HALASKA: Today is March 1, 2019. This interview is with Kimberly E. Stuart,who served with the Air Force from 1988 to 1995, and with the Wisconsin Air National Guard from 1995 to 2003. The interview is being conducted at the Golden Mare Library at UW Milwaukee. The interviewer is Rachelle Halaska and this interview is being recorded for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. Alright, thanks for meeting with me today.
STUART: Oh, great! Great to be here.
HALASKA: All right, we're going to start off with a few background questionsbefore we get to your service. Where and when were you born?
STUART: I was born in, technically, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at--and we lived on121st and Bluemound, so it was on the corner of Milwaukee and--Waukesha and West Allis. But we--my parents had just moved there before I was born. I'm 00:01:00one of four children, so I was number three.
HALASKA: Mmhmm. Can you tell me a little bit about your--about growing up thereand about your siblings and military service in your family?
STUART: Okay. It'd be easier if I start with the military service. I'm thirdgeneration. So, I had a grandfather on my mother's side, Aloysius Sheehan, he served in the U.S. Army, was a disabled veteran. And I had my first VA [Veteran's Administration] experience visiting him in Tomah when I was younger. And my father was in the U.S. Army, for three years. So, '60 to '63, somewhere in there, just before the Vietnam Conflict was just starting. So, he was also a veteran. So, that was earlier he had served. So, it was difficult 'cause I was born in this house in Milwaukee County, technically, and I lived 00:02:00there until I was five. I did start kindergarten here at Underwood in Wauwatosa, but I only went for a half a year, and my parents separated then, so I moved to--we moved to... Northern Wisconsin. I have to think of what house we lived in and where we were. But throughout my childhood, we moved every year and sometimes twice. Until I came back to the area briefly just before I was starting eighth grade to stay with my dad while my mom got back on her feet.
STUART: So, I did go to middle school in Wauwatosa.
STUART: And then, I went to high school between Milwaukee Vincent and WauwatosaWest. And graduated from Wauwatosa West High School.
HALASKA: Okay. Um--
STUART: You want me to talk about my siblings, and I--[laughs].
HALASKA: If you would like.
STUART: I have--I'm number three, so I have an older brother.00:03:00
STUART: Do you want names, or?
STUART: 'Kay. Michael--we're estranged. I'm going to say that word a lot.
STUART: I didn't--we grew up and we were close growing up, until the teenageyears. And then, I have an older sister, Jacquelyn Stuart. It was Courlet[??], but now she's divorced, so it's Stuart again. She has two children, they both live here in Milwaukee. And my younger brother, William, who briefly served in the Army Reserves--I don't think he attained veteran status--but he lives in Port Washington, Wisconsin. So, my older brother, sister, and me were boom, boom, boom, a year apart. And then oops, three years later came William. William and I were the closest growing up and lived with my mother the longest, up until her death, which--well, we were staying with my dad while she got on 00:04:00her feet, she died. She was shot. And she was employed at the VA Medical Center at the time, actually. So, she was a nurse in the inpatient mental health ward at that Zablocki Medical Center here. So, kind of felt just like left with my dad, I didn't really know him. So, that's why I briefly, after my mom died, went to live with my aunt, and that's why I went to Milwaukee Vincent, 'cause she lived in Menomonee Falls. And until I was readjusting between--with my family. Because my brother missed me, we were so close, so I'd go back. But I had other reasons. I didn't want to go and live there with the other children. It wasn't just my dad. I didn't really know my dad well, but it was just hard. And I knew my aunt the longest--that's my godmother. But then I eventually went back with my dad and stayed there until I entered the service. We were just 00:05:00moving to Sullivan, Wisconsin, just before I entered the service. Which I entered while I was a senior in high school. So, I went in, I graduated in June and went in in July.
STUART: So, no time for any life in-between then.
HALASKA: Why did you want to join the military?
STUART: That one--the youngest memory I have of that is being in seventhgrade--I had still lived in West Bend, this was just before we came down from Milwaukee again. West Bend, Wisconsin. And we used to play in the sand dunes at the end of the block. And I had an army hat of my dad's. It was something I just kept and I held onto that was my connection. I knew he was in the Army, I didn't know him when he was in. But for me, since my parents were divorced and I hardly saw my dad, it was kind of my thing. So, I liked to play Army, literally. I would be in the sand dunes and, you know, I had a ritual. My mom 00:06:00caught me in my room--I was sitting in front of the mirror, I was running around the house. She was like, "What are you looking for?" I said, "Well, I'm going to go get ready, but I can't find my cape." She had no idea what I was talking about. I said, "Well, it's a pillow sheet." And she said, "Oh, the one with the writing on the back." She said, "Well, I'll find it and I'll bring it down to you." And she saw me in my room getting up every morning and putting on my high-top tennis shoes and my socks and my shorts. I was in red, white, and blue, just to let you know [Halaska laughs]. And the cape--I had the cape. So, she brought it down and she's watching me, I put the cape on. I had a skinny neck, so I could tie it. And I would open the door and this door was creaking, the furniture wasn't the best. You know, my mom was doing the best with four kids on her own, and with her boyfriend at the time. And then, I would pull out my dad's army hat like it was like some butterfly and delicate, and I would put it on and then I'd salute my--I did a Girl Scout salute, so I was briefly in 00:07:00the Brownies [laughs]. And she goes, "Where are you off to?" I said, "Well, I'm going to war." And she goes, "Well, the war can wait, I want you to eat something before you go." And I said, "No, Captain America doesn't like it when I'm late." Later didn't realize that the letters I wrote on the back, because it said Super Soldier, having an SS on [laughs]. I didn't know, but thankfully they were separated. They were, you know--but I didn't know at the time. But that was my earliest memory and my connection and I did that the whole summer, and broke my heart when I found out we were moving. And I was very confused that we were going to stay with my dad, and I didn't know what that meant. Like, "Are we just staying there?" So, it was very weird. But I'm sure I had aspirations before that, 'cause I had had his hat for a while. I don't know how long. But that's when I really remember that I was going in. And I was going to go into the Army [laughs]. Until my mother gave me some advice not to. But that's when 00:08:00I knew I wanted to go--and I just stayed with that. When I lived with my dad it just kind of reinforced that his way and my way were a little similar, and I thought that that meant I was just going to be good for the military--until I called and asked them how much I should weigh. So, I had to get rid of the Mountain Dew [Halaska chuckles] and do a little exercising [laughs]. But my mom said, "Go in the Air Force, not the Army. They want you for your brain and not your body." [Laughs] Did not know what job I was going to have first, obviously. And of course I'm a lover of all the services, so I know they all have their pros and cons. Intelligence isn't limited to any of the services. But later, that would apply when I started getting deeper into my field, and I had other career fields. But, yeah. That wasn't exactly the advice. I think she'd thought I'd be safer, but I don't know. Can't ask her. So, I went in the Air Force. 00:09:00
HALASKA: Okay. Can you tell me about going to the recruiter and finding out whatjob you wanted and that process?
