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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Ashley Brott, 2010

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Object ID: wv0496.5.001

Description: Ashley L. Brott tells of her early life and military career.

Summary: Brott discusses the influence of her education and family life on her decision to serve, as well as issues of women in the military, and her experiences during her two deployments to Iraq. Her mother, Heather Brott, also a veteran, is present through the interview and participates in discussion concerning particular aspects of Ashley’s service. Both women share their views on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and women’s roles in the military.

Creator: Ashley L. Brott

Biographical Info: Ashley L. Brott (b. 1987) served in the U.S. Army from 2006-2010.

Collection: Ashley Brott Oral History

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:

Hello. Today—let’s see. This is Therese Strohmer and it’s August 1, 2010. I’m still in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and I’m here with Ashley Brott. This is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project—excuse me—at The University of North Carolina in Greensboro. So Ashley, go ahead and say the way that you like your name to read on your collection. Do you want your middle initial in it or not?

Ashley Brott:

Ashley L. Brott.

TS:

Ashley L. Brott. Okay. Okay, Ashley, why don’t we start off with—you can tell me when and where you were born.

AB:

I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in December 1987.

TS:

Nineteen eighty-seven. So what was growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, like, as a kid?

AB:

We kind of grew up everywhere.

TS:

You grew up everywhere? That’s just where you were born, then?

AB:

Right, yeah.

TS:

So do you have any brothers or sisters?

AB:

I have two sisters.

TS:

Two sisters?

AB:

Yes. One is in the navy and the other one is back home in Arizona.

TS:

Back home in Arizona. And what did your folks do for a living when you were growing up?

AB:

I grew up in a military family.

TS:

Did you? How was that? Is that why you say you were all over?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

You traveled a lot. What did—your—Both of your parents were in the military?

AB:

Yes, they were.

TS:

Yeah. What service were they in?

AB:

My dad was in the navy. Well, my mom was too, when she first started, and then she went to the army.

TS:

She went to the army, so she was in two services.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What we just talked about. Okay. So did you—did you live in—Did you live in Phoenix, Arizona, very long, growing up?

AB:

Well, we went there and visited family quite often. And then we—and when my mom got stationed down in southern Arizona, we stayed there until—

TS:

Well, if someone says, you know, “What’s your hometown?” what do you consider your home town?

AB:

Sierra Vista, Arizona.

TS:

Yeah. That’s where you do—where did you go—so you—I think you were overseas a little bit, right? You were in Europe?

AB:

For three years, yeah.

TS:

For three years. Now that was before your high school years, like elementary?

AB:

Yes, I was—I was in—we were in Germany when—all throughout middle school.

TS:

All throughout middle school. What was that like, going to middle school in Germany? Was it through the military schools or—

AB:

Yes, it was through DOD [Department of Defense].

TS:

DOD. What was that like?

AB:

It was okay. I guess it was pretty much like any other school.

TS:

Same classes, same kind of thing?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you like school at all?

AB:

Not really.

TS:

No? Did you have like a subject you really hated?

AB:

Probably math.

TS:

Math? [chuckles] Anything that you liked about school?

AB:

I liked the art, like art classes.

TS:

Oh, art classes. Okay. Did you have a favorite teacher? Not really?

AB:

Not—just—Most of my teachers were pretty good.

TS:

Yeah. Do you remember a lot about, like, your—How old were you when you were over in Germany?

AB:

Eleven.

TS:

Eleven. Do you remember very much about your experience there?

AB:

A little bit, yeah.

TS:

What kind of things did you get to do?

AB:

Traveled a lot to the different—different countries and saw, like, the different cultures and stuff.

TS:

What—Was there a place that you really enjoyed to travel to?

AB:

Well, I liked just traveling. We did a lot of traveling to different castles in Germany. That was pretty fun to go to.

TS:

Yeah. So it was like a typical weekend. You’d just go out somewhere and—Did you do any of the Volksmarches [non-competitive walking event] at all?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

Did you like those?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

Yeah. I used to get like the little plates that they had, so I liked to collect those. Did you have any collections that you did?

AB:

Plates.

TS:

You got a lot of plates, too?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So you’re—Was there anything about being in Europe and traveling around or growing up as a military kid that you didn’t particularly care for?

AB:

Not really.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

You were pretty easy-going?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What did you do—like, were you on base? Did you grow up on a military base over there?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

What was it like there, like being on a base, that might be different from somebody who wasn’t in the military?

AB:

[pause] I honestly don’t think there’s much of a difference.

TS:

No? Did you have any, like, checkpoints you had to go through, like to get to—

AB:

Just the security at the front gate.

TS:

Yeah. That just seemed routine, though?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Because you didn’t know any different, anyhow.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

That’s true. That’s true. So you had—So you had a good time growing up in Germany, and then you moved back to the United States to go to high school?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What was that like when you moved back? So you would have been like fourteen or something when you moved back?

AB:

Thirteen, fourteen, yeah.

TS:

So what was that experience like for you?

AB:

I didn’t really have a hard time at all.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

You just transitioned. Did you—Are you somebody who, like, makes friends easily?

AB:

Yeah, I get along with just about anybody.

TS:

Yeah. So what kind of things did you do when you got back to Arizona? In school did you have any, like, sports or extracurricular activities that you did?

AB:

Not really. I mean, I still liked the art classes.

TS:

What kind of art classes did you do?

AB:

We had—One of our classes, our teacher did like an array of different things.

TS:

Like? Give me an example. I’m not really familiar with art.

AB:

Drawing and painting and 3-D art and all that.

TS:

What did you like of those? Any one over the other? Like just whatever it was, you enjoyed doing it?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So what kind of things did you do as a kid, growing up? Like did you listen to a lot of music or—?

AB:

Music.

TS:

Yeah. Who did you like to listen to?

AB:

The—whatever the teen bands were back then, and like N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys and—yeah.

TS:

Yeah. Did you get to go to any concerts or anything like that?

AB:

No.

TS:

No. Did you go to dances?

AB:

Yeah, when the schools held them.

TS:

They had some dances and things like that? So if you’re like off on the weekends, what kind of things did you get to do for fun?

AB:

Just hang out with friends, you know, whatever I could do.

TS:

Yeah. Did you do any traveling when you came back at all, like in the local area or anything like that?

AB:

It was when we went to go visit family and all that.

TS:

So kind of together like that.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So when you’re—So you’re back in Arizona and you’re going to high school. Do you have a sense about, like, what you want to do with your life?

AB:

Not really.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

So how was it that you decided to go in the army?

AB:

Well, I was in a military—like a military-based school for about five or six months.

TS:

What was it called?

AB:

Arizona Project ChalleNGe [Arizona Army National Guard school for high school dropouts.]

TS:

So tell me more about that. What’s that—How did you get in it?

AB:

It’s a government-run school.

TS:

Okay. What do they do?

AB:

It’s for the kids who want to—most of the kids who were there were dropouts from school or whatever, and they want—It’s for those who wanted to kind of change their life around and get their GED and be able to go to college and get a good job and all that.

TS:

Was it something that you had to apply for or did you get selected for it? How did that work?

AB:

Just something that you have to—I don’t know if it was something you applied for, but it’s—Yeah, it was applied for.

TS:

So it was something that you wanted to do?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

And why did you want to do it—for you, personally?

AB:

To try and better myself. I wasn’t doing so good in just the regular school system and so—.

TS:

What was it about the regular school system that wasn’t working for you?

AB:

I honestly have no idea. I mean, I was—there would be times where I knew what the stuff was, for like tests and things, but my mind would just go blank during the test, and I wanted—

TS:

So it was more like academically?

AB:

Right.

TS:

Okay. And so this program was kind of to help you, like, get a new fresh start to do—to do something on those lines?

AB:

Right, to help get my GED. And then I got a—I started—There’s another school that, when you get your GED, that you can go and pick courses you want to learn.

TS:

Okay. What did you pick?

AB:

Photography.

TS:

Oh, how was that?

