Girl Among the Grunts

Camp Dobol Bosnia 1996. Not pretty, but it was home for a while.

Camp Dobol Bosnia 1996. Not pretty, but it was home for a while.

By: Peter Sessum
In the late ’90s I was part of 1-26 Infantry in Germany and we almost never saw women. In Schweinfurt, the military garrison was split into two and our part didn’t have any women soldiers. So when a female was assigned to our battalion for the Bosnia deployment it surprised everyone, even the commander that selected her.

LTC, now BG(R) Swan, was two Intel soldiers short and wanted the best. So he looked within the Brigade for the troops with the top scores and selected two enlisted soldiers. During the tactical road march from Hungary we stopped in Croatia and he saw a 19-year-old blonde girl pulling guard.

“PFC Gary,” he said recognizing her name, “I own you right?”
“Yes sir,” she said.

Apparently, when he was selecting the two troopers, he thought Gary was the first name. He didn’t know he was bringing a female into his infantry unit for the deployment. At that point it was too late to do anything about it so she stayed.

As a grunt the main thing I remember about my sexual harassment training is my drill sergeant declaring, “We are Infantry, we don’t do this kind of shit. We live by a higher standard, this is what POGs do.” I know there was more, but that was all that stood out and that was good enough for me. I was expected to treat everyone like a soldier and to expect everyone to act like a soldier regardless of gender.

So there I was, looking for a mechanic in Bosnia, no shit. I ran into one of the female mechanics on Camp Dobol. I was trying to talk to her about a mechanical issue with my track. Her only response was, “You should carry that thing for me.”

Not that it was heavy and she wanted assistance, she really wanted me to do her job. When I declined she blew me off to find someone to do stuff for her and it would not be hard to find. Clearly, she was enjoying the benefits of being one of hte few females on the camp. I was pissed because I was the only one treating her like a soldier yet I was the asshole.

Soon after I ran into PFC Gary in the motorpool. Our vehicles were parked in a line in the bay and she approached me with questions. I had a few years of mechanized experience so I was happy to help. There was a condition; she had to do the hard work. That kid put on those coveralls and dove into the dirty work. She was excited to learn more about the vehicles and had no problem doing what needed to be done.

Another soldier came to me as I was taking slack off the tracks while she was on the ground with a grease gun. Trust me, if you can’t find a joke about her doing the lube order and looking for tits to lubricate you just aren’t trying. This guy was wondering what I was doing.

“Holding a tanker bar,” I said stating the obvious.
“No, if you do it she might…”

I stopped him right there. I informed him that I was not going to do the dirty work on her track. I did the dirty work on my track and that was enough. I knew she was not going to have sex with me for working on her vehicle. In fact, I was friends with the guy she was having sex with so she could do her own work.

She earned respect for appreciating that I was teaching her and her willingness to do the hard work. Anyone that knows Army vehicle maintenance knows how much of a pain in the ass it is and she was thrown in the deep end. She was assigned the vehicle for services, which usually takes a week, without ever seeing a mechanized track before. It had been assigned to Miller, but he left the deployment early to get out of the Army since they did not stop-loss him. Her vehicle made it through services in record time and then she was gone.

Naturally, services took longer on my mortar track. Being the oldest vehicles in the battalion, maintenance was a monster undertaking. Then one day all the mechanics disappeared. I spent part of the morning looking for them. Everyone I found was busy with a serious project. Finally, I found the answer.

Three NCO mechanics were inside a vehicle talking to PFC Gary, three were outside working on the vehicle and two were running around looking for parts. I grabbed one of the runners by the collar and told him I needed his help. He had that desperate look on his face and I had to explain that she was not going to go down on him for finding her a new reflector. If she was doing to have sex with anyone it would be one of the NCOs that were chatting her up. She would never know of his efforts so he might as well help me out. Dejected, he went along with me and I got my vehicle fixed.

I would find out later that after seeing how quickly the vehicle got fixed, her platoon assigned all the vehicles in the platoon to her and she spent a month in the motorpool getting all the vehicles worked on. They never ran so good. I’ll bet mechanics were stealing parts ordered for other vehicles to fix stuff for her. If they were a little smarter they would know that if they worked slower she would stick around longer.

As she was with one of my best friends she quickly became a friend and we would joke of the power of fallopian tubes on deployment. She never led anyone on, but if guys were willing to fall all over themselves to do stuff for her why should she stop them?

PFC Gary was a cool chick and had no attitude about the attention she received. She was a soldier that did her job. In the end she finished the deployment and stayed with our unit for a while. I PCSed not long after the deployment but I often laugh at all the guys running around trying to fix her vehicle without her even asking.

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