STUART: I sure can. My dad was just happy to take me to my recruiter visits[laughs]. I had told him just after I started high school. It was ninth grade, yeah. And he's like, "Well, you gotta wait." So then I waited and then, when I called later--the call and realized I had to lose weight. So, then I went when I was a junior and he took me. And I wish I could remember her name. I know it started with a "B." I think I would've--"J.B." I can remember her initials. But anyways, she did not lie to me. She said--I hadn't picked a job yet, it wasn't the time where you--now, it's like you're job hunting and your resume and you get to look online at all these great career fields. It wasn't like 00:10:00that. They had a list, they had a quota. I know a little bit more about that, because I dated an Army Recruiter [laughs]. So, I know the behind the scenes now, but then all I knew is I wanted to go in. I thought you just went in and you were a soldier [laughs]. I didn't know there were particular jobs you'd be assigned. So, she goes--you know, she talked to me about basic training. She goes, "For two weeks, you're going to hate me. You're going to think I'm the worst person in the world." Because she was my only connection to the service before I went in. She was right, because I did, for two weeks [laughs]. I couldn't figure out why. But she was honest with me about that. And then, she just said, "You know, later, it will be fine." My job selection actually came while I was at the MEP [Military Entrance Processing] Center, and I was going through the physical fitness and the walkin' like a duck thing, you can't forget that [Halaska laughs.] In a big blue building downtown. Was it the Military Enlisted Processing Center? I don't know why--of course I'd know that. And they said, "Hold on," and they had me wait in a room. And I came back--it 00:11:00was really weird, I'm like, "Oh, did they find something out?" But they had me go in another room and I had to do an additional weight test. I had to lift weights, a certain amount of weight. Eighty pounds, which is weird, because you were limited, I learned later, to lifting sixty pounds by yourself. But anyways, I had no problem, lifted it up, and the guy's all excited. He goes, "Go back and wait in here." I'm like, "Okay, I don't know what's going on." But they come back and I go up to the guy and he goes, "Y'know, we'd like to know if you'd be interested in going into electromechanical field, you would be working on missiles." And I said, "Sure, why not?" That was really my response. Later realizing they were--they had just opened up the career field to women. And one of the major concerns was, of course, the amount of lifting you would do. So, hence the additional requirement. And I met all the other ones 'cause electronics and mechanics were my highest ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] scores! Thank you, Dad, because that's where I got 00:12:00that from. My dad was a machinist, but he did communications when he was Army. So, we kind of had that together. So, that was it. I just said, "Sure, why not?" I had no idea what I was in for. I just knew where I would go for training after basic training. That I would go to Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and I was there for a long time. It was a long technical school. It was six months, but in-between it ended up being there for like seven or eight months. So, it was interesting.
HALASKA: Can you--you said your dad was a machinist and communications in the military?
STUART: Well, my dad was communications in the military--he was a machinistafter he got out. But yeah, he was communications. Actually, he was doing different work, but when he did his parachute qualifications--if I'm saying that right. I wasn't Army, so forgive me. He broke his leg and they found out he was only seventeen years old. They didn't want to, of course, 00:13:00absorb the problem that he shouldn't have been there yet. So, they asked him what he wanted to do and he said he liked to work with electronics and mechanical things. So, they had him drive a Jeep for a while, because he broke the left leg. So, he could still drive a colonel or whoever he was driving around. Then he went into communications. And I actually still have--he was stationed in Germany for a little bit and I have amazing photos of his I just found after he died, of his photo albums. And I have one of him by his little motorcycle in the service. And I have a jacket of his and it has a map of Germany--actually you can flip it. It's black, but it has a parachute and all the stuff on it. But if you flip it, it's yellow satin inside and has a beautiful map of Germany. So, I had always wanted to go to Germany, because that's all I heard about from my dad. You know, I heard every story five hundred times. He wasn't in that long, but it was very powerful to me to hear 00:14:00his stories. But on the ship on the way back, coming back after his enlistment, they were told that they had to reenlist because Vietnam Conflict had begun. But he had a lawyer in his platoon, I think? Whatever you call it in the Army, sorry.
HALASKA: It's a platoon, good job.
STUART: And he said, "No, you don't, it's still optional at this time becauseyou had already served, you can't get drafted. It's optional." My dad said, "Oh, I did my--I'm ready to go. I'm ready to go home." But they were all ready to sign because that's what they were told. Until someone said, "No, you don't have to." And he told me, he remained friends with that guy for like twenty years or something. He goes, "It was just..." You know, he goes--he was torn. Of course, he wanted to, but he wanted to go home. But you're on the ship going home, you don't really want to get back on once you cross that. But he loved it 00:15:00and I have an old radio I still have. I don't know what you call it. It's huge and it shows the stamp from Germany on the back because he shipped it back. I don't know how to fix it, it would be amazing to see it restored. It's just a beautiful older radio, you know, with the large buttons. But the tubes and everything you would need to replace and stuff that I had just learned that equipment, but they had just updated. So, I didn't get to train in all that, so it's kinda neat. But that was big to me. So, I was in my dad's workshop a lot when I--before I had gone in, when I did live there, and he would work on things. And also, was mechanically a Corvairs--he had six of 'em. So, he liked Corvairs, made by Ralph Nader. So, his call sign when he was a trucker, briefly, was Nader's Nightmare. So, he's a big Corvair fan. 00:16:00
HALASKA: What's that?
STUART: It's an automobile. So, they had different kinds. He had the Corvairtruck, station wagon, hard top convertible, and then he had another, regular one. I had to sell these when he died, so I had to go to the Corvair Club of Wisconsin and find out. But I helped--I came home from leave and I helped him rewire a car for my brother to--the panel for a Dodge Dart. This was after I was in. But I watched him building these. This is at the time my dad could like pick up the engine and put it in, before he got a little older, he needed an engine hoist [laughs]. But I watched him do that when I would visit when I was a kid, after we left. And then up after I moved in there, he was always tinkering in vehicles. And it was more mechanical for him than the electronics portion, but I thought, I was so fascinated by that. And it could be I picked up a lot of that. So, when I took the ASVAB, I just--it just came out that I had potential, I guess, to learn those things. But, it was just exciting to me. 00:17:00
HALASKA: Do you have any particular memories that stand out about fixingsomething or learning something from your dad?
STUART: I actually it'd be more--for my dad, it'd be woodwork. My dad did also alot of woodwork and he made what later would be called "nostalgic items." But he made these yard ornaments. Either animals, or he would make windmills, or he would make a windmill and he would have a wooden guy with a saw that when the wind blew, he'd be sawing. I'd sold or repurposed a lot of these in the family, but I still have a box I keep in storage. I don't put them out where I'm at. But I would watch my dad painting these. And I have all the original plans for these, so I kept those after he passed away. But being down there and he had a scroll saw, and I have two shelves I keep in my kitchen, I just repainted them, that I watched him make. And just the smell of the sawdust--I do like 00:18:00the smell of diesel fuel, it could be all related to being in the garage or my dad's workshop. But the workshop was where I spent a lot, and I have this really cool picture of my dad there, and he would save baby food jars. And at the time, baby food jars were glass. And he would take the lid and he would nail it up and then you could put screws, or nuts, or bolts screwed in, and then he'd have it on a Lazy Susan so you could spin it around. So, you either had rows of these or whatever. I find myself sometimes putting like a peanut butter jar or a small jar, empty jar, aside as though I'm going to do the same thing. But I found, no lie, just yesterday a little bottle--it looked about the size of a small baby food, and it had like four or five screws in it. And I just, I had that memory, so it's easy to remember just now. So, I miss that. I just miss that smell. And even though when I go home and I really see my dad, that's where I would spend my time, when I did visit with him. So, I still kind of miss that. He 00:19:00had a whole pole barn built when he moved out to Sullivan, just before I went in, where he kept his cars and then he got into snowmobiles. But I hadn't at the time. He still did it then and he had built a workshop on top of that. And it still would make me smile. Yeah, that he would do that. So, I miss that.
HALASKA: When did your dad pass away?