AB:

It was okay. I wasn’t there for too long, but I learned how to do, like, the black and white photos.

TS:

Right.

AB:

So—and it was pretty fun.

TS:

So was that something—so they were trying to teach you, like, a trade—a little bit like a trade that you could use later in life and something like that?

AB:

Right.

TS:

Oh, okay. So it wasn’t just like academics, like math, you know, English, stuff like that, but other types of trade. What other kind of things could you choose to do?

AB:

You can do like photography or you can do like home ec[onomics] and just different things like any college—a college would have.

TS:

So different things you could pick from. So how long was this program?

AB:

Six months.

TS:

Six months. Now, did you do well in it? Did you enjoy it?

AB:

I liked it.

TS:

Yeah. So did this give you a sense of wanting to go into the military, then, or how did you—

AB:

I’d have to say so because it was a structured environment, and it’s just going to another structured environment.

TS:

What was it that was good about it for you, being structured? Why was that important to you?

AB:

It helped me out with—just several things, because I’d have a harder time if I didn’t.

TS:

What kind of things did it help you out with?

AB:

It had—Like it helped me out a lot with respect, which is what the school taught. They instilled it. And so—I’m not saying that I didn’t have any beforehand.

TS:

Right, right, just a different kind of level of appreciation?

AB:

Right, because the school itself was run by military personnel.

TS:

Oh, was it. Okay.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So then you did that for about six months, and then—So then you got your GED from that, out of that program?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

And so then when was it that you decided that you wanted to join the military?

AB:

During that program.

TS:

During that program. So how did you go—tell me the steps that you took to decide to do that, like—

AB:

I just thought about it and then—

TS:

Okay. Did you talk to a recruiter or did somebody come in and, like, say, “Here’s some opportunities we have in the military,” or did you have to actively go out and say you wanted it?

AB:

I did talk to a recruiter.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

And then I didn’t know what [unclear] thought about it, and I did talk to my mom, too, which is—She signed me.

TS:

What did she think about it?

AB:

She said yeah.

TS:

Yeah. And your dad?

AB:

He was all for it, too.

TS:

So you didn’t have any resistance from your parents at all? How about your siblings?

AB:

They had no problems with it.

TS:

Your friends?

AB:

Not at all.

TS:

And so this was in two thousand and—

AB:

I signed up in 2005. I was on the delayed entry program for about—I think it was about three months, maybe—two, three months.

TS:

Did you—How did you pick the army? I mean, why didn’t you pick the [U.S.] Air Force or the [U.S.] Navy or the Marines?

AB:

At the time, air force was not accepting GEDs.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

I don’t know if that was the reason for the navy. I knew I didn’t want to go in the Marines. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in there.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

And then I just—the army was accepting and was—

TS:

Did you know what kind of job you were going to get in the army, when you first signed up?

AB:

No, but I had help from my mom.

TS:

Yeah. So what to expect and things like that [you had] kind of an idea [about].

AB:

Right.

TS:

So when you get to—When you get to basic training, tell me about that. What was that experience like for you?

AB:

It was okay. They kind of—When my drill sergeants found out about my parents being military, they kind of expected a little bit more from me than anybody else. But they didn’t treat me any different.

TS:

Other than that?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

How did you feel about that, when they expected more from you?

AB:

It didn’t bother me at all.

TS:

Were you able to live up to the, like, the level that they wanted you to be, do you think?

AB:

I think so, but that’s just me.

TS:

So was there anything like physically or mentally difficult for you while you were in basic training?

AB:

PT [physical training].

TS:

PT was hard? What was difficult about that?

AB:

Everything. I wasn’t ready, physically, for it.

TS:

What kind of things—Did you have to, like, do certain things to get prepared?

AB:

Well, I know that a lot of the recruiters, they’ll—some of them will have you take like a—a fake PT test to see where you’re standing at.

TS:

I see. Did you get to do that?

AB:

No.

TS:

No? So you just kind of went in?

AB:

Yes. Well, I didn’t—For one of the reasons is that when I was at Project ChalleNGe, every morning we did PT. So we did PT from 4:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the morning. So I think that’s one of the reasons why they didn’t really have me do it.

TS:

So what was it that was such a challenge for you when you did finally join?

AB:

[unclear] I’ve never been physically fit, and it’s just the PT that really got to me.

TS:

So the running?

AB:

Running, push-ups, you name it.

TS:

Did you have any trouble getting through the program with that?

AB:

No, they didn’t hold me back at all.

TS:

So it was just hard.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah, to do it every day. Was there—so did you—I forget how many weeks is basic training. Where did you go for basic training?

AB:

I was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

TS:

Fort Jackson. What month?

AB:

We were there in January—beginning of January.

TS:

So that’s better than July.

AB:

Yeah, but it is cold, though.

TS:

It was cold, was it? So did you—so you’re in basic, and other than the PT, like the—like the mental stuff, how they were, like—did they—Was it integrated men and women?

AB:

It was integrated.

TS:

Yeah. And did you have to, like, carry your weapon around with you all the time?

AB:

Every day.

TS:

Every day. How was that? Were you comfortable with that?

AB:

It didn’t bother me at all.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

And how were the other—Like if you’re in the class and there’s a bunch of other men and women, how were they all reacting? Like, since you had—You came from a military family and knew what to expect. Did—Do you think everybody, like, reacted the same way as you, or were there different levels of reaction?

AB:

I think there was different levels, because some of them would go from not knowing what to expect at all to just [unclear] and just sign away and then, you know, raise one right hand. And they don’t really—some of them didn’t really, like, do their—I want to say, some research, to see what they were going to get themselves into.

TS:

Did they drop—end up dropping out?

AB:

Most of them actually did pretty good and they stayed in.

TS:

They made it—made it through?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Well, that’s cool. Now your mom has talked a little bit about the different—earlier, because she did an interview a little bit earlier today. And she said something about when she went in in the 1980s, there’s a different type of mindset than in the nineties and in the 2000s. I know you sat in on that interview, so what do you think about that? Do you think there is a different mindset between the generations?

AB:

I think so, because some of my NCOs [non-commissioned officers] were—They’ve been in for that long, and they still want to kind of throw in the older generation.

TS:

What do you think the difference is, in your opinion?

AB:

To me, like seeing all the—like the war movies and the war history on TV and stuff like that, and talking to those who have been in for a long time or those who have retired way back when—probably I think it’s a little bit easier now.

TS:

Why is it easier?

AB:

They don’t really hold a higher expectation.

TS:

Can you give me an example?

AB:

Well now, in basic, from what I was reading in the newspaper, they’re allowing soldiers—When it’s time to call home, they’ll hand out the soldiers’ cell phones and they’ll allow them to have cigarette breaks and just little things like that that nobody else has gotten to do.

TS:

Right. Did you have, like—Were you allowed cell phones in basic training?

AB:

No, we weren’t.

TS:

But they allow that now?

AB:

Yes, they just started that up.

TS:

So you have—You get through your basic training. And also, you know, Ashley, you are joining in a period when there’s wars going on. What did you think about that? Did that make you nervous at all?

AB:

Not really. I mean, when I had talked it over with my mom before I signed up, I knew what I was getting myself into. And so—

TS:

What did you think you were going to get yourself into?

AB:

I knew I was going to deploy.

TS:

Did you—You knew you were going to go to Iraq or Afghanistan or something?

AB:

Right, I had that feeling. It didn’t really scare me at all.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

Did you feel—go ahead.

AB:

I was—when we got there, just like anybody who’s never been to war before, they’re—Everybody’s going to be scared, even those who have been multiple times, because you don’t know if you’re going to come home.

TS:

So but initially, you’re just thinking, “Well, this is just the way it is.”

AB:

Right.

TS:

Okay. So then when you get out of basic training, you—Did you know then what job you were going to be able to have?

AB:

I actually—the way that the army does it is before—when you’re signing up, before you swear in, they—depending on what your ASVAB [Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] score is, you get a list of different jobs that you could do. And so I got—with help from my mom. She helped me with probably the best one that I could at the time.

