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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Christine M. Knott, 2010

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Object ID: WV0498.5.001

Description: Knott discusses her early life as part of a military family living in Libya and many parts of the United States, her early life and early adult life, her service and life after retirement, as well as her perspectives concerning military culture and women in the military.

Summary: Knott also documents her experience in entering the military in her 30s, her perception of changes within the military over the course of her service, and important figures in her service, especially Captain Kenneth Robinson.

Creator: Christine M. Knott

Biographical Info: Chief Warrant Officer Christine M. Knott (b. 1949) served as an interrogator in the U.S. Army from 1983-2004.

Collection: Christine M. Knott 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:

This is Therese Strohmer, and it’s August 9th, 2010. I’m in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with Christine Knott. Chris, how would you like your name to read on your collection that we’re doing for the Women’s Veterans Historical Collection?

Christine Knott:

Christine would be fine.

TS:

Christine—Christine, do you want your middle name, M. Knott?

CK:

M. Knott, yeah.

TS:

Okay. All right, and this collection is for the Women’s Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Well, thank you for joining me today, Christine. Why don’t we start off by telling me where and when you were born? And where you’re from?

CK:

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1949, June 3rd. My dad was in the army, so we traveled a lot.

TS:

Did you have any—what did he do in the army, what was his—

CK:

He was in signal.

TS:

Oh, he was?

CK:

Yeah. So, we ended up at Fort Gordon [in Augusta, Georgia] quite a lot, because that was the signal—but we lived—

TS:

Where’s that at?

CK:

Fort Gordon, Georgia.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And let’s see, we were at Fort Lewis, Washington, we lived five years in Libya, which is where all these rugs and stuff come from.

TS:

Oh, interesting. Well, we’ll have to get into that as we go through your growing up years.

CK:

Yeah, that was before Qaddafi, so.

TS:

Ah. Well, did you have any siblings?

CK:

Three brothers.

TS:

So where do you fall in the line?

CK:

I had an older brother, he passed away recently, and then two younger ones. And my older brother was in the military and my younger brother was in the military, we all retired.

TS:

All three of you?

CK:

And my father, yeah.

TS:

What service were you all in, the same one, or—

CK:

My dad was army, my older brother was—during Vietnam, he was in the navy, he was a corpsman with the Marines. Then he got out and then he joined the air force, and he retired from the air force as a P.A. [physician’s assistant], and my younger brother was in the air force and he retired, he was a medic, so they were both in the medical field.

TS:

Okay. So your one brother was a physician’s assistant and the other was a medic?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay. So when you were growing up, so you did a lot of moving around?

CK:

Yup.

TS:

Did you have—when you say, you know, where’s home, if somebody asks you where home is, what—do you have a place that you call home?

CK:

Jacksonville, Florida. [chuckles]

TS:

Why do you call that home?

CK:

Because that’s where my dad grew up and all of my relatives live. And we would always go back there, in between going to different places, we would always go back.

TS:

Did you do a lot of jumping around to different schools, then?

CK:

Oh yeah.

TS:

Did you?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

What—during, say, your elementary school-type years, what—where were you at, then?

CK:

Oh, I remember—oh yeah, Yuma, Arizona. And then Fort Lewis, Washington, then Tripoli, Libya, then Fort Gordon, Georgia. And then my dad had to go to Vietnam, so we went back to Jacksonville and I finished school in Jacksonville.

TS:

So what was it like, growing up, I guess as a military brat?

CK:

Well, you know, people don’t really want to be friends with you because they know you’re going to be leaving soon, and I—I learned that probably in junior high school, because I would make these friends and then they’d kind of start distancing themselves because they knew that we were going to be leaving. And so we were close-knit family, my brothers and myself and my mom and dad.

TS:

What kind of things did you do as a family?

CK:

Oh gosh. Everything—we camped, went to beaches, especially in Libya, we were always doing picnics, karate classes, all kinds of stuff. Just—we were always together.

TS:

Did you do a—when you were at school, growing up, did you participate in any extracurricular activities or anything like that?

CK:

Sometimes, but not really, you know. Not a whole lot.

TS:

No sports or anything like that?

CK:

I played softball.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you—did you like school, itself?

CK:

I—yeah, yeah, I liked school.

TS:

Did you have a favorite class, subject?

CK:

Science, I remember Mr. Leeman[?] in Libya. See, names, names coming up. Mr. Leeman in Libya, I don’t know why, I always remember him. I was in junior high school.

TS:

What was he like? Why did you like him?

CK:

I don’t know why, I don’t remember. I just remember this man, Mr. Leeman, and he was so good to all the students, and we learned science, and we were fascinated with it because of the way he interacted. And then I always remember my brother’s Russian teacher was Mrs. Daycock, and she was also an algebra teacher, and—she’s gone now, but she was—this was in Libya, and—

TS:

Well, let’s talk about Libya for a little bit, then.

CK:

Okay.

TS:

So you were in junior high, how old were you, would you say?

CK:

Elementary through junior.

TS:

Okay. Elementary through junior, so—

CK:

Yeah, I think, let’s see—

TS:

So your kind of formative teenage years.

CK:

Yes, yeah.

TS:

What did you think about going to Libya from the United States when you were a young girl?

CK:

It was an adventure for all of us.

TS:

So what years would this have been, approximately?

CK:

It was in the ‘50s, we actually left in ’63.

TS:

When you came back.

CK:

When we came back. We were there five years. So, my dad was there before we were. This stuff right here came from Persia, you know, it was Iran—it’s Iran now, but it was Persia.

TS:

Can you describe what this stuff is?

CK:

It’s a silver tea set from some mines, I can’t remember the name of the mines. But my dad had to string—he was signal—he had to string lines, because, you know, of course they didn’t have wireless then, all the way through the Benghazi Desert. And into—he went all over the place. But he was there before we were. My mother was from England, so she didn’t have her citizenship, so she had—we had to wait ‘til she got her citizenship to be able to join him overseas. So we helped her do that, and then we all—we actually did a ship over to Libya, because they didn’t do planes back then, it was—and it was on the—let me see, I can’t remember the name of the ship, but it was a cruise ship we were on two weeks.

TS:

Well, how was that?

CK:

Awesome. It was—it was a cruise ship. And that’s how they sent families overseas then. And we went around, you know, Gibraltar and Spain and Italy and stopped off at all the ports, and then ended up in shores of Tripoli.

TS:

So you’re there—you’re on the ship for about two weeks?

CK:

Two weeks, yeah.

TS:

Yeah. What kind of things did you do on the ship?

CK:

Movies, swim—always—it was the S.S. Geiger. G-E-I-G-E-R. Sister ship to Queen Mary, I remember that one. And then our first house, our first villa, was in downtown Libya, across the street from a woman’s prison farm.

TS:

A prison farm?

CK:

A woman’s prison farm.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And that was an experience.

TS:

Why?

CK:

Because women were not treated well in Libya, you know, and it was just—I don’t know, I don’t know why it was—see the women with the covers and all that, it was strange for us, you know.

TS:

Right, with the burqas?

CK:

Yeah, little American kids coming over to see this.

TS:

Did you have to dress like that at all?

CK:

No, we didn’t, no. And then—we probably should have, but we didn’t. And we lived close to downtown and our villa was three villas surrounded with a fence. And we had guards, we always had guards. We lived like right down the street from the Mediterranean [Sea]—I know, it was amazing. I—I—it’s so vivid in my head. And inside the house, everything was marble. Marble countertops, marble fireplaces, marble floors, everything was marble. Because it was so cool. The ceilings were real high, and—and I remember that we kids, our guards would make couscous and we’d go out and sit and eat couscous with the guards---we were nasty little kids, eating—going out and doing everything with the Arabs, you know. Eating couscous with them and stuff. It was neat. And then our second villa, because we were waiting for a place on base, it was at Wheelus Air Force Base. Our second villa was right down the street from a mosque, next door to a bakery, and of course you, you know, smell the bakery and all that, and—they’re not clean people, so we would see how nasty it was, baking and all, but we still loved it. And we’d go down and—you’re bringing up so many memories for me. We’d go down to the corner store and they’d take the—the paper—I mean the bread, and wrap it in paper, scoop the innards out and stuff it with tuna.  And it was one of our favorite sandwiches, you know. And then we’d hear the mosque all the time, got to know that. It was a neat experience. And then we finally moved on base, which again was right down the street from the Mediterranean, so we just lived at the beach. It’s interesting.

TS:

So you had some experience—you weren’t so young when you moved there that you didn’t remember what it was like.

CK:

I remember everything.

TS:

No, I mean, but you didn’t—but you also remember what it was like in the United States, right, and the differences, maybe.

CK:

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

TS:

Did you remember, at that age, feeling that anything—you talked about a couple of things, like how the women were treated, and wearing the burqa. Did the food seem interesting to you, or—

CK:

The food was delicious. I just, it—the flavors were so vivid, you know. The breads were great, the best breads in the world were at that nasty bakery next door. [chuckling]

TS:

And then you got to go to the Mediterranean on—at the beach, I guess.

CK:

Oh yeah. And we’d also go to the market downtown.

TS:

What was that like?

CK:

An experience you wouldn’t believe. Crowds and then the Arabs speaking and—but we just—it seemed like we just fit right in with everything, it was—it was amazing. Oh, we lived also, at the second villa, we lived next to the British Army camp. So we had a lot of British friends, and we’d go over to the British post and we were there one year for the Queen’s birthday parade, and that was pretty neat.

TS:

Did you ever feel afraid or anything like that?

CK:

No, never. Never, never. Isn’t that amazing?

TS:

You were—you would have been there in the ‘50s, during like the height of part of the Cold War, too. Do you have any sense of that as a child? Because, you know, back in the United States, they’re doing the duck and cover, and—

CK:

Well, sometimes, now, sometimes they would close us all in base, and like if you went off base, the Arabs would throw rocks at you and stuff but then it would calm down. I remember the fence around Wheelus was this huge concrete fence, and then the tops of it had broken glass all embedded, and then three strings of barbed wire all the way around it. And guard gates and everything, so. You know, I guess we had that security there, so we never really—yeah. And we all belonged to the Skin-Diver’s club, too.

TS:

The what club?

CK:

Skin-Diver’s club. That was another thing the family did together, was skin diving. [Skindiving generally refers to the sport of diving with flippers, face mask, and snorkel rather than an oxygen tank or other equipment.]

TS:

Well, I want to ask you about—you said you had rocks thrown at you?

CK:

Yeah, sometimes. Just because we’re Americans.

TS:

So what’d you do?

CK:

Nothing, just ignored it.

TS:

Just kept walking or whatever?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Was it adults or kids, or—

CK:

Kids, yeah.

TS:

Kids—oh, other kids. Now when you went to school there, was it like a U.S. military school, or Department of Defense?

