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What My Recruiter Never Told Me

New America Media, Commentary, Aimee Chabot Posted: Jan 17, 2010

Editors Note: A U.S. soldier in Kosovo negotiates the minefield of a woman serving in a mans world. Aimee Chabot condenses a series of actual events from her year-long deployment into a story about one day for the Veterans Workshop, a New America Media writing project for military veterans.
Aimee ChabotAimee Chabot, Photo: Antonio Maristela
The sergeant first class in my office is playing Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl for the 18th time today. It always puts his boss in a bad mood, which makes it that much more likely that he'll spit his chewing tobacco in my trash can.

The general's personal security has just notified me that they have spotted two of our high value targets at his press conferences twice now and they need a threat assessment before the general can go out again. The sergeant starts the song again and says, Hey Chabot, I'll pay you $50 if you sing this song at karaoke tonight.

I ignore him as I realize that the intelligence team that I need to get hold of has left their phone off the hook, usually a sign that theyre off chasing the female Albanian interpreters around the post.

I head to the higher security compound of the Analysis and Control Element. As soon as I enter, the other soldiers know that I'm there for the missing intel team.

We haven't seen them today, they say before I can ask.

I head back to my office to call the subordinate units for their reports to add to the threat assessment. I'm greeted by the sergeant first class with another proposition, Hey Chabot, I'll pay you to dye your hair blonde.

My boss, just returned from a three-week mission in Germany, has noticed the new sign I have hung above my desk. It's an old World War II recruiting poster with a cute girl in a sailor outfit exclaiming, Gee, I wish I were a man! I'd join the Navy! The male soldiers in my office don't appreciate my jest at their masculinity.

I have to go down to the battle desk, the main intelligence and operations center, to give a threat update to the general's personal security. As Im leaving, I'm stopped by, Look at this picture I found of Chabot on the Internet! Chabot, you need to put some clothes on!

Burning with embarrassment, I rush to the computer. But it's just a photo of me in a tank top and jeans while on leave in the French Riviera.

I make my way down to the battle desk, and the stadium seating makes me feel like I'm walking into a coliseum to be fed to the lions. A platoon leader from one of the battalions is there, and I groan, knowing he'll have some new line for me. He starts asking me about the new Nikon camera I got before going on leave, and then asks in a hushed whisper if I'll send him some photos of me.

One of the new civilian analysts walks by and notices that the pocket on my thigh isn't velcroed shut and decides to pat it closed for me. My mouth drops open at his audacity and I ask a female sergeant on the other side of the desk, Who the hell is that?

I finally run into the intel team and find out that they've been at a press conference in Macedonia. They take the threat assessment to deliver to the general's security and I'm relieved that its no longer my responsibility.

Back at my office, my boss asks me if I want to go to a press conference at the Kosovo Force Headquarters the next day with the Armys public relations team.

Sure, do they need me to drive or what?

No, they're taking the Blackhawks and had some extra room. They just wanted to see if you'd want to go.

I would never turn down a ride in a helicopter. Later, the lieutenant colonel in charge of the mission comes by my office and I thank him for inviting me.

Oh, well, he says, we all agreed that you were the hottest person in the building, so it made sense.

He laughs loudly as if hes just said something hilarious.

Well aware of his seniority over me, I turn back to my work nauseated.

I'm getting ready to leave for the day when a sergeant from the liaison monitoring team stops by to ask me if I want to go to dinner. I look around at the faces in my office, knowing that I'm going to hear about this tomorrow.

Have her back by midnight! the sergeant first class says.

But I tell him I have homework, I need to call home, I'm not hungry -- anything to get out of a mess hall date.

I bundle up against the biting Eastern European cold and walk quickly back to my room, keeping my distance from the bunkers. Intended as a place of refuge from enemy fire, they instead were recently the site of an attempted sexual assault of a U.S. female soldier by a man of the same uniform.

As I walk, I grip the Beretta on my hip like a security blanket, and the heavy magazine like my teddy bear. It's nights like this that I hear the Army again telling me that I'm a girl in a man's world. I finally get to my room and sigh with weary relief at the sound of the door locking.

The author deployed to Kosovo as an intelligence analyst from 2008 to 2009. She is now a university student and continues to serve in the California Army National Guard.

Related Articles:

Heartbreak on Americas Frontlines

Haunted by 40 Months in Iraq

Terror in a Cloud of Dust

Conduct Unbecoming of the U.S. Army

When Shadows Danced Under a Fading Red Star

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