Annual Training as a soldier in the Army National Guard is like rolling around in a congealing pool of toxic masculinity while the angry sun from the 2D Mario games pours ticks all over your ass, thighs and testicles. You’ll continue to discover said ticks up to three days after AT is over, while peeling away the dead skin from your sunburnt wrist and scrubbing out all the hate for your brown body out of your brown body. Or you won’t. You could have a circular meeting at the end where your boss talks down to you with unorthodox assumptions and makes threats like: “and we’re gonna talk about all this racism shit too,” at which you get excited, but then you remember where you are who you’re with and know that nothing of merit or importance will be discussed in any depth. Ever.
Oh how I missed the women and gay dudes from work and my Spec Fic Rocketship group and even the occasional Philly nigga who opens up a friendly conversation by saying he will fuckin’ trash me on the court.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the fuck I’m doing in the Army, or what I ever was doing. There was always this really vague understanding that it began as part of my search for community, and for experience before that, but as of late it’s been feeling like that friend from high school who only refers to women as “bitches.” It mostly exhausts me and makes me cringe, but in spite of that I hold on to the part of myself that was forged by that very cringing and fatigue.
I will say though, that there are a lot of young POC in the Army. And there always will be. And I’ve been an NCO for years, but only recently have I recognized the vast opportunity/need for mentorship. Maybe it’s the fact that I took so long to get my own shit together. Maybe it’s the fact that I got kicked out of HHT for two weeks, and alone with my soldiers it was much easier to deconstruct my own assumptions about them, the Army, myself, and the circumstances that deterred us all from being AWOL in that particular moment. Maybe it was the tears, the struggle, the relationships, the children, the sadness, the anger, and the fear, none of which had anything to do with the Army itself.
Maybe in a few years when it’s time to ETS, I’ll still be like fuck it, and walk away like I usually do.