CK:

Yeah, it was for the oil company kids and—

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

And so who—were your teachers Americans?

CK:

Yeah, they were Americans.

TS:

Okay. And this is where you said you had the one teacher—

CK:

Mr. Leeman and Ms. Daycock, yeah.

TS:

Yeah. Did you feel like you had a good education through that system?

CK:

Well, actually, no. When we got back to the States, I was thirteen, I had to repeat the eighth grade because they tested us when we got back, and we didn’t meet the standards. So I had to repeat the eighth grade.

TS:

Why do you think that was?

CK:

I don’t really know, I don’t know. I know now the schools run by the military for civilians are a lot tougher than they were back when we were—I don’t know why. Well, of course, I was in the seventh grade, I didn’t know.

TS:

Yeah, young, yeah. But you also had some things going on politically in the United States at that time, because you had the Cuban Missile Crisis—

CK:

True.

TS:

—you would have been over there then. Do you remember anything about that? Just—

CK:

No. I was oblivious to—to anything but having fun on the beach and being in junior high.

TS:

You were just being a kid. What about the assassination of JFK?

CK:

That happened—we got back on my birthday in ’63.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And he wasn’t killed until November.

TS:

Right.

CK:

So we were at Fort Lewis—oh, this was a horrible experience, too. We were at—not Fort Lewis, Fort Gordon, Georgia, and I was sitting in algebra class when they announced it. And I was devastated, I just started crying, everything—other kids were cheering. It was because it was in the South, the Deep South, you know? And you know how he was—yeah. It was horrible.

TS:

What did—how did you react to the cheering?

CK:

I was mad, but I remember, too, when we got back to the States in ’63, we went to Fort Gordon, we lived in downtown Augusta. Augusta, Georgia. And I was catching a bus, a city bus, to go somewhere—I just go to the back of the bus. The driver stopped the bus, came back, and put me up in the front. And there was, then, too, there were water fountains for colored and white, and it was just awful, because I wasn’t used to it. You know, growing up in the military and—we were just so integrated with everything. Our best friends were blacks and—it was just hard to get used to.

TS:

Was that something your family talked about at all? To help you cope about—with it?

CK:

We did—not really, we talked about how shocked we were, and that—but it doesn’t affect how we feel, you know.

TS:

Right.

CK:

It was this horrible experience to me, you know?

TS:

Right. So how long were you there—

CK:

At Fort Gordon?

TS:

Yeah, at Fort Gordon.

CK:

From—gosh, I think we left there my junior year in high school. Went back—because that’s when my dad had to go to Vietnam. So we went back to—the family went back to Jacksonville.

TS:

So he went to Vietnam in the service, as part of the service?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

In signals? What year would he have gone, then? ‘60s, right, ’60-something.

CK:

Yeah, seems like ’65, ’66, somewhere around there.

TS:

So at the beginning, really.

CK:

At the beginning, yeah.

TS:

At the beginning.

CK:

Yeah, and then we went back to Jacksonville, and then when he came back, they went back to Fort Gordon and I stayed in Jacksonville. And then he was told he was going—he’d already been to Vietnam twice, and they were going to send him a third time, so he said, no, he’s retiring, so.

TS:

I see.

CK:

So he did thirty years and—

TS:

Yeah, he was in for a while.

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Did you—since it was the beginning of Vietnam, did your family have any sense of worries about your dad being over there at that time?

CK:

Oh yeah, because he’d send us back—he actually had a Polaroid camera and he was staying in a tent and his tent got blown up and destroyed the camera. He’d write us, Mama has all his letters.

TS:

Were you worried personally about him at all?

CK:

Yeah, we always were.

TS:

Yeah. But you communicated through the letters. Did you do any of the—the voice—

CK:

Didn’t have those.

TS:

No?

CK:

Did not have those. Families are so spoiled now. So spoiled compared to what we had then. I mean, I—even as close or as far back as Haiti, I was over in Haiti and calling back to my family, here, we had to do it on the [makes noise] phones, like that, you know, and—

TS:

The satellite phones?

CK:

We didn’t have—yeah, and now they’ve got—

TS:

We had to wait for the—right, you’d say something, then you’d have to wait.

CK:

Yeah, and now they got Skype [video conferencing software] and everything else. It’s unbelievable. Watching kids being born now and everything, it’s crazy.

TS:

Well now, so what kind of music did you listen to as a kid growing up? Do you remember—movies?

CK:

I was an Elvis fool.

TS:

Were you?

CK:

Yes. [chuckling] Yeah.

TS:

Anybody else that you enjoyed?

CK:

The Dave Clark Five, let’s see. The Beatles, of course. Yeah, you know, the standard normal ones.

TS:

Any movie stars?

CK:

I don’t remember that many.

TS:

No? Were you a big movie buff at that time?

CK:

No, I wasn’t.

TS:

But you liked the music?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you have dances that you went to through school?

CK:

Oh yeah, I was a dancing fool.

TS:

Elvis fool and a dancing fool.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

They kind of went together.

CK:

Oh—Chubby Checkers, of course, we all did the Twist like crazy.

TS:

There you go. And now, you’re—so when you get into high school, do you have a sense of what you want to do when you’re done with high school?

CK:

None.

TS:

None?

CK:

None, not a clue. Because you were expected, then, to get married and have kids, you know, that was it.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

You know, in the ‘60s. So actually, in high school, I worked in the morning before high school, before I went to classes I worked in this—like a soda shop, next to the high school, and then in the evenings, I worked at Sears, in my junior and senior years. And then, I mean right after I graduated, I got married, had a kid, you know.

TS:

How’d you meet your husband?

CK:

High school.

TS:

High school?

CK:

Yeah. We were both seniors.

TS:

And this is Danny?

CK:

No, that’s—I’m sorry, no.

TS:

Not that one. Okay. I was going to say, that’s a long time to be together.

CK:

No, no, different one.

TS:

So you got married right after high school.

CK:

I did.

TS:

In high school, too, you went through—you kind of went through it during the counter-culture years, right?

CK:

I was a hippie. [chuckles]

TS:

You were a hippie?  Tell me about that, then, Chris, I want to hear about that. What did you do as a hippie?

CK:

No, I wasn’t, everybody thinks I was a hippie. I just had, you know, the long hair and the freaky clothes and—I wasn’t really part of that, because I worked.

TS:

Right.

CK:

I always worked.

TS:

But you also—did you have, since you come from a military family background, and some of the protests and things going on with the anti-Vietnam, what—

CK:

Big-time, yeah. And even my brother was in Vietnam, too. But we—we didn’t pay any attention, because we had family in Vietnam, you know, so we didn’t get involved in that.

TS:

But you—but you were aware of it.

CK:

Oh yeah, we were very aware of it.

TS:

So what did you think of it?

CK:

I thought it was horrible. I mean, because we had—my brother was there, my father was there, my brother got—both of them got Purple Hearts [military decoration for having been wounded] when they were there. We’re just a military family.

TS:

Did you have any discussions with people about it at the time?

CK:

No, I ignored them.

TS:

You ignored them?

CK:

I did, totally.

TS:

So you had—

CK:

I got—maybe that’s why I made a good interrogator. I ignored people a lot.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Well, let’s get to that, then, eventually, here. But—so after—so you get married, after high school, and then what’s next in your life?

CK:

Okay. I just had a kid and worked different jobs, I worked at NAS [Naval Air Station] Jackson[ville] and then I started working at Florida Junior College and then I was going through a separation and divorce and then I met my husband, now.

TS:

Your current husband.

CK:

Yes. I met him—he worked at a gas station right down the street from my house.

TS:

Where were you living then?

CK:

Jacksonville.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And then—I don’t know, my kids were getting—it was just work, work, work, that’s all I ever seem to do, is work, work, work, and I just felt like I was going nowhere, and even—working in the college, and I took classes and I taught at night and sold Avon and even worked in a bar on weekends, and just—I was always working. And I said, there’s got to be more to life than this. And I was thirty-four years old, I was going through a real mid-life crisis, and I joined the army. [chuckles]

TS:

So, tell me the steps that you took to make that decision.

CK:

My dad. My dad saw that I was floundering, and he just said “Why don’t you join the army?”

And I said “I could never do that. God, I’m thirty-four years old.”

“So what? Just try.”

So, okay, so I went down, talked to the recruiter, before I know it, I was in a MEP [Military Entrance Processing] Station and in the army.

TS:

Well, how—did you automatically think that you were only going to try the army, or did you look at the other services at the time?

CK:

I was too old for the other services.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

So that was the only one for the age group that you were in?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

So did you know—did you think “Okay, I’m going to go in the army,” but you had no clue about what kind of job you wanted?

CK:

No clue, no clue. So they did the tests.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And then they said, you know, I could do a language and do intel and all of that. So I said, okay, what the heck. [laughter]

TS:

So tell me about basic training, though, at thirty-four.

CK:

Oh my god.

TS:

I’m very interested.

CK:

What a nightmare that was. I had my final PT test on my thirty-fifth birthday. And it killed me. But you know what seemed to bother me the most, is that the drill sergeants—hmm—they really didn’t pay a lot of attention to me like they did to the others, and I was kind of offended. Because they would counsel these others and all that.

Finally I went up to him one time, and I said “Why are you not counseling me in this way?”

And he said “Because we don’t have to. You know, you’re mature and you handle everything, you do everything, you’re an adult.”

So I said “Okay.”

TS:

Did that make you feel a little better?

CK:

It did, yeah.

TS:

So physically, you—was that an okay part of the—

CK:

Physically, it was a nightmare, but I made it, you know, I did everything they told me.

TS:

Were the—was the army integrated, then, with men and women, at that time, in ’83?

CK:

No, no.

TS:

Or was it ’84, I think you said.

CK:

Eighty-four when I went to basic training. No, there weren’t.

TS:

So just a female unit. How about emotionally, was it difficult at all for you?

CK:

Very, very emotional.

TS:

Really?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Explain that to me.

CK:

I had never been away from my family, you know, alone like that, and then, to me, even though they didn’t harass me personally, you know how they harass people generally? And I—and the physical stuff was getting to me a lot. And fortunately, my older brother was stationed right near Fort Jackson. He was in the air force. So he would come and visit me on weekends. But he was an officer in the air force, so like, he would come and visit me on the weekends and we’d be sitting there and I’d hit him. I got in trouble for hitting an officer once.

TS:

[chuckles]

CK:

You know—

TS:

What happened there?

CK:

I just—the drill sergeant called me in and just reprimanded me, you know, and I had to stand there at parade rest. “Yes, drill sergeant, no, drill sergeant.” Yeah. “Never again, drill sergeant.”

TS:

I bet your brother enjoyed hearing about that.

CK:

He loved it. He laughed. We joked about that for years. He was a neat guy.

