Publications for Linda Adams

Published November 28, 2013 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

If you’re interested in my publications, please visit my publication list on my website.  I’ve identified stories that about Women at War and Women Veterans.  Enjoy!

Cover for Red, White, andTrue

Cover for Red, White, and True

Also,  if you’re interested in more veteran experiences, check out Red, White, True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present.  This is a collection of stories from veterans, including my story, “War Happens.”  The book comes out in August, 2014, but you can preorder it.  Is that an awesome cover?

there’s Organizing my way and the army’s way

Published April 17, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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A to Z Challenge Participant

For several years after I got out of the army, I thought was terribly disorganized.  I was messy and tended to pile things.  In fact, if you look at any site on organizing, these are both often touted as a sign of disorganization.  “File it, don’t pile,” they will say, often accompanied by a stern lecture and disbelief that anything can be found.

It’s hard because people will look at messiness and think that you’re disorganized and not productive. It’s also true that I’ve seen people who are messy and disorganized like the person with stacks of paper three feet high covering the entire desk and the floor. That was enough to make me queasy!

But in the army, they took the organizing to new levels. Some of it is because of what the army’s mission is: War. There are things that you have to do in order because that might cause an accident, or worse. Maintaining discipline helps with the chaos that war turns into.

But it was worse for the barracks soldier. If you had a spouse or kids, or both, you lived off post in your own home. Once you left work, you could organize whatever way you wanted. The barracks soldier had to keep her room ready for inspection at all times, and some parts had to be a certain way. We had silly rules like you couldn’t put a magazine on a table top, or if you had a pack of cigarettes (not that I smoked), it couldn’t be out. Everything had to be put away, always.

I need to see stuff as part of how I do things. Like I’m working on this A to Z post, and I have a pile on which there’s a calendar so I can see what day to post it. I also have a story I need to critique and that’s in the pile, too. If I put the story in a drawer in a file cabinet to be neat, I’ll forgot entirely because filing means it’s done and I don’t need to touch it again for a long time. Out of sight is really out of mind.

In the barracks, we had this three drawer chest that was probably about the size of a nightstand.  It was serviceable but ugly (curiously, I could not find a picture of it online.  Maybe that’s a clue on the ugliness!).  But I did find a picture of what it is was supposed to look inside.  We had a diagram of how it was supposed to look and it had to follow that at all times.  I ended up have a set of all this stuff for that chest, and then a separate set of stuff that I actually used because it was so hard to get it exactly to inspection standards.  That made it terrible for the limited storage because I was having to buy two of everything.  Though I did get sneaky.  I discovered that if the drawer looked neat on the top, with all the clothes nicely folded, they didn’t look to see if there was chaos underneath.

Oh, yes, I was a bad soldier.

On the work side, since I was in an office, my squad leader was always getting on me about how my desk looked, and I kept thinking, “But how am I supposed to work?” I also had this one sergeant who would follow behind me and rearrange supplies because he wasn’t happy with how they looked. Oooh-kaaaay …

Looking back on it now, I often like I couldn’t be me, really, anywhere. This was such an issue that when I was able to finally move into an apartment, I went almost entirely in the opposite direction and exploded with messiness. I ended up having to bring it back more to the center and understand how I needed to organize.

So it was quite a shock after I got out of the army and a coworker told me she envied my organization skills. Organized? Me? When I’m so messy? So it’s been an evolving experience away from what the army taught me to what really does work for me.

Next up will be “the Practicality of the army uniform” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

so Not ready — scariness on guard duty

Published April 16, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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A to Z Challenge Participant

I always have to laugh when I see the Army commercials. They promise Action! They promise Adventure! Trust me. If you have those things, you’re probably in trouble and don’t want it.

One of the standard details I had was guard duty. It went to all the lower enlisted (of course), and a sergeant of the guard was in charge of us. We’d go out on two hour shifts, and it always seemed like one of those was in the middle of the night — and during winter. In fact, I saw my first snow on guard duty.

We were on exterior guard, which was manning the gated entrances to the post. The guard post had been plopped at the side of the road, a battered shack with multiple coats of paints to match the post commander’s color preference. This time, it was brown. It was the kind of place where everyone cared enough to have it there and be serviceable, but didn’t care enough to maintain it. A lot of Army stuff is like that.

