Life in Combat Boots: A “Girly-Girl” Joins the ArmyDec 15th, 2006 | By Jody L Weymouth | Category: Personal Growth, Society, Uncategorized
I am not sure when I decided that I wanted to do something “good” with my life. I do remember watching an Indiana Jones movie with a childhood friend, but I’m sure there must have been another influence besides this movie. My friend and I would often discuss going to a poor country, living in huts, and helping people. That memory came back to me when I last saw this childhood friend, who is now a Warrant Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. True to her desire, she has completed tours where she has indeed helped others.
For me, the military has always been in the back of my mind; however, I never thought that my “girly-girl” self could handle it. Despite this doubt, the desire to challenge myself remained. I reached a point in my life where I needed to make a major life change. Something radical, extreme. I’ve always enjoyed photography; I began to think of a dream job as a war photojournalist. I decided the closest I could currently get to that would be to go to Afghanistan, work as a civilian, and hopefully have the opportunity to take pictures. That was the plan until I talked to a Master Corporal with the Prince Edward Island Regiment. He suggested that I join the regiment, where I would learn how not to get myself killed in a combat zone. Away I went and joined the reserves.
The night of my enrolment arrived. I knew that I would be getting a picture taken so I wore a little extra makeup, you know, so I would not look pale in the photos. My nails were painted a bright red the same colour as my lips. The three-inch heels of my combat boots completed the outfit. And there I was; I had joined the army. Since I have a university degree, I was made an officer with a commission from the Queen. As a girly girl, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I was soon off to Aldershot, Nova Scotia, to start Basic Military Qualifications (BMQ). I learned how to navigate with a map and compass. There were classes about the military and military law. The C-7 rifle became my new best friend. There was a night sleeping under the stars, or more accurately, sleeping under a tarp called a hooch on the ground; I was gassed with tear gas; and I had to pee outside with no toilet paper more times than I can possibly count.
The “bathrooms” or portable toilets, often ran out of toilet paper, but never the smell. Words could never describe it. I initially thought that the sink-like thing in the portas was a sink. Nope, it was a urinal, accommodating the physique of the male member of the Armed Forces. I soon learned that crouching in the woods is actually cleaner and fresher smelling.
I have never been so dirty in my life. Dirty enough that when I washed my hair, the water was brown. My long red nails became broken and chipped, often stained with boot polish or carbon from cleaning the rifle. One day in the field, cleaning out under my nails with a twig became more important than cleaning my rifle.
Did you know that swamps, although dirty and mosquito infested, are the perfect place to lie and cool off on a hot summer day? Neither did I, until recently.
I no longer smelled like rose perfume.
But I survived, and now my girly girl self has been replaced. Replaced by a more confident woman who gets to do things that most people could never imagine. I can navigate at night in thick woods with just a map and compass. I can shoot automatic weapons. I can endure pain and do things that I never thought that I could physically do. And, most important, I have learned that most things can be endured, especially if you have a sense of humour and an appreciation for the simple things in life. It is ok to be dirty, wet, and cold because at the end of it there awaits a hot bubble bath.