TS:

Now, how old were your kids at this time?

CK:

They were all teenagers, they’re both teenagers.

TS:

Okay, so what is your husband doing while you’re in basic—what did he think about your decision?

CK:

He thought I was crazy.

TS:

Did he?

CK:

But he supported it, you know, they all came to my graduation at basic training, and then he went with me to AIT and to California and everywhere else, so.

TS:

And what’s AIT?

CK:

Oh, I’m sorry, acronyms. Advanced training, you know, when you go to—Advanced Individual Training, when you go and hone in your MOS. MOS, you know, military—[military occupational specialty]

TS:

Yeah, no—you don’t have to explain them all to me.

CK:

All right.

TS:

But—so you had an idea that they were going to get you into languages, then. Is this—like when you’re in basic, is this when they figure it out, they did the testing, or did you before that?

CK:

No, this is at the MEP Station and I took a DLAB [Defense Language Aptitude Battery].

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And the DLAB said I had—you know, I could learn a language even at my age. And I wanted Arabic, I really wanted Arabic, because living in Libya, you know, we picked it up, and we had to take Arabic and all that when we were little. I mean, we were in class, and—they wouldn’t let me. Because the teachers at DLI [Defense Language Institute] at that time would not teach women.

TS:

That was the reason?

CK:

Yeah, that was the reason. That’s what they told me, I don’t know, that’s what they told me.

TS:

And that would have been in ’84?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Hmm. Interesting. I’m just thinking about my own [unclear]—were there any women in the Arabic linguists? I’m not remembering any. [laughs] I’ll have to think about that.

CK:

I don’t remember any until later.

TS:

So what language did you end up with?

CK:

Spanish.

TS:

Spanish. Lots of people would have been thrilled to get Spanish.

CK:

Which I loved—I loved it, loved it, loved it. And so, Spanish, because I was a Spanish interrogator, that’s—all Spanish interrogators came to Fort Bragg. And because of that, I was able to go to Panama, you know, I went to Panama for six months, and—

TS:

Was that during the—when we—

CK:

No, before.

TS:

No, before?

CK:

Yes, that was before then.

TS:

Noriega is what I’m thinking of, right?

CK:

Yeah, Noriega was in power then.

TS:

Right.

CK:

And actually, I was—I got to see where he lived.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Yeah. And we were over there—they sent a team from here over there to translate documents and stuff, so.

TS:

I see. And so that would have been in the ‘80s, like before—mid ‘80s.

CK:

Eighty-five.

TS:

Oh, so, soon after you got out of school?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

What was that experience like?

CK:

What?

TS:

Going to Panama.

CK:

It was one of the neatest things I’ve ever done. Not really, I’ve done so many since then, but—

TS:

At the time.

CK:

At the time, oh my god, I got to—I got to take—I just got involved, I got so involved in the culture and would travel all over, and I even got to do the Panama Canal on a cruiser, and it was just—the whole trip was amazing.

TS:

Well, back up just a little bit, too, to DLI. How was language school, then, how many weeks was Spanish?

CK:

Six months.

TS:

Six months, okay. And how did you feel like you were treated, as an older enlisted person at the time, right, and as a woman?

CK:

Unfortunately, I got to DLI just as they started soldierization at DLI. They no longer treated them like college campus, you were now a soldier and you had to do all your training before class and after class and on weekends, so. [makes noise] It was like basic training, but learning language.

TS:

For six months.

CK:

Yes. Yes. Because I was a private.

TS:

It wasn’t like that when I was there.

CK:

I know.

TS:

[laughs] Sorry, Chris.

CK:

First year of soldierization, isn’t that just my luck. You know?

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

And I was a private. I was a PV nothing, a thirty-five year old PV nothing. And I had a couple of captains in my class—we had six people in a class, then. And had a couple of captains, and I got my first PV2 little mosquito wings and they made fun of me so much. But it was a good experience, too.

TS:

Yeah. So what did you think—so you got through basic, you got through your language school, what are you thinking about—what was your intentions, then, for going in the army? How long did you think you were going to be in and what was your goal when you initially went in?

CK:

I was going to go in and do one term and get out.

TS:

How many—like four years?

CK:

Four years.

TS:

Four years.

CK:

Yes. And then—oh, I’ll tell you one experience, on the way back from DLI to come here for my first assignment after Spanish, we were in an old Volkswagen bus and we were traveling cross-country—

TS:

Who’s “we”?

CK:

My husband and sons and I.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And we were coming through Texas, and we decided to stay in El Paso one night, so they stayed in the hotel and I took a taxi over to Mexico to try out my Spanish, and I had the best time over there, because they didn’t think a gringo [slang for “foreigner” used in Spanish-speaking countries, can be derogatory or not] would speak Spanish, so they were saying all these things and I told them I understood everything and they were just like—and I was—it was a good experience.

TS:

So you got to have some tequila, perhaps.

CK:

No, but I got rugs real cheap, and blankets.

TS:

Ah, there you go. Excellent.

CK:

So then we went—we came back, went back to Jacksonville and then came up here and found an apartment.

TS:

In Fort Bragg.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay. And then from here, you did a deployment to Panama, for what you were explaining about.

CK:

And then, you know, just every day, field exercises and yada-yada. I showed you that picture of—we were out in the field once a month. And then Captain Kenneth Robinson, Alpha company commander, 1989, was the most awesome person in the world. I still have his Captain Kenneth L. Robinson parking placard.

TS:

What made him so awesome?

CK:

He was just—he was prior SF and he just brought all these neat experiences.

TS:

What’s prior SF mean?

CK:

Special Forces.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And he just brought all these—we’d go out in the field and we would do survival type training and all that. He got us to do all kinds of neat—neat exercises, neat things. And he pushed me to go warrant.

TS:

What was it that you had to be able to qualify for to be able to—

CK:

You had to have so many years in, in that MOS, be mature, which, you know, I was—I was pretty mature.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

And have a language, just a couple of different qualifications. And I—he recommended me and I applied and I made it. But you know, he made me—it was funny, because I was a secretary before I joined the army, so he—typical, knew I was a typist and all this stuff, so I would type all his meetings for him. And I made curtains for his office, all kinds of stuff. But he was just—just a neat guy. And so I went to warrant officers school, and then—because I was a warrant, you had to have two languages, sent me back to DLI, took Russian.

TS:

And what year was this?

CK:

Eighty-nine, ’90.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And then—

TS:

So, at this point, I’m sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt you.

CK:

Go ahead.

TS:

So at this point, you’re past your four years, right?

CK:

Well, because of Kenneth L. Robinson, I re-enlisted. I re-enlisted PDA, which is present duty assignment, Fort Bragg. Nobody does that, but because of Ken Robinson, I did, and he swore me in, you know. So I re-enlisted—ugh.

TS:

[laughs] What—what do you mean by this? How are you feeling about this, when you say—

CK:

I was so proud, I was so proud of where I was, you know, and I’d gone through all these NCO schools and I was just—I was just moving along and then he pushed me and I knew all these neat warrant officers and I just wanted to—I was just proud, you know, just so proud to be in the army.

TS:

Excellent.

CK:

I know. I was in the best physical shape, and all that, you know. And I was almost forty, then, so.

TS:

So how was it—so how was your family dealing with you being now in the army?

CK:

They liked it, everybody liked it. They liked where we were, even though I was gone a lot because I was out in the field. We did a lot of field exercises. They enjoyed it.

TS:

Did your husband have any trouble finding a job or anything like that?

CK:

No, no, no. Because he worked for LP Gas Company in Jacksonville, and he got with an LP Gas Company here, who he’s still with, the same company, so.

TS:

How did he feel about being a dependent spouse?

CK:

He thought it was cool. He loved it, yeah.

TS:

What did he find cool about it?

CK:

The orange card. [laughs] That he wasn’t—he was envious, you could tell he was envious, that he really wished he had joined the army, too, so.

TS:

Really?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Because sometimes experiences of the men being the spouses aren’t always very positive, in that they have to go and find a new job, you know, if they go to a new base.

CK:

Which is why he stayed, whenever I went somewhere.

TS:

Oh, I see, okay, so he stayed and stayed with the boys, although they’re getting older, now.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay, so you go back, and you get your Russian, and that’s a much longer school.

CK:

That’s a year.

TS:

Were they still doing the soldierization when you went back?

CK:

Yeah, but I was an officer than, so it was different.

TS:

[laughs] How was it different?

CK:

[laughs] I didn’t have to do all that. Thank god! I was in an officer company, and, you know.

TS:

Yeah. Well, how’d you enjoy being out there in Monterey?

CK:

Monterey, come on. How could you even ask that? You know.

TS:

Well, tell people who’ve never been.

CK:

And then—

TS:

I’ve been, so I—

CK:

Yeah, but then—and I had the most awesome apartment.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

It was somebody’s garage they had turned into an apartment. My landlady was a teacher at DLI, Hungarian, and—they didn’t have Hungarian anymore, so she was just working in the library and needed to rent the place out, and I found it and it was so awesome.

TS:

Where was it at?

CK:

It was right behind the high school, you know where that was? Where the library is, downtown, and right up the hill?

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

Oh my god. And I could walk—it was like two or three miles to DLI, the back way—

TS:

That one hill was no fun.

CK:

Yeah, but the back way—

TS:

But that’s a little bit flatter, yeah.

CK:

And—well, it was going up, but I would walk to class a lot.

TS:

They still have Compagnos? Compagnos?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Compagnos, the sandwich shop off the back way?

CK:

Yes. But I was there during that earthquake.

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

In ’89. In October.

TS:

Yeah. So what happened then?

CK:

We had to have classes outside, because we didn’t have any electricity for a week.

TS:

Really?

CK:

Yeah. It was pretty cool. But then, after I finished Russian, where would they station me? Oh, of course, Fort Ord. [makes noise]

TS:

Which is right next to DLI.

CK:

Which is right next to DLI, so that’s another four years in Monterey, oh my god. But I took Russian, so they sent me to a Korean-speaking unit. Yeah, that makes sense, I know. But they needed warrant officers there.

TS:

So it was just—you had to fill the slot, basically?

CK:

I had to fill a slot, yeah.

TS:

So now—so you’re off in California, and your husband’s still in Fort Bragg?

CK:

Yeah, but he came—he came—we would do vacations, you know. I’d take leave and go home, he’d take leave and come stay with me or whatever, you know.

TS:

Yeah, but that’s not easy.

CK:

No, it’s not, but we did it.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

We maintained.

TS:

Yeah. You say that so nonchalant, Chris.

CK:

Well, it’s true. And my mom and aunt, my mom and aunt—my mom’s, I told you she’s from England. Her identical twin. They would come out and stay with me and have a ball. You know, it was—what an opportunity for people—I was there almost five years in Monterey, oh my god. [chuckles] And I knew that place like the back of my hand.

