My name is Tracie Murray and I served in the US Army and National Guard from 1985-1992. My rank was E6. Prior to joining, I was fresh out of college. Having graduated, I felt like I did “everything I was supposed to;” I had a degree, so I could do whatever I wanted to do. My family brought me up with a strong sense of service and I wanted to give back to my country. My dad and uncle were in the Army and another uncle was in the Marines. I am not a fan of water nor the air, so the Navy and Air Force were out. I was also in a sorority so I didn’t feel cut out for the Marines; the Marines had a “tough” image while being in a Sorority gave me a “girly” image. I am a very type-A person; the discipline that the military has fits well with my personality. There was not much difficulty making the change. The drill sergeants have to condition you to the army ways. Having people yelling in your face was kind of new, but I understood the psychology behind it so it didn’t bother me.
I was stationed at Fort Dix, NJ. And then, out of Fort Huachuca, AZ. I came back and was in the National Guard in Los Alamitos, then Stockton, then Fresno. I was an Intelligence Analyst. First, I was at the Division HQ. As a female, they did not have a clue what to do with me. I finally ended up in an attack helicopter battalion. If they told me where the enemy was, I could tell them where the tanks and anti-aircraft personnel would be. I loved it. I did not see combat; there weren’t many conflicts going on. There was an altercation that broke out with Saudi Arabia towards the end, but my unit did not go over. In my service, I met my now-husband during a field training exercise. Because of my service, I made a lot of friends that I still keep in touch with.
The military gave me really good leadership training. The military has the best leadership training you can get. I learned how to get other people’s points of view. I had been around a lot of people who are more educated my whole life, but the military exposed me to people of other walks of life. In the military, your background doesn’t matter, nor does your demographics. Being from the farm nor inner-city mattered. When you bring everybody together, you learn to perceive things differently. I think that we go into a lot of situations with pre-conceived notions. I learned to take a pause and think things through. I also learned to be patient with people of different views and experiences. Another thing I got was connections. I can walk up to any vet today and say “Hey! I’m a vet too!” and instantly, a connection is formed. We have a bond that transcends our backgrounds, demographics, etc. I think back then, a woman was treated differently. As a female, I could not be in combat, so I couldn’t be in a combat unit. Being in an attack helicopter battalion, I could still fly everywhere. I would not have liked to see combat, so I didn’t pay much mind to the restrictions. However, if I were to be commanded to go, I would have done it.
Looking back on my service, I have no regrets. I very much enjoyed what I learned and what I experienced. It is something I could never have gotten through normal education. I would not want to go back however; I am too old, so it would be physically challenging.