Updated: Sep 6, 2018
There's really exciting times in life, and then there's being a hold-over in TRADOC in the military.
I graduated with my Masters in December 2015, re-wrote my thesis twice, defended my thesis in March 2016, shipped off to Basic Training May 2016, and graduated BCT in July 2016. Having just graduated Army Basic Training, and I was so looking forward to having my freedom back! My friends and I made a secret plan to drive down to Ft. Benning, GA together after BCT so we could have one night of fun in Atlanta before entering Officer Candidate School, OCS. Three Officer Candidates full of joy and excitement for the days yet to come. We arrived at Ft. Benning 24-hours later after a crazy night in Atlanta. Monday morning, we took our class up PT test and I scored my first ever 300. After we were given twenty minutes to shower, have all of our bags outside, and lined up to march over to chow. At 10:00 we fell into formation, to wait for our name to be called to class up with Charlie Company. Only, my name was never called and my 300 score was shredded.
A couple dozen of us found out that our clearances hadn't gone through yet, and we were not allowed to class up with the rest of our class.
This was a new issue at OCS, clearances getting backed up due to a security breach the summer before. If this happened, you would be held back, and class up with the next class which was usually 6-weeks later. For some people it was a couple months. If you still didn't receive your clearance after the 6-weeks of being a hold-over and 3-month course, you would be held over on the back end until you got your clearance. For some, it would be a year or more. I went back to my room and cried. I had to call my mom and let her know I wouldn't be commissioning in November anymore. She had a lot of questions, none of them I could answer. This was the beginning of not being in control of my future anymore, a hard concept to grasp. This time in OCS was truly a life-altering event. With an A-type personality, I'm constantly on the go, planning for the next big thing, not letting anything stop me in my tracks, attacking each obstacle as they come. In OCS, cement walls too high for me to climb were put in front of me, obstacles I've never faced before. I was running at full speed in my civilian life, and I had to learn to slow down and handle things at the universe's pace. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in limbo, not running towards anything, but stuck, with no purpose.
In our rooms, we weren't allowed to be on our electronics during the day, we weren't allowed to have snacks, and we had to have a gender appropriate battle buddy at all times. We had duties, classes, and cleaning assigned to us. We had to march everywhere we went. If one person got in trouble, we all got in trouble. On Sundays, we were allowed to go to church, and sometimes the Dunkin Donuts, and little gas station store. Coffee became the staple to my happiness. Once, we were all grounded from going to the gym, but we were allowed to go to the shoppette. So instead of going to the gym, my friend and I sat in my car, ate ice cream and listened to music. Makes perfect sense; gym vs. ice cream.
I got bed bugs when I first got there and had to move rooms a couple times. No one really
wanted to room with me after that. I had to throw the mattress away, and I dried all of my things over and over and over again to kill the bed bugs before moving rooms.
We learned a lot. We took classes, did our duties, shined some cannons, climbed some rope. We did our time there in limbo.
Three of the longest, most strenuous, painful, miserable months passed on by with Danger Company. Tears were shed, words were said, feelings were hurt, people were judged, and complaints were left unheard. I learned that it doesn't matter what the real story is, what matters is how it is perceived in the eyes of everyone around you. It isn't God who judges you in this world, it's those who surround you, so choose your words wisely. Learn to play the game. I was still learning to play, and I learned the rules too late in the game. Given a second chance, I had a decision to make. Do I pick a new game, or do I roll the dice again?
You have now, mentally and physically, completed the most difficult time of your life and
failed. You are in such physical pain it hurts to walk, to sit, to stand, to get out of bed in the morning. I had a bulging disk, thigh splints, and plantar fasciitis. You must decide to a) move on with your career or b) try again.
I had people tell me to quit, they told me I didn't belong, they tried to convince me to give up. So, I took their advice...to heart. And I stayed.
This all happened the weekend prior to graduation. I had failed peers, along with about four other females from my class. My class graduated that November, and I was able to take leave for Thanksgiving. I felt numb. Everything I worked so hard for was gone. When I had first arrived to OCS, I felt angry and disgruntled about my situation. I was scared about the unknown, and the challenges I would face ahead. I would lash out at people who would had big egos, who bragged about things like cars, houses, women, money, etc. I had no patience for that. I don't know if I would say I was sexually harassed, but I was for sure hit on, and I bruised some egos in the process. It's impossible to prove unwanted body language and sly grins. It was nearly impossible for me to hide my disgust. I wasn't about to play nice with pigs. I was angry all the time. I had a red aurora, an A-type personality, an aggressive 'go-get-it' and 'fuck off' attitude. Then the cement wall fell in front of me. I rammed into it, tried to climb it, go around it, tried to go under it, until I got too tired. Red turned to black, and my fire began to burn out. I was exhausted, and defeated. I walked with one foot in front of the other and for the longest time I lived meal to meal.
I had my five-year High School reunion over that Thanksgiving break. It was really hard for me to see everyone's smiling faces, happy, either successful or even just being lazy and not challenging themselves. It killed me to see those not doing anything with their lives, while I was out there literally breaking my back to achieve something. One guy was bragging about how easy his MBA was, and how he didn't have to do anything. My friends had to drag me away from him before I pissed him off with a piece of my mind. I wonder why I failed peers, haha. I decided to avoid my ex that night. He had his new small town business, working hard to achieve his goals, and was dating a Bengals cheerleader. Although I was happy for his success and happiness, I did not want to have that conversation, "yhati yhati...Oh! How's the Army?" I was not in a good place, and I felt like no one there could possibly know what I was going through, nor did they care. When people ask you how you are doing, they usually don't respond well to anything other than, "Great! How are you doing!?"
I returned home to Ft. Benning over the holidays. I stayed behind for Christmas so that those with kids and spouses could spend Christmas with their families. Mostly everyone went home for Christmas, so the few of us left behind had to carry the weight. Out of maybe 20 females, only four were left. I had 12 hour staff duty shifts every two days. During area beautification, we had to pick up all the wet leaves without rakes. See above picture, Kelsey picking up wet leaves with her hands. We were given the most privileges over Christmas than we were ever given before; we were allowed off post. So we went to Olive Garden or the local coffee shop that was 30 minutes away, every chance we got. It was the most exciting thing to do there. It was nice to have OCS all to ourselves for a little bit. You really learn to appreciate the small things in life.
I came back from leave after spending New Years in Cincinnati, OH with my friends. I was still in a lot of physical pain, and before midnight on New Years Eve, I tilted my party hat down to cover my eyes, took out my phone, and took a quick power nap, making it look like I was actually on my phone. It had been a rough year for me.
At the beginning of January, I classed up, crushed it, and commissioned in the goddam United States of America Army in April 2017. Hooah.
Thank God that is over. Failure is truly the best teacher.