TS:

And so what job was that?

AB:

92Y [unclear], which is unit supply.

TS:

Unit supply?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

There’s different types of supply?

AB:

There’s two different. You got the 92[A] alpha [automated logistical specialist]. They’re—They’re a higher type. They deal with battalion-wise and higher. And there’s some that will go with the entire brigade. They’ll work in a warehouse and help distribute items.

TS:

I see. I didn’t realize there were different levels of that. So you’re on unit level.

AB:

Yes, I was on unit level.

TS:

And so then—where did you get sent to, for your first—Well, where did you go to your training?

AB:

I was in Fort Lee, Virginia.

TS:

Fort Lee, Virginia?

AB:

For seven—almost seven and a half weeks.

TS:

And how was that training?

AB:

I thought it was okay.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

They had you not only learn, of course, you know, the different types of things for supply. They had you learn the weapons, different weapons and how to take them apart and put them back together and—so that way you knew, because that’s what supply does. It also helps out with the arms room.

TS:

Helps out with what?

AB:

The arms room, which is where they hold the weapons and—

TS:

Oh, okay. So what—If it came to, like, disbursing weapons, you would have to know the weapons to be able to do that?

AB:

Right.

TS:

I see. Okay. So you’re at Fort Lee, Virginia. And now did you know where you were going to get stationed after, or was that just up for grabs?

AB:

They had me write down for—they have soldiers write down, let’s call it a wish list, and you can write down whatever station that you want. Don’t necessarily—You won’t necessarily get it.

TS:

Right.

AB:

Like I didn’t even put down Fort Hood [Texas], but that’s the place that I got.

TS:

Which ones did you put down?

AB:

I put down Fort Huachuca [Arizona.] That’s home. Think I put down Germany and I want to say Italy.

TS:

Yeah. So then you got sent to Texas.

AB:

Right.

TS:

What’d you think about that?

AB:

It was okay.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

It was a lot closer to home than—

TS:

Well, that’s true.

AB:

So.

TS:

So you’re in—you’re in Texas, and that—Now your on base housing, what kind of living situation do you have?

AB:

The barracks.

TS:

You’re in the barracks.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

What was that like?

AB:

It was okay.

TS:

Do you have, like, you’re sharing a room with somebody or—?

AB:

Yes, I did. I had a roommate.

TS:

But you had like a common bathroom. Is that how it was in the barracks?

AB:

The first set of barracks, we shared everything. And then we had brand new barracks, after we came home from our first deployment, and the only thing we shared was the little kitchen area, the washer and dryer, and the bathroom.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

And there was only—There was only two people who shared all that. So we had our own separate, actual rooms.

TS:

Rooms separate. So you didn’t share even a roommate when you came back?

AB:

No.

TS:

Okay. So you’re at Fort Hood, and so this is your first assignment. Now this is like—I was going to ask you one thing, too, because since your mom and dad are—You know, your mom was still in the military. Your dad was in the reserves, too, right, at that time?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So the first time you put on a uniform, what did you think of yourself?

AB:

It was different.

TS:

What was different about it?

AB:

Just—I mean I knew I was going to do it. I don’t—

TS:

I mean, because—like, did you have a sense of any sort of pride, because now you’re following in the footsteps, or—you know, that you’ve seen your mom and dad, your mom especially, you know, get ready for work and go—so I’m wondering if it was more like a routine thing or if it was like—if you had had—because you had seen her get ready and dressed and go to work, and put on her uniform. And then you, for the first time, put it on for yourself, for your job. That’s why I’m kind of wondering what you were kind of emotionally feeling for that.

AB:

It was kind of both: a little bit of pride and then just routine.

TS:

Yeah. So when you’re at Fort Hood, now, and you’re—So what’s a typical day like for you?

AB:

When I got there, they were still—they were preparing for deployment, and so it would be—they’d have [unclear] PT in the morning and then—

TS:

And what time would that start?

AB:

Six-thirty [AM.] And it would go for an hour. And then most of the time after that, we’d have classes to go to or we’d have to pack up our equipment and get those sent off.

TS:

So you knew you were going to be deployed right away?

AB:

About a month after.

TS:

About a month after you got there?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

And where were you headed?

AB:

We were headed to Baghdad [Iraq.]

TS:

To Baghdad. So now what were you thinking about it, being deployed? Did you think about that at all?

AB:

I was worried. I was scared.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

But I decided it’s not—Most people were like that, especially those who have never deployed before, never been to any kind of war country.

TS:

So what year was this that we’re talking about, Ashley, that you had to go the first time?

AB:

The end of 2006.

TS:

The end of 2006?

AB:

Yeah, Oct—I think it was October.

TS:

I’m trying to see how long have you been in the military now. When—Oh, so not even a year, right?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So by the end of your first year, you’re already being deployed. It’s interesting because your mom has never—was in for seventeen years and never was deployed, right? What did your parents think about it?

AB:

They knew it was coming.

TS:

Yeah? Did they ever voice any concerns about it or give you any advice or anything?

AB:

I knew they were worried, just like any parent would be.

TS:

Yeah. Heather’s sitting over here laughing. Do you have something you’d like to—Were you worried?

Heather Brott:             No, I actually wasn’t. But I did tell her when I was taking her to the airport, when she came home for R&R [rest and relaxation]—Do you remember what I said to you, Ashley?

AB:

That you didn’t want me going back over there.

HB:

Well, what did I say for you to do?

AB:

I don’t remember.

HB:

I said, “Keep your ass low and your head lower so that your whole body comes home.” [laughter]

TS:

Did you take that advice?

AB:

Yeah, I did. And then I informed my grandmother and she just—She was in tears.

TS:

Your grandmother?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So she was not very pleased.

AB:

She wasn’t happy at all.

TS:

I see. So tell me about your experience—so really you—The first year that you’re in, you’re really preparing to deploy. You’re getting—right?

AB:

Right.

TS:

That’s kind of what your training is based on. What kind of things did you do in your unit to get ready?

AB:

We did a lot of inventories. We did—mainly it all just—mainly inventories to make sure we had everything that we were going to need. And then—

TS:

Like check a list. Check it twice, check it again sort of thing?

AB:

Yeah, for the most part.

TS:

Yeah. So you’re getting—So you’re getting closer to deploy, and are you able to do anything at Fort Hood, like, socially? Did you get to do anything to go out and play?

AB:

I didn’t really know the area, so I mainly just stayed on base.

TS:

What—Were there things to do on base that you could do?

AB:

Nothing really.

TS:

No? You didn’t have like a bowling alley or a theatre or things like that?

AB:

Well, we had the bowling alley, we had the theatre, just the basic things that every post has.

TS:

Yeah. But you didn’t use those too much? No? So what did you do on your off time?

AB:

I’ll admit I did a lot of underage drinking.

TS:

You did a lot of underage drinking. Is that what you said?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Could you not drink on base legally?

AB:

No.

TS:

No? They can’t do that anymore? No? You have to be twenty-one?

HB:

Yes.

TS:

Interesting. Okay. So you—[chuckles] So that’s what you did for your off-duty time. Was that like—Could people get in trouble for that?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Did that happen? Did people get in trouble?

AB:

I did.

TS:

No? But—You did?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What happened?

AB:

They didn’t—I mean, I didn’t get into as much trouble as I could have. They had me—I know for one weekend, they had me stay at the battalion area so I could just be kind of supervised. But—

TS:

That was about it?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Not, like, formal charges or anything like that.

AB:

No.

TS:

Was it just, like, a minor in possession sort of?

AB:

Yeah, the—in possession and the drinking itself.

TS:

Yeah. So was that a deterrent to you at all?

AB:

[pause] I don’t think so.

TS:

[chuckles] No? Okay. It’s probably not for a lot of young people. I just wondered if you were—if that was something—I don’t know how the military culture is for drinking now, because—for young people. I’m actually surprised that they don’t let you drink on base.

HB:

No, they haven’t for about—probably fifteen, sixteen years now. She actually got very lucky at her consequences.

