I enlisted and completed basic training in 1986, at Fort Jackson, SC.
I spent the next 18 months training to operate and repair Satellite Communications Equipment at Ft Gordon in Augusta GA.
When my schooling was done and I was waiting for my security clearance to come through, I served as an assistant instructor at the Army Signal School.
Those few extra months in a teaching role significantly improved my own technical skills and I felt totally prepared heading to my first duty station. Little did I know ...
CCSC-Pueblo was a disaster preparedness unit that was established
to provide Continuity of Government in the event of a nuclear disaster.
The unit had a female Sergeant Major, a female Major, and female admin soldiers, but I was the first women assigned to a deployable line unit. It was a daunting place to be for a first assignment, working in an environment I’d previously only heard about via shadowy conspiracy theories and rumors.
During my time in Pueblo, I attended the Primary Leadership Development Course
(PLDC), an immersive warrior training program for all new and future NCOs (Non-Commisioned Officers). Despite combat exclusion laws and my lack of Infantry experience, I was selected by my male peers for the Leadership Award, the first woman at Fort Carson ever to achieve the honor.
I first stumbled into the San Luis Valley while exploring the old gold trails.
I was enamoured by stories of prospectors, the native settlements, the dunes, and the rich local history. I’d drive up Gold Camp Road to Cripple Creek, through Guffey, down Phantom Canyon Road, and on west to the Valley. I was just an E-5, with no real money, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I belonged here and that I’d be back. I wound up purchasing a 36 acre lot on the valley floor from Bob Dale, a Floridian who owned all the Ewing Ranch properties, I-IV. We signed a simple contract and eventually, with Bob’s patience, I owned a slice of the Valley. It would be years before I moved here, but the comfort and security of knowing I had ‘land’ carried me through many hard times.
I served with CCSC-Pueblo through the INF treaty inspections and then moved
with the unit to our sister site in Ogden Utah.
With increasing rank came increasing responsibility and more advanced training. I grew into a true NCO in Ogden, and embraced my fiercest competitive instincts.
I was obsessed with fitness, and entered every competition I could. I ran in the St George Marathon and rode in the Utah Lake Century. I entered a body building contest and ran extreme mountain races. I even competed on the American Gladiators Live tour to the cheers of the members of my unit. While in Utah I attended the second phase of Army Leadership training, the Basic Non-Commisioned Officers Course (BNCOC). I left BNCOC as an Honor Graduate.
All these athletic endeavors served as a counterbalance to the heavy burden of
our mission. We could never take our eyes off of that and letting off steam in the gym or on the trail was our way of handling it.
Every time a beeper went off we had to assume the worst. Our equipment was state of the art, and there was always something new to learn. I learned more than I ever thought possible about surviving a nuclear holocaust. That weighs heavily on me.
I had additional duties as the Training NCO and as the Master Fitness Trainer,
and was responsible for keeping over 200 of our soldier’s skills current and their bodies fit. I was assigned additional duties as a Company Finance NCO, with responsibilities of a budget in excess of $2,000,000. I’d won NCO of the Quarter and NCO of the Year and my whole world was about to be turned upside down.