STUART: My dad passed away--well, my mom died when I was fifteen and my dad diedwhen I was thirty. So, that would be... 2000, I was born in '70. Um, actually, 2001, because it was February 14th. He died on Valentine's Day. He was diagnosed the Thanksgiving before. Actually on Thanksgiving Day he had a surgery. He left a message. My sister called me over and on her answering machine--yes, answering machine at the time [laughs]. It said, "Hey, I'm going to have a procedure. The doctor sees something on my x-ray, he's got to go inside and take a 00:20:00look. I'm told to let some kinfolk know." I don't know why he was talking like that, 'cause he didn't talk like that. So, I listened to the message again with my sister, because she didn't know what was going on. So, we found out where he was having the surgery in Oconomowoc, at the hospital, so we all went there on Thanksgiving Day. And, just not sure what was going on, we just thought he was having some procedure, he'd be fine. And when the doctor, the team of doctors came out--there were three of them and the main one walked up to us. And you could tell he had been crying. And we knew right there, you could feel it--I'm still remembering actually, feeling it. And we knew something was terribly wrong. And he's like--he explained to us the spot he saw, there was more when he opened him up. And it looked like somebody filled a bucket of plaster and threw it at my dad's chest, filled with cancer, and that it was everywhere. And so, he was diagnosed with Stage-4 Colon Cancer. And I had gone to a couple 00:21:00chemo appointments and stuff. It's weird that I had that memory with him in a basement, because he always had on his flannels or his quilted flannels, we would buy him. And he had on this blue one, the last time I remember I took him for chemo. The first round wiped him out. We thought, "Oh jeez, this is it. One and done." But the next round it's like, he was a little better. We didn't know what to expect. That day, though, when I asked the doctor what prognosis--"What do you think?" He goes, "Don't hold me to it, we really don't know. But in my experience, I would say three months." Thanksgiving Day to Valentine's Day, he had pretty much nailed that timeframe. But it was so quick. I had just began working at UW Milwaukee and out of graduate admissions. I was hired part-time. I was supposed to work half-days, but I asked if I could compress my schedule. So, I at the time had lived in Ozaukee County, so I was going out to Sullivan, Wisconsin to spend that time with my dad as he was getting sicker. He 00:22:00went into hospice at home. Which is really odd, because I was very angry after my mom died, because she was shot. So, it was a little more traumatic and I was a very angry child and I was so close to my mom that I finally came to a resolution a decade later saying, "At least I didn't have to watch her die." And then, here, I'm literally watching a two-hundred-and-thirty-pound man go to, y'know, looking like he weighed seventy-five pounds soaking wet. And he aged forty years. And so, he looked like a little old man and he was fifty-five. So, I stayed out there with him. I was actually there when he died. I knew the night before. I sat reading this little book--[laughs] I'm making a motion where I'm paging through this book, there was probably only like fifteen pages in this little pamphlet they gave you--but I was reading it and rereading it before I called the hospice nurse and I, you know, expressed I had some 00:23:00concerns. She goes, "Well, y'know, call later." His catheter had come out and it was hard enough--I learned how to change a colostomy bag, really tough work. Nobody else liked to do it. My sister hired a nurse for when she was there, and my brother would puke, so I tried to do them as much as I could. Amazing what you realize you can do. But when his catheter came out, I called the hospice to come. I already had to strip my dad down before when his bag broke, and do all the--there's not enough humbling this man can have right now. But I called and said, "According to your pamphlet, which I briefly looked at,"--although I know I had been reading for days--"it says he's close." And she goes, "Yes. He probably won't make it to the morning. You're right." And he wasn't responsive, so I had the week before asked my aunt to come out, who was a minister. She was a reverend, actually. The family was introduced to religion 00:24:00by my mother. I'm agnostic, so--[laughs]. But she had come out and I said, "Can you just put a few pages to--my dad's not like really religious, but he wouldn't mind." So, I pulled up a chair next to his bed and I just read the passages my aunt had selected. Just 'cause I didn't know if it was comforting or it wouldn't--when she asked to pray on him--over him--he actually was uncomfortable. He goes, "No, if God wanted to do anything last minute, he had plenty of time." But I knew he wouldn't be against me doing that, so I did that. And the only time I slept upstairs on the couch next to him, and I set my alarm for two hours--because you had to get up and turn him for the bed sores. And in that time, my dad passed away when I got up. The only two hours I ever slept upstairs. I usually was downstairs. I was one--only two of us had lived in that house he moved in. My brother and I. So, I had a room downstairs. But 00:25:00it was really, really odd. It took me a really long time to pick up that phone and--I didn't want to be the one to call and then they come and he had that faint heartbeat. But I was honored. But I no longer said to my nieces, "No dying on my shift," when I rented my house. And they knew--they said, "Auntie Mimi don't say that anymore, because Grandpa died on her shift." [laughs]. And that's true. So, I was honored, I was overwhelmed, but it was--I had to--I was the executor also, which angered my sister. I had to find my estranged older brother I hadn't seen in a decade, because he was disowned in the will. So, it was very difficult to go through all of that, and it's just surreal. My dad and I--whereas my sister said, "You can do no wrong, because you're a veteran." [Laughs] My dad just--we had that connection, you know how it is, with another veteran. It could be a different service, different era, but there'll 00:26:00be something that connects you because you both had an experience that's similar. You made that sacrifice. So, that's what honored me and it was--I had to bite my lip a little at the service when I told them they could give the flag to my brother, because they were--this is Arkansas, Wisconsin, believe it or not. Very small town, they put your name in the paper when you visit. And the captain of the American Legion actually--they came because they loved to shoot their guns off. But they were old school then, mainly, where you would give it to the eldest son. And of course, that eldest son wasn't going to be there, so my brother--who has it. My cousin, who is a Marine veteran, actually frosted the flag case with my dad's Army and the dates of service. And my brother still has that up. And he got me a flag case when I retired, so I told him, "When I die, you can do that." Now, I would do it differently. I would get a flag 00:27:00for everybody. But, I have a flag he hung in his house that I sent to him when I was stationed in Minot, North Dakota. And I had a girlfriend who worked in the supply department and repurposed one of the huge flags. So, I gave it to my dad, and he had that hanging in his hallway, actually up until his death. And I actually still have that flag, now. So, to me...you know, I share that.
HALASKA: Thank you for sharing.
STUART: Yes. It was a tough time.
HALASKA: Yeah. All right, let's go back to you just getting in the Air Force.So, you were eighteen?
HALASKA: You were--okay. And you just graduated high school and now you werebeing shipped off to boot camp. Tell me about that.
STUART: [Laughs] Yes, well, being flown to boot--not because I'm Air Force, butjust because we only have our basic training in Lackland Air Force Base. So, I knew I was only going one place for six weeks [laughs]. The 00:28:00first two, we--I'm trying to think of her name. Bolton? Or--and really my recruiter's name is funny because usually I can remember it. So--
HALASKA: Oh, I'm sorry, before we go into that--
STUART: No, go ahead.
HALASKA: Do you--at the time that you signed up, did you know what the Army'spolicies were regarding sexual orientation? And did you--were you already aware of your own?
