The last week of tech school was a slow one — at least it seemed to unfold in slow motion for me. Everybody I knew had gotten orders to go someplace overseas: Japan, Korea, Germany, Spain and Portugal. When given the opportunity to choose someplace exotic weeks ago, I played it safe in an attempt to stay close to my comfort zone. I had never been any further than I currently was — other than a band trip to Florida a few years ago, so boarding a plane to a place that didn’t serve gumbo in winter and boiled crawfish in summer just didn’t appeal to me until now. I hadn’t considered going abroad for my first tour, but at this moment, I was hoping for a redo. It was too late to request a change, and I knew that, but a girl could hope. Besides, I’d be getting my orders sometime this week too.
I ran downstairs in hopes of grabbing a quick bite before formation, but Kratzke was already waiting for me outside the dorm. Her uniform was freshly-pressed, and her hair was still wet from the shower. She looked like a million bucks but smelled like unfiltered Camels. Apparently, she had already inhaled her breakfast. She jogged with me to the chow hall, surprisingly keeping in step as she rattled on about her orders to McDill AFB in Florida. She was so excited, and I was happy for her too. Florida beaches are a mecca for scantily-clad girls like Kratzke. She could hardly wait until the end of the day to go to the Base Exchange (BX) to buy a new swimsuit. I had no desire to shop for swimsuits. Besides, I had no clue where I’d end up. Florida was my first choice, but I know God wouldn’t sentence me to do more time with Kratzke.
I scarfed down two eggs scrambled well, three strips of bacon, and a bowl of grits to fuel my body until lunch. It feels like home when I get to eat my three favorite breakfast foods. It’s never as good as my Mama’s cooking, but it’ll make do. Kratzke and I shuffled to formation and roll call and a ten-minute walk to class. When we got to class, everybody with orders just happened to be talking about their orders. I admit that I felt left out. Everyone in class knew what was next for them. My plans were a big mystery.
Class ended, and we marched back to the dorm. I had a serious case of the Mondays or the Don’t Wannas laced with the feeling you get when you’re the last kid picked to play dodge ball or some other game. I was really feeling down, so I decided to just go back to the dorm to sulk a bit more in private instead of going to the BX. When I got to my room, there was a message taped to the door for me to go see the First Sergeant. That’s never good. What could I have possibly done? Since leaving home, I’ve been obedient. My uniform is always neat, boots are shined, hair is perfectly-coifed, and my test scores are high. I jogged to his office, and when I arrived, another Airman told me to take a seat; I’d be next. I waited for what seemed like a lifetime, but it was really just three or four minutes. He called me in, motioned for me to sit, and handed me a letter — my orders. I was going to Edwards AFB in the heart of the Mojave Desert.