“I Wanted Chipotle for Lunch and I Left With a New Life Plan”
Welcome to Veterans Week here at BPS! Every day I will introduce a fellow Veteran and share her service story.
Kaylee is my 19-year-old cousin and recent Army enlistee now stationed in Hawaii. What does a new soldier’s life look like in 2014? Can you tweet from your barracks? Do the Humvees have GPS on board? Is the chow hall gluten-free?
Let hear about this Brave New World!
Here is Kaylee’s story:
When did you enlist in the Army?
Originally I was enlisting early 2013 but I put it on hold for a year after getting engaged. I planned to join after our wedding in Summer, 2014 but things changed and we broke off the engagement. I was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for Basic Training by the end of March, 2014.
Where were you living and why did you join?
In early 2013 I was in Michigan and practically living with my best friend/cousin, Meghan. She and I did everything together which included talking to her recruiter. Meghan really wanted to join the Army so she was in contact with a local recruiter and while we were out grocery shopping and getting Chipotle one day that recruiter called her and asked her to come in so they could talk. I tagged along. While I was sitting there listening to him tell her all about the Army my eyes “lit up” (his words). Noting my piqued interest, he asked me what I was doing with my life. I had no answer that seemed as cool as what he had just been talking about so long story short, I walked in that office that day just because I wanted Chipotle for lunch and I left with a new life plan.
Tell me about your boot camp and training experience.
The first day I got there will forever be burned into my memory. The bus ride from the airport to the base felt like the longest ride of my life – super anxious and nervous about what I had just gotten myself into. When we pulled up to the gate of Fort Sill the security guard stepped on the bus and welcomed us to “Hell”. That made me feel better. The first week we didn’t do anything but run around in processing and get yelled at by drill sergeants that we swore had major psychotic issues.
After that week we were shipped to our actually battery and got put into our platoons and given new drill sergeants. The first night was chaotic. I just remember the yelling and screaming of the drill sergeants, and the brand new soldiers getting dropped (ordered to do push-ups) for every little twitch and then another private would glance at the one doing push ups, then he would get caught and it would be his turn to get the drill sergeant’s attention and soon he’d be on the floor pushing too. It was a chain reaction. I just remember staring really hard at the key shape on the back of the guy’s uniform in front of me thinking “Don’t move. Don’t look up. Just keep staring at that key shape”. My strategy going into Basic was to just do what I was told, fly under the radar and try to make it through the full 10 weeks without the drill sergeants ever learning my name.
Well..that didn’t happen. A name like Klakulak tends to stick out, but it ended up not being a big deal because after the whole “shark attack” phase everything really calmed down. We got to know our drill sergeants and they talked to us like somewhat normal human beings before we started our training and they told us what they had expected of us. During the next 10 weeks we got yelled at a lot, there were a lot of extremely difficult and challenging times, but over all I had a blast. I loved the training we got to do (well, some of it anyways) I loved the people in my battery (most of them that is) and started to even love the drill sergeants. (All except for one).
We spent our entire time counting down how many weeks were left until graduation but once we hit that final week I’m pretty sure that was the first time I cried. I realized how much of a bond I grew with these people and how badly I did not want to leave them. But it was time to move on so we did. Graduation came and it was probably the best day of my life up until that point.
Standing in formation in front of all of our families for the ceremony felt like forever, the entire time I spent trying to move nothing but my eyes to see if I could spot my family (still terrified of getting yelled at if I had moved anything else) FINALLY the ceremony ended and we were released, my sister Karissa was the first to make it to me, I just remember seeing her book it out of the crowd running to hug me. Behind her followed my dad, my cousin Sarah, and my mom and my grandma (both who were not supposed to make it, needless to say that was an amazing surprise). Being back with my family was the best feeling in the world. I still get all teary-eyed thinking back to that time.
What is life like in the barracks? How’s the food? Do you have a car? Do you have WIFI? Can you paint us a picture of what your typical day looks like?
In Basic Training we lived in bays – one big room and 60 beds. No personal space. That sucked! Once we left Basic for AIT (Advanced Individualized Training) it wasn’t so bad. I don’t know how it was for the males other than that they lived in quads (in AIT you aren’t allowed in each others rooms so I’ve never seen theirs) but since there were significantly less girls we got what they called the “Hotel” rooms. They were nice, big enough. Decorated. Carpeted. Had their own bathroom, vanity, fridge and microwave. Each room had two beds so you did have a roommate that you shared a bathroom with but it wasn’t totally awful. That was AIT, now that I’m at my duty station (Hawaii) I have my own bedroom and I share a bathroom and kitchen with my suite mate. The food isn’t bad at all, most days I really like it. In AIT I was stationed on a naval base (every thing was nicer there, I miss it. Sorry Army) and in the Navy the chow halls are called the “Galley”. Why? Who knows. But it had pretty good food.