STUART: That's a good question to back up into. I had known since I--I knew thatI was--liked girls before I knew I wanted to serve in the military. And actually, my half a year in kindergarten, I knew then. I'd come home and I had been telling my mom this boy kept wanting to kiss me. So, she would ask me occasionally if I allowed him to, and I said I did. I let whoever his 00:29:00name was kiss me at recess. So, I had a boyfriend. I said, "You know, but by lunch, Mom, so-and-so"--I named a girl, I can't remember--"She kissed me and I have a girlfriend now." She goes, "Oh, okay, well that's fine. You can have a girlfriend if you want." So, that--but not understanding what that meant until I got a little older. And then I would come home and like, "Mom, it's really not okay." But I remember in second grade--I mean, I just had always liked girls. I wasn't really into the boys. I was very athletic, so I hung around the boys, I was a tomboy. I was doing all boy stuff, but I wasn't interested in the boys [laughs]. And I'm like, "Mom, they told me that I can't like girls, and they make fun of this girl because she's a lesbian." And it was probably like sixth grade or something, when I did a softball throw and I made a girl cry 'cause I threw it so far. But I played baseball, so I was like--and she goes, "Well, people are going to say that." And I go on and I make fun of my math 00:30:00teacher because he wears a skirt, and he did, and clogs--that I remember. It was the first thing that was really strange to me. The first time I heard the word "lesbian," really. I mean, I knew there were gay people, but my mom had me go to my aunt's house when I was younger and meet a lesbian friend of hers, and see if she could talk to me. And I would always tell my aunt that I became a lesbian because she made me play marbles with Hunts[??] [laughs], who I saw at her funeral when she died. So, I had known I liked girls and then after my mom died, I didn't have anyone tell me I was special and I was okay and I could really like who I wanted. I was with a man I didn't really know, my sister was dating a boy. I didn't really tell anybody else what was going on. My younger brother knew, because, he knew that my pillow was my girlfriend just like his from Charlie's Angels [laughs]. I don't know why I just shared that [laughter]. And we would sit down and watch Charlie's Angels and we have our pillow 00:31:00and that would be our girlfriend.
HALASKA: Which one was your Charlie's Angel?
STUART: Jaclyn Smith.
HALASKA: Which one was your brother's?
STUART: Blonde. He liked blondes [Halaska laughs]. He was all about the--yeah,so I don't know if that was the Farrah Fawcett or the other one at the time, when it first started. But I would say Jaclyn Smith. But when I watched--at that house, I was watching--and it's weird, because I'm not attracted to Stevie Nicks at all, or wasn't. But I was watching a concert and I was at my dad's house by myself and I all of a sudden felt very strange [laughs]. And I went, "Wait a minute." I had started to make the connection that it wasn't just "I like girls," I wanted to do more than that. And I--it was just after I moved with my dad. So, I couldn't have only been in like ninth grade. So, it was a very strange reaction. I knew I had these feelings, but I didn't really do anything about it. Or if I did, it was just not that detailed. But in high 00:32:00school, I knew when I got a ride home from [laughs] one of the seniors on the basketball team, whose hand on my leg was not "Hey, see you later," it was a little different. And all of a sudden, I was like, "Oh, wait a minute. Okay, this is going to be strange." And she goes--but I remember what she said to me, and I remember her name was Mary. When she asked me about my parents, we were parked outside my dad's house in Wauwatosa. And she said, "Oh, you got a lot going on, I don't know if I want to get into that." I don't really know what she meant, but it kind of offended me. I knew then that--okay. Of course, I'm learning about sex ed and these things. I know already all about sex, unfortunately, because I had sexual abuse as a child. So, I had to go to court, so I had to learn all the fancy words and learn all the pictures very early. So, I knew about where things were and stuff like that, but not what I 00:33:00was supposed to do with it. And I knew when I was touched and it was inappropriate or wrong, but I never experienced--I didn't receive that, I like I was starting to feel differently. Not like offended that someone was doing it. I was like, "Yeah." [laughs]. So--a little bit more than that. But again, I'm in this world with now my sister is in my life who wasn't before, because her and my older brother were living with my dad already. And so, I was like, "Oh, this is really strange." So, I'm bein' influenced by her to date or do this. And I'm going out with my friends who--no one's talking about being a lesbian. You know there's a few but--or a few that like girls. We knew there were lesbians, we just said "gay," but didn't do anything about it [laughs]. Not that I didn't want to, I just wasn't sure. So, I thought, "Okay, I would like kids. I guess there's only one way to do that." And at my time, there was only way to do that. We didn't know what was going on in the world. So, I thought that's 00:34:00what I had to do. And so, after the first couple times, I'm like, "Really? This it? Boy, this is just not the same as when Mary put her hand on my leg!" [laughs]. So, I did start dating someone my sister introduced me to, who was a mechanic. So, go figure all these things. My dad loved him, because he was a mechanic. Chris. And I had told him and shared with him that I was attracted to women. So, it wasn't a big secret to him. And he was like, "Okay," he's like, "Thanks for telling me." So, we had dated--I was actually engaged to be married before I went in the service. But I recall vividly the line that I got to that said, "Have you ever did any homosexual act or had homosexual tendencies?" What threw me was the word "homosexual," because it wasn't a word that was regularly used at the time.
HALASKA: And this was in your contract? That you were--?
STUART: Yes. And if you had these thoughts you remember that that was00:35:00a line you had to say "no" to. Yes or no? A lot of people are like, "I don't remember that." You probably wouldn't if it didn't affect you. But I knew, I paused. But I didn't feel that I had done anything, even as a--I didn't know what they really meant by that. I was like, "No, I'm engaged to be married. No. Just no." But I paused. I paused because I knew. I just didn't understand it yet. So, yeah, so I actually came out later. I was out there. I get through basic training, which I am just thinking is...the first day is just like a joke. I offered--we had a girl literally come in a dress, with five--a whole luggage set. So, you know she was from somewhere not where us duffel bag folks were from, or that I was smart enough to listen to my dad that I only had a duffel bag.
HALASKA: And you're talking about when you got to Lackland?
STUART: Yeah, I'm at Lackland Air Force Base, we get off the bus, it00:36:00was dark. That's all I remember. They're yelling at us, whatever. They're calling us "rainbows," because we're in our civilian clothes. So, we were called rainbows, which later I kind of found funny. Now, I just get it 'cause you're all different colors. So, we have to go up into the dorms, so he's yelling at this tall chick with this luggage set, "Unless someone wants to help you, but we're not--I don't know if people want to volunteer." So, I volunteer to help carry some of her luggage [laughs]. I get going and they wait until I get all the way to the top and yells at me to get back down the stairs to put my right hand on the handrail, carry the bag in my left, because I just took it and ran right up the stairs. I thought I had four more bags to carry. So, hand on the handrail, carry the bag in your left, and walk up the stairs. So, they were teaching us discipline. It was very different than I expected. It was 00:37:00more of an attention to detail, mental discipline. So, we're getting in there, I'm trying to ask--of course, I don't know the reporting statement yet, because we're all airmen. Air Force. Because we--actually nothing, we have nothing. So, we don't know. So, they're trying to teach us that to, before we speak, say, y'know, "Airman Stuart requests permission to speak." And then, I had to be granted permission. I don't know how it works in the Army, but that's how we are in the Air Force. And of course, they can't touch us or anything at that point, because that's when it changed. They couldn't even put up a brim of a hat up to you or anything. So, there's nothing physical about it. They wouldn't drop and tell you to do ten, because we didn't know how to do pushups yet [Halaska laughs]. They later would learn that we would fold up these reporting things, they were called 341s. They were white sheets of paper that they could write in your name and what you did wrong and then it would be sent to your--whoever your training instructor was, or lead person. We used to have to carry two folded in thirds in our pockets. So, they would take one of those from us, or we'd have to give it to them. They couldn't touch us [laughs]. So, that's later. 00:38:00But that day, you don't know what's going on, it's like 11:30 at night. I'm trying to ask, figure out how to ask to get my bag, because I carried Miss Lady's luggage up. But my bag was over by her stuff. And I'm being yelled at for not bringing anything with me, and did I think that the Air Force was going issue me supplies [laughs]. And I'm like--so, I forgot the reporting statement that I just, of course, was being told and I was told--I remember that because she actually was our TI [training instructor]. She yelled at me and told me to go into the latrine, and I said, "Can you tell me where that is?" 