TS:

Bet you did.

CK:

I—we did a lot of field. I was in Seventh Infantry Division, so you know, Seventh ID, you lived off your back. Period. And I was in good shape then, too. So on the weekends sometimes, I would volunteer at the SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] and that was the first job I’ve ever been fired from, because I would get too emotional, and there was this one dog that I just fell in love with, and they weren’t going to let me have him, and I cried and cried and finally they were going to let me have him. Because he had a broken hip, and they said that he wasn’t worth saving, and I said bull, he was worth saving. So I got him, I got fired, I got the dog.

TS:

That’s how you got to get him, was you got fired?

CK:

Yeah. Then I had to go TDY [temporary duty] to Fort Huachuca for another school, so I took the dog with me and I made arrangements with a vet there to do surgery while I was in class, and I stayed in an apartment that let me have pets, so, got him all fixed up. And then—when we went back to Monterey, of course my landlady loved animals, so she let me have him. I carried him around in a backpack and would hike all over—just, we would hike everywhere.

TS:

What kind of dog was he?

CK:

He was a cockapoo [Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross], but he weighed like—there’s a picture of him over there, he was pretty big. And he was mean, mean, mean dog.

TS:

Protected you, then. Yeah. Now, how was it—explain the difference, how you felt being enlisted and then being a warrant officer. What was the—

CK:

Night and day.

TS:

Because?

CK:

Oh my god. Just—just the way you were treated, you know, by everybody and everything. You go in—even like a doctor’s appointment, it’s just, as an enlisted person you’re kind of poo-poo’d, and as an officer—it’s just different.

TS:

So is there like a level of respect that’s higher, you think?

CK:

Very much so.

TS:

So you’re treated more respectfully.

CK:

Very much so.

TS:

What did you think about that?

CK:

It made me treat enlisted better.

TS:

Did it?

CK:

Yeah, it did. And I would get really mad. This one guy, he and I had tracked the whole—our whole careers together. We were here, we went to DLI, we went—everything together. NCO schools, warrant school. And when he became a warrant officer, it seemed like he became a jerk, you know, and he started being disrespectful and mean to the enlisted, and I saw that—I would never. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. It’s horrible.

TS:

Did you say anything to him about it?

CK:

All the time.

TS:

Yeah. Didn’t matter.

CK:

Yeah. You can’t curse on here, right?

TS:

[laughs] You can curse on here if you want.

CK:

I would just tell him what an asshole he was.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah. Anything else different? Like, for example, housing, how was that different for you?

CK:

What do you mean, housing?

TS:

Housing, like where you—when you were enlisted—

CK:

Oh, when we were enlisted, it was a ghetto, but I never stayed in housing as an officer, because we bought a house, and then I had an apartment, you know.

TS:

When you were off in California.

CK:

Oh yeah. But being TDY, you don’t have to stay on, you could get a hotel or the quarters are just a lot nicer, you know. A lot more amenities.

TS:

So the rank has its privileges, sort of.

CK:

It really—R-H-I-P [rank has it’s privileges], totally.

TS:

So that’s another reason, probably, you’re really happy with Captain Kenneth Robinson. No?

CK:

Have you heard of that show called the E-Ring?

TS:

No, I don’t think so.

CK:

Is that the E-Ring? It was—had Benjamin Bratt.

TS:

Oh yeah, with the Pentagon?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Okay. Yeah, I think I saw a couple episodes.

CK:

He wrote that.

TS:

He did?

CK:

He did. Ken Robinson wrote that. Yeah.

TS:

Excellent. So would you consider him kind of like a mentor?

CK:

My hero.

TS:

Oh, more than that, a hero. Why is he a hero?

CK:

I don’t know, he was just always my hero, I just—

TS:

Is he—when did—did he stay in the military for a long time, did you keep in touch with him?

CK:

Yeah, yeah, he’s in Hollywood now, he’s—he’s also been inducted into the MI [military intelligence] Hall of Fame. He was at the Pentagon for a long, long time. Neat, neat man.

TS:

So now you, you went through ’84, and we’re pushing up on ’90.

CK:

I know, I’m going crazy, I know.

TS:

No, it’s fine, I just—I want to get your experience also. So we kind of talked about the difference between being enlisted and being, you know, warrant officer. What about the difference in change over time as a woman in the military? Did you see any difference in—

CK:

I did, a lot.

TS:

Okay. Want to talk about that?

CK:

Well, my—I was a W1, warrant officer 1, in my first assignment at Fort Ord. And there were some enlisted females, but I was the only warrant, female warrant. And my company commander and a couple of the platoon leaders, they were all macho men. Hated women, and hated warrant officers, so it was just like double bang, you know. And it was really hard work trying to prove myself to them, and I had to, really. I could do all the ruck marches with them, I could do everything they could do, I could handle it. And when the commander left he told me that I was—I had changed his mind about women in the army and about warrant officers. And that was a big honor to me, you know. But it’s hard.

TS:

Did he say why?

CK:

Because he said I proved myself. I proved that a woman could keep up with us, with the infantry, because we were literally an infantry unit. And as a warrant officer, I proved that I was a good leader. Because I actually had a platoon, they gave me a platoon.

TS:

Who were in the platoon, men and women, or—

CK:

Yeah, men and women.

TS:

Men and women.

CK:

Yes. I had a platoon sergeant—this is funny. He was kind of disrespectful, because I was a woman and because I was a warrant officer. And—no, he respected the warrant officer part, but he didn’t respect the woman part, and I had to prove—I felt like I was always having to prove myself. Always. But I proved myself to him, too, we ended up being very good friends.

TS:

Now, was there a difference—is there some sort of like cultural thing in the army about warrant officer/officer?

CK:

Yup.

TS:

So what—can you explain that?

CK:

Enlisted people think a warrant officer is somebody who couldn’t make it as an enlisted. And real live officers, RLOs, warrant officers are supposed to be the technical experts in their fields, and real live officers—I think they kind of respect that, but not a whole lot, you know, they still don’t—they think that a warrant officer is like between a rock and a hard place, you know? You’re not an officer and you’re not enlisted, you’re just kind of there.

TS:

So you’re in this in-between status, between enlisted and officer, sort of.

CK:

Because an RLO is supposed to be an expert in everything. And a warrant is one field. That’s changed now, they’ve changed it, they’ve made warrant officers RLOs now.

TS:

Well, did you feel like you had—well, we’ll keep going. Actually, I was going to ask you. Can you describe, when you were at Fort Ord, like a typical work day?

CK:

Gosh, I’ll try, if I can remember.

TS:

When you’re not busy, you know, entertaining your mom and your aunt and—

CK:

Yeah, I know. Let’s see, I would get up around five, drive in to do PT, come out—we did once a week six mile ruck, once a month, twelve mile ruck, and once a year, a twenty-five mile ruck. So. And they’d weigh your ruck, and you had to have at least sixty pounds in your bag. So we would do PT a lot of times with—with flack vests on, oh, PT was rough. So anyhow, we’d do PT, then I’d come home, shower, go back to work, and just—we were always prepared for exercises, no matter what we did, we were always prepared. Riding rolls[?], doing this, going to ranges. It was just—and I’d get home about six at night. And then just the same thing over and over.

TS:

Now, did you have any other deployments from Fort Ord? Or TDYs or anything?

CK:

Not Fort Ord, no.

TS:

No? So mostly you were just stationed there and did your duty in that—

CK:

Yes, I tried—Ken Robinson, he was still here during the conflict in Panama, and he knew—

TS:

Now, “here” being Fort Bragg, you mean?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

So he was taking a company there, and I called him and said “Please, can I go?”

And they said “No, you’ve got to stay at Fort Ord.” Shoot. Okay, so. Because I had actually—I couldn’t go anyhow, so.

TS:

But that—you had hoped that you could go.

CK:

I was real bummed out. Because—because I knew where Noriega was, I knew all—I knew all kinds of stuff.

TS:

Because you had been there earlier.

CK:

Yeah. Yeah. Plus, I had done other stuff in Puerto Rico and all that, training people.

TS:

So you were familiar with things and thought you could benefit. But just because of where your duty was, you couldn’t.

CK:

Right.

TS:

They couldn’t, like, attach you to the other unit or something.

CK:

Left me there.

TS:

[chuckles] Must be some reason that you couldn’t go, then. So.

CK:

Yeah, so then—then it was—they were getting ready to close Fort Ord, so then I came back here.

TS:

When was it that they—when they closed it? Early ‘90s?

CK:

Yeah. ’92, ‘93? No, I think ’93, ’94, sometime around there.

TS:

Well, so, were you in Fort Ord when we had the Gulf War?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay, so yeah, so we had Panama, then we had the Gulf War, ‘8—what was that, ’89 for Panama and then—

CK:

Yes, and then—

TS:

Ninety-one—

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

—for the—

CK:

My younger son actually was in that. Because he joined the army, my younger son did.

TS:

And he—so he was in the army, so he went over to—to Kuwait or Iraq? Or Saudi Arabia.

CK:

Iraq. So then, we come back to Fort Bragg, my younger son was stationed in my unit, I used to make him salute me. [laughs]

TS:

[laughs] Were you worried about him, when he was over there?

CK:

Very.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Oh, yeah. Scared to death. But I knew a lot of people that he was with.

TS:

Yeah. What was his duty?

CK:

He was signals.

TS:

Okay. Like your father.

CK:

Yes. And—and plus, I knew, you know, I had a lot of friends that—who were in the unit here that—

TS:

Keep an eye on him.

CK:

Yes. And then, you know, we came back here—

TS:

Here being Fort Bragg?

CK:

Yeah, Fort Bragg again.

TS:

Okay. So you stayed at—so you were at Fort Bragg, then you went to—how long were you here? Did you deploy from here, anywhere? You said you went to Haiti.

CK:

I did. That was after I came back from Fort Ord.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And then I was back here at Bragg, so I went to Haiti as a—

TS:

So yeah, so that was like ’93, ‘9—early ‘90s.

CK:

I can’t remember exactly now.

TS:

But that was with the crisis during the Clinton administration, there?

[Operation Uphold Freedom took place from September 1994 through March 1995]

CK:     Yes.

TS:

So how—what was that like for you? That experience in Haiti?

CK:

It was exciting. Yeah, it was. It was really cool, because we were out here waiting and waiting and waiting to go, and ‘82nd was going, and here their planes are going, and we’re sitting there watching their planes, they turn around and come back. 525 is the first one there. So we get up on planes and we land in Haiti and we’re coming out the back, oh my god, and—and this friend of mine, a warrant officer, he and I carried our brigade flags. We were the [guide-on?] carriers, so we carried our brigade flags in, because we were the first ones in. And that was pretty cool. It was hot, it was like—when we got—they opened that back and we came off, and we had—oh my god, we had so much equipment, it was unbelievable. And it was just like, whoom, the heat hitting us, and then we had to go and set up in this old warehouse, and—it was nasty. That’s a nasty place.

