Vietnam Women Veterans
Stories from Vietnam Women Veterans Living in the East Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
Tell me about your boot camp and training experience? What were your first days in the service like? Describe your uniforms.
 

Narrator: Linda Fulkerson
Interviewed by: Jessica Ethington
 
 
 
JE: Tell me about your boot camp and training experience? What were your first days in the service like? What kind of uniform did you wear? Do you remember any unusual rules? 
LF:  The first days were filled with getting fitted for dress uniforms,receiving our dungaree uniforms which consisted of polyester pants which were hideous and blue chambray work shirts. This was the uniform we wore until our 6th week when we started wearing our dress blue uniforms. The first couple of weeks were also used to learn to march and we attended school the entire 10 weeks. The most unusual rule was that we were not allowed to acknowledge that men even existed so they were referred to as "trees!" 
 
Narrator: Shirley Heckard
Interviewed by: Kristin Sowden
 
 
KS: Tell me about your boot camp and training experience? 
SH: All right, I went to Paris Island. We left from Los Angeles on the train, Union Pacific, and it took us 5 days to get there. To Paris Island South Carolina, and um, we were there for 6 weeks, from November 15th until I think it was January something and then we came back on the train and I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, in Oceanside, and it was, it wasn't easy. My going to boot camp was a whole new thing. If you have ever seen Private Benjamin [the movie] it was sort of like that.
KS: What were your first days in the service like? Were you scared? 
SH: Yeah, I was a bit apprehensive, but I did travel with 5 other young ladies, and we were instructed to be properly dressed. We had to wear hats, gloves, high heels; it wasn't the casual look of today. You, when you traveled you dressed, of course we were on the train, as I say and when we came back, we were stationed at Camp Pendleton. My friend from Los Angeles was stationed with me and I am friends to this day with her; she lives in 29 Palms California.
KS: What is her name? 
SH: Her name is Carol Burns [Carol Burns?] and she is a member of the Women Marines Association.
KS: and you have been friends with her ever since? 
SH: Yes, Um hmm
KS: What was Paris Island like? 
SH: Paris Island it was , um well kind of plain and we did a lot of marching and we gained about 10 pounds because they fed us these huge meals that we had to eat in half an hour. We were not allowed to speak to anyone while we were at the mess hall. There wasn't much chitter-chatter and you called the sergeant girl Ma'am, "yes, Ma'am, no Ma'am" and the first thing they showed us when we got off the train, they bussed us in and they put us in this huge squad bay and they told us, "Double Decker bunks." And they taught us how to make a bunk, The Marine Corps way.
KS: Bounce a quarter? 
SH: [laughs] yeah, bounce a quarter, or a dime, you see I don't remember. That's the first thing we did, but we cleaned all the time. We were always cleaning, cleaning the showers and the area. It was a little bit more lenient because we were down there during the holidays so I think they allowed us to go to one or two dances but we were strictly chaperoned.
KS: What was your uniform like? Describe your uniform.
SH: Well let's see--the winter uniform was the green, the olive green, with the skirt, jacket and khaki shirt, with a tie, a khaki tie, and then we had our hats which had the red chording on it and with the Marine Corps emblem. During those days we had a summer uniform which was a striped green and white seer sucker which was very difficult to keep up 'cause we had to starch it and a lot of us had never done laundry before [laughs] so, and then we had a green overseas cap and a um, what else did we have? Oh we had a brown purse which during the summer we covered with a green cover and when we wore Oxford shoes, which were Ox Blood and they have to be spit shined. In today's service they have patent leather; they don't have to polish their shoes like we did.
KS: What about rules for make-up and hair? 
SH: Ah yes, our hair could touch but not cover the collar and ah, we had, ah it was suggested that we wear "Certainly Red" lipstick which was put out by Revlon at the time, and it matched the chording in your cap [at least they tried to include some fashion] yeah, and then I was at a meeting the other day and they said during the war they came out with "Montezuma Red" which was put out by, um what was it? Este Lauder or one of the other ones. I can't think of the maker, but anyway. It was quite well known and I said," I don't remember the Montezuma Red, but I do remember the Certainly Red. Put out by Revlon." 
 