'Cause I didn't know what a latrine was [laughs]. She goes, "The bathroom, Miss Fancypants!" She goes, "And I want you to stand in the corner and I want you to yell very loudly every time I speak, 'Ma'am, yes ma'am.'" So, I'm in this bathroom [laughs] with the lights out. She said, "No lights for you. Because the light ain't on in your head." I was like, "What's going on?" And "This isn't the Army!" You know, even though I know it's Air Force. But I'm thinking, 00:39:00"This ain't what soldiers do." So, I'm standing in the corner. It's funny, I grew up, our punishment was often having to stand in the corner. So, I kind of laughed. It wasn't time out; it was stand in the corner. I don't know if you did that growing up. So, I'm just yelling and, all of a sudden, she goes, "I can't hear you!" [Laughs] So, I don't know what's going on and finally I tried to explain. She goes, "Well, why didn't you just say you needed your bag?" I've been saying that. So, we get in and I'm just like, "This is just retarded and ridiculous and I don't know what's going on." We're finally like just start to get asleep and all the lights come on and about eight training instructors come in, "Get the hell out of my dorm! What are you doing in my dorm? You don't live here!" They put us in the wrong dorm [laughs]. But of course, it was our fault. So, we had to get--I did not offer to help carry her bags at that time. It wasn't the first time I'd get in trouble. My training instructor knew who I was by the time I was done. So, then we get our next set of clothes. They 00:40:00were green, so we didn't have camouflage or battle dress uniforms. So, we were called "pickles," because we had no nametags. So, we were just pickles. So, we went from rainbows to pickles, and then we became airmen when we got nametags. And we were off in Airman Air Force, because we'd look at the wrong place and everybody would forget, because you'd be flustered. But during my security clearance time, I got to straggle to do that. I decided to stop at the BX on my way, get a candy bar, y'know [laughs]. And I got caught. And I had to report to my commander, and I was told, "You better have that candy bar in your pocket, Actually, hold it in your hand because it probably might get too hot in your pocket. I want you to carry that. Because you are delivering something--" She went all crazy like into combat and all that stuff. I don't know if she watched M*A*S*H, or what was going on. And so, I have to report to my 00:41:00commander, captain--I can't remember. And telling her, and she says, "I heard you have a gift for me." And I had to report and give her this Baby Ruth, it was a Baby Ruth [laughs]. She said, "You got two choices Airman, you can eat that, and I'll just sit and watch you. You can share with me if you like. Or, you can put that in the garbage can and you can go back, and never stop at the BX again unless you're marched there." After that, you would--so, because those of us getting our security clearances missed some of the drills and rehearsals, we would get there and they'd be marching us and all of a sudden, they'd be like, "Half left," and I would think that'd be left face, because I didn't learn the half left yet. I was gone that day. And you know the people that were gone because you'd see about five people going the wrong way. She'd stop and all of sudden you'd hear, "Oh, there's my sneak. Sneak, let me show you how, what you need to do." So, after that, whenever she'd call for me she wouldn't call me Airman Stuart, she'd call me Sneak. Not the nametag you want--or, name you want. But that changed when I made the--we did this Spirit Week thing, and 00:42:00I was an alternate on the tug of war team. Go me [laughs]! So, we got to hang out and like play pool and drink soda and stuff. And she goes, "Do you feel right at home, Sneak? But now I'm just going to have to name you--I'm going to call you Olympian, because I didn't realize how strong you were." So, thankfully I went from Sneak to Olympian, and we won. But that was my experience. It was really weird for me doing a different job. And I actually went to the services, church services, only because it was either that or you had to stay back and clean. And I went to--what I grew up on was Catholic, and I was like, "Mm, it's okay." The first time I'd seen electric guitar played in front of me. But I went to different ones and the one I liked was the Baptist ones, 'cause they were all like up and "Yeah!" and they were just very active. I thought it was cool. So, I chose a different one every week, just to learn about that. As 00:43:00Latrine Queen, I remember yelling at people. It was very weird for me, because we had private bathrooms, but we had an open shower area. That was awkward and uncomfortable for me. It's only--it's awkward and uncomfortable for anybody, but I think for people who know that they are LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans], I felt I didn't want anyone thinking I was looking at them, so it was very--I showered very prison-like, or jail-like. I can say that [laughs]. I was just like, "Nope. Just get my stuff done and get out." But when I was Latrine Queen, I had to stand in there. And you had to tell--"Five minutes. Get out!" I felt very awkward and I asked after like two weeks if I could get a different job. I said I slipped, like on the floor, but I didn't. I felt really uncomfortable. And I, it was just not the place to be hanging out [inaudible]. It just was--I didn't feel weird. That was it. I had a girl next to me who told me 00:44:00her daddy was Satan. We were ironing, we were talking [laughs]--had them little ironing boards, so, you know, you're down on the floor. She said, "My daddy's Satan." I said, "Oh!" I said, "I got to take a break" [laughs]. Went to my TI--proper reporting statements. And I go--she said, "What's up Olympian?" 'Cause I was Olympian by then. I said, "I don't really know how to go about this, but so-and-so just told me that her daddy is Satan. And she's talking all about her fam--I think--yeah, she was gone like the next...Someone came to see whoever she went to talk to, and so [inaudible]. She never said anything or called me names. She was just like--I was like...Look, I was next to Satan and two beds down was the woman who had to leave because her husband got caught with child pornography [Halaska gasps]. And she was one of those 00:45:00fast-track ones, so she got to come back and then finish, because they do two weeks less or something anyways. But she was just--it was really strange. It was strange stuff all going on. Letters were like sex in basic training. No, they were more thrilling than that, because my experience at the time was not exciting [laughs]. So, it was all right. I was done, I finished, I was just like, "Whatever. That was a joke."
HALASKA: Yeah, so it wasn't difficult for you?
STUART: No, I wasn't digging trenches or being gassed or anything [laughs].Thefun stuff [laughs].
HALASKA: So, you did say that you had to go get your security clearance?
HALASKA: While you were in basic training? Can you just tell me a little bitabout what that process was?
STUART: Right, so it's the beginning stages. So, because of the career field Iwas going in, I would need a top-secret clearance level one. And later would either SIOP-ESI if I was going to carry missile codes-- 00:46:00
HALASKA: What was that?
STUART: It's called SIOP-ESI [Single Integrated Operational Plan - ExtremelySensitive Information], it's special coding. Later, when I would get into my job, annually we would change the launch codes, and you need special security, so we had to be code-qualified. So, we would test monthly to do that, to keep up on it. If you failed you had to be retrained. So, we would have launch codes, which would be our class or division to carry them and list at Grade B, usually. And officers had different codes for their launch control centers and stuff like that. Actually, it was papers. You'd have to paper authenticate. You'd get your authentication and then you'd burn 'em. Then there were electronic things, so then we called them "Game Boys," because then it was electronic. So, in order to carry codes, we needed this clearance. So, they'd flag your job. So, then they begin the process while you're in basic training. Say that she... murdered somebody? They want to get rid of you right away. They don't want to 00:47:00spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs over the time to do your background investigation and all this. So, they start it then. So, you just get into basic questions. They ask you about crimes and they ask you stuff that you already answered on the enlistment form. Like, "Use marijuana?" "Yes. Used twice at party in Milwaukee, no longer use." I still remember my statement [laughs] that I was told to put. That I didn't know it was, but I thought it might be, because I really didn't know, but I was told that's what I had. And [laughs] you could see I felt guilty. Of course, more guilty than having homosexual tendencies, because I didn't think that was a big deal! So, that's where it started. We had the few appointments there, while they were literally--I thought it was just all bullshit, but they did actually go back. Because I know because they'd come and visit me when I'm at my first duty station [laughs]. So, yeah, you would just go and have interviews. So, they did take you away 00:48:00from, like I said, they were doing different drill movements that you'd miss, or we were always reading a manual whenever we would be standing. So, we would kind of miss if there was any class work or course work on that. So we'd have to just kind of catch up. But I wasn't launching any bombs or anything, but I wasn't getting enough time. So, they would, when there was down time, they would take us and say whatever. It was from different jobs. It wasn't just all--I was the only one in basic training going into my job, that I knew of in my squadron.