TS:

Yeah.

HB:

[unclear] twice.

TS:

Yeah. At the same place? Before you deployed?

AB:

Once was when I was deployed.

TS:

Oh, while you were—Okay. We can talk about that one later. So you just were, like, under a watch and then they—for a weekend, one weekend, or a couple of weekends or something?

AB:

I was supervised for one weekend, and then they just pretty much kept me under close radar.

TS:

Kept an eye on you. Okay. Well, let’s talk about when you went to Iraq, then. Okay. So you’re kind of nervous, but you know what’s going to happen, and you’re with a bunch of other people that you know that are going too, right?

AB:

Right.

TS:

So tell me about—Kind of like walk me through when you left and then when you arrived. What was that like?

AB:

Well, it was—leaving there was—because we—When we left Fort Hood, we went to Kuwait. And we stayed there for—I think it was two or three weeks, just so we could do the in-processing and different—like more classes that were held over there, because my first tour I did search and security.

TS:

Search and security?

AB:

I didn’t do my job the first tour.

TS:

Really? So what’s search and security? What was it that you had to do?

AB:

Searching vehicles, searching the women. We had to search children, even. We had to search the animals that would come through.

TS:

So were they—They were coming through what? Where would you be at that they—these people and animals would have to be searched?

AB:

We worked on the—well, it’s every gate that could—that’s for every FOB [forward operating base.] But I worked for the one that was going right directly from the red zone to the green zone. And the green zone is like a safe haven, so to speak.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

And the red zone is where all the—most of the fighting would take place. And we had to search the ones that were coming from the red zone to the green zone.

TS:

To the green zone. And so what was that experience like for you?

AB:

It was different. I mean most of the time we had, it was pretty calm. There were some instances where we—we did have bombs come through, but we had—We took care of those so nobody got hurt or anything like that.

TS:

Did you find any personally?

AB:

Personally, no.

TS:

But just in the group that you were with, they did?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Did that make you nervous?

AB:

Not really.

TS:

No? You weren’t afraid at all?

AB:

Because I knew they know of the possibilities of it coming through were pretty high.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

I mean we did have our scares with a lot more than one bomb coming through one day.

TS:

What kind of other scares would you have, then?

AB:

We had one where we had a bunch of females. Like we were told from higher up that there would be thirty to forty females coming through with suicide vests. But I mean, we were on the lookout, but we—

TS:

You never saw any?

AB:

It never happened.

TS:

No? What was it like? How did—Did you interact with the women? Was it just women that you searched, because you’re a female? Is that why you were searching women?

AB:

Yes. I mean, there were times where we actually had to search the guys, too, just depending on how many people were coming through.

TS:

Right.

AB:

Because there were more males than there were females.

TS:

Okay. What was that like?

AB:

It was kind of disgusting, to search them, because they don’t really—They don’t have the proper water systems to be able to shower daily like we do.

TS:

Right.

AB:

But—and most of the females were—they were willing. They already knew what to do because they’re so used to it.

TS:

So did they have like burqas on or just hijab or—how were they—

AB:

The younger ones do not wear them anymore, but the older ones, who are still of that mindset of Saddam [Hussein] being in charge, they will not remove their masks.

TS:

So how did you have to search them?

AB:

We had—With the older females, we did have to get permission from whichever male was with them, to make sure that it’s them on their ID. So we had to get permission to have them lift up their little masks.

TS:

So you could see that they were who their identity said that they were?

AB:

Right.

TS:

I see. Do you think that made them uncomfortable at all?

AB:

If they’re not around other females. But we could not have the other males in there just because it didn’t make them uncomfortable.

TS:

Was that, like, the hardest part of what you were doing? And what did you think about—okay. You were trained to do the supply and now you’re doing the—what did you call it, search and—

AB:

Search and security.

TS:

Search and security. What was that like, to be trained for one thing and now you’re doing this completely different field?

AB:

I didn’t really find it too hard at all.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

It was okay. So what did you think about the environment that you were in, as far as heat, sand, things like that?

AB:

Well, the heat I had no problem with, just because—coming from a state that has a lot of heat.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

But the sandstorms kind of got to me.

TS:

What were they like?

AB:

Some of them—Some of them were kind of weak; the other ones were pretty strong.

TS:

What would you have to do—like if—would you know in advance that one was coming? I’ve never been in a sandstorm, so what was it—

AB:

It would just come and go.

TS:

Yeah. What did it feel like?

AB:

You know, one of those kind of—we were outside most of the time, so we felt like the—the pressure from the sand itself. And we had some protection from it because of the barriers and the buildings and stuff.

TS:

Some of the women that I’ve talked to said that, like, even when they came back, they felt like they could never, ever get all of the sand out of their boots. Do you feel that way, too?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah. Did you feel that way there, as well, like you always had sand between—somewhere on you?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So was that annoying or did you just get used to it or—

AB:

It was annoying, but you do get used to it after a while.

TS:

Yeah. So what was the most difficult part of your time there, the first time?

AB:

The first time is probably just [that] it was my first time away from family—at least that distance. And so that’s probably the hardest.

TS:

How did you cope with that?

AB:

We had email and things that we could send letters to them from. It was really easy to keep in contact.

TS:

Yeah. Now, your mom was in Korea at this time, too. Was she—was this one or the second one? It would have been the second one, maybe.

AB:

I think it was training for the second one—

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

—that she was in Korea.

TS:

So did you have your own personal, like, laptop or something like that, or was it like there was a place where you went to where you could use a computer? How did that go for being able to keep in touch?

AB:

You can have your own personal internet, or they did have the MWR [Morale, Recreation, and Welfare].

TS:

What was it called?

AB:

MWR.

TS:

Oh, okay. So they had a place that you could like go and—

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Did they—Were you able to like talk on the phone to your family very much?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Was that like a satellite thing or just—What was that?

AB:

You had the, of course, the MWR with their telephones and stuff. We had cell phones.

TS:

Just regular cell phones? And they would—

AB:

Well, we had the Iraqi ones.

TS:

Yeah. And they worked to get to the United States?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

You had to buy—Like, it was more minutes to use if you were to call home than from the cell phones over there.

TS:

But they still worked the same, no problem?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

They weren’t dropping calls all the time?

AB:

Oh, they were dropping all the time.

TS:

They did?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

[chuckles] Now, did you get out off the—out of the green zone into, like, the economy at all?

AB:

When the guys we were working with, when they had—they had switched with other—with another company or another troop, and it was their turn to go out into sectors. They did more security stuff over there. They did more searching and they did need females, but I never got the chance to go out there with them.

TS:

Did they take volunteers or did they pick certain people? How did they choose that?

AB:

They picked their favorites.

TS:

Did you—Was that something that you would have wanted to do?

AB:

I [unclear]—I wanted to do it, but at the same time I know it was a lot safer to stay on—

TS:

Do what you were doing?

AB:

—stay on the FOB. Yeah.

TS:

Now, what kind of place—What was your living experience like there, for like housing?

AB:

We actually lived in part of Saddam Hussein’s—like one of his daughters’ palaces.

TS:

Oh yeah?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What was that like?

AB:

It was all right. I mean—

TS:

Can you describe it to me at all? Like what—I’ve never been in a palace.

AB:

They had—We weren’t in the actual palace itself, but there was another building there. And I think he might have used it for his—for like the maids and stuff that would work over there. And we did have one working bathroom in there, and most—all of our rooms were built up by two-by-fours. So we had one other roommate and then—

TS:

So it’s like within this building, then you had like partitioned spaces for everybody?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Is that kind of like how—So it’s like a house and then you kind of segment it out a little bit?

AB:

Kind of, yeah.

TS:

Did you feel, like, really safe and comfortable?

AB:

As safe as you can over there.

TS:

Yeah. And so you always—did you—You never had any sense of being nervous? Did anything happen while you were over there that made you feel uncomfortable?

AB:

No.

TS:

No?

AB:

No, not at all.

TS:

What did you do on your downtime?

