Veteran Status: Part IV, Fort Lewis, Washington
A Five-Part Series on My Life in the Army
SPC Krzycki, Lisa A.
United States Army Signals Intelligence Analyst – 98CL1OOCM
Ft. Lewis, Washington
March, 1991 – August 1992
After you finish all your training you get stationed at your Active Duty post. You may have an idea of where you will live for the next few years based on your job, but you don’t know for certain until you receive your orders and that’s because this process – your future – is determined by lottery.
I had my heart set on Washington DC working for the National Security Agency (NSA). I envisioned a long, prosperous career behind a desk wearing Class Bs and headphones. Hawaii was my back-up. I just didn’t want to end up at Fort Lewis, Washington. There were two kinds of Army posts; strategic and field. Field posts meant just that – you worked in the field. Fort Lewis was a field post. I hated being in the field so I was sick with worry I’d be stationed there for the next two years of my life.
There was absolutely nothing to do at Ft. Lewis. Outside of the daily routine of physical training, formations, and inspections I remember spending a lot of time in the motor pool making sure the trucks we’d never drive still worked. We had some type of language skills maintenance which surely was required by the higher-ups because my First Sergeant grumbled every time we trotted off. He was a field man. Then of course there was the field. It is bad enough to have nothing to do and sleep in your own bed at night but it is godawful to do nothing outside for days on end. Waking up in the freezing cold to pull your shift of guard duty with the full knowledge there’s no one to guard against is maddening. Do we really need to practice staying awake? Because I’m pretty sure that if I was being actively hunted, I WOULD STAY AWAKE. At least there was the rule that females got to rotate back to post every week to shower because of our dirty, dirty periods – even if we didn’t get one. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
There’s not much else to say about my duties performed while at Ft. Lewis so I’ll skip to how I got out of the Army.
I saw the future and I wanted out but I still had more than two years left on my original enlistment. I was Army; I’d do what I’d committed to do. One day though, something changed. During morning formation my First Sergeant set down a new command to all of us in the barracks:
“From the hours of oh-six-hundred to eighteen hundred you will keep your curtains opened. From the hours of eighteen hundred to oh-six-hundred you will keep your curtains closed.” This of course was so that THE BUILDING appeared uniform.
Did I mention there was nothing to do?
The last straw. Now you’re coming at me where I live? What passes for my home? No. Nope. And from that point on five words drove my every move: “I gotta get outta here.”
Turns out that wasn’t so difficult thanks to the Voluntary Early Transition (VET) program:
“Under the VET program, soldiers who had completed three or more years of service could request voluntary separation without regard to expiration of term of service.” – Army History
I enlisted August 2, 1989 and I was honorably discharged August 3, 1992. Three years, one day. The Army knew it had grown too fat and I was happy to help it shed some weight.
This was cookoo times; there was a general instability in everyone I’d meet at Ft. Lewis which I can only attribute to the relentless boredom. I count myself in this esteemed, unforgettable group.
Julia. (Not a picture of Julia but rather a print she gifted me.). Julia and I lived in the same barracks and I was blown away by her creativity and open mind. She introduced me to a million things like crumpets, Kate Bush and smoking menthol cigarettes – but only in the summer because the mint kept you cool. She also told me that the best way to have sex was to not move AT ALL and the only lingerie a woman ever needed was a feather boa. I was like “Hold.up.sister! Let me get a pen!” And she was like, “What’s a pen?” I know you’re reading this Julia. You are the shit.
Carson. You’ve read about Carson at “Why Some 19-Year-Olds Shouldn’t Have Babies” but all this field talk reminds me of the time me, him and our squad leader, Sgt. Cox, slept inside the cab of a truck with the motor on all night long. We only got away with it because either it was assumed we’d die and the Army was looking to downsize or because Sgt. Cox was a sergeant. Either way it was the best field trip I ever went on.
Dallas. This guy was in another company – I don’t even know how we met – but we dated briefly because his name was Dallas and he had one blue eye and one green eye. Then I stopped dating him when I found out he also had one wife.
Malsom. Oh, Malsom. Interesting fellow in the barracks building across from mine. Unabashedly pursued me but if I had ever said yes he would have run away in terror. Went to his room one day – I have no idea the impetus – and noticed a coffee mug sitting on his desk. The coffee mug was printed with a picture of me he had taken without my knowledge. Malsom.
Baby. I bought this car with the proceeds from the sale of the engagement ring Stuart gave me during AIT. What? A ring did me no good – I needed wheels. I dream sometimes I still own that car.
Ben. The reason I don’t have pictures of anyone else in my life from this era is because those pages are filled with Ben. Ben with the tattoo on his shoulder that matched his buddies’ shoulders who served in the Gulf War. Ben with the pet octopus that ate live goldfish. Ben with the soft-top Jeep and the belief that manual transmission should be the default, not the exception. Ben with the death wish. We made our exit together, made it all the way to New York City and then made some bad decisions. But that’s a story for another day.
A farewell to Fort Lewis and the Army; forever changed, forever remembered.