What My Recruiter Never Told Me

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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 Army’s public relations team.

“Sure, do they need me to drive or what?”

The author and several male soldiers on an airport tarmac in Kosovo.
Photo: Antonio Maristela

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.”

“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 he’s 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.

(Published January 17, 2010, on New America Media)