HALASKA: Was your squadron in training integrated between men and women? Or wasit... mostly women?
STUART: There were men there--
STUART: We had a brother flight. But we...unless it was Spirit Week or we weremarching and they would also be marching, but we didn't do PT [physical training]. There would be a division, men over here and women over 00:49:00here. So, they--we didn't interact with them unless you got to be special later [laughs]. But when we went and got our clothes and stuff, we'd be marched there often with them. And you would be around--or you knew that they were like in that dorm over there. Two people got caught in the dumpster. So, you know they were close enough. Like, apparently, couldn't--I know. It was literally a dumpster on the field that we would do our drill training and also our physical training, our PT. Because there was a McDonald's right outside the gate and I'd be like, "Five more weeks. Five more--" That was my motivation. McDonald's should pay me. Every week that was my motivation. Although, I did not go and get McDonald's the first moment I was out. It was just my connection to not the world I was being integrated into. But it was my motivation, because it was a tall sign. When we went to fire and qualifying basic training, we were bused across the street--
HALASKA: What kind of weapons?
STUART: Across the street? Because there was a public road! And they00:50:00couldn't march us across a public road. M16, which would have been the A1 at the time. Basic training qualification is that you go through the quick hours of training to take it apart and put it back together. You only have to do it once. You can make a mistake and ask for help, that's how it was [laughs]. Not probably as stringent as I've seen in other services in my family. 'Cause we cover all services in this generation of my family, except for Coast Guard. And then we got to the range and you shoot. Some people end up with nicknames after that. Like Butch and Cassidy, who shot at each other's and still missed [laughs]! Some were going into like security forces, which is like your Military Police. So, they had to get marksman or better. I did, I was happy. 00:51:00But we only had to hit the target and learn how to pull the--shit, we didn't even have to hit the target, just pull the trigger. That was our qualification. General qualification in basic training. I don't remember what I got. I knew what I got when I did it in the guard, because I still have it, because they let me keep it. And I was on a bus again, because I was in the wrong group. I was supposed to do it with the new simulator shooting. But I ended up, because the weather flights was actually on the reserve side of the base and the Air National Guard's over here. I was with live fire. So, they called over to get permission to expense them for the cost of the bullets. They bused us to MATC [Milwaukee Area Technical College], because they had to, they have police training. So they have an indoor range. So, I got to shoot the new M16 A2, which was like, cool, everybody was so jealous! I was like--I had to--I was going to shoot like a fake gun, because I had never done the simulator, but they were all doing it for the first time, and I was like, "Oh, cool!" And that was 00:52:00because I would be then deploying. But in basic training, no, it was just point and shoot. I know I hit my target several times, but I don't know what my--I wasn't a marksman, because I didn't qualify. But it was just basic. I wouldn't have to shoot another weapon again until my active duty base, I had to shoot a shotgun. That was it.
HALASKA: Okay. Did you make any friends during your basic? Basic time?
STUART: And this is--oh, this is something I still have. That's right, I can'tgive you [inaudible]. Later, when I started to write--I don't know if I told you I wrote poetry--but I, in basic training, wrote like a story about all of the people. And we read it. I got to read it to everyone. I actually saved that, so I still have that. Most of it was kind of funny, or what happened to someone. Like, we had--you start to make sure you line up in the group so you 00:53:00can eat with the same people, but it's actually random, because you go to the first open seat. And you have to wait until four people came, and that fourth person would say, "Airmen, be seated," then you could all sit down and eat [laughs]. But if you wanted dessert--look, this is how the Air Force--I went through the line and she's like, "What would you like?" I was like, "I'll have that." I remember the first time I didn't know. She goes, "Oh, you want chili mac." I had never had it before. It became a staple, of course. Chili mac is very popular in the Air Force. And I could choose what I wanted. You could get like, soda or--like it was really like--I volunteered for KP [kitchen patrol], because it was so cool. I was asked to sit down and rest while a technical sergeant brought me, like, juice, because I was sweating so much. But she didn't know I sweat like that all the time. But I like KP, because you got like extra food and stuff. But we--if you wanted a dessert, you'd have to go up to the table. Well, if you were in the-- I have to--it went through different 00:54:00names, the course I was in. but if you were in the fat girl or fat boy club? Later called the ten percent club, later called the whatever club. If you had weight concerns, which I did. I may have given up the Mountain Dew, but I actually was gaining weight in basic training. Because of like, I didn't eat French toast and chili back at home, know what I mean? I mean, I was just eating three meals a day that I just didn't. And to me, our PT wasn't really exercise. You may have ran for a lot, but that was it. It wasn't working off all this food I was eating. So, she was called the Ice Cream Bandit [Halaska laughs]. I think I made fun of myself, too, by being called the Sneak and deciding to take liberties. But I just had nicknames for the different people that we hung out with and were close, or that did somethin'--I didn't pick out the like--I might have made fun of the "Daddy's Satan" child, but not the one who had 00:55:00to leave because of her husband. Not that kind of stuff. But, it was just funny, it might have been something about church where somebody stood out. Like, we called someone Preacher. And just, different names. But nobody was going with me to where I was going. I did hang around a group where we get our--I almost did not get my day pass, but now that I was the Olympian I was okay. We get like a half a day we can go off base. And we went, we could go to the club at that day. No lie, I was literally in a Top Gun movie. Literally that song, four guys got up and sang. And I thought they were singing to the girls I was with. And they came up and sang to me. I was so embarrassed. And I had to wear my skirt! You know, we didn't get to wear our pants as the women had to wear skirts. It was still that--I was issued a purse when I went in, if it's--so you kinda gotta figure the time. And this ugly hard beret thing. So, I'm laughing, 00:56:00you know, joking like "I'm engaged, but that's okay." But moreso, like, "I wish these chicks would get up and sing to me!" [Laughs] I knew things were going on, but I was just like, "Whatever." So, we had a group, we went off, and we did the river walk and stuff together, and hung out. That was kind of nice. I didn't have, like, family come down when I graduated or anything like that. People did, which was nice for them, but... not for me. So, nobody was going where I was going for training, nobody was going into my job, so I just... didn't know of anybody after that. So, once I left, that was it. So I was like, "Thanks, had fun, now let's go." So, that was it.
HALASKA: Yeah. Okay. I'm going to pause for a--
HALASKA: All right, this is file two of the interview with Kimberly Stuart.Okay, and so, we just got to the end of basic training and now we're moving on to your advanced training. Where did you go next?
STUART: Great. I went to technical school--so, for us it's Air Force00:57:00Specialty Code training. To Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, which is I believe not there anymore. I think it was one of the Base Exes[??].
HALASKA: Which part of Illinois is it in?
STUART: It's not far, because I actually came home. I would come home onweekends later. About an hour, hour and a half? So, just not far into Illinois. I'd have to really look. I just knew at the time I took the Greyhound bus home after I was there a certain amount of time, I was able to travel. And then I would drive back and forth when my fiancé would come down and get me. 'Cause I was there for months. It was a long time.
HALASKA: Yeah, you said. How long was it again?
