A veteran’s story

Washing dishes wasn’t my cup of tea

Tifany Hill, who grew up on Tallahassee’s Southside, won several military honors.
Photo submitted

By Tifany Hill
Special to the Outlook

As a child growing up in low-income housing, no one could’ve told me that I would be a soldier. In fact, I was one of the children in high school who dodged the recruiters.

When I graduated from Rickards High, I thought I was ready for college life, but my immature mindset at that time just wanted to party and halfway attend class. My father told me either I go to school or get a job.

Let’s just say my attempt at working in the kitchen at El Chicos washing dishes was not my cup of tea. 

One quiet night in Orange Avenue apartments where I resided, my best friend said she was going to join the Army and I said, “not without me.” I joined the Army on Dec. 28, 1989. It was a big surprise to my family because I never told them I joined until two days prior to my departure. 

I remember my dad telling me that he and my brother heard me saying goodbye to everyone while asleep. It was a heartfelt moment leaving my family and the community that I loved so much.

I attended basic training at Ft. McClellan, Ala., and completed advanced training at Ft. Sam Houston as a combat medic and EMT-B. Being a combat medic was not my original job description, but due to a delayed reaction to the smallpox and rubella vaccinations for which I was hospitalized, I was given an opportunity to select a different job. 

I was so grateful for that opportunity because I would’ve been cutting grass or doing some other manual labor until the original class reopened. My first duty station was in Ludwigsburg, Germany with the 42nd Medical Company. 

After about three months of being there, the unit was put on alert that we would be deployed Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. Needles to say, vaccinations had to be updated and for the fear of me having another reaction to any live vaccines, the physician decided not to vaccinate me with any live virus vaccines. I thought that would make me non-deployable, but I was on that plane with everyone else. 

When we arrived in Saudi all the female soldiers were instructed that we had to cover our faces. That was the one time I heard every female soldier in formation let out a big sigh of disappointment. Luckily for us female soldiers, it wasn’t long before that changed. My unit was attached to the 1st Calvary 15th Support Battalion out of Ft. Hood, Texas.

As a female soldier, being in the desert with a field unit that moved around a lot was not a pleasant journey. Constantly coming up with new ways to do personal hygiene and washing your clothes was a little stressful. Burning someone’s feces, digging foxholes and bunkers is something I never want to do again. 

As a female, I didn’t think that we would be anywhere near the front lines of war, but once the battalion crossed into Iraq through the minefield, I knew things had just gotten serious. From the look on my battle buddy’s face, who was also a female, I knew she felt the same way.

“Stay on the tracks,” was something I remember hearing while driving through a field of blown-up vehicles on the way to our next destination only to see the sky lit up like the fourth of July. I am happy to announce that we all made it back to our families, but there are mental and physical scars that some of us carry.

During my military time, I was promoted to Corporal and placed in senior NCO position to become the NCO in-charge of a specialty clinic at Ft. McPherson. I also received “Best in the Battalion” status for coordinating the Anthrax Vaccination Program on Camp Humphries, South Korea. The Anthrax Vaccination was a four-part series, and I had a slight reaction to the first dose, but the second one wasn’t so nice. While temporarily assigned to William Beaumont Army Medical Center as a backfill for those who deployed to Afghanistan, I created and coordinated a successful talent event to build the morale of soldiers and their families.

Money raised for the event was divided up for contestant prizes and a portion was donated to the Soldier’s Wives Club. I served during Operation Enduring Freedom as a Medical NCO while assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center. 

During my time in service, I experience sexism during an advanced training course. I realized that some of my male counterparts weren’t so happy that I was in-charge. I must admit that it took everything in me to keep from letting him know where I was from. Unfortunately, some of my female comrades had experienced the same, but a large number have experienced military sexual trauma and sexual harassment. 

Overall, I do not regret joining the Army. I had some fun times. I’ve received many accolades and trainings such as Army Achievement Medals, Army Accommodation Medals, Combat Medical Badge, Good Conduct Medals, Sharpshooter and hand grenade badge, Equal Opportunity Leadership course, Small Group Instructor course, Emergency Medical Technician-Basic course, and Combat Communication Course just to name a few. I would like for people to remember that female veterans also guaranteed their freedom, too.  

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