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My two cents about co-ed training...

Arlene Rios

I joined the Army Reserve in 1995. At that time, Basic Combat Training was going trough some changes of which I was not aware when I joined. My recruiter did tell me that the training would be males and females together, but he was not sure of how it was, because it was a new thing, this co-ed training. My only concern back then, was to be able to pass it, since I was 25 years old when I decided to join the army and I knew I was going to compete with 18 years old girls. Not only that, but also more than likely I'd be one of the few people with a college degree and going in as a brand new SPC. I was told the regulation changed just a few days before me signing in and that I was one of the firsts to go in as an E-4. That's a lot on one's mind before actually setting foot in Ft Leonard Wood, MO. I was scared to be singled out just for being a SPC, but when I got there I knew there were other things to worry about.

Back then, since co-ed training was still new, we were prohibited to be alone with a person of the opposite sex, let alone seeing one as a prospective boyfriend. No summer camp stuff, no whining, and especially no sex whatsoever was going to be tolerated, and I was OK with it. This is basic training; you're learning to be a soldier, not to find the man of your dreams. (At least that was my attitude) Some of the females thought different because weird things happened anyway. A female got smoked real badly in front of the whole company because she was caught smiling at one of the males. That was a lesson for all of us females (60 something of us out of 270 soldiers). Your battle buddy was basically your bunk buddy, and for fireguard it was somebody of the same sex, and if you needed to wake up somebody of the opposite sex, you'll get the CQ or a male guard of the other platoon. That's simple, and it worked, for a while. Like I said, things still happened.

I got hurt in the middle of my training causing me to spend more time in Fort Leonard Wood, and it gave me this unique opportunity to be in two cycles and compare. Both companies were basically the same. Females and males, though in the same platoon, were kept apart but at the same time still had to work as a platoon. There were a lot of rumors flying in my 2nd company about guys and girls trying to be together, and I remember thinking: geeze, here too? The funniest rumors were those during bivouac. People were low crawling during the night to go to the other tent. Now that's what I call being desperate!! (I wouldn't know, I never saw anything, but a friend of mine on guard did see something weird going on!)

Training was the same for everybody, and I mean everybody. Females did not have any special treatment just for being females, I think the only time we were actually allowed to be feminine was when we went to have our Class A's issued. The atmosphere was a bit relaxed, but that was it. Pizza while on basic training? I saw it once, just before graduation, and it was a pizza party the DS let us have in the platoon area. (And this was in my first company, I never saw pizza in the second). Coke and candy? Again, I saw these just prior to graduation, the only "candy" I ate while on training were the cough drops they let us buy in the troop store. There was once a "one day away" which was a religious activity outside post and I didn't go because I was stuck with KP. The other activity in which we had some candy was a sports day, and we marched there and we marched back. I did have some chocolate, but that was it. After the activity if you still had some candy, you were supposed to throw it away or eat it before going back to the barracks. I never saw people eating candy that fast like that day!

My co-ed basic training experience was not bad, but it was not good either. Being older made me see things a bit different, and I sometimes think that probably instead of being in a co-ed environment, BCT in a female company or platoon might have been better. I don't know how basic training is these days. At least in Ft LW. I was able to go to Ft Jackson to reclassify as a 75B and I saw a glimpse of basic training there. I was disappointed at what I saw. I had thought that things were more or less the same as when I went in, or better. Now you see soldiers "finishing" BCT without passing the last record APFT, because they can still make it in AIT (barely in most cases). And, you see AIT students telling you that AIT is more difficult than BCT and they are actually grateful for that.

So maybe there is still hope for this Army, or maybe I'm just na´ve. Co-ed basic training might not be the best of ideas, but as long as the Army hase AIT instructors and drill sergeants (along with a little help of the soldiers doing reclassification), they should turn this Nintendo generation kid who just went trough this so called BCT into a soldier. Once that new soldier is out of AIT, it's up to us, the new generation of leaders to turn that AIT graduate into a better soldier.

Copyright© Arlene Rios