AB:

Most of the time it was just—We would just stay within our little area where all of us females would stay.

TS:

Yeah. And so—But what would you do? Like—

AB:

Movies. I’d watch movies or—

TS:

You’d watch them, like, on a television or on the laptop or—how did you?

AB:

I had mine on a laptop.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

But some would go out and get like these really nice TVs and these DVD players which they couldn’t bring back.

TS:

Oh, back to the States, you mean.

AB:

Unless you got them from the PX [post exchange.]

TS:

So—

AB:

I just used a laptop.

TS:

So they’d just use—they’d buy those things just for the—use while they were there or something?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah. And how was it with—how were you interacting with your—the male soldiers at the time? Was it just—Was it just army that was on this place, or was there mixed military, too, and foreigners? What was it like?

AB:

Majority army.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

We did have some—We actually did have some [U.S. Navy] Seabees [Construction Battalion] working over there. We had a little bit of Marines and some [U.S.] Air Force. There wasn’t too much, but the majority was army.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

And we did have the—a lot of interpreters [unclear] with us.

TS:

Yeah. Interpreters—like American or Iraqi interpreters?

AB:

Iraqi. We didn’t have too many American interpreters. We had a couple, but they were working for a lot higher up than us.

TS:

Yeah. So how would you use the interpreters? What would you—

AB:

Our interpreters were just—they’d come out to the checkpoints with us daily, and if we had a problem—

TS:

I see.

AB:

If we had a problem or we needed to talk to the Iraqis that were coming through—Some of them knew pretty good English, so we didn’t really need interpreters. But for those who didn’t know any at all, or knew some words, we had the interpreters out there to help us out.

TS:

So what did you—What were you thinking of your experience, while you were there? Were you thinking anything about it?

AB:

No, not really.

TS:

No. It was just like a job?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah. Did you have—were you—How long did you say you were in? The first one was fifteen months? Was the first—

AB:

Yeah, fifteen months.

TS:

Fifteen months. And so your typical day is, like, you get up—Did you do PT there, too?

AB:

We’d do it. Well, most of the time we wouldn’t do it really at all. And then sometimes we’d have to do it as, like, a squad, because we had different times. Like we worked different times and everybody else [was] on the FOB. And so—

TS:

And then so what kind of, like, hours were you at the gates doing the checks? Was it normally the same, or did you have different shifts?

AB:

Most of the time it was the same, but sometimes we would go from eight to twelve hours on a gate. And then we’d switch off with the other—another troop for that night, and we’d just go back there again the same day.

TS:

So how about chow? How was your food over there?

AB:

Actually, chow over there was pretty decent.

TS:

Was it? What kind of stuff would you have?

AB:

In the mornings, we had, like, the basics, like the French toast and the pancakes and the eggs. And then for lunch and stuff they’d switch off. Almost every day they’d have something with chicken. So I got kind of tired of chicken over there, but—and then holidays they’d have [unclear] portion of the turkey if it was Thanksgiving, and they tried to make it as homey as they can.

TS:

Right. Did you have any, like, dignitaries that came through where you were at, like any senators or celebrities or anything like that?

AB:

First tour we had Toby Keith come through.

TS:

How was that?

AB:

I, personally, didn’t get to meet him. I was kind of sad, but I had to work that day. And we had Kid Rock. And Kid Rock actually—He stayed there for a couple of days. He actually served the soldiers breakfast.

TS:

Did you get served by him?

AB:

Unfortunately, no.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

So they would come and like put on a show or something and spend a little time?

AB:

They wouldn’t do the shows at our file because our file was so tiny.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

But they would still come and do the signing and interacting with the soldiers.

TS:

I see. Okay. Did those happen on—Were those the only two that came through your file, that you remember?

AB:

The only two that I liked. The rest of them were like—There was some cheerleading group. I think the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders came through and—

TS:

I see.

AB:

—some rap singers, and I’m not too fond of that.

TS:

[chuckles] Okay. So did you have—Did you have any feelings about the war that was going on at the time, yourself, personally, like personal feelings about it?

AB:

[pause] Personally, with the first tour, you know, I knew what we were over there for.

TS:

Right.

AB:

And you know, I was kind of, I guess, like, proud to be able to do what I did.

TS:

Right.

AB:

I mean a lot of people—they had a lot of people over there who would call us—they would call us fobbers, which is pretty much those who stay on the FOB. But even those people, they do a lot of work over there.

TS:

So did you think you were treated well?

AB:

No, not really.

TS:

In what ways were you not?

AB:

We had certain—Because since our higher-ups never really came out and saw what we did on the checkpoints, they kind of overlooked us. They didn’t really—like for those who stayed on the FOB, like mechanics and supply and all that, they—they had more—the leadership was looking at more of what they were doing.

TS:

What kind of things would you have liked them to do that they didn’t do?

AB:

Come out and see what we were—you know, see what we were doing a lot more.

TS:

Yeah. They just kind of left you out there to—You were kind of invisible to them then, you think?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

In some ways?

AB:

Yeah. I mean, we had our—Our commander only came out once or twice the entire time we were there, and then our sergeant major didn’t even really come out at all.

TS:

So were people grumbling about that. Was that something that was obviously, you know, a point that was bothering people?

AB:

It was bothering some just because you had those that were getting, like—who weren’t really doing a whole lot, and they were getting promoted a lot quicker because they had the leadership that were able to look at them a lot more.

TS:

Giving them more attention and stuff.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Why do you think it was that they were—you know, you guys were more invisible than the other groups?

AB:

Nobody just came out to see us. I mean, our platoon sergeant came out as many times as she could, just because, you know, she was looking after her soldiers.

TS:

Right. So she—You felt like she did a good job?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

But the upper leadership, higher level—

AB:

Not so much.

TS:

Not so much. Interesting. So did you have a sense—so then, about—Were you determined to stay in the military for a while, or how were you thinking at this point?

AB:

I was thinking about staying in.

TS:

Yeah. What were the things that you liked about the military that would have made you feel like you wanted to stay in?

AB:

I know—I guess it was just because it was a steady paycheck and I knew I would still have the chow halls to eat at and a place to sleep.

TS:

So a sense of stability?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

That’s cool. So do you have any other experiences from your first tour, that I don’t know to ask about, that you could tell me about?

AB:

We did have—we had one incident where we had a lady—we had a lady who was coming through to try to get to the American hospital, trying to get her—her—this little one was only a couple of weeks old, but they were trying to revive her.

TS:

The baby?

AB:

Yes. And we had—we had a turkey come through, and he had—It was a live turkey and he was a bomb.

TS:

And so what happened with that?

AB:

We called out EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal].

TS:

Yeah. How did you know that it was a live bomb?

AB:

We have dogs working on the checkpoint. And we had—usually the dogs would go through after we searched, and they’ll—

TS:

Like alert on some—

AB:

They have their ways of alerting us, and we had the dog sniff the turkey out. And the dog did what he was supposed to do and let us know.

TS:

How many live turkeys are running around in Iraq?

AB:

We only saw the one.

TS:

Yeah. Because that, to me, would seem like out of place, almost. You know?

AB:

Yeah. Most of what came through was sheep and goats and—

TS:

Yeah. And they mostly just kind of came through without any problem?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

What happened with the lady and her baby?

AB:

We really couldn’t do anything. I mean, the baby had passed away, so there was nothing that we could have done.

TS:

Oh, so it had already—had already died.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So she was trying to get past the checkpoint into the—into the green zone to go to a hospital?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So she wasn’t able to get through?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

That’s too bad.

AB:

I mean, we had the medic come out and check and see if there was anything that could be done but—

TS:

Nothing could be done?

AB:

No.

TS:

So how’d you feel about that?

AB:

It kind of—I mean, I wasn’t there to personally see it, but my friend was, and she had told me about it. It was kind of—It was kind of sad to hear.

TS:

Yeah. Now, did you have any experiences of the other—of the soldiers that were going out? Did any of your friends get hurt or injured or anything while they were out?

