This is a continuation of THIS story… to catch it from the beginning, click HERE.
Nadia let her gaze drift over the Keesler logos spray painted on the grass outside the front gate. Her first ten minutes in a new place and she was already causing a stir. The anxiety bubbled in her stomach and she thought she might get sick.
As the bus started up again the nausea began to pass and she realized that she was in fact out of that mess for now. Hopefully her luck was going to change. Crossing the base to their training facility there were more rundown buildings than she had ever seen on a military installation. It looked like they were being driven into the ghetto of Biloxi. The white paint was a filthy shade of gray and peeling from all the buildings. The dormitories they were passing all looked like they had been standing a hundred years longer than they should have been. As the Greyhound came to its final stop, she noticed the ring of military training leaders standing their intimidating cross armed stances on the grass in front of a rundown block of dormitories.
As they filed off of the bus the yelling began immediately. A female trainer gathered the four girls that emerged from the bus and pulled them off to the side.
“Life’s about to get seriously unfair trainees,” she yelled in Jolene’s face.
Jolene stood like a statue staring through the short trainers face.
“I am Sergeant Cowin, I can be your best friend or your worst fucking nightmare, that is for you to decide. Yes you graduated basic military training, whooptie friggin do. Now it is our job to turn you into respectable reflections of your class work and the military code of justice,” as she spoke she walked around the four girls standing at attention. Nadia knew this drill well enough from basic training. No smiling, no emotion at all in the face and she would make it through this tyrant’s speal without any running or pushups.
“This is what we do with the girls here in the 332nd squadron. Since you girls decided that you wanted to do a man’s job in the military, there is only one floor of girls in this whole dormitory. We like to move you girls every two to three weeks to another floor of the dorms because you guys keep a cleaner house than the pigs over there. In a roundabout way we are using you to maintain cleanliness of these dilapidated buildings, if you have a problem with this, go ahead and quit now. Over the course of your military career in a male dominated field, you are going to encounter men that want you out of the squadron. They’re going to think you can’t do your job because you’re a woman. They are going to throw crude remarks about your ass to their pig friends while you bend over a toolbox. You have just entered the “man’s side” of the military. Some of these men will become your brothers and they’d die for you, some will become your lovers and they will leave you, others will throw every form of grenade they can in the path of your career. Prepare yourselves accordingly.”
Sergeant Cowin’s speech was stern but coated in an odd tenderness. She knew that these girls were going to turn into women over the course of their military experience. They would endure all forms of emotional, physical, and psychological abuse in addition to learning their own determination and self-worth. Cowin had become a training instructor after several traumatic events happened during her first enlistment. But she wouldn’t give up and let them win, she made it her duty to protect, educate, and enlighten the girls coming into this man’s world.
Nadia watched Sergeant Cowin’s face. It was makeup free and looked tired. It was a face that had seen many days of fear and mistrust. Her hair was chopped off in a short bob at her chin. She wore no jewelry at all, her uniform was starched to perfection and her boots shined like diamonds. There was a story in this woman that intrigued Nadia’s spirit. She was going to be extremely tough when it came to discipline, that was obvious. But she was also going to stand beside her girls in training. She made them grab their gear and began to lead them toward their temporary home/cleaning facility for the next few weeks. As she walked she began explaining all the rules.
“Your first few weeks here will feel very much like a continuation of basic training. We’re going to yell at you, make you run, march you to school two miles away and back in the afternoons. You will do all the same exercises, eat at the chow halls, and go to school during the day. You are not to change out of your battle dress uniform until we tell you too. Don’t pee without asking someone’s permission, got it? If you can show us that you can follow these rules for the first three weeks here, we will add a privilege. If you can handle all that and your school work come week six, we’ll give you a little more freedom and your weekends will be yours to do what you want and you can wear all those slutty clothes you’ve been dragging around to torture these over grown little boys with. Got it?”
Nadia stared at the entrance to her dorm room. It was a cinder blocked walled room with a broken window. There were two beds, one against each wall of the room and two standing lockers. Two broken down desks sat on the wall between the beds. The floor was tiled and the room was eerily cold. A small refrigerator sat near the door, the kind too small to actually hold anything but eye cream and a half gallon of milk. Nadia thought back to the pamphlets the recruiter had shown her of the training dormitories. They had their own rooms, bathrooms, and phone lines ran, along with cable television. Apparently she wasn’t going to school at that base, and her lessons on the government and her naivety were just getting started.
