How was I supposed to know I couldn’t take it with me? They don’t spell a lot of stuff out to ROTC cadets, especially somewhat spoiled little girls in nursing school.
Take this story the same way you would take any story about the military. With a just a grain or two of the white stuff. I’m sure things got more interesting as my memory of them got fuzzier.
I started nursing school as an older student, about 23. It was about the same time things were going on in Bosnia and thereabouts. I had wanted to make a difference. I knew that many Americans were sacrificing a lot to others — I figured I could do my part and be a nurse, a good one, to those making the sacrifice. So ROTC seemed like a REALLY good idea at the time.
My school didn’t have it — I had to go to a nearby engineering school for classes. What a group that was. Engineers AND officers in training. More fun than a barrel of razorblades. (My father, although an engineer, was at least enlisted. AND in the Navy — but I digress.) I felt left out. Female. Older. Nursing student versus all these engineers. To top it off, a lot of them were enlisted but making the switch over. Because of that last fact, many students had a basic grasp of what was expected in the military. Not me. No one gave me a list like they gave Skippy, of 213 things not to do in the US Army.
I was a mess. I couldn’t salute (cocked my head to meet my hand). Marching was the pits. I couldn’t go the right way. Shooting? Oooh, that was almost comical. To this day I still haven’t completed a pushup properly, I think. Not a lot I was good at.
So they would take us, now and then, to Fort Dix for a weekend away, more intensive training. REAL Army life, or as real as it was going to get for a bunch of engineer wannabes and an almost nurse. I knew, my first weekend away, that the days were going to be long. Very long. So long that I figured that it would be smart to stick a small one serving box of cereal in my pocket, and an orange or two.
So that day we did orienteering. It was a heck of a lot of fun! And I mean that without a drop of sarcasm. I loved it, and for once, it was something I was good at. Confidence course the day before? Dead last. Taking apart and putting together an M16? HA! Not without major help. But finally, something I could do, and do better than just about everyone else.
Finishing the course early with my partner must’ve aroused some suspicion. Private Benjamin, er, Cadet Hughes, couldn’t POSSIBLY be doing something right, could she? So the colonel decided that we would do another course, with him tagging along. Making sure we got it right. I think, too, he was trying to give me a pep talk. Nurses were in short supply, so they really wanted to encourage me to stick with it, I think.
So we have casual conversation, about the military, school, nursing, and so on. I decide I’m hungry. I whip out my cereal, turn to him, and ask him “Nut N Honey?”
I thought my partner was going to fall over, her mouth hit the FLOOR. The colonel, shocked, I suppose, tactfully declined, saying nothing else. I munched away happily. How was I supposed to know stashing food from the morning in one’s cargo pockets was a no-no? I found this out later, as we once again completed a course rather quickly, and the colonel walked away. My partner/buddy mentioned to me that what I did was not a good thing, so that’s when I said “I guess the oranges weren’t a good idea either, then!”
After that they checked pockets (or at least mine) before going anywhere.
I never finished nursing school, and because of that, had to drop out of ROTC as well. It was ok when it lasted, but I still don’t know if I ever would have made a good soldier. At 35 now, I don’t think so. Too hard a life. But back in my 20s, it seemed entirely doable. But then doesn’t everything seem possible then?