of. I mean there were little things like I didn’t—I was very—I did not want to be called a girl. I still have that thing—but a lot of the—when I was an evaluator, a lot of the older sergeants, you know—especially one who I can picture in my mind. He was a real tall skinny guy, real nice, real smart, but he always called me girl. And he knew that he—he wasn’t doing it on purpose, it was just like he was trying not to. But he would say “girl” a lot, so I would just give him a hard, hard time. And I’ve since kind of gotten over that [chuckles] mostly, unless like they say, “girls and men.” You know, like if they’re talking about the girl’s basketball team and the men’s basketball team, that irritates me. That’s sexist still.

HT:

It should be women’s.

TS:

Women’s, right. For some reason “women’s” is sometimes seen as a negative. I don’t know why that is. So—so that kind of stuff. But other than that, no. I had—I had great ratings. Everybody was fantastic to me. I was so naive. I really didn’t understand how the military worked. And looking back I am just amazed at all the good people that really helped me. I’m very—I was very fortunate that I worked with people who were really bright, and who had my best interests, and the best interests of the military in mind. So I’ve got nothing—bad to say.

HT:

So after you decided not to re-up, what did you do next?

TS:

I—I figured I would go back to school eventually—or go to school. I did take some college courses, but not many—not—mostly it was the stuff I did in the military, you know, my military training. One of my old friends from the military—who actually lives here in Greensboro now—she called me and said, “What are you going to do when you get out?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

She said, “Well come to Atlanta and you can work for me, and figure out what you want to do.”

So I worked there in the summer in Atlanta. It’s always the summer. It was the hottest summer, ’86. And I worked for her, and she helped me kind of figure out which way to go. And then I moved to Florida, got a job there, and then went to school at the University of Florida. So I started—I started there. And that was ’86. And I actually did not grad—get my undergraduate degree for another ten years. I finished it in Oregon. So for someone who back in 1977 was thinking eight years to get an undergrad [laughs] —to be a veterinarian was too long, I took a strange path to it.

HT:

And the undergraduate degree is in history?

TS:

History.

HT:

But you were working all this time?

TS:

Oh yeah, definitely.

HT:

So you were doing part time, so that certainly understandable.

TS:

Yeah. I went full time when I was at the University of Florida. I did two years and then—yeah.

HT:

So you actually got your degree from—?

TS:

I got it from Southern Oregon University.

HT:

Southern Oregon, okay.

TS:

SOU in Ashland, Oregon. Yeah.

HT:

And you didn’t have any problems with credits being transferred from one school to another?

TS:

No, not—I would say no. Nope. But I never—I did not use my GI Bill, because when I was in they did not have the GI Bill. They had something called VEAP: Veterans Education Assistance Program. So it wasn’t the GI Bill. And you had to put in money, and you got eight thousand dollars back, something like that—somewhere around there. But I didn’t actually put in money. I was traveling and I sent money to my mom, and I just—I thought, “I’ll figure out a way—”

HT:

I did not realize they had done away with the GI Bill during that period of time.

TS:

During that period. Yeah. There was a brief period where it wasn’t the GI Bill.

HT:

Interesting. Well one of the things I forgot to ask you was: over the course of your six years, how did you see the air force change from the late seventies to early—I’m sorry, in the eighties?

TS:

You know, I think I was really fortunate in that the—they did a lot of—I worked with a lot of good people, and there weren’t a lot of overtly discriminatory—there were a lot of women who got to do things in—at Hahn especially. A lot of the—like my immediate supervisor had a good reputation. And then there was another gal in our unit was one of the first women to fly on—I think it was the AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System, E-3 Sentry]. I could be wrong about the type of plane. But she was one of the first to be able to do that. And one of the—one thing—the one thing that really, I guess, bothered me was that in our job as linguists there were ground units and air units; and women could not be on the planes. They couldn’t be on the RC 135s [Boeing RC 135]. So we couldn’t, at that time. And that would irritate me, because I always thought that would be great. Because I think in Mildenhall they flew. In Alaska they had—you know, there’s lots of places they had crews that flew. So we couldn’t—so the job that we did, you know, as women—you know, we were restricted in—I wouldn’t say promotion. But if you’re on a flight crew, you had more prestige than if you were on the ground crew—even if you’re in the top position. I remember Donna Tumillo—and I always wonder what she’s up to these days—and she was a ground commission controller that was just fantastic. And she was one of the first women to get that kind of assignment in our unit. I don’t know about other places. But she would have been great to be able to fly— and I hope maybe she stayed and got to do it—but I don’t know if she ever did. So those kind—restrictions that were institutional were still in place in my—in the time, but not—you know, there was a lot—you still had a lot of flexibility within the—within your job. So those kinds of things were interesting.