Inside it was just enough space to turn around in. I remember how my boots clomped on the wooden floor. It was just a plank laid across the bottom. Not even finished or painted. Like I said serviceable. A shelf had been built out for a battered black phone that only called into the guard shack. A heater chugged constantly to push out a wispy bit of warm air, so all we could do was go inside for a few minutes and warm up. It didn’t stay in the shack very long.

We also had a porta-potty twenty feet away or so. Around, the road was lined with telephone trees, the Douglas firs. The trees were like patient sentries, brown and green in the darkness.

Mostly we spend our duty bouncing around, trying to stay warm.

Then the phone rang, a harsh jangle in the darkness. I thump back into the guard shack and pick up the receiver. Instantly, I get a staccato of a man machine-gunning out an alert. There’s an armed and dangerous criminal roaming around in the woods!

It’s a one way call and might even be a recording. His only instructions are not to approach Mr. Armed and Dangerous. Hey! But what if Mr. Armed and Dangerous approaches us? We’re, like, you know, in the middle of nowhere and all alone.

So we wait and watch the woods, and eventually the sergeant of the guard comes and picks us up. It’s a bit anticlimactic, but seriously, Action and Adventure isn’t always a good thing.

Next up will be “there’s Organizing my way and then there’s the army way,” same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

What it’s like carrying an M16A1 rifle

Published April 15, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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One of the things we had to carry around all the time during Desert Storm was the M16A1 rifle.  The only time we turned it in was when we stayed for a short time at a place called “Cabin Village.”  It was so named because it was made up of portable cabins brought in — and occupied — by the Air Force.  Our guns and gas masks made the Air Force nervous (hmm.  We were at war, and you were worried about the Army having guns?).  So we turned them into the Arms Room.

But everywhere else, the rifle was a constant presence.  At night, it stayed in the cot with me, so I would periodically wake up in the middle of the night and find that I’d rolled over it.  During the day, it came with me everywhere, from the Mess Hall to the Fuel Point to the latrine.

The rifle is three inches over three feet long and weighs about 7 1/2 pounds.  The rifle was black all over with metal and plastic parts.  A woven black sling fastened to the rifle so we could carry it:

First used during the Vietnam War, the M16 sling was meant to be used for the M16 assault rifle that was assigned to United States troops. The sling also attaches to the M4 carbine rifle. Unlike the M24 rifle sling, the M16 sling attaches to the top of the rifle so that the rifle can be slung in the upright position either along a soldier’s side, or while sling over the back for a simple carry position.

With the sling, the rifle could be hung over the shoulder. If we were in formation with the rifle, we always wore it on the right shoulder (bad for lefties!), but I often flipped it from shoulder to shoulder because it annoyed me after a while.

The butt of the rifle ended up below my knee, and it was constantly bumping against me when I walked. The soft desert sands (like when you go to the beach and walk on the dry sand there) made it worst because I was always having to do balance adjustments.

If we had to stop, the rifle had to be taken off and put somewhere. In the latrine, I propped the rifle up in the corner, where it wouldn’t fall over. In the mess hall, the only place might be to lay it on the floor or to prop it against the chair (and then it would fall over when you forgot it was there). At fuel point, the rifle was propped against the tire. In a truck, propped in the corner of the door. In the back of a truck, on the floor, or between the knees, or even propped up against the wooden seat. We could also stack them, which is called Stack, Arms (I did not know that until I did this blog.  We were always just told what to do and we did it.   There’s a picture of it courtesy of Phil Reman.

And yes, it got dropped a lot.

Next up will be “so Not ready — scariness on army guard duty” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

Lost in the woods with a Lieutenant

Published April 14, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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Admittedly, my reputation precedes me. For years, I thought I had no sense of direction. I could get lost amazingly easy, and with a map. But I’m also visual spatial, and directions are supposed to be easy. It took me well after the army to realize that it was the maps and the directions that was messing me up. If I go to a con in Baltimore and try to follow Google or AAA directions, I’ll end up lost in Washington, DC for an hour or two. But if I just have the appropriate exit numbers and transition points, I’ll have no problems whatsoever. A lot of times, I just need to simply go and I’ll head in the right direction.