AB:

Thankfully, no. Nobody got injured. We—we did come home with one less soldier, but that’s not—He didn’t really work with us.

TS:

What happened with him?

AB:

He was electrocuted by one of the generators there.

TS:

Yeah. But other than that, your whole unit came back?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So how—in looking back at that first experience, how—Did you feel like you were well prepared to be able to go and deploy and do the things that you were able to do there?

AB:

I think so, yeah. I mean, they—Beforehand they’ll give you the different classes that will help you prepare, and we were out at the range several times a month.

TS:

Yeah. So you felt pretty adequate, except for the part you said about them not visiting you enough and giving you enough, maybe, kind of respect, maybe, I guess? But other than that you felt—

AB:

Right.

TS:

And then when you went back, you went back to Fort Hood, right?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Okay. And so how long were you there? Were you doing—Did you go back to supply then?

AB:

Yes, I went back to supply.

TS:

Yeah. And how long—

AB:

We were there for almost a year before we deployed again.

TS:

Almost a year?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

So during the time that you—that you came back, did you—Did you feel any differently about the army then? I mean, were you feeling like—so now you’ve been in, you’ve deployed, you’ve done a job that was really quite important, and then you’re—Did you have any feelings about that? [Was it] just doing what you needed to do, sort of thing?

AB:

Yeah. I mean, to me it didn’t really—I didn’t really feel any kind of change.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

No, just like this is what you do when you’re in the army, sort of thing? So you didn’t have like any kind of cultural change or shock or anything, coming back?

AB:

Not really, just the—feeling of being home again.

TS:

Yeah. So what kind of things happened in that year at Fort Hood, when you were back?

AB:

Well, we had—Like, when we came home, we had been a couple weeks worth of just re-integration classes, which is just like your sexual assault classes and what to expect with family members and classes like that.

TS:

Yeah. So like, to be able to help people transition back into the regular—

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay. So there were expectations. Even though for you it didn’t seem any different, for other people maybe they had harder changes.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Well, what was—I guess we didn’t talk about this either, for like—Some women say they have experienced, like, sexual harassment and things like that in the military. Was that something that you had any experience with or any of your friends or anything like that?

AB:

I had a couple of friends who experienced sexual harassment, but I didn’t really experience it.

TS:

What was it that went on with your friends? Do you know?

AB:

I think it was mainly due to, like, those—I hate to say it, but it was due to their actions, because it was right after we got back, and I guess they had gone out drinking or whatever, and it was mainly what they did.

TS:

So they put themselves, you think, in a position, then? So what happened with that? Did anybody get in trouble or anything?

AB:

They—one of my friends, she had tried getting the NCO, who she claimed to have done that to her—

TS:

Like a sexual assault or something?

AB:

Yeah. She tried to get him in trouble and nothing happened to him.

TS:

So it didn’t—they didn’t—Like, her story wasn’t believed or it was shot down or something [as] not credible?

AB:

They didn’t believe her.

TS:

They just didn’t believe her. Did you believe her?

AB:

Kind of did, but at the same time, she had kind of—I think she had put herself in the situation.

TS:

To be—

AB:

Because she could have walked away from it.

TS:

I see. Interesting. So what else did you do when you were back at Fort Hood, then?

AB:

More drinking.

TS:

Yeah? Did you stay out of trouble?

AB:

No.

TS:

No?

AB:

No. Then during my first deployment, I did get in trouble. I got demoted and—

TS:

What happened in your first deployment?

AB:

I had—

TS:

When you were in Iraq the first time?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So what happened?

AB:

I had alcohol in the room.

TS:

How’d you get it?

AB:

Interpreters. They’d bring it in.

TS:

Oh, so they found out and then you got—What happened to you then?

AB:

I got demoted, got my rank taken, money taken, thirty days extra duty.

TS:

At what point in your deployment did that happen?

AB:

About halfway through.

TS:

Halfway through? So did that bother you at all or affect you at all?

AB:

Not really, because it was something that I did. It was my actions, so I mean I couldn’t really be mad.

TS:

Right.

AB:

So I did it myself, so I had to take the consequences.

TS:

Right. So you thought—Do you think you were treated fairly, then?

AB:

Then, yes. I wasn’t the only one who got in trouble for it that day.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

So.

TS:

So why do you say, “then,” was there another time that you thought you weren’t treated fairly?

AB:

Not when it came to that sort of thing.

TS:

That sort of discipline. But other—Were there things that you didn’t feel like you were treated fairly in?

AB:

I know in a lot of—like the females in just, like—our commander and our first sergeant, they didn’t really—they—they looked more on other soldiers than they did with the females that we were working with. As I said, they didn’t even come out and really check up on us and make sure.

TS:

Yeah. So you think that—but you think that had anything to do with—Was it just all females that were in your FOB there? Was it—

AB:

The FOB itself was integrated, male and female, but—

TS:

Your particular unit?

AB:

My unit was integrated, but the job I did my first tour was—the platoon was females.

TS:

I see. So that’s the one. You felt like that platoon got a little bit slighted.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Is that what you’re saying?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

And you think—Why do you think that was?

AB:

I—Personally, I don’t know.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

I mean, even our platoon sergeant noticed that we were being treated differently than the rest of the company.

TS:

Did they have the same responsibilities as the rest of the company? Did they do different jobs?

AB:

They did mainly what they were trained to do. Like mechanics would do their job and supply had theirs, and the different shops had the people that they were trained with.

TS:

Right, so this was the MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] that they had when they enlisted, and they stayed doing that. And you guys are doing something a little bit different, right?

AB:

Right.

TS:

I wonder. That’s interesting. Okay. So you’ve got to go back to Fort Hood and you’re reduced in rank?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So what rank were you at then?

AB:

I got knocked down from E-3 to E-2.

TS:

Okay. So then how was it when you got back?

AB:

Didn’t really—I didn’t really see much of a change. I mean, there were some things like when the cannons would go off every week, I jumped for the first couple of times that I heard it, because we were just used to hearing the bombs and the gunshots and stuff go off.

TS:

Yeah. But you—When you were there, you said you weren’t really nervous or anything. But when you came back, you had felt, like, some sort of reaction that you had from that experience?

AB:

Yeah, a little bit. It didn’t really last long at all.

TS:

No? Just a little bit jumpy just because of the sounds?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you bring any of the smells or anything like that, other senses, back with you?

AB:

No.

TS:

I remember I had—Some of the people who told me the first time they went to Vietnam, the first thing that they remember was the smell when they stepped off the plane. They said that they couldn’t really describe it, but they always remember it.

AB:

It did smell cleaner.

TS:

What smelled cleaner?

AB:

Coming from Iraq to Fort Hood.

TS:

Coming back?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

There was a certain sense like—interesting. So then how was your second deployment?

AB:

A lot easier than the first one.

TS:

Really? Why?

AB:

I—Well, for about half the time, I actually was able to do some of my job.

TS:

With the supply?

AB:

Yeah, and the—Like, I was the lowest ranking, so mainly they just had me do whatever needed to be done around the office.

TS:

Right.

AB:

But then for the other half I did—I helped out in what they called the orderly room, which is helping with personnel and paperwork and just—

TS:

Did you like that?

AB:

I thought it was kind of boring.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

But it was stuff that needed to be done.

TS:

Right. So when you went back the second time, were you less nervous than you were the first time? Yeah?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

And where did you end up the second time?

AB:

Favorier[?], which is in Kirkuk, Iraq, and that was—I think more north of Baghdad.

TS:

What year was it that you went back?

AB:

Two-thousand-nine, beginning of.

TS:

Two-thousand-nine. So not too long ago, just a year and a half ago.

AB:

Yeah. We actually—We came home about six or seven months ago, a couple days before the holidays.

TS:

Oh, okay, at the end of 2009.

HB:

Came back twenty-third of December, 2009.

TS:

[chuckles] Mom remembers.

HB:

Because we didn’t think we were going to have her back for Christmas.

TS:

Oh, but you did make it back. So how was that experience, the second time, different from the first?