Narrator: Joyce McCollum
Interviewed by: Josh Lavis
 
 
JL: [Um], tell me about your boot camp and training experience.
JM: ah, Fort McClelland Alabama.  1960 is when I went into the service, and we lived in barracks, and my squad, or my company was Company C if I recall correctly. There were probably 20 women in my company that lived on my side of the barracks, and it was very interesting, because it was a very diverse group: people from the back hills of Kentucky of that time, um people from Oakland California, and people from Michigan, all over the place. The first time that they woke us up, would be when the sergeant came in and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Everybody hit the floor!" 
[laughing] It came as quite a shock to a number of us, even me, even though I knew it was coming, because I still wasn't used to getting up at 4:30 in the morning [laughing].
JL: That's rough.
JM: Yeah, and uh, it was, we were on the go from the time that we got our feet on the floor; we were on the go until it was time to put our bodies into bed at night, always doing something, and that was not what most of us were used to having to do. Um, we would uh go learn how to march and we would march everywhere we went. We went on what might be considered in today's age might be considered a bit of a camping trip, which lasted for a week. I enjoyed it, a lot of them didn't, and we were given the opportunity, because at that time it was not a requirement, to go to the firing range, and now I understand that everybody must qualify with a weapon, an M-16. In that time, in 1960, women could not be required to fire the weapon, but we were given the opportunity if we chose to, and I was one who did and didn't do too bad. [Laughing] 
JL: Very nice, and um what kind of uniform did you wear? 
JM: Oh, well for the most part our K-P uniform, which was an ugly, ugly looking thing. It was a kind of a tan colored skirt and a tan colored blouse, and it was just miserable; it had to be starched so it could stand up by itself [laughing] not fun, not fun for a dress uniform. We had um, well no, not for what today might be considered a casual, but not a p-t uniform, we had a taupe skirt, which was a, oh, almost that shade [points at object in room] 
JL: Kind of a darker brown? 
JM: Yeah, uh kind of a darker brown. Um, and a light tan blouse, and what was called an Eisenhower jacket over the top of that which was very, um squared shoulders and only came to the top of the waist and was belted around the waist. It was called an Eisenhower jacket.  For a Class A uniform, uh we had the same skirt and blouse, but we had a longer jacket that went over the blouse, and of course we had our name tag on, and our insignias, our insignias, um, that was during basic training, and then we got slightly different uniforms later on.
Josh: Do you remember any unusual rules? 
Joyce: Unusual rules? Let's see, the sergeant wasn't allowed to swear at us [laughing].  We were supposed to be young ladies, and she was supposed to treat us in a lady-like manner [laughing].
 