The maps are the problem, and sometimes it’s really easy to over think what you’re doing and end up messing it up. Which is what happened with the lieutenant.

We were on a land navigation course on Fort Lewis. Pretty much, you go out into the woods with a map and find a certain number of points within a specified time. I was paired up with one of the lieutenants, which was very strange. Usually they didn’t participate in any training; they just came and inspected it.

So he’s got the map, and it’s one of those army terrain ones. It uses lines to show elevation and depressions. Great in Washington State because of all the land shapes, but not so good in Saudi Arabia with all the shifting sands.

The lieutenant orients the map, and we find the first couple points. Then we’re walking and we come to this road. It’s fenced off from the course. There’s a road on the map. The lieutenant orients the map again and announces this isn’t the right road.

I look at the road and in my head I’m thinking that it is it. But he’s the lieutenant and I’m the lower enlisted, so I merrily follow him.

Two hours later …

We finally find our way out of the course. We didn’t find any more of the points, and we were over an hour late. We were one of the last groups out of the course.

Next up will be “What it’s like carrying an M16 rifle” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

Keeping up with the army and the reserves–oh, my!

Published April 12, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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If you’ve been following this story, I’d been deployed to Desert Storm with my active duty Army unit, and then the Reserves issued orders to mobilize me for them. I couldn’t exist in both systems, so the Army dropped my paycheck.

* Runs screaming from the room *

It was pretty scary not getting a paycheck, and I’d already been in the Army long enough to know this wasn’t going to be easy to fix. Probably only being declared dead would be worse. People were telling me that it might always be a problem and to save all the paperwork.

Now the Reserves and the Army are both military. This should be easy to fix. They’re both Army.

Right.

They’re actually separate systems. All the same parts, but the Army and Reserve do not talk to each other. The only place they seemed to talk was cutting off my paycheck.

I just needed to get off the Reserve books, so I started with them. They were deployed, and they had a rear detachment sergeant who pretty much didn’t care. That’s a big problem with the Reserves and paperwork, and also the National Guard. Saying it was dysfunctional would be giving them praise. People will say they’ll get to the paperwork next time, which is a month later, and then they go off on something else, and nothing ever gets done.

So I wandered around, trying to figure out how to fix this thing. I went to the Inspector General, which is like a watch dog for the military, but I ran into the same problem. The Army and the Reserves don’t talk. So no one could confirm that anyone had actually removed me from the rolls. My paycheck had been restarted, but I didn’t have any confidence that there wouldn’t be more problems coming.

Three months later …

My paycheck goes into accrual. They didn’t pay me, but the money’s not available to me. The Army is apparently trying to figure out why I’m in both the Reserves and the Army and the logic’s not entirely working.

This time I go to the legal beagles. Same problem. Things just don’t cross over from the two services. We’re all military! Why is this a problem? So a Sergeant Major gets involved. That’s one of the highest enlisted ranks, so we’re working our way up here. He’s able to get in contact with the right people and confirms that they’ve removed my name.

One year later …

Yeah, you didn’t really think it ended there, did you?

I got a bill from the Army in the mail. I stare at the number and I’m thinking that it sounds like the amount that was on the first paycheck that got eaten by this mess. Check it, and yup, that’s the one. So I send them an explanation of what happened along with a stack of paperwork, to prove I’m actually in the Army.

I still have the paperwork. You never know…

Next up will be “Lost in the woods with a Lieutenant,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

Just a minute–i’m a ghost soldier?

Published April 11, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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I’m trying to stay within the alphabet requirements here, and parts of this story are all tangled up because they all happened at the same time. So make sure you tune in K as well for the last part of story.

I’d just gotten a Red Cross message that said my mother was dying. A driver in a military truck came by our company and picked me up, and the war dropped away behind me as we drove the airport. I think it was in Riyadh, but I wasn’t processing much. This wasn’t supposed to happen!