TS:

Why?

CK:

Haiti? It’s dirty. Nasty, nasty. Nasty.

TS:

Can you be more specific about what you mean by dirty and nasty? Like give me an example of something.

CK:

Well, like, I don’t know, people just poo and pee wherever they want and, you know, so we had to too, so.

TS:

So like, no sewer system, or—

CK:

No. And then—well, we had a [unclear] cistern, we would take like milk cartons and lower them down the cistern and wash with them and all that, before they got anything in there, you know, because like I said, we were the first ones in there. And people were getting diseases and stuff.

TS:

People as in, in your unit?

CK:

Yeah. They were getting sick, all kinds of nasty stuff.

TS:

How was your contact with the people, with the Haitians? Just regular contact, not necessarily—

CK:

You know what’s funny? This one—I was the first white person this little baby had ever seen, and he started screaming. [chuckles] But we got used to them, they got used to us, and then they would come and do our laundry for us and bring us food and stuff like—we were told not to eat it, but we did anyhow. And—see, I was an interrogator, so we had set up a detention facility and then they would bring people in and I’d talk to them.

TS:

Did you get outside that facility at all?

CK:

Yeah, we went downtown a couple times.

TS:

What was that like?

CK:

Pretty dangerous, because they would—they’d—oh my god. Even—even with the kids, it was dangerous. If you would share, like an MRE [Meal Ready to Eat] or something with them, you would be bombarded with these kids pulling at you and wanting things. And we were even shot at a couple of times.

TS:

By who?

CK:

Haitians, I don’t know.

TS:

Yeah. What happened then?

CK:

We were in the back—our facility was a couple miles away from where we camped, and we were in the back of a truck, and we were heading to our facility and somebody shot at us.

TS:

So you just kept going?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

I’m wondering, because you know, that terrible earthquake that they had in—

CK:

Recently.

TS:

Yeah. Do you—did you—when that happened, did you think back about your experience there?

CK:

I did.

TS:

What kind of connection did you make?

CK:

I knew how they lived in those horrible little shanty shacks and I’m thinking, god, that place would be destroyed, there’d be nothing left because of the way they lived. They’re so poor, it’s unbelievable. Look at the devastation. They live in cardboard houses. Sort of like Mexico, really. Have you ever been to Mexico, across the border there?

TS:

Yes.

CK:

You’ve seen how they live? Haiti.

TS:

So it was a different culture.

CK:

Totally.

TS:

So you were in Syria and you’re in Haiti—

CK:

Libya.

TS:

Or, Libya, sorry. Yeah, Libya, why’d I say Syria. Libya, Panama, Haiti.

CK:

What a big difference between Panama and Haiti. Oh my god.

TS:

Yeah. What kind of—you mean, like as far as wealth, or—

CK:

Wealth, culture, everything is just so different. Panamanian—I don’t know, the people there are just friendly and open and they share and they—it’s just such different cultures.

TS:

Did you expect that when you went? The differences, when you went to Haiti? I mean, were you aware of what it was going to be like?

CK:

We were warned a lot about Haiti. We were even warned about—oh, if somebody blows powder on you, run away or whatever, you know, because of the voodoo crap.

TS:

Had that happened to anyone?

CK:

No. A couple people got food poisoning, from fish, but that’s about it.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

It was a good experience, though. Everything I’ve had has been a good experience.

TS:

How long were you there, for that duty?

CK:

Six months.

TS:

Six months—six months?

CK:

Then, let’s see, we come back, blah blah blah. Fort Bragg, Fort Bragg.

TS:

[laughs] Then you get to go to Germany, right? Or, not—is it something else before then?

CK:

No, and then I’m working over at 519th and I get this call that I was asked to go into the Defense HUMINT Service. [A component of the Defense Intelligence Agency]

TS:

Into—into what service?

CK:

DHS.

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

Defense HUMINT Service. It’s not DHS now, it was back then.

TS:

Human, human intelligence.

CK:

Human intelligence, right. And it was based out of Frankfurt. Yeah, I’m there! So—and it was a civilian clothes assignment.

TS:

What does that mean? Oh, civilian clothes, oh.

CK:

No uniform.

TS:

I thought you said “close”, like clothes. Civilian clothes.

CK:

Well, it was. Yeah. So I worked a lot with the DTRA, the Defense Thread Reduction Agency.

TS:

Right.

CK:

Who would go around and do inspections and stuff like that, and that was such a neat job, and I actually went on a lot of inspections with them to Hungary and Slovakia and different places like that.

TS:

What year was this, then? This was after the [Berlin] Wall came down, then. When you’re in Germany.

CK:

It was right after—well, it was the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Let’s see, that was ’96 through 2000, I was there.

TS:

So was the Bosnian War happening at that time?

CK:

I was getting ready to tell you about that.

TS:

Oh yeah, well, let’s hear about that, here we go.

CK:

See my Bosnia plaque?

TS:

Oh yeah, okay. I do see it, yes.

CK:

I was so lucky to be working where I was, because I was on the ground floor with the Dayton Agreement— [treaty which ended the Bosnian conflict]

TS:

Right.

CK:

And I got to be really involved in that, involved in the inspections. I went with the Serb army to inspect the Bosnians, and I went with the Croatian army to inspect the Bosnians, at different times. And whoo, you’re talking about some precarious positions, but it was really cool. I was—the one with the Serb army, it was a Serb colonel and his entourage, and it was me and a Marine major, he worked with DTRA, and we were in a caravan from Serbia going over to the other side of Bosnia to a unit, to inspect it. And now, can you imagine, with this Serbian army going through Bosnia? [makes noise] And then—but it was really—

TS:

Did you feel—

CK:

Threatened?

TS:

Yes.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Very much.

CK:

One time, we were with—the major and I were in the back of a car.

TS:

Just a regular car?

CK:

Well, no, it was a military vehicle. The Serbian military.

TS:

So you’re like in a convoy?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

And we were in the back, we wore uniforms on these, so.

TS:

Wanted to be able to be identified?

CK:

Yeah. And we were in the back of it and we kept going through these woods, deeper and deeper into the woods. I was getting kind of freaked out, and I said “I think we’re going to die.” [chuckles] You know?

TS:

You said this to the major?

CK:

Yeah. And he says “I’m scared shitless.” You know, and we were both—we were both kind of really scared. And it comes into this clearing and it’s a beautiful restaurant. They had taken us to like a hunting club restaurant and had feasts for us. It was unbelievable.

TS:

So they’re giving you a special treat, but you thought you were all going to get killed in the woods.

CK:

Oh yeah, yeah, we just knew we were dead.

TS:

Yeah. Interesting.

CK:

Yeah, really cool.

TS:

So you had this great big relief, huh? Or did you think it might be your last meal?

CK:

We did—no, even that entered our minds. But they really, they enjoyed us a lot, you know, and—

TS:

Yeah. How did they treat you as a woman in the military, you know? For that culture?

CK:

They treated me like a woman, not a military person, like a woman, you know. Like oh, kissy kissy, you know. Not as a military person.

TS:

So they treated you different than the major.

CK:

They totally did, yeah. They treated me like—like I was the mother visiting or something like that, you know. Very respectful and—not as a military person, but as a woman.

TS:

Yeah. How did—so did you know to expect that, or was that—

CK:

Yeah, sort of.

TS:

Did it bother you at all?

CK:

Nah.

TS:

No?

CK:

I got along with everybody. I did.

TS:

So how—what other kinds of experiences did you have during that period? Because that was a pretty volatile time, too.

CK:

I actually lived in Tuzla [city in Bosnia and Herzegovina] for six months.

TS:

And how was that experience?

CK:

Sometimes it was scary—

TS:

Why would it have been scary?

CK:

Well, because you just never know. We had—you know, we had escape routes and all kinds of stuff. You just—because I was, I was—it was a civilian clothes assignment. I had to go into town and talk to people and, you know, a couple times we were involved in situations where I had to go talk to them and go to talk to mayors in different cities and villages and—it was awesome. Nice. I love Bosnia.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Yeah, I do. I love Bosnia. I love Bosnian people, I maintain contact with them.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

Still. With a lawyer, Bosnian lawyer. I’ve got pictures of Bosnia everywhere.

TS:

Neat, we’ll have to get some of those.

CK:

I love them.

TS:

So this was—so this assignment was—you were six months, you said, there? But you were in Germany for—

CK:

That was part of my Frankfurt—

TS:

Okay, but you were there three years?

CK:

Four.

TS:

Four years. And still, you’re—you and your husband are living across the pond from each other, right?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Now, is he—

CK:

Awesome vacations for people, when you’re living in Frankfurt. What an excuse. I even had people that I hadn’t heard from in years, found out I was in Frankfurt, “Oh, can my daughter stay with you?”

TS:

Did you have a lot of visitors, then?

CK:

I did.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

I had a really nice apartment, right next to the Flughafen [German for airport], right at Frankfurt, at Rhein-Main. Air Force apartments.

TS:

Air Force apartments.

CK:

Nice. Air Force always does the best, even in England. Oh, they sent me to [unclear] school in England. Six months in England, [Royal Air Force station] Chicksands.

TS:

Oh, you were at Chicksands?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

I had a TDY there.

CK:

Isn’t it beautiful?

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

Oh my god. Of course, my mother and aunt came, and we went to their village—

TS:

Oh, right, how was that?

CK:

--where they were born.

TS:

Yeah, I bet your mother enjoyed that.

CK:

Oh, they did.

TS:

Yeah. So you—what other kind of things were you doing on your off-duty time, then?

CK:

Oh my off-duty time? Volksmarch. I volksmarched almost every weekend, and I would—I had a map and I had a hundred mile radius on my map, and every—Stars and Stripes came every Thursday, where the volksmarches were, and I would plot them, you know? [Volksmarching is non-competitive, social walking popular in Europe.]

TS:

Which ones you were going to do?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

How many did you do in a weekend?

CK:

Sometimes I’d do two.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Neat. So what did you end up collecting, did you get the plates or the medals or a combination?

CK:

The mugs.

TS:

Oh, you got mugs, that’s what you—

CK:

I got the mugs and I even went on volksmarches when I was in England. They have them there, too.

TS:

Do they call them volksmarches?

CK:

They do. Because it’s a club, you know, and they do them all in pubs and stuff, oh my god. They had some good ones.

TS:

[laughs] I didn’t know about that, that’s interesting.

CK:

Oh yeah, and they have them in France. They have them everywhere.

TS:

Yeah. So did you do a lot of traveling?

CK:

A lot. Yeah, you know what, Gruyere, have you ever been there?

TS:

No.