The Defac (dining hall) here at my new duty station is good too. I’ve only been to it a couple of times. This base is a lot bigger and I still have to walk everywhere because I haven’t bought a car yet. (Side note: Hawaii is a terrible place to be stationed if you don’t have a car. You can’t do anything. Thank god I have friends that have a car to get me by until I do go buy a car).
When I was in AIT I didn’t have a car, so I spent way too much money on taxis until a few of my friends had their families drive their cars to them, then it wasn’t so bad. Here in Hawaii however, I intended on shipping my car to me, but trying to get it shipped was the biggest hassle in the world with the closest port to which they would ship being Missouri. I live in Michigan. I had no time to drive 10 hours one way to drop off a car. That was a big disappointment but I’ll just be buying an “island car” pretty soon here to get me by for now.
WiFi? Of course we have WiFi. Lol. In AIT it was much easier, the base had WiFi so all you had to do there was make an account online and pay like 20 bucks a month and you’re set. Here in Hawaii I had to have the cable guy come out.
A day-to-day for me, during training looked like this:
- 0330 wake up
- 0350 formation for pt (physical training)
- 0400-0500 pt
- 0500-0600 hygiene/breakfast/whatever
- 0610 formation to head to the SCIF (that’s where we worked. SCIF is a compound where sensitive compartmented info (SCI) is being used -that meant no cell phones allowed inside, or anything for that matter)
- 0620 -1530 we would be in the SCIF doing our thing,
- 1540 formation outside to march back
- 1600 end of the duty day formation
- 1610 – 2000 free time to do what we wanted. Typically would go to the gym, get some dinner, and hangout.
By the end of my time in AIT I was in “green phase” which allowed me to leave post after duty hours. I fell in love and got married to a Navy guy while I was there and the Navy didn’t have any rules like the Army did, so finally when I phased up, just about every night me and my husband would drive out to the beach and have dinner out there. I miss that more than anything.
Now that I’m in Hawaii, training complete, it’s much different. I’m kind of in a holding type platoon right now so I can’t exactly give you the play-by-play on how it will be when I get on shift, but now my day looks like this;
- 0550 pt formation
- 0600-0700 pt
- 0700-0900 hygiene breakfast whatever
- 0900-1130 “work”
- 1130-1300 lunch
- 1300-1600 “work”
And then whatever I want. So as you can see, significantly less formations. Thank Jesus.
What is your rank and job?
I am an E-3 (so a PFC -private first class) and my job is 35S. Signals collection analysis. (Military intelligence) My job is classified so I’m not allowed to talk about it, but I love it. I can’t wait to get to actually start doing it again.
You enlisted and are serving during tumultuous conflicts overseas. Will you be deployed or remain stateside? What are your feelings on a possible deployment?
I have no idea if I will deploy or stay Stateside. I guess wherever they tell me to go is where I’ll be. I’m pretty neutral on deploying. I would like to deploy – go places I would never go otherwise but if they don’t have a need for me I’ll be cool just hanging out in Hawaii for a couple of years. But I did join the Army so I expect to deploy some time. It’s what I signed up for.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve faced, either physically or emotionally?
The most difficult challenge I have faced so far is just being away from home. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss Michigan in the fall. I miss the holidays with my family. And now that I’m at my new duty station, my husband isn’t with me yet. (We got separate orders that we are still trying to work on) so I miss my husband like you wouldn’t believe. I love the Army but it’s a lot of sacrificing other things that I love.
What is the moment of which you are most proud?
There have been so many challenges and difficulties I’ve had to overcome just this far but probably the proudest moment was during AIT graduation, the chief who gave a speech about our job had me nearly crying. It made me really proud to be a part of this all.
How has your service and experience already affected your life?
It has affected my life in every way. I’m still the same person I was last year in a sense but I’m a totally new person at the same time. It’s given me discipline and an experience I would have never gotten any place else. I’ve been introduced to some of the most amazing people. I’ve gained friends that are closer to family than I could ever explain. It introduced me to my husband who alone changed my life in the best way. Over all I’m just extremely grateful for all that the Army has given me so far.
Kaylee, thank you so much for sharing your story here and for your service to the United States.
You are honored and thought of every day.