AB:

I kind of knew what to—what to expect over there.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Were you—were you—How were mom and dad for you being deployed this time, the second time? What were they thinking about it?

AB:

They knew I was going to be fine.

TS:

Yeah? No concerns at all?

AB:

No.

TS:

Now, was your younger sister yet in the navy?

AB:

I think she was.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

Right after—or right before I—

HB:

She was in basic training when you came home.

TS:

From the first deployment?

HB:

Second.

TS:

The second.

HB:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay. So she wasn’t quite yet then.

AB:

She was deploying.

HB:

She was in A-School. Oh, that’s right. She was already on crews, yeah. So she did.

TS:

Okay.

HB:

Yeah.

AB:

And so they all knew I was going to be fine.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

That I was going to come home.

TS:

Did you get to get out—Did you do anything differently the second time?

AB:

Not really.

TS:

No?

AB:

No.

TS:

Did you get out and see the people at all?

AB:

I only got to leave the FOB one time, and that was when we were training Iraqis.

TS:

And how was that experience?

AB:

It was boring.

TS:

How—What were you training them to do?

AB:

They were training them different techniques for convoys and what to do in case they were under fire. And like, we did a simulation type of thing for them. They would go—we were in an empty building right outside the FOB, and they would take out three or four trucks of theirs and we’d go—we’d hide in the building and use hollow points to—or, I’m sorry, not hollow points, but blanks.

HB:

[laughs]

AB:

And we’d use them to, like, pretty much shoot at them. So we were—

TS:

Like a simulation sort of thing.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

But that was it, just the one time?

AB:

Yeah, just the one time. We did—We did have to escort, like, the interpreters and the workers onto the FOB. And seeing the way that, you know—Not really putting down the air force, because I do have a friend who just got out, but they ran their checkpoints a lot different than we ran ours. And it was kind of, you know, “Hey, why aren’t you doing this?” You know, it may just be entrance to the FOB, but it’s not a game.

TS:

You think—less secure, you mean? Yeah.

AB:

But they weren’t even really searching people that would come through. They didn’t have their machines. They weren’t wearing their gear. They thought it was all like laid back just because the FOB doesn’t really have anything happen. And I wanted to yell at them, but I didn’t.

TS:

So you felt they just weren’t as safe as they should have been?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

I was going to ask you, what—when you—When you see something like that, what do you think the difference is? Why do you think that they felt a little bit differently about it than how you were trained and what you did?

AB:

I think it’s just like the different—They had different training than we did.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

So that’s just what really—

TS:

So did anything else happen on this particular deployment?

AB:

No.

TS:

Did you keep your rank?

AB:

No.

TS:

No? [chuckles] What happened this time?

AB:

This was just the [unclear]. I didn’t get in trouble for alcohol this time. It was mainly just oversleeping and being late for formations and stuff.

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

But that’s pretty much it. And I did try to go and get help with the—because I did have a hard time falling asleep and waking up and hearing my alarm.

TS:

Right. So what kind of help could you get for that?

AB:

Really not much. I mean, they could—You could go to the aid station, but for the most part they’d just give you tips on how to kind of relax yourself and they’d give you sleeping meds.

TS:

So were you working kind of weird hours or something, different shifts?

AB:

No, unless they had you starting like—

TS:

Like a special duty or—

AB:

Yeah, certain details.

TS:

They keep you up a little bit late or something like that.

AB:

Yeah, they had me—like, if I wasn’t working at the office, they had me in with the workers. And I mean, they get off at like four or five in the afternoon, so that wasn’t too bad. But you know, after—they’d—sometimes right after that, they’d have me go and work at the DFAC.

TS:

What’s that?

AB:

The dining facility.

TS:

Okay.

AB:

They’d have me checking IDs as they were coming through, making sure.

TS:

So like extra detail?

AB:

Yeah. Making sure that people weren’t coming through if they were not supposed to.

TS:

Right. Because they did have some incidents at the dining facility, didn’t they?

AB:

Not at the one that we were at.

TS:

Maybe not at yours but, you know, if it had happened somewhere else, they might have wanted to check that someone was [unclear].

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Seems like I remember something about that, but could be wrong.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Pardon?

HB:

There was.

TS:

Yeah. So what—Did you have any more celebrities come through this time, that you got to see, maybe?

AB:

Kid Rock.

TS:

Again or is that the second time?

AB:

This was the second time. He came through. It was him [and] a country singer named Jessie James. She’s like an up-and-coming singer. I didn’t personally find her very good. And then Carlos Mencia. They all came down one night.

TS:

Who was the third one?

AB:

Carlos Mencia, a comedian.

TS:

So did you—You got to see them?

AB:

Yes, I did. And there was some—I think—I want to say it was a Christian band. I really don’t know who this band was because they had just started out. Toby Keith arrived right after we had left.

TS:

So you missed him again.

AB:

Yeah. And there was—I think the band was called Scars in Hollywood, Scars from Broadway, something like that. They were more of an alternative rock band.

TS:

Was that—When you had people visit like that, did people get really excited about it?

AB:

It all just depended on who came.

TS:

Who was coming?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah. Different—So it sounds like a lot of different varieties of people would come over to do that.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Well, now, did you feel—Was there anything else that happened, in this second deployment?

AB:

Nothing major.

TS:

No? So did you—So then you came back, I guess, last December. And now did you think about staying in still or what?

AB:

I didn’t have that option.

TS:

Oh, you didn’t have the option?

AB:

No.

TS:

So you were—It was time for you to get out?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So now, what was the period of time you had a stop-loss? Was that the first deployment or the second one? I forget.

AB:

I—It was right before my second one.

TS:

Okay. So you were under a stop-loss, so you had to stay in a little bit longer than you would have otherwise?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So then when you got back, you were scheduled to get out of the service?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

What did you think about that? Did you have hope to stay in?

AB:

I knew I wasn’t going to.

TS:

At that point?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

What do you think about your experience?

AB:

I think that could help me, like especially with the search and security. I actually have been trying to apply for even just working the gates here.

TS:

Because you have the experience that you had?

AB:

Yeah. And then some of what I experienced could carry into a little bit better of a job than normal.

TS:

Than you would have otherwise been able to have. Did you learn—Did you get anything else out of the military experience that you had? Did you feel—I remember you talked at first about the discipline aspect of it, like you would be more disciplined. Did you find that that helped you at all, even though you had these run-ins, you know?

AB:

I think it did.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

Because if you look at, you know, a lot of kids—A lot of people my age, some of them just don’t have any respect at all for almost anybody.

TS:

What do you think would have been different had you not gone in the military?

AB:

I would be going from job to job and have a hard time, like, getting into schools and of being able to stay in the schools.

TS:

So you think it gave you some sort of—like focused you a little bit—

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

—on what you wanted to do and things?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So I asked your mom this question; I’m going to ask you the same thing. So what do you think about the word patriotism? What does patriotism mean to you?

AB:

I think it’s doing what you love to do. Like if you [pause]—If you like putting on the uniform every day, then to me that’s the main thing, is those who are willing to go out and fight for their country and do a lot of things that a lot of people just won’t do. Like there’s some who will not even think about joining the military and there’s some who will put down the military, and to me it’s very disrespectful.

TS:

Have you come across any of those people since you’ve been out?

AB:

Actually, I have. Well, not since I’ve been out, but during the time.

TS:

During your time? How—What kind of experience was that?

AB:

I know I had received a message through, I think it was MySpace, and I completely ignored it. But there was one guy who thought that women should not be in the military at all, that we don’t do anything over there, and we don’t do anything for the military.

TS:

How did you respond to that?

AB:

I didn’t—I was kind of angry, but I didn’t respond back to him at all. Okay. You can say what you want. I don’t care. That’s the reason why people are in the military, is fighting for you to be able to say something like that.

TS:

Right. Do you think that’s a—Was it like a person in your generation that had that attitude, or was it an older person? Do you remember?

AB:

He was within a generation.