CK:

It’s where they make the cheese.

TS:

Well, I know the name of the cheese, but there’s actually a place.

CK:

That’s where they make it. Oh my god, Lake Gruyere? In Switzerland? Oh, how beautiful. It’s a gorgeous town. Now, I had a friend that was a secretary where I worked, and she and I would go there a lot. So whenever I had visitors, we’d go there.

TS:

Neat.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Did you have a lot of time to be able to do that, for traveling?

CK:

Yeah, really.

TS:

Yeah. Did you—what kind of, like was it a nine to five job-ish, sort of, that you held? At that time?

CK:

It was, yeah.

TS:

So really, your weekends were pretty free.

CK:

Totally free. And even if there was a volksmarch on Wednesday, they let me go do it. Because it was like PT. [laughs] That’s what I’d tell my boss. “It’s PT!”

TS:

[laughs] So were you—did you have to not do like the military hikes and things like that over in Germany?

CK:

No, it was total civilian.

TS:

That’s right, because you’re in your civilian clothes, too.

CK:

Yeah. It was in an office environment, with civilians.

TS:

Now, at what point here along the way, did you decide to make it a career?

CK:

When I went warrant.

TS:

You knew then?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

So that enlistment, when you were talking about being so proud and having this captain kind of guide you on.

CK:

Yeah, he’s the one that did it. It’s all his fault.

TS:

[laughs] So it was really early, quite early, really, even before you—

CK:

It was my first re-enlistment.

TS:

So you were really only—starting your fifth year.

CK:

I was going to get out, I really was going to get out. And Captain Robinson, he was my commander, so he had to approve all this. And he literally took it and tore it up, and says “You’re not getting out.”

TS:

Oh, so you had to—you put in your papers to get out.

CK:

I did, I did. He says “You’re not getting out.” And, I don’t know. So, okay.

TS:

So he convinced you. Yeah. So now, how are your relationships, then, we talked a little bit about how you were with—you know, difference between enlisted and warrant officer and even officer. And how did you feel about—at this time, so you went in the early—mid ‘80s through the ‘90s, and then we’re getting into the late ’90s here. The—like change over time, again, for women in the military. Did you see a difference in the type of women that were coming into the military or the jobs that they had to do, or how they were treated? Did you see anything like that?

CK:

The women I saw in the military were dedicated and they weren’t in it for—I see a big difference now. I’m disappointed in women a lot now.

TS:

Why?

CK:

Because—I don’t know, they just don’t seem to have that drive, that we did when we were younger. I mean, I say younger, I mean younger in the army, you know.

TS:

Right.

CK:

Not age, but younger—

TS:

In years. Like a couple decades ago.

CK:

Yeah. They just don’t seem to have that desire, that oomph, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know. You see so many times—“Oh, I just came in for the education.” Come on, you know, there’s different reasons to come in. I guess maybe I could say I joined because I was going through a mid-life crisis, I don’t know, but along the road I changed, and I had a mission in life and all that, but I’m disappointed in a lot of them, nowadays. There are a lot of crybabies and wah-wahs.

TS:

Did you see that much in the years before?

CK:

No.

TS:

No?

CK:

No.

TS:

When—do you remember—

CK:

You know what, they thought that—they always thought women in the army were gay. Always. You know, when I joined—I worked at a college, at a junior college, and I was real close with all the professors. One of my professors was gay, and he was one of my best friends.

Well, he said “I knew you were gay.”

And I said “But I’m not.”

“Well, you joined the army, and everybody you’re in the army with is gay.”

Oh, come on, you know? But it was—a lot of it was true, because even when I was in basic training, my drill sergeant was having an affair with one of the girls in the platoon, but—okay?

TS:

She was?

CK:

Yeah. Yeah, it was funny. It was cool. But still. [telephone rings] I guess because we were, you know, hoo-ah hoo-ah, that they all thought we were gay. But now you get—and I hate the little feminine “oh, I can’t do this because I’ll break my nail” crap, I can’t stand that. And that’s what I see a lot of now. You know, you’re having your hair done to match your uniform and all that crap, I just—it just drives me crazy.

TS:

Do you think that—well, I want to ask you first, before I—why do you think that there’s this change?

CK:

I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe because they opened it up so much more for anybody and everybody? I don’t know.

TS:

Do you think it has anything to do with maybe women don’t have to prove themselves as much?

CK:

Possibly, yeah, they don’t. They don’t have to prove themselves. Because even still, I know I joined after the WACs [Women’s Army Corps] and all that, and I met a whole lot of people that were WACs. They still assumed you were the secretary or whatever, you know, and you really had to prove yourself. And they don’t anymore. You—any MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] is open, and they had a lot of closed MOSs back then.

TS:

Well, you had said earlier how you had to prove yourself over and over.

CK:

Over and over and over and over, constantly. But you don’t now.

TS:

So do you think that might be one of the reasons?

CK:

Maybe.

TS:

So they’re maybe more on par with the men, in that.

CK:

They are. They’re more equal now, they really are.

TS:

Do you remember when—did you ever—you said you had a platoon? And so you had positions of authority over—

CK:

I did, I did.

TS:

Did you ever have to discipline men or women?

CK:

Yeah. I still have to.

TS:

Do you remember any—yeah.

CK:

I have soldiers under me here.

TS:

Oh, do you?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

So when you—but when you were first doing it, how was that for you? I mean, I know you were a mother and you had kids and things.

CK:

It was kind of like that. It was kind of like scolding a kid, you know.

TS:

Was it?

CK:

Yeah, it was.

TS:

Do you remember any incidents that were especially difficult? No?

CK:

No?

TS:

You didn’t have anybody that you had to, like, kick out or anything, or send—

CK:

As a matter of fact, two females.

TS:

Tell me about that. You don’t have to say anything specific about them, but what was it—

CK:

I won’t, it’s just—we were doing exercises, interrogating, and I was—I would always be the roleplayers, so I could gauge how they were interrogating, and it was in Russian one time, and this one particular girl was doing stupid stuff, so I would pull her aside and say “No, you do it this way,” and she’d start crying. And that would piss me off, and so I said “We’ll try it again,” and we tried again, and then she would start crying and all that. And I said, you know, “You don’t need to be in the army, you need to get your ass out of the army if you’re going to be a crybaby all the time, you know, this is a real job and you’re going to have to do it, so,” [makes noise] So she got out, but—stuff like that, you know. You got to weed them out.

TS:

Yeah. And did you have any men like that, that you had to weed out?

CK:

No.

TS:

No? Did you ever notice or experience any incidents of sexual harassment?

CK:

[chuckles] The other way around. Weird as it is, yeah.

TS:

Well, explain that to me.

CK:

My hero, Captain Robinson—

TS:

Right.

CK:

Well, obviously I wasn’t the only one that was infatuated with him. There was this one female that would send him pictures of, like, her wrapped in a flag and nudie pictures and—

TS:

Kind of risqué and things.

CK:

Call him and harass him. Yeah. So I did see it. I didn’t see it that way, I saw it the other way.

TS:

So you saw a female kind of harassing a male.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

And he was maybe a superior, too.

CK:

He was a superior. And I was a witness to a lot of it, so.

TS:

Yes. But you never heard—even of anything going the other way?

CK:

Not really, no, I haven’t. I don’t know, I guess I’ve been lucky. I’ve heard, but I’ve never seen.

TS:

So your own experience was that—

CK:

Never. Never, ever, ever, no. And I’ve done a lot of stuff with a lot—lot of different experiences that I really can’t tell you a whole lot about, I worked out in SERE Course for a while, you know.

TS:

What’s SERE Course?

CK:

Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion. [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape] And I would play OP4[?], that’s opposing force, you know, wearing uniforms and speaking a different language and beating our soldiers up so they could learn how to resist and stuff. I did that for a long time and—actually, the women did a lot better at that.

TS:

Really?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

In the course?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Why do you think that—that it might be?

CK:

Because we play, like, big Russians or something, you know, and beating up, and the guys would be submissive to us. Maybe that’s why I didn’t see the harassment, because of these roles I always played. I don’t know.

TS:

The positions that you were in.

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

And things like that. So did you feel like you were, during your career, that you were treated fairly?

CK:

I do.

TS:

For promotions and assignments—

CK:

Everything.

TS:

Yeah. Was there anything that you were disappointed in?

CK:

No.

TS:

No?

CK:

No.

TS:

So tell me about—so, did we talk—is there anything more about Germany that you wanted to bring up?

CK:

Not really.

TS:

Not really. You’ve got the Bosnia in, and—

CK:

I know, I know, it’s so—that was—that was awesome, I love Bosnia.

TS:

So coming back—

CK:

Some of the experiences—oh, and Sarajevo is so beautiful.

TS:

What year did you leave there?

CK:

Ninety-nine.

TS:

Ninety-nine. Okay. So you—

CK:

And then I came back to Frankfurt for a few months and then came back to Bragg.

TS:

Came back—so you came back home. And so you—were you here at Fort Bragg during 9/11?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Can you talk about that?

CK:

Actually, you know where I was?

TS:

No.

CK:

I was—I was in [Washington] D.C.

TS:

Really? Well, tell me about that, what you can tell me about it.

CK:

Oh, I was there—I had started working for the G2 here and we had a red-train, was readiness training for intelligence soldiers, and we had a seminar up there, at Mead.

TS:

Fort Mead?

CK:

Yes. And we were all up there in a hotel, right near there, and it was the eeriest thing, because we saw the Pentagon on fire and all that, and it was just—no, actually, we weren’t in a hotel, we were actually in Fort Mead and they locked it down. And then we were able to eventually get to the hotel, but we could see the fire from the hotel, and the streets were just empty. Now, D.C. empty? God, that’s eerie.

TS:

On a Monday. Or, Tuesday, it was a Tuesday, right?

CK:

Yes. But empty, totally—nothing.

TS:

When did you hear about what happened? Do you remember—where were you at?

CK:

We were at Mead, we were getting ready to go into our meeting, and they have TVs everywhere.

TS:

Were you going to NSA then, or just—a different building at Fort Mead?

CK:

I think we were in the headquarters there, and we were going into a meeting. Or to a briefing.

TS:

And so somebody told you what happened?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

And then the TV—and then you turned the TVs on?

CK:

No, the TVs are always on anyhow.

TS:

Yeah. So what did you think about it, when—

CK:

Well, it was disbelief. It was just total disbelief. And then of course, you know, everybody back here knows that we’re there, and the Pentagon was hit, and they were just freaking out—

TS:

So they don’t know exactly where you are?

CK:

No, they thought we were at the Pentagon.

TS:

Right. That’s what I would have thought, that you would have gone—

CK:

Yeah, yeah, they did. And they’re just freaking out, and then—telephone lines, nobody could get through to anybody, and—it was just—it was unbelievable, and then—we had people at that meeting from Fort Lewis and Fort Hood and from everywhere—no flights back. No flights. And they were there for almost a week. Finally they got rental cars and went to Atlanta and got a plane and went home.

