Part 5: In between

In between: In which Ground Week is history, Tower Week looms, and my social calendar is full

The ranks thinned during Ground Week. I was the lowest ranking officer in my chalk, the greenest of green lieutenants. But each day, I took a step closer to the chalk leader, a senior first lieutenant. People were falling out, if not right and left, at least to my right.

To my left was the highest ranking NCO in the chalk. I think he was a sergeant first class. He was what the Army would call an “old man,” and a former drill instructor to boot. Early that week, while we were taking multiple forms of abuse, he said to me: “Ma’am, if I can make it, so can you. We’ll do this together.”

He was a constant. The lieutenants to my right? Not so much.

But the other lieutenants, the ones from that Infantry officer basic class who adopted me were constant. They were all in from the field, scheduled to go back out on Sunday, but in the meantime, they were going party. Would I like to join them?

I would. And did. Never mind that an hour before, I could barely climb the stairs.

They took me to a couple of dance clubs. Nothing on base, so I’m thinking at that time the I-Bar (Infantry Bar) hadn’t been cleaned up (i.e., they still had strippers). My little group of boys was playing officers and gentlemen, and wouldn’t take me anywhere slightly unsavory.

Darn.

For once I was grateful for guys who were too self conscious to dance, because I vowed to dance with each of them. I wore a wide wale corduroy miniskirt, a sleeveless mock turtleneck, and kicky sling back flats. According to Tim, my Special Forces neighbor, all the younger guys thought I looked like Nastassja Kinski in Cat People.

I was suitably flattered.

The next night, Tim wanted to go to this wine and fern bar (a what?). But you had to be twenty five to get in. They carded. I pointed out that while he was an “old man” of twenty eight, I wouldn’t be twenty five for a few more years, and this might cause a problem.

We went anyway.

It turned out that they only carded men. An underage woman could’ve walked in without a problem, but the owners were looking to screen out certain elements prevalent in the Fort Benning area. Why twenty five years old? Maybe testosterone needs to ferment that long before it matures.

And it really was a fern bar. There were ferns. Lots of ferns. It was the sort of place where you were supposed to sit, sip wine, and have mature talk.

Well, two out of three works, I guess.

Most of Tim’s stories started the same way: “I was doing a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump into . . . well, into . . . some-South-American-country, when . . .”

I was suitably impressed.

The boys left early Sunday with promises of brunch at the Officers Club for the following weekend. I had to make it through Tower Week, they insisted, otherwise, how could they take me to brunch?

I used the quiet day to clean and press uniforms, stock up on food and Gatorade, polish boots, and to simply lie down and do nothing.

Except think about Tower Week.

To be continued…

Part 6: Tower Week

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