Narrator: Lari Braun
Interviewed by: Byanca Nelson
 
 
BN: Well can you tell me more about the boot camp training? 
LB: Boot camp was [um] you know you're put into an environment with a whole lot a women--now everything now is more co-educational--but at that time we had specific WAF squadrons (WAF stands for Women in the Air Force). When I first came into the military a woman was assign to a WAF squadron but then you were assigned to a working squadron which in this case was the hospital. But let's go back to basic training [okay]. You're in a flight of 20 to 30 other women and you eat together, you sleep together, you CLEAN together, [um] all those kind of things that happened with it and I developed some close friendships and there is one girl that I went to basic training with, she now lives in Albuquerque and we just came back from vacation together [so] a great relationship from that you know. I lost contact with some of the others, but you know our day started at 5 o'clock in the morning since I can remember the TI which stands for Technical Instructor was your, your person that was obviously a higher rank than you are and she would walk through the dorms and flash on all the lights and she said " IT IS O-FIVE HUNDRED YOU WILL GET UP AND YOU SMELL SWEET AND YOU WILL WEAR LIPSTICK."  That was just the requirement that we had, so we'd get up and you have less than ten minutes to get out and march to [AH] breakfast or whatever it is , and you march everywhere: you march to breakfast,  you march to physical education, you march to classes whatever  you had to do.  So your whole six weeks of military training is basically a discipline learning process to just teach you about air force history, to teach you about air-force customs, teach you how to wear a uniform, [ah] tell you what the standards are for how long your hair could be, this and that and the other [um] just a whole lot of stuff. They expected women to look like women and you know that's why we had to wear the lip-stick.  
 They had requirements as far as you know undergarments and this and that and the other. Pantyhose were just becoming popular in the late sixties and there were special ways that you had to fold your pantyhose in order to put them in the drawer. [Um] They would have inspections of how you lined up your clothes and how you put your clothes in there and I can remember trying to learn how to fold a bra to complete inspection standards: you know the left cup had to go in the right cup. The pantyhose, I can remember taking it and having to fold it in thirds and then you roll it up real tight [um] which would be smaller than like the size of a toilet paper roll.  Once you had those things folded let me tell ya [snickering] you never unfolded them. You kept them in the inspection drawer and then you just had another pair to wear. I use to hide my pantyhose in my laundry bag that I wore because I didn't want to have to do all those things [ha ha ha]. It was way too much trouble [ha ha ha]. It sounds crazy but it is all part of the discipline thing. You have a hair brush, hair brush didn't have no hair in it so you had to clean it out well; it doesn't take you long to figure out that you have a brush for inspection and you hide the other one [uh].
We would have to make our beds and these are metal beds and you have your green army blankets and that kind of stuff and the sheet that has to fold over has to have a white collar that can't be any more than six inches wide and oh yea, everything is precision. You have to line your shoes up underneath your bed so we would take a broomstick then line our shoes up and the laces had to be folded just so and all that kind of stuff. Yeah it was all about discipline and the bed had to be so tight that when you would tuck it underneath that you could bounce a quarter; if you couldn't bounce a quarter on it the instructor would literally tear up your bed and you would have to make it again but it teaches team work.  Um uniforms had to be starched and pressed and all that kind of stuff. Your shoes always had to be polished.  So I had two roommates and I'd happen to be the best ironer of the three, the other one happened to be the best shoe shiner, and the third one happened to be the best bed maker, so between the three of us we just shared those.
 
 
Narrator: Judith Mente
Interviewer: Kyle Schneider
 
  
KS: So you, uh you went to boot camp and training, you went through all that. How was uh, the whole experience with all that? 
JM: Well I went to Lockland Air Force Base, which at that time was where everyone went for basic training, they, they also do that today, I'm not sure. But um, it was, interesting, needless to say. We had a female drill instructor. When I look back she was pretty nice actually, because there were people from everywhere and people with a lot of different ideas. But we lived in...barracks, with um, roommates, three other roommates, and it was a two month program and  during that time, the thing I remember the MOST during that time was we studied...obviously, about the military and they would come in and ask us questions...very impromptu...and I answered both her questions when she came in and asked me, just like that I knew the answers and she said "Starrick you're a smart ass!", then she gave me a demerit, [Laughs] so, that's the thing I remember the most about it, and then also marching to get shots in your arms, get your shots, and then march back to the barracks [laughs again].
KS: What kind of uniforms did they have you wear? 
JM: We had...well let me think for a moment...there were a couple uniforms. There was the regular Air Force uh, dress uniform, then we also had a fatigue uniform. But as I recall we mostly wore skirts.  
KS: [laughs] yeah so they had you in skirts huh...
JM: And  they weren't necessarily tailored, and granny shoes, black granny shoes.

Photos courtesy of the families.

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Linda Fulkerson in her Navy uniform

Shirley Heckard

Lari Braun with friends at the military base