Having a Grandfather who was a Seabee in WWII - who was a Prisoner of War - and a father who served in the US Marine Corps, Karleta A. Wheat (Karla) wanted to serve her Country. At this stage in her life, she was 28 years old, a married woman and mother of two young girls. Her husband had served in an Army Reserve unit and understood her drive to serve.
Karla tested out just fine and learned that one of the critical personnel needs the Army had was in the field of postal service. There was an Army Reserve unit nearby in Oklahoma City. She could join the Army Reserve, drill on weekends, and still have her family. Plus, there was a very good enlistment bonus that could pay off her student loans. Perfect!
In not much time, she had passed the physical exam, the aptitude tests and boarded a plane for Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Yes, she and others were kindly greeted by the new men and women wearing brown round hats or green hats folded kind of differently. The Drill Sergeants (male and female) provided a lots of yelling, lots of cursing and letting the new people know exactly who was in charge! From the trainee’s point of view, the usual question was: “what have I gotten myself into?”
Fort Jackson is near Columbia. It is a beautiful post that trains new people in many subjects and does the training in a co-ed environment. Karla was a young lady from a farm. She was older than all of her peers, and could shoot.
She came into the Army training in awe of it all. In her mind, the Army provided everything. While in training, she got a letter every week from her Dad who told her about his efforts in USMC boot camp. She learned more about her dad than ever before.
Recruits just had to do as they were told and things would work out. She participated in her first physical fitness test. Her boots were too big, resulting in a low test score and hurting feet. The Drill Sergeants corrected that problem, took corrective action, and she was good to go.
Karla met all the challenges of the Initial Entry Training environment and actually enjoyed the work - especially the rifle shooting - in which she earned the Expert Badge. She achieved membership on the Drill Team. At graduation, her husband and children were there to watch the ceremonies!
Going on to the Advanced Individual Training, she remained at Fort Jackson. The course of instruction was aimed at handling the mail for soldiers serving in the area of operations as assigned.
The training requirements were met and another graduation came about. Karla was all set to return to her unit in the Army Reserve.
The unit Karla was a member of performed the normal functions of the Army Reserve. The good part was their Annual Training assignments which always involved a trip to Germany. In her off time, Karla took advantage of every travel opportunity available - even to Hitler’s famous bunker! Since one is there, taking advantage, seeing history and geography is essential!
On Sept. 11, 2001, Karla, like the rest of us, watched as the planes flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Holy Crap! Karla kept a packed duffle bag and called her Reserve unit for instructions. Although her specific unit was not activated, she was ready!
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