HT:

Right.

TS:

Those kind of changes.

HT:

Right.

TS:

But really the most of the changes I saw were technology.

HT:

Oh gosh, yeah.

TS:

There was just a lot of technology changes, you know, from going to reel-to-reel to a digital. I don’t think we went digital quite yet. Did we? It’s hard to remember where—but reel-to-reel tapes and then we had—well you know how the recording stuff has changed. So that kind of stuff. That—the technology.

HT:

Let’s see. Well how did you adjust to civilian life once you got out after six years in the military?

TS:

I think I—I think my really—it was hard to find a job, honestly. It was hard to find a job, really hard. It seemed like the civilian world really didn’t respect military service experience. And that was really hard to kind of wake up and do that. I worked at UPS for a while when I lived in Atlanta. That was great. But it was kind of knowing somebody, who knew somebody, who got people jobs at UPS. I mean that was—that was interesting.

HT:

Was there any chance you could have used your language skills?

TS:

Well again I made the choice not to stay in Maryland and in NSA. If I had stayed there, yes I could have.

HT:

Okay.

TS:

But once you move away from that, the military industrial complex, I guess—the contractors and things like that—and then you move into just regular civilian world, it was a lot harder. I think that—I guess that—I wouldn’t say I had any kind of bitterness, but I had an awakening that maybe the military service was not valued as much. However, putting down on my resume that I was a Russian linguist got—almost always got me an interview, which was good, you know. That helped, having that. Because people were like, “What’s that?” I think I would put cryptologic Russian linguist or something to catch an eye. So that was good. But so you know, I did a lot of jobs just to pay the bills, and get through school. So that—but adjusting to the civilian world, you know, I was mostly in the civilian world. In the air force you’re not—it wasn’t so regimented. There was no—

HT:

Well do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

TS:

Oh, absolutely.

HT:

Have you always been that way?

TS:

I think I—I think so, yeah. Because, yeah, I would have to say that I’m pretty independent minded.

HT:

So the military didn’t make you that way at all.

TS:

I don’t think so. Maybe it reinforced it in certain ways, and maybe—I don’t know—helped sharpen certain ways of thinking about things.

HT:

Well would you recommend the military to young women today?

TS:

Yeah, absolutely! I mean, it’s a different climate now, certainly, with the war—two wars. So it’s a different climate. I think that what people who—when I went in, and I was in Germany, we were at what was called a tactical unit. We always trained for war. And then some of the documentation that I brought you—I’ll show you some of the papers that our commander would write about it. Because we had Korean airliners—the KAL [Flight] 007 was shot down. We had bombs—we had a bomb that went off at our base at Hahn, at the NCO club, that kind of destroyed part of that building. We had—you had to check under your car to make sure—when you’re off base, to make sure there were no bombs put under your car. I mean there was—there was a lot of unrest that we forget about in the eighties during the—near the end of the Cold War. There was the disco club [La Belle] that was bombed. I think that was in Berlin. They had the barracks in Beirut where all the Marines were killed. We had [the Invasion of] Grenada. We had the Nicaraguan war [Iran-Contra affair] going on. There was a lot of tension, militarily. So there was concern about, you know, the Russians coming over. The border prepared for that in Germany.

HT:

Because the Berlin Wall didn’t come down until ’89.

TS:

That’s right. Right. There was tension. And there was a couple, I think, CIA operatives that got caught behind the Wall; and one of them was shot, in—I can’t remember what year that was. But the—you know, there were things like that, little instances. And all those hostages that were taken, do you remember? Or was that later with the—it was the end of the [President Ronald] Reagan and the [Vice President George H. W.] Bush administration, in Beirut and in Lebanon: where they had a lot of the hostages that were taken. And for years they were kept. There was a lot of tension that way. So—but I still would recommend the military service to men and women. But I don’t think it is for everyone. I never—I actually believe in national service. I think everyone should do some kind of national service. Not military, because I don’t think everyone is cut out for the military, but some kind of national service I think we should have in this country. Put that—make sure that gets somewhere. [laughter]

HT:

I’m sure it’s on here. [Laughter]

TS:

That would be great. That would be great to do that.

HT:

Well how do you feel about women in combat positions?

TS:

I don’t have any problem with any men or women in any position that they want to do. I’m sure that there are many women who are very capable of doing anything.

HT:

Well of course they are these days.

TS:

Yeah. Well it’s funny because when I went to—I went to the tenth anniversary of the WIMSA [Women In Military Service for America Memorial] in Washington, D.C., and then I also went to—I think it was the seventy-fifth anniversary. Was it sixty- or seventy-fifth—when was it, forty—? I for—‘47 that we—so maybe it was the sixtieth year then.