TS:

Your generation?

AB:

Yes. I actually talked to a couple of World War II vets. They were males. But they said that back then, women—there wasn’t too many in the military, but they said they highly respect those who are joining in today, especially the women.

TS:

That reminds me of a question I forgot to ask your mom, but I’ll ask you. Now, the big topic about the military is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell thing. So what do you think of that particular law? Which I was going to ask you [Heather], too, when you’re done chewing. [chuckles]

AB:

If they want to join, let them join. It don’t bother me none at all.

TS:

Yeah. I was thinking I forgot to ask the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

HB:

Yeah.

TS:

Is that—it used to be, “What do you think about women in the military?” but now it’s more like, you know, what—for gays in the military. What are your views on that? [I] forgot to ask you that one.

HB:

Right. For me, I mean, that’s not a lifestyle I would choose. I have several friends, and many are in the military today, that is their lifestyle. And it’s—my one friend, she thinks it’s a total secret. And I’m like, “No, we all know. Trust us, we all know. It’s okay,” you know. But in my opinion—my husband’s got a complete opposite opinion of me—gays have been in the military since the military was started, and I think that if you are a woman—[extraneous comments about recorder placement redacted.] Gays have been in the military since the military started, and me as a woman, if I’m—if I think that somebody’s, you know, of the female type is going to hit on me or whatnot or stare at me in the shower or something, that’s pretty self-arrogant. You know what I mean? It’s—to me, it’s just like what my husband is, you know. He’s allowed to come to functions with me and you know. I mean I say it’s not my lifestyle. It’s not the lifestyle I choose, but it’s somebody’s lifestyle, and if they can pick up a gun and they can save my happy ass down the road, then I don’t care who is in their house with them living with them. That’s just me.

TS:

Do you think it’s going to be repealed?

HB:

Yeah, I do.

TS:

Do you think it will be repealed, too?

AB:

Yes, I do.

TS:

Well, we actually covered quite a lot here, too. Is there anything that we—we didn’t talk about that you wanted to talk about your experience?

AB:

I don’t think so.

TS:

Do you feel like—Even though you had some disciplinary issues, do you feel like you were treated fairly during your time?

AB:

I think so.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

Yeah.

HB:

Except for by one person?

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

Except for by one person?

HB:

By one person.

TS:

One person. What was the one person?

HB:

That one person used to work for me, at Fort Huachuca.

TS:

Yeah?

HB:

And she ended up working for this same person. And this person actually [comments about recorder placement redacted] if a group of people got in trouble—because I was—This one particular NCO who worked for me in Arizona, she had a lot of disciplinary problems and a lot of issues, and I was very hard on her.

And so when this person went to Fort Hood. Ashley calls me up and she’s like, “Mom, do you know a such-and-such?”

And I’m like, “Yes. Why?”

“Because that’s my NCO now.”

And I’m like, “Oh my goodness.”

Even my sergeant major said, “Oh, like you don’t have enough to worry about, now she’s working for this person.”

And so if Ashley got in trouble with a group of people, the other people might get let off quite a bit easier than Ashley, because this person was—Her dislike for me was so great. And she figured, “You know what, she was so hard on me. I’m just going to be hard on her kid.” You know, and so.

TS:

Did you feel that way, Ashley?

AB:

Yes, I did.

TS:

That she was harder on you because of that? Because you kind of were implying that earlier, but you didn’t specifically say—

HB:

Because she actually called me up one time, because she tried to tell me—Ashley tried to tell me, “I think that Sergeant Such-and-Such is being harder on me for this and that.”

And I’m like, “It’s in your head. I don’t think—.” Even I told her, “I don’t believe you. I don’t think so.” Then I started saying, “Give me examples.” And she started giving me examples. And I got to thinking, I’m like, “I think there might be some truth to this one,” you know.

So I actually called that NCO, and I said, “Knock it off right now because you’re only a fifteen hour drive, and I still outrank you. Period.” And she backed off, I think, after a while.

TS:

You feel the same way? Yeah?

AB:

She still expressed her—her anger.

TS:

Yeah. So it was more of like a personal issue.

HB:

It was. It was very personal because of me. And so it just goes to show you how small the army actually is.

TS:

That’s true.

HB:

Because I’m not supply. This person was not supply either, you know. She was actually radar repair. And so three different MOSs, two different installation—First Cav[alry] is a big unit, and that’s where they were, so just—

TS:

So it just kind of—

HB:

Yeah. That was really weird. It was really weird. Yeah.

TS:

Interesting. So you’re—So now you’re out, right, just recently.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

March. And so do you think you’re going to take some of these experiences that you had—and I know that they weren’t all, you know, happy experiences, right, but maybe lessons that you learned.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

You’re going to take some of those with you into the civilian world, as you transition?

AB:

Probably. There’s some things that I won’t even notice that I am.

TS:

Just because of how it is.

AB:

Yeah.

TS:

So if you—So you’re going to have a daughter very soon.

AB:

Any day now.

TS:

And so you come from a military family. And if your daughter said to you, “You know, Mom, I think I want to join the air force,” what would you—What would you say to her?

AB:

I’d let her join.

TS:

Yeah?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

And do you think that there’s any jobs that women should not be able to do in the military?

AB:

No.

TS:

No? That they can do anything?

AB:

Personally, I think that they could.

TS:

That they could do anything. So there’s no limitation.

AB:

Nope.

TS:

Well, is there anything else you want to add?

AB:

I know just the question you just asked me. I did have a—when our guys went out?

TS:

Yeah.

AB:

A lot of the guys didn’t think that the females would do a very good job on our missions. We had females who were gunners and, yes, I know a lot of people who think—you know, the infantry, let’s just say.

TS:

Right. That seems to be a big opposition—the biggest one, it seems to be, to the women in the infantry.

AB:

Yeah. I mean, I know a lot of females who could do just as much as any infantry guy.

TS:

If they wanted to be able to do it.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

Yeah. So as long as they’re capable then they should be able to do it, is kind of where your stand is for that?

AB:

Yeah, I think so.

TS:

Yeah. That—did you see for yourself, for the time that you were in, that you were treated by the men that supervised you and the women that supervised you—Did you see, like, that they treated you the same?

AB:

They had treated me a little—not just me, but other people—differently just because the women have different views than the guys do.

TS:

So can you give me an example of something like that?

AB:

The women think that—because there’s already a lot of guys who don’t even think that women should be in the military in the first place, there’s—I know some of my leadership, when I had women leadership, they looked at females as trying to getting to be higher than the guys, to kind of prove that females can do just about as much as any male can.

TS:

So do you think that still women have to go to an extra level to do that than the man? Like if you have two, a man and a woman, doing the same job, they can’t do them the same to be viewed equally? Does a woman have to be that much better than a man, do you think?

AB:

I don’t think so. I think that they can do their job just as—

TS:

But I mean the perception of it, the perception of how they’re viewed.

AB:

That’s the way I see it, because, I mean, I know I’ve been treated differently.

TS:

Yeah. So you think there’s still that element in the military that sees women maybe as a little bit less capable? You think there’s still that there?

AB:

I think so.

TS:

Interesting. So is there anything that you would say to someone, man or woman, that wanted to join the military? What would you say to them? [Any] words of advice?

AB:

Well, like my mom has said earlier, I think it all just—The military isn’t for everybody. So if you think you can do it, by all means. But if you don’t think you’re ready for it—like I thought I was, but I wasn’t.

TS:

But you still gained some things from it.

AB:

Yes.

TS:

And you gave a lot to it as well, right?

AB:

Yes.

TS:

I don’t think many women can say that they stood in Iraq at a checkpoint, you know, doing the security checks.

AB:

Not a whole lot.

TS:

Well, thank you, Ashley. I’ve enjoyed talking with you.

AB:

You’re welcome.

TS:

If there’s nothing else you want to add, I’m going to go ahead and shut it off.

AB:

Nothing else.

TS:

You’re good?

AB:

I’m good.

TS:

Okay. Okay.

[Recording ends]