STUART: I think my training was six-and-a-half months, but I had one course, oneblock of instruction I didn't pass. So, I had to wait and then retake 00:58:00it. They call it washing out. I don't remember what it was, but I know I never made that mistake again in my life [laughs]. But yeah, actually, we get there, they fly us there. I'm on an airplane again. I had only been in an airplane once before I went to basic training, so it was really interesting. So, we fly there and all of a sudden, we get out, there's some dude yelling at us! And we're like in the middle of a cornfield, we're flying in and we're like, "Where are they taking us?" We see cornfields everywhere. Which for me had a little more personal emphasis. But, all of a sudden, we get out and there's like no--we're not walking in, and we had to go down the stairs. I'm like, "What?" I'm in some prop airplane, like, "Where are they taking us?" So, of course we're going into a smaller town, that's why. But they had an airfield because they brought so many people for training. And which I learned, too, there were Navy 00:59:00people there, too. Because I would hang out with the Navy band folks. So, yeah, I went there and I'm in the dorm. They had a section of the dorm that was women only [laughs]. So, you had one roommate, so it wasn't too bad. Later--
HALASKA: How many other women were there?
STUART: I don't recall. We didn't have the whole hallway [laughs], just a part.And then after that section, no males could go past that section.
STUART: And you could never have the opposite sex in your room, which [laughs]for some people wouldn't have been so bad, but... But that was okay, it was more like, "I'm here, I'm going to school." It was weird, you're just getting learning. The first time you go and eat you get up looking to see, because you would take your tray in basic training up to the dishwasher area and then you would leave. So, every--they always know when you're new because you're standing up. You're looking to where they-- and they go, "No, no, they have 01:00:00staff that come and do that." I'm like, "Oh." [Laughs] After you're there a while, you learn that you're at the best dining facility in the Air Force, that generals come to! And you can like, "I'll have two eggs over easy," sometimes--it was Air Force, you know. "I would like the prime rib, please." I actually had my family come there and dine. You can have your family come. Because my brother lit up a cigarette. I'm like, "You can't smoke in here!" And he put it out in his--it was lasagna that day. And it was--yeah. But when he came to visit, it was really strange. So, just getting used to that--marching to school, it was really weird to me that we had to march. And I often had shin splints, so I was in tennis shoes probably over half of my career, probably. Or could wear tennis shoes at any time. So, it was just--so, I got a straggler's pass, they called it. So, I could just walk behind or just stroll, not be like with everybody and their breakfast breath and wondering why we have 01:01:00to march. Like, we're not going that far, but you have to march in squadron formation, so. And then you break off into who's going to what school and building. So, that's kind of cool on your first day when all of a sudden, these little groups break off, like we're going to war, but we're going to school. You could smoke indoors if you were on the night shift. My--I was going into electromechanical teamwork, so I was going to be working on the electronic systems that would launch the underground intercontinental ballistic missiles. So, the Minuteman III missile sites were what I would be learning to work on. So, our course was taught in shifts. So, you'd be on team one, two, or three-shift. And that was because of other people using the building, not because of so many people in our career field. So, there were many different people being taught in that building and then a section would be us. If you smoked, you would go out and you'd have to stand in the box that was 01:02:00painted, the red box with the smoke butt can. So, if you smoked, you'd know. When you got to T-shift, would be the night shift. T-3 shift. You could smoke indoors in the back office, like ashtrays. I mean, it's weird to me to think now. Even when I took that Greyhound Bus home, you could smoke on the bus. It was weird to me. Or on an airplane. I could put it out in the--it's weird to me to think that now. I was very aware I was the only female.
HALASKA: In your class?
STUART: In my class, often in the building [chuckles]. There hadbeen--occasionally you would see one come through and then they'd leave, 'cause we were--a lot of the foundation of our coursework was similar for some fields, like some going into missile maintenance or into pneudraulics maintenance, the different sections of the missile, or the silo that people would work on. And then, you would break off to more specialized classes after that. So, there's a group things that were similar as far as the foundations of 01:03:00electronics and stuff like that. So, it's really interesting. 'Specially when you'd know they're telling their stories and the instructors would catch themselves and say, "I'm sorry, forgot there's a female in the room." They would say things like, "Don't fall asleep or I stick my dick in your mouth." They had to refrain [laughs] and stop saying stuff like that. Or telling your sex stories overseas and what the beads are for that I didn't really need to know. So, they're trying to treat me like a lady, and afterwards realized that my boundary for that is different... But yet, I can't share any like--I just tell 'em I'm engaged, that's all I say. I don't really talk about it, I don't talk about my personal life or anything like that. I'm really focused on my education at the time and seeing how I--I didn't have any work experience before I 01:04:00went in, really. My three days--here goes the McDonald's again. That's what I get. It must be junk food day or something. But I worked at McDonald's a few days, but that was really it. I didn't work before I went in. I didn't know what it felt like to be treated differently necessarily, or not equally in a work environment. So, I'm getting this now in school. I didn't feel that, really, in high school or anything. And I didn't understand what all that was. I was just, "We're all here going to school." But I started to see it when I was the only one. And my feeling of being a little uncomfortable, of course, came from my previous experience with sexual abuse coming into that situation. That was my problem. My fear wasn't that I was a lesbian, or anything like that, or I had these tendencies. Although, that was often on my mind. I was more insecure being a woman at some times, especially when I went to my classes. And I was the only woman [chuckles] in the building. So, that feeling of being unsafe 01:05:00wasn't necessarily anything anybody else was doing. They could be the greatest people. It's just I was coming in and being on guard and hardened for that. But it's really interested in what I was learning. So, I tried to do it well. I fell into--everybody opened the box and you'd hear, "Ow, ow, ow!" I was one of those. He goes, "I didn't tell you to touch anything." We touched the transducers [laughs]. Because he goes, "Everybody does. There's a thing that says 'touch here.'" So, you did. And he goes, "Never touch anything until I tell you to. Even if it says, 'touch here!'"
HALASKA: Wait, what happened when you touched it?
STUART: You get like a nine-volt battery kind of thing. It scares you more thanit hurts, but you hear people say, "ouch," because just, that vibration. So, that's kind of what it's like. But they do that as a--to teach you. "Until you know what you're doing, don't ever touch. I don't care if it says, 'touch here,' 'on-off switch,' nothin'. You must have the technical order in front of you, it must be open to that page." And later that would change, just an 01:06:00arm's length away kind of thing, if you knew it, but when you're learning, you always had to have it. So, every time I did something, that book had to be open.
STUART: And until I was on that step that said, "touch here," I did not touchhere. So, it was more like, kind of brought in some of the reasons why they were doing the attention to detail in basic training. And the different kind of discipline they were teaching, that you don't learn until ten years later [chuckles] what you were actually being groomed to do. I was still disappointed there weren't any--I wasn't getting to throw any grenades [laughs]. I didn't know where and when you got to blow shit, that--apparently, I didn't want to see my stuff get blown up or catch on fire, that I was working on, but it was very different. There was just a lot of people being there for so long, too, and a lot of the courses they'd be there and all of a sudden, like six--four to eight weeks later they were gone. So, we would see a lot of people.
HALASKA: What do you mean? Instructors, or?
STUART: A lot of students coming in and out.01:07:00
HALASKA: Students, oh, okay.
STUART: Not the instructors.
HALASKA: Okay, so your school was longer than a lot of the students'?
HALASKA: Okay, so you saw the other students kind of go, but you guys were allthere. Were there any other students in your specialty that you became friends with while going through this course?
STUART: While going through, I got to be friends with a lot of the guys.