HT:

Yeah, right.

TS:

So it would have been the sixtieth anniversary.

HT:

Sixtieth anniversary, yes.

TS:

Yeah. Lose track of—adding and subtracting. But I went to the sixtieth anniversary of the air force. And they had a special thing for women at the same time. And they had four hundred, five hundred women from all over in this room, right? And I went as a civilian, as a veteran. And on the right side of me there was a fighter pilot, and on the left side of me there was a minister—a pastor. And in talking to them at different times— they both had children, and they both had boys. And during the conversation, both of them—well, the—

HT:

These are both women?

TS:

Yeah, both of them. And the boy—the little boys had said to the—like the—and their husbands were not in the military—just the women were. They were both married. And the boys had said to the fighter pilot something to the effect that he wished that when he grew up he could be a fighter pilot, but he was worried since they were all girls. [laughter] And then the woman who was the minister said that her boy had told her once that, you know—something to the effect that only women were in the military: because his dad wasn’t, just his mother was and she always put on the uniform and stuff. And so just the change in perception of what women can do in the military really came—there were—it’s so funny, because there were so many different jobs they can do now that weren’t available to me when I was in. But I wouldn’t change it. I had a great time. But they would be like, “Yeah, you know—”. There was a woman there who spoke, and she’d been in Iraq. And she led—performed heroically, and had the Silver Star, and just wonderful stories of courage. But also just routine things like one woman was talking about being on a—oh, it was an attack—attack plane. I forget—ground attack plane, and they were talking—so they’re talking about their jobs, but they were also talking about the same kind of problems that everybody has. Like, “Well, you know, trying to get stationed with my husband is a problem.” And they’re like, “Well the needs of the military always come first.” So the same issues that were in the eighties, as far as trying to keep families together and keep morale up. And how do you get—how do you get your troops motivated, all those things were the same. But they’re like just doing different jobs. So that—I don’t know if that makes any sense. But it was just interesting to me that so much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same.

HT:

Well how do you feel about the women’s movement? It’s really, I guess, starting in the late sixties, early seventies. Were you ever involved in that at all?

TS:

I—only like—I mean I was raised by a single mom. I never—she never put any—she never said there was anything [we couldn’t do – change by TS later]. I mean there are five girls and two boys in my family. And we’re all very independent, I know. So there was nothing that we couldn’t do. But I do remember watching Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. I remember that and being really, really thrilled about that. And that was just—that was great for women. I thought that was showing them—you know, even though it was—now looking back at how old he was when she was playing him, [chuckling] it was kind of given that she was going to squash him. But at the time a woman beating a man at anything was seen as abnormal. And I mean I couldn’t—I mean I would have loved to have played little league when I was a girl, and couldn’t. And so what was that Title IX [legislation passed in 1972 requiring equality of athletic opportunities in educational institutions] is that?

HT:

I think that—yeah, that sounds right.

TS:

That passed just when I—in the mid seventies, but I was already past the age when I would play. So that kind of stuff—you know, I was aware that I couldn’t play baseball. I was aware that—maybe I could get a scholarship to go play at some small school, but that that was all you could do with it: to play softball or basketball or something. But the opportunities today are so much more open for women. I think it’s great.

So I mean the women’s movement—what the women’s movement has—did is interesting, but I think it’s more—I mean it’s looked at so broadly like there was this movement that pushed things along, like there was this big push because of this vast movement. It’s like the civil rights movement, how that’s kind of so broad. But its—a lot of individual women made a difference just in their—maybe in the office they worked in, or in the town that they lived in, or in the community. So I mean it—there’s bubbles around all these individual women where they touched lives all around them and became—they’re the movement. The women themselves are the ones who really made the changes. And I think we kind of forget sight of the steps that individual women had to take that weren’t so easy. There wasn’t this big movement behind each individual woman. You know what I’m saying? They weren’t say, “Oh yeah, go ahead, Beth, and apply for law school.” And you know, certainly like Ruth Bader Ginsberg where she helped sue. But most women didn’t have the power of a suit behind them. They were just trying to make a difference in their lives.

So I feel like I stood on the shoulders of all these women in the military who were—came before me and paved the way, certainly, for me. I don’t see that I paved the way for anybody at all, really, because I don’t know that I did anything that was new. I—everything I ever did was—another woman had paved the way. And men helped the women along too. I think we forget that. I had great supervisors that were just fantastic, and they were men and women. So blah, blah, blah.

HT:

[Chuckles] Well let’s see. Let’s see, who was president when you were in? [President James E. “Jimmy”] Carter, of course, in the late seventies, and of course Ronald Reagan. What did you think of those two guys?

