What My Recruiter Never Told Me

A U.S. soldier in Kosovo negotiates the minefield of a woman serving "in a man’s world."

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.

Aimee Chabot, author of this personal story about sexual harassment in the U.S. military, salutes a superior officer in Kosovo.
Photo: Antonio Maristela

The author in Kosovo

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 they’re 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 I’m 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 it’s no longer my responsibility.