TS:

How long were you there?

CK:

Well, we had rental cars, so we just—

TS:

So you just drove back.

CK:

Yeah, just drove back, but traffic was—it was crazy. It was unbelievable.

TS:

Did you see anything—any changes in the military after 9/11?

CK:

Oh, yeah, paranoia. Yeah.

TS:

Paranoia?

CK:

Yeah, I still see that. I see that—you know, we have—we have two 09 Limas, you know what that is?

TS:

Maybe I should. What’s a 209 Lima?

CK:

No, 09 Lima.

TS:

Oh, an 09 Lima.

CK:

I have two of them.

TS:

Oh, you have two 09 Limas. Nope, I don’t know.

CK:

Those are native Arabs that have been recruited into the army to be interpreters.

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

Okay. And the two I have, they have clearances and everything, you know, one’s from Egypt and one’s from Morocco. Let’s see, I think one of them has a citizenship, the other one doesn’t. But even still, now, they don’t trust these guys.

TS:

Who’s “they”?

CK:

Just people, even like—like an administrator I was talking to the other day said something about “Are you sure—” Because I wanted to send one of my 09 Limas to Fort Drum to look at the way they run their program.

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Yeah. God, get real.”

I see a lot of—you see a lot of that.

TS:

So there’s a lot of prejudice, you think, against Arabs?

CK:

A lot. I think so. And we have two Arabic instructors, because this is a language training facility, so—but, you know, they’ve been here—he retired from that army, this guy did. Then we have a Pashto instructor—and they’re kind of leery, but still, I think they’re kind of warming up to them. But oh yeah, I hated the way they were treated. Like the Japanese.

TS:

You mean during World War II, the internment camps and things, it’s kind of the same sort of—mentality.

CK:

Yeah. I think so, yeah.

TS:

Better safe than sorry, sort of thing?

CK:

You haven’t noticed it? Well, I can’t answer you that, but yeah. Yeah, it’s horrible. And here I grew up in—really, formative years in Libya, around Arabs and Muslims and mosques and—I just didn’t have any prejudices on it, you know? And then of course, Bosnia, with Muslims there.

TS:

So what do you think can be done to try to change peoples’ attitudes about it?

CK:

Nothing. We’re—I think—I don’t think so, because—god, look at—even today, I see this prejudice in the South—not even, it’s all over, with blacks. Which is disgusting to me. I don’t know. I don’t know. Look at these white supremacists and all that, just—so I don’t know what can be done. Education? Hasn’t worked.

TS:

Do you think that the military does help mitigate that somewhat by having so many different people from all over  the world and all over the—

CK:

I do, I do.

TS:

Do you think so?

CK:

I think that’s why I’m like I am, because I was raised in the military, and because—in the ‘50s, we were at Fort Lewis, Washington, and our next door neighbor was a black family. In the ‘50s, our best friends. Elvis came there while we were there, by the way.

TS:

Probably should have told me about that earlier! [laughs]

CK:

He was there basic training.

TS:

Ah, that’s right, he was in the army.

CK:

But—yeah, yeah, he was at Fort Lewis for basic. Cool, huh? Oh—but, Eisenhower came to visit us when I was in second grade there.

TS:

You met him—in—to your second grade?

CK:

I like Ike, yeah.

TS:

Really? Well, that’s kind of neat.

CK:

Yeah, second grade. Like I said, they were our best friends—we didn’t know color differences. We totally didn’t. So I do think that’s one good thing, yeah.

TS:

Yeah. When—I was trying to—one thing I didn’t ask you about was when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and RFK [Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy] was assassinated in 1968. Were you still in the South then?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Do you remember that experience?

CK:

I was a senior in high school.

TS:

Yup.

CK:

Like I said, I was kind of oblivious to stuff going on. My dad was in Vietnam, I was, you know, the hippie, into working and all that, so.

TS:

Right. So that didn’t really—because there was a lot of riots that broke out in a lot of different places. But not where you were?

CK:

Not—there weren’t in Jacksonville, no.

TS:

Oh, Jacksonville—you were in Jacksonville. In Florida, at that time. I was just wondering, that popped up.

CK:

Didn’t seem to be that—it seems to be a lot more liberal, back then. Now, I don’t know. But back then, it was a lot more liberal.

TS:

In that area?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

So, what—when did you finally decided that you were going to get out? What made you decide to actually not stay in longer, I guess?

CK:

I’d made CW4 and had stayed [?] two years, I just—I didn’t want to go anymore. I guess I was just tired of going all the time. My brother was very ill and I was taking care of him. And I brought him here to live with me so I could take care of him at Womack, and then he died. And then a few months later, my father died, and I think it’s a lot to do with having a broken heart, to be honest, because your son died before you do, but I don’ t know. It just—and then, I didn’t want to go anymore because I wanted to be closer to my mom and my brothers and I just—I didn’t want to be gone anymore.

TS:

Right. So a lot of personal reasons helped, maybe.

CK:

It was all personal. Totally personal.

TS:

And so that was in 2004, you said, you retired?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Did you have any—not withstanding the issues with your family, because that would have been really difficult. Did you have any transitional problems from the military back into civilian life?

CK:

[chuckles] No. I was working in the G2 and I was the [tau-founding??] manager, because it was always the senior warrant or 525 who got that job. And they decided to civilianize it, so I took off my uniform and came in the next day in civilian clothes.

TS:

[laughs] So you didn’t really have to transition. Because you were saying, you still are—you know, have enlisted—or you have military underneath you, if it’s enlisted or officers. Yeah. You have a nice big office.

CK:

Nice, isn’t it?

TS:

Corner office, too.

CK:

Yeah, I like it.

TS:

That’s nice. So what—so really, you did just transition kind of the same sort of job, right?

CK:

It was the same job.

TS:

Same job.

CK:

They just civilianized my position.

TS:

So you’ve been in this position for about six years now?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

And you’re on a military base? So you didn’t really have to have that kind of cultural change.

CK:

No, I didn’t. No, no. I know I’ve heard a lot of people literally, when they retire, they die.

TS:

Hm.

CK:

Not me. [laughter]

TS:

So looking back, you—[shuffling of papers] I was going to ask you—

CK:

I know, I’ve been all over the place, I—

TS:

No, I think we’ve covered quite a lot, I just thought maybe I’d—

CK:

Oh, here’s something.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

I wait until I’m 61 and I get a Vespa. I’ve wanted a Vespa my whole life.

TS:

Isn’t that like a scooter?

CK:

Yep.

TS:

And you’ve wanted a Vespa because of when you were in—

CK:

I was sixteen years old, I wanted a Vespa so bad.

TS:

Yeah. When did you see a Vespa that you decided you wanted one?

CK:

They had this contest on the radio, on W-A-P-E, and if you answered your phone and said “I want a Vespa motor-scooter”, you would win one. And I answered all the time, I wanted a Vespa—

TS:

[laughs] And it just wasn’t the radio station.

CK:

Yeah, I know. So it looks like—see that little one right there? That’s what it looks like. I don’t have the sidecar.

TS:

Oh, that’s cute. Okay. Yeah, I guess you do, you have all sorts of interesting things in here we’ll have to look at when I can. So did you consider—before you went into the military, do you consider yourself an independent person?

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Did you consider yourself one before you went in?

CK:

No.

TS:

No?

CK:

No.

TS:

So you think the military helped you, or the army helped you?

CK:

Yeah, I do.

TS:

How?

CK:

Because they broke me and built me.

TS:

That sounds like an ad. What do you mean by that?

CK:

[laughs] But that’s the whole thing. That’s what basic’s for, they break you down, they totally break you to rebuild you. And warrant officer’s school is ten times worse than basic training ever thought about being.

TS:

Really? Why?

CK:

Oh my god, you talk about breaking you down.

TS:

Mentally, you mean?

CK:

Mentally and physically.

TS:

And physically.

CK:

Yes. My mom said—because I went to warrant officer’s school, and I’m coming back, because it was in Alabama so I wanted to go back and see Mom and Daddy in Jacksonville. They said I was like a robot when I got there. You eat in squares, everything, when you’re in warrant officer school.

TS:

Eat in squares?

CK:

Yeah, where you have to, you know [makes noise]

TS:

Oh, lift your utensils up and—okay.

CK:

Yes. And they’d give you like—

TS:

Kind of like you see in the movies sometimes, right?

CK:

Yeah, coffee rides and pig rides. You had to earn all these—you know, to drink coffee or anything else, it was—

TS:

You had to earn every right to do everything.

CK:

Earn every right.

TS:

Interesting.

CK:

It was unbelievable. It was just like the things you see in movies, it was really like that.

TS:

Yeah, we didn’t talk too much about that training, so—

CK:

No, we didn’t. If I ever had to do that over again, I wouldn’t’ve.

TS:

No?

CK:

No.

TS:

But you’re glad you made it through.

CK:

Oh, I’m glad I made it through, yeah. That was hell.

TS:

Well, did you consider yourself a pioneer in any way, as a woman?

CK:

I did, and you know what, too, when I was going through warrant officer school? I started menopause.

[laughter]

TS:       I’m not sure why that made me laugh, Chris, but—

CK:

But you talk about double jeopardy, god. [chuckling]

TS:

You’re going to make me have to stop the tape, here. So—how did you consider yourself a pioneer? Maybe one of the first women to go through warrant officer training, that experience—

CK:

Not one of the first—

TS:

No, I’m not—I mean that experienced menopause. [laughing]

CK:

No, I doubt, because normally an older person that goes through warrant school. There weren’t a whole lot of female warrants. So I was—I was—yeah. There weren’t a lot.

TS:

So it was that thing about having to prove yourself over and over again, and show that you could do it and you were the best at it and all that? Yeah. Is there any particular—I hate to use the word “award”, because I know you earn medals and things. But is there any certificate or anything kind of achievement like that that you are especially proud of?

CK:

I don’t know, maybe the very first one I got was my—yeah, I mean, your first one is just exciting.

TS:

What was it that you got?

CK:

An ARCOM [Army Commendation Medal]. So—it’s just, it was just—yeah. The other ones are just kind of, okay, I did my job, you know.

TS:

Yeah. Was there any particular place that was your favorite?

CK:

Bosnia.

TS:

Bosnia, yeah. Any place that you didn’t enjoy so much?

CK:

No.

TS:

No?

CK:

Even Fort Bragg, I love.

TS:

And Haiti was okay?

CK:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

Because of the experience.

CK:

Experience, yeah. What an experience that was, yeah.

TS:

What did you learn from that experience?