TS:

I was really kind of apolitical at first, when I first went in the military. And I have to admit that the first time I could vote was in 1980. And I didn’t know who to vote for, so I voted for [John B.] Anderson [laughter]. And I always kind of regret that because I didn’t know—I don’t actually regret that I didn’t vote for Reagan.

HT:

What was the guy’s—what was the guy’s first name?

TS:

Was it Paul? No. I don’t remember, something Anderson. He died not too long ago. But so as time went on, though, I discovered that I liked a lot about Jimmy Carter. But when I was in the service Reagan was president the whole time, and I remember having discussions with people saying, “You can’t not vote for him, he raises—he gives you your pay raise.”

And I’m like, “Well, Carter, he actually started helping the military before Reagan came over.” So we’d have discussions.

But I do remember thinking at the time—I remember when I was in Germany and we were supporting—we were starting to support the Afghani side of the [Soviet-Afghan] War. I kept thinking to myself, “Now, wait a second. The women in Afghan are under the thumb of these groups.” I mean it’s like if the Russians are more progressive as far as human rights for women—and that certainly there was a lot of oppression— but in my mind I saw—I saw that we were—I thought we were on the wrong side of that war at that time. And I don’t know how that’s all played out today, but I remember thinking back then that we—what were we doing helping—you know, even though it was the Russians against the United States; it seemed like we were just against them because they were the Russians, not for any good principle behind it. So I remember that.

I have no idea where that came from. [laughter]

HT:

Well after—let me see, you started school in the late eighties, and you got your undergraduate degree in what? The early nineties sometime?

TS:

Somewhere around ’96 or ’97.

HT:

Oh, nine—okay. And then you—how did you end up in Greensboro? Had—here at UNCG?

TS:

Well I ended up in Greensboro because—you remember the friend I told you that I knew that—after I got out of the military, she said, “Come to Atlanta”?

HT:

Yes.

TS:

She actually lives in Greensboro. And I was in the mortgage business and was wondering how I got into doing mortgages.

HT:

Home mortgage business?

TS:

Home mortgages.

HT:

Wow.

TS:

And I just didn’t see myself doing it for another five years, or anything. I’d been doing it for about fifteen—fourteen, fifteen years, and so decided that I wanted to do something different. And I always wanted to teach. And when I was at SOU, they pulled the masters program the last—the year I was there for history, which was my intention to go and—and then you know you just get wrapped up in life, and you’re working, and you’ve got bills and so—Bought a house and was just living, and I just thought what—I needed to make a change. And I started—I talked to my friend Cheryl. And I said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to do this.” And I said, “Where do you think I could apply?”

She said, “Well I hear they have a program at UNCG here in Greensboro. It’s a new PhD program for history.”

I said, “Really?”

So I looked into—I started looking into that, and I looked at some other places. And I applied and—in the conversation with Dr. [James V.] Carmichael, he had talked about this women veteran’s collection here—oral history collection and the archival collection. And I didn’t really—it’s not like I wanted—I knew what I wanted to do in graduate school, but he said there was this interesting collection. He knew I was a veteran. He talked to me about it, and he said, “I don’t think anybody’s really used that yet in the PhD program.” He said, “That might be an interesting angle.” So anyhow, they accepted me and gave me a great deal and I decided to come out here and pursue it. And since—it’s been great. I have used the collection, and I’m actually out interviewing. So it’s been a privilege to be able work with this collection.

HT:

Well, Therese, we’ve covered so much this afternoon—well this morning—this afternoon. Is there anything you’d like to add to the interview that we haven’t covered? Anything, final thoughts?

TS:

No. I never have any final thoughts. I always kind of continue on. But I—the military for me was—I can’t—I don’t know if I can say transformative, because like we talked about; I think a lot of the ways, you know, that I felt about myself, like being independent—and I still was very quiet in the military. It wasn’t until I got out of the military that I actually opened up a little. But the skills that I learned and the work ethic—I mean I think I had a really strong work ethic, but I was around a lot of people—

HT:

That really sort of reinforced what you had there.

TS:

Yes, reinforced it. And I think there is a misconception about the military. And maybe not so much today as there might have been in the late eighties, but I think that it is an honorable profession. I think it’s very honorable. And I’m proud to be a veteran—certainly very proud to be a veteran. And not for anything that it can give me, but for what—you know, not for financially or whatever; I got a home loan—my first loan from the VA and stuff like that—but for what it made me feel about myself. I’ve always been very patriotic, you know, but what does that mean? I don’t know. I just feel like the military gave me more than I could ever give it, I guess you can say. So that’s my last words.

HT:

Okay. [laughter] Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

TS:

All right. Thank you, Hermann.

[End of Interview]