Sergeant Cowin showed them the rest of the floor which included a locker room style bathroom with showers, a day room with a pool table that didn’t have any balls, a pay phone, a plaid scratchy looking couch, and a television with rabbit ears. Then she left them to unpack. There were twenty girls in this squadron and four hundred guys. It was going to be an interesting six months for sure. Jolene immediately picked the bed in the same room with Nadia and she was jumping up and down on it like a toddler.
“Can you believe how lame this place is?” she laughed. “Those bastard recruiters fucked us good!” then she erupted into giggles.
“Yea, I’m a little blown away by what a shit hole this place is they must have Photoshopped the hell out of the brochures,” Nadia responded sarcastically as she tried to pry the window open. The slide in the window pulled open only six inches and then wouldn’t close again. “Great, the window is stuck open,” Nadia laughed as she climbed up on her run down mattress to jump along with Jolene.
The girls were both laughing and joking with each other when they heard someone clear their throat in their doorway. When they looked up a dark red haired girl covered in freckles and glasses was standing with her arms folded and an extremely bored expression on her face. Her BDU’s were starched to perfection and there was a red rope draped around her shoulder. She looked intimidating in her posture and immediately the girls sat down on the bed as if busted by an adult and they were children at play.
“When you two dumb asses are through messing around, you need to report to me. I run this hall. I am Airman Shaw. I am the buildings red rope and what I say goes.” She snapped to attention, did an about face and walked away.
Jolene leaned over to Nadia and said in her best seriously mocked tone, “When you two dumb asses are done report to me because apparently I’ve never been laid and have a serious complex of sorts that they can’t prescribe medicine for so they just gave me this red rope to warn people.”
Nadia fell over on the bed laughing.
“What in the hell was her problem? She’s an airman just like us!” Nadia said.
“No, no she’s not like us,” Jolene laughed, “they’ve gotten to her. The aliens, they’ve taken over her body. I guess we better go see what she wants.”
They were still giggling walking down the hallway towards the ugly plaid couch when they encountered Red Rope Shaw again. She was pacing back and forth in the dayroom waiting for them. She had an ugly sneer on her face as if she had never encountered a soul she liked in her life. She couldn’t have been more than 23 years old but it was hard to tell with the overly grown up attitude she put forward.
Nadia began to speak but was silence by Red Rope Shaw’s hand to her lips. Nadia took a step backward.
“Don’t touch me Shaw,” Nadia stated blankly. “I don’t know what your problem is, but don’t touch me.”
“What my problem is? I will tell you what my problem is, pretty little girls like you think you can come waltz through training because you’re beautiful. That’s what my problem is. I’ve been dealing with your type my whole life and quite frankly, I’ve had it. I’m in charge here and I can and will make your life difficult while you’re on my floor.”
Nadia snickered and tried to subdue a full laugh.
“Is something funny Arshan? How about you have latrine duty. That’s funny. At least to me. Both of you matter o fact, for the rest of the month.”
“You want me to clean bathrooms, got it. But that’s not what’s funny. What’s funny is you’re a woman, just like the rest of us and you think you just figured out a whole bunch about the two of us in a three minute period. But I’ve got news for you, I don’t intimidate easy, and I’m not going back to my hometown to work at Wal-Mart, so you better get it through your head, I’m here to stay, like it or not.” Nadia snarled the rest up into Red Rope Shaw’s face and then turned to go.
Shaw stammered after her, “You’re not going to like messing with me Arshan.”
“Ah, get over yourself,” Nadia muttered over her shoulder as she kept walking back toward her room.
Jolene looked Shaw over once more and turned to follow Nadia.
“She’s going to get you in a lot of trouble Bossier,” Shaw informed Jolene. “You better keep your distance from that girl.”
Jolene’s aqua eyes shimmered with mischief as she replied, “I’m always looking for trouble… every time I find it.” She flipped her stray hair out of her face and chased down the hall after Nadia.