CK:

What did I learn from it? I don’t—I don’t really know. I guess a different culture and how you get along with them. But then again, I was raised that way, so I don’t—I don’t know.

TS:

Well, do you think—now, we’ve talked about, you know, that you’re—oh, I know one other thing I was going to ask you, too. So we talked about you being a hippie, sort of, right? And that you worked a lot. But did—the women’s liberation movement was happening at that time.

CK:

Yeah, that’s true.

TS:

Did that have any influence on your thinking or anything like that?

CK:

Well, remember I told you that I did what was expected and got married and had a kid and all that? Because that really was, that’s what was expected of all of us. And then I think, too, because I got divorced, and then I had to raise my son and all that, you know, I was just—I had a lot of obstacles because of that, because I was a female—a divorced female with a young baby that people kind of looked down on, you know. I don’t think they do anymore, but they did back then. It was hard. It was hard even, like, getting child care and just—different things that were difficult. Because I was a young, divorced—with a child.

TS:

Yes.

CK:

I guess. Maybe I was one of the first libbers, I don’t—

TS:

[laughs] So, but did you feel—you didn’t—when you saw these things happening, the women’s lib movement, did you feel any affinity to what they were trying to—

CK:

I understood totally what they were doing.

TS:

Okay.

CK:

I did.

TS:

Would you call yourself like a feminist?

CK:

Sort of.

TS:

In what way would you not call yourself a feminist?

CK:

Because—oh, god, this pisses me off, too. I still cater to my stupid husband.

TS:

[chuckles] In what way?

CK:

Fix him a meal every night, you know. Maybe it’s because I had—

TS:

Well, you had all those years when you were—

CK:

All those years when I didn’t! Yeah, I think that’s, maybe I’m making up for it. You know? Yeah.

TS:

But, so, you feel like maybe that’s—you’re in this traditional role, and—

CK:

I think I’m reverting. [laughter] I swear, I’m being like my mother.

TS:

Yeah. So, that bothers you some, though?

CK:

Sometimes, yeah, it does. I really resent it sometimes, because I feel like we both work, we need to be equal, and we’re not.

TS:

Interesting.

CK:

Grr.

TS:

[chuckles] So in that way, you feel like you’re not a feminist, is that—because you’re doing these traditions?

CK:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

Really? So—and that bothers you?

CK:

Yeah, it does.

TS:

Huh.

CK:

It does. I know, isn’t that weird? But it does. I get really angry.

TS:

Well, you had two sons.

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Did you make them feminists, too?

CK:

They are the biggest chauvinist pigs on the face of the earth. And I—

TS:

Now, you know this is recorded, right?

CK:

I apologized to my daughter-in-law because I said “I am so sorry I raised such pigs.”

TS:

Well, why do you think they are?

CK:

I don’t know. I don’t know, that’s why I say, why are they such pigs when their mother went through all that? Don’t know.

TS:

Interesting.

CK:

Isn’t it? Oh my god. It is weird.

TS:

Because—now, they’re both in the military, right?

CK:

No.

TS:

No, just the one, right.

CK:

Was.

TS:

One was in the military.

CK:

They’re both computer geeks now, both work in the computer industry.

TS:

Computer geeks. So do you think that—because if you’d had a daughter, would you have—how would you have felt about her going in the military?

CK:

Actually, I have two nieces that I’ve encouraged to go in. Really kind of pushed them to go in.

TS:

Yeah. Did they go in?

CK:

No.

TS:

No?

CK:

Different reasons, I don’t know, but.

TS:

But you would have been happy to have them.

CK:

Yes.

TS:

Do you think there’s—go ahead, I’m sorry.

CK:

No, I would have, I encouraged them both to go in. I saw that—you know, they were floundering, they don’t know what to do with their life, and the military gives you discipline and it gives you goals and I think it’s good for them. And even—I think it’s good for anybody. I think we should have conscripts.

TS:

Do you think there’s any particular type that don’t belong in the military, though, that it’s not the culture for them?

CK:

Yeah, I have a brother, and my older son.

TS:

So if everybody’s going to be conscripted, what happens to them?

CK:

They have to do their two years.

TS:

They still have to go, have to do it.

CK:

That’s right.

TS:

So they need to do their service.

CK:

I think so.

TS:

But do you think it’s like a patriotic duty, or is there some other reason that they should do it?

CK:

I think it’s patriotic, and if they aren’t patriotic, they will be when they finish.

TS:

Interesting.

CK:

Yeah, I think it’s great, these countries that still have it.

TS:

Yeah. Now, do you think there’s any role that women can’t do in the military?

CK:

No.

TS:

So even infantry?

CK:

Totally. I mean, I’ve proven that myself.

TS:

[unclear] Yeah, that’s right, you worked with the infantry. So you don’t think that’s any obstacle?

CK:

I don’t think that’s valid at all, no. Of course, they didn’t, because there’s no more fronts anymore, so. Yeah. Yeah, you’ve got women helicopter pilots and—they’re out there shooting and doing everything else a man does. No difference.

TS:

Do you think your life has been any different because you decided to enlist and—

CK:

Richer. Yeah, I do.

TS:

Richer? In what way has it been richer?

CK:

Well, I—I just think that the army offered me so many things that I wouldn’t have had if I just stayed in my same old place. Doldrums, you know. I mean, travel, education, advancement, everything, everything. Even—even health, everything.

TS:

Do you think it gave you a sense of confidence?

CK:

Totally, yeah.

TS:

So I think about what you said about how you were floundering and what you felt about yourself, and just sitting here talking with you now, you know, you’re just—you exude confidence, you know?

CK:

It’s the army.

TS:

Yeah?

CK:

Really, I have so much to be thankful for, really, for the army. It’s unbelievable. And even my mom says that, because without the army, she wouldn’t have a pension, because of my dad’s career, you know, so. The army’s really been good to our whole family.

TS:

So what does patriotism mean to you?

CK:

Oh my god, what does patriotism mean to me? That’s a hard question. I mean, it’s not a hard question, I just don’t know how to define it. Patriotism. I don’t know, I’d do anything for it, really. I mean, look at—my two—my brother and my father—see those? Their headstones?

TS:

Oh, yeah. They both are—they’re buried in Arlington?

CK:

Yeah. The military’s my life, really it is.

TS:

Well, we talked for a little bit today.

CK:

Yeah, I know, I’m a blabbermouth. I don’t usually talk this much. [chuckling] You bring it out, you’re a good interviewer.

TS:

Oh, well thanks, that’s nice of you to say. But is there anything that you would like to add, to tell somebody about being in the military that maybe we haven’t talked about or that you’d like to sum up about your experience?

CK:

[chuckles] I’m looking at that picture of [unclear]. Yeah, don’t mess with the army. No, I don’t, I can’t really—I just—it was a wonderful experience. It’s been good to me.

TS:

You’d do it all over again except for that one?

CK:

Totally.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

I would do it all over—except warrant school.

TS:

[chuckles] But then you wouldn’t have had that experience of the—different respect level and all that that came with it.

CK:

All the horrible things you think about now and they’re funny, like your first exposure to CS and the snot and everything, you know.

TS:

CS?

CK:

Gas.

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

You know, when you’re doing the gas, gas—take off your mask and the drill sergeant’s laughing at you because you’ve got snot and stuff all running out. Even that, and even us—we would do stuff like that out in the field, we would, you know, do the CS to each other.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

Doing MOPP gear. [MOPP=Mission-Oriented Protective Postures, indicating protective gear including protective mask, garments, boots, and gloves]

TS:

MOPP gear?

CK:

Yeah, that’s, you know, when you have all that horrible—the mask and the—

TS:

The chem suit and everything?

CK:

Yeah. Having to do runs in it, or—in the desert. Seriously, in Arizona, in MOPP gear. And having to do exercises and sleep in it. It’s a pain in the butt at the time, but when you think back on it, it’s fun.

TS:

[laughs] That’s interesting, too. Well, you know, one other thing I guess—give you an opportunity to answer this, but—having been in the military myself, you know, I know that military humor—

CK:

Yeah, yeah.

TS:

It’s difficult to explain to people sometimes.

CK:

Very, it is, it is.

TS:

But is there any humorous situation or example that you can give about military humor, that happened during your career?

CK:

[laughs] There’s so many. I’ve laughed so much in my whole career. I remember one time we were sitting around, it was really cold, we were on a field exercise, and we had those little tent stoves. And the first sergeant kept nodding off and he fell and burned his forehead. No, I mean, that’s not funny, but we laughed our butts off.

TS:

Never let him forget it, I’m sure.

CK:

Fort Ord, we were on an exercise, and they had these—it was in—I can’t remember the name of the camp down further, it’s—god, I can’t remember the name. Anyhow, we have to go lights-out and going up these hills, and it’s just like a hill like this, and drops, and there was a female first sergeant, fell out of the vehicle and down—just stupid stuff like that.

TS:

Rolled out?

CK:

Yeah, rolling.

TS:

You just laughed.

CK:

And one thing we still laugh about is how the females would all have their periods at the same time. That’s fun.

TS:

Everybody gets on the same cycle?

CK:

Yeah.

TS:

Just being in close proximity to each other, yeah.

CK:

And that’s no excuse for not going on a field exercise.

TS:

[laughs] Well, because it’s the whole unit.

CK:

[unclear] That’s right! I was just thinking about Kelly, the one in that picture there, how she and I would do so much stuff together.

TS:

Yeah, we’ll have to get a copy of that picture. You said that hung in the battalion?

CK:

Yeah, hung in the battalion headquarters for a long time. We would play football with MRE bags, stuff like that. Just—the camaraderie is just unbelievable.

TS:

Would you call it—it’s been—it’s kind of cliché sometimes, but to say the military is like a family?

CK:

Yeah. You get really close-knit, very close. You make close friends, life-long friends. [chuckles] You even do some gross things that you would think you would only do with your brother, your real family, but you do gross stuff with them.

TS:

Yeah.

CK:

I know you know what I mean. Like wearing our gas masks to use the latrines and stirring the poo so we’d have room to go—ugh, gross stuff, but—

TS:

Things that you don’t particularly want to remember, but you remember.

CK:

But still, laugh, we would laugh—always laughing. Good times.

TS:

Well, I appreciate all the time that you spent with me today talking about your experiences, and I hope that we can get some of these great pictures that you’ve been talking about and pointing out to me. Get some copies of them, so.

CK:

Yeah, I scanned—like I said, I scanned that one, I could email it to you, if you want.

TS:

Well, we’ll talk about that. I think, though, I’m going to shut this off, since you’re probably hungry.

CK:

Not really, but I have dogs, I’ve got to go home and [unclear]

TS:

Oh, okay.

CK:

But I’m going to try to get that hat I told you about.

TS:

Oh, okay, excellent. All right. Well, I’m going to stop this, then. Thank you very much, Chris.

[Recording ends]