STUART: I mean, they're really good guys. One I actually--we were gonna swap. Ididn't learn until after I was in, that I would only be offered five locations. Broke my heart that I was not gonna get to that Germany that I heard of. But Germany was an option when I first went in. That was one of the questions I asked, is "Could I go overseas?" And we have GLCM [Ground Launched Cruise Missile] missiles overseas, so I had the potential to go. While I was in tech school, they deactivated the GLCM sites overseas, so there were not overseas opportunities, only the five United States. 01:08:00
STUART: So, I was going to be CONUS [Continental United States]. Two of thosewere in North Dakota, one in Montana, one in Missouri, and one in Wyoming. Well, I wanted to go to Missouri. I wanted to go to St. Louis. What was it, Knoxville Air Force Base, or whatever's there? But he ended up meetin' a girl, and a month later he decided to keep what he had because she was going to be close by. We were gonna swap, but I didn't get that opportunity.
STUART: I didn't really care I was going to North Dakota. I was still justdisappointed I wasn't going to get to go overseas. Not knowing I would never get to go overseas, or what the limitation would mean later for me. So, yeah, I got along great with the guys I worked with. Seen a lot not make it, seen a lot crack. They would tease--you'd often be working in area and it'd be an open area. And say you're working on certain launch equipment or test equipment over here, but they would be testing and doing other classes and other 01:09:00stuff. So, you would be in close proximity to the other people going through. And a lot of times I would hear, "Well, you know the chick over there can do it. Look at her." I was the only chick in the room, so I knew it was me. That happened a lot throughout my career with a lot of things. But I would hear that. But I was approachable to just about anybody. So I would have a lot of the newer students, like going to electronic principles, that I maybe had a month or two ago, which they have to take and it's the same electronic principles no matter what career field you were going into. And they would ask me. So, I'd sit and I'd study with 'em, or I would help 'em out. And I think that way--because they felt the other guys would maybe harass them or think less of them. I didn't. I was like, "Phht, yeah, it was tough. Go here and focus on here." I didn't know what was going to be on their tests, but I could tell them what they were probably missing. So, that actually kind of helped me out. So, I 01:10:00started to learn the material more. And especially after whatever--I can't remember exactly when it was that I didn't pass my test, and I had to do it again, so I had to wait. I did dorm guard at night for that, and that's when I--so I'd be the person that just sat in the hallway and made sure no dudes went down the hallway [Halaska laughs]. But I would be off shift in the morning, which meant when I went in the dining facility, I could be--I would choose amazing pancakes, and then order, like, breakfast was top notch and just made. I was the first one in there, fresh omelet. I mean, so I was like, "Wow." But when you're going to school, you don't have time for that. You're just like, "I'll have the scrambled eggs, and the bacon, and get out of here." So, it was really weird. I was like, "This is cool." I got to learn other things--how the, y'know, [inaudible] quarters and how the office and stuff operated. So, I was like, "That's kind of cool." I made use of my time. I restudied the stuff I already had, so when I went through that I just kind of--I actually got to 01:11:00teach a couple parts of it, because I had--he goes, "Nobody has ever studied in-between." I go, "I'm not. I feel like I failed." And he goes, "Well, you don't fail--a lot of people just miss a block and they just have to redo it and go over it again. It's not a failure." I go, "Well, you call it a washout." And he goes, "Yeah, we call it a washout, not a failure. Just wash. Going to clean you up [Halaska laughs], get you back in it." But I took that very personally. And that's when I sort of realized I was challenging myself and putting pressure because I started to hear, "We don't have many women, or you'll be the first one going over here." I thought that was really weird. I wasn't the first to ever go in the field. I would be the first to be the first female team chief where I was at. And got to see more women over the years, but when I got there only a few had been there. So, it was... it was interesting. But I'm eighteen, turning nineteen at the time. I was there long enough, so I was going home back and forth. Then, I had a female commander, so that was interesting. I had 01:12:00seen she was in charge of the training squadron, but she was nuts [Halaska chuckles]. Literally, she was nuts. She was a ditz, it was weird. She tried to give me an Article 15 for--I couldn't get back in time because we had slipped in the ice and had something happen to the car and it had to go to the garage. On my way back. And she asked me how far it was, I said, "Well, oh"--now, I should know how far Chanute is, I know it's two-hundred-and-ten miles. Now that I'm tell this story, because she said, "You're limited to two-hundred miles, therefore I'm gonna serve you with this." And I said, "Ma'am, do you mind if I get a moment of your time?" With her and four other people, I walk over to the big map. It says right here, "You're restricted to two-hundred-mile radius." I said, "Ma'am, there's a circle here, it's a radius, which means I'm 01:13:00in--it may be two-hundred-and-ten miles to drive it, but I'm within the circle." She tried to argue that--you can't! Everything's written right there and everybody is telling her, "You can't do that." A woman in a position of authority, what they were actually telling me--she had a problem with me! Because they had to start marking the dorms special for the women going through the classes. I'm like, "Well, where do you go to commander school?" I didn't know what it was called. There had to be 'the first' somewhere else, but she felt that that was just, it was a headache or more work. I was just like--most of the time we had a first sergeant who was a guy, so it was like--and it would be funny. I don't know how your training went, but this is how they messed with you in the Air Force when you live in the dorms. If you're starting to not keep stuff up to par, or doing the rules, they'll do an unnecessary inspection. So, I got written up for having dust inside the hole where the cable comes 01:14:00in to hook up to the TV [television] [both laugh]. I got a write-up because my TV had too shiny of a reflection when the light hit it [laughs]. What they were doing was saying, "I could be worse and write you up for all the stupid shit, but we're asking you to be basic." And I only had one roommate that was a slob, and she was no longer a slob after that. And then I got my own room for a while, so that was kind of cool. After you're there longer and they have bigger rooms, you can move, and there were a few that you could have to yourself. I was there so long I ended up getting' one of those. I actually could paint--surprisingly enough, I painted it pink [laughs]. I don't know why! Actually, it was mauve, because my first toolset was mauve. It was gift. It was a joke. It was like, instead of pink tools, I literally got a mauve set of tools [Halaska laughs]. So, yeah, I could decorate it and have my own room eventually, but I had roommates up until then. So, that was kind of cool. And then you feel like you own the place. You're only there for like six to eight months, whatever it was. But you're there so much longer than everybody else going 01:15:00through, that you feel kinda like you were stationed there. So, I just learned a lot of--a little bit of that, and a few interesting lessons along the way. I'm still engaged, at this time, to be married. And then, of course, trying to--"Where you going?" "North Dakota." Somewhere, some state like way over here. We learned it. We learned Bismarck's the capital.
HALASKA: [Laughs] Okay, so you're done with training, you've completed that andnow you're going off to your next base where you got assigned to.
STUART: I'm off to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Why not, Minot?Freezing's the reason. That's the code response when someone says, "Why not, Minot?" You say, "Freezin's the reason."
HALASKA: Oh, okay.
STUART: I worked outdoors, so it was a very cold--the coldest I worked in.Actually, in the field, it was minus one-ten. When we left it was 01:16:00minus forty-seven on base. They try not to deploy you if it was minus thirty to minus sixty. Yeah, this is how cold it is in the middle of North Dakota. I'm like, "Let them steal the fucking missile if they want it. It's too damn cold out here!" [Halaska laughs] We had trucks literally freeze while we were on site, so we had to have an armed response team come from a nearby launch control center to get us. Because we'd have to hide out in a building with the generators until they came, because it was so cold your trucks would freeze. It was just crazy. Or, the hydraulics would freeze and you couldn't warm 'em up enough to crank the access hatch open to get in. So, it was just--you'd be out for ten minutes doing the codes to get in the A-vault, which is the first security pit. You know, a small pit that you have a code for. The security place that you go out to a missile site with two armed response