Before I left, my mother had discovered breast cancer. She’d had the lump removed and then the rounds of chemo. She had been doing okay when I left and it looked like there weren’t any more problems. What had happened?

But she’d been in California, and I’d been stationed in Washington State, and then off to Saudi Arabia. My parents had kept quite a bit from me because I wasn’t actually present.

The Army flew me out of the country on a cargo jet, complete with the cargo netting seats. I shared the compartment with a giant jet engine being flown back. There wasn’t anyone else on the plane with me except that engine and the pilots.

I ended up in one of the Carolinas, and there I ran into the military bureaucracy. The ticket to Los Angeles cost $20 more than flying to the duty station in Washington State. Same coastline. So I would have to fly to Washington State and then buy another ticket to get down to Los Angeles?

Red Cross Message. Mother dying. What part of that do you not understand?

I said I’d pay for the extra $20. Nope. I finally ended up paying for the entire plane fare.

And it was a good thing I did, because I barely got there in time before my mother died. The cancer had gone into her lungs, and it was very fast.

The Army didn’t really tell me what to do after my emergency leave ended. I thought I was going back to Saudi Arabia, but they ended up sending me back to Fort Lewis. The war was over, so the Army didn’t want people coming back in-country.

Turned out it was a lucky thing because I didn’t get paid.

Remember those mobilization orders I got from the Reserves? I’d become what’s called a ghost soldier. This is a term I saw in the Washington Post when I was in the National Guard. What happens is that commanders of units have to keep up a certain percentage of readiness. If they can’t, they can get into trouble, and it can affect future career prospects. So sometimes they will lie.

When I was in the National Guard, we had soldiers who decided they didn’t like the military and stopped showing up for drill. They were AWOL, but the unit would keep them on the books as present to keep the numbers within the required margins. We did have some problems during Desert Storm because commanders had so lied about their readiness that their units actually could not deploy.

Evidently, the Army Reserve had not removed me from their rolls. Either it was the above issue, or sloppy paperwork keeping, which was also possible. So I was in the Army, and the Reserves had me on their bad list because I’d missed deployment by being deployed.

Yup. Military logic. Tune for the last part of this story tomorrow.

Next up will be “Keeping up with the services: Reserves, Army, Oh My!” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

The day I got a red cross message during desert storm

Published April 10, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

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I’m trying to stay within the alphabet requirements here, and parts of this story are all tangled up because they all happened at the same time. So make sure you tune in J as well for the next part of story.

A message had been passed along from the rear detachment sergeant that my parents had received a call that I was AWOL. I thought terrorists had called my parents, but I wasn’t getting any letters from home and communications moved slower than a snail.

Then I got a most puzzling brown envelope from the Reserves. It was handwritten, with the address for my active duty unit, and an official envelope. If you read my first A to Z Challenge post, you’ll recall that I was in the Reserves in California, and then went active duty.

Inside was a single sheet of paper.

Orders.

It was February, and the orders were dated for December. At the point those orders had been issued, I’d been deployed for two months.

Hmm.

You’d think someone would have noticed the address it was being sent to. You think?

Okay, so now the AWOL thing made sense. The rear detachment sergeant had probably received a phone call from the Reserve unit because I’d, well, missed movement because I was deployed.

Still, you’d think someone would have noticed they were calling an army unit, and army unit’s rear detachment. You think?

First Sergeant looked at the orders. “No problem. I’ll take care of it.”

So I didn’t think anything further than that.

We now entered early March, and the war had ended. I got a chance to be out in one of the Saudi cities, and we stopped off a pay phone on the street. It was the first time I’d seen a phone almost since about November. I called my parents collect.

First words out of my father’s mouth: “Did you get the Red Cross message?”

I was pole axed.  I’d told him about the Red Cross message process in case he needed it, but I hadn’t actually expected that he would need it!

My squad leader knew something was wrong when I came back, and the moment I told him, I broke down. It was just too much all at once. The first sergeant and captain went on a search for the Red Cross message. We’d moved eight times, and the army no longer kept morning reports, so no one knew where we are. They got the message in record time, and all I could do was stare at the message written by my family doctor. My mother was dying.

Next up will be “Just a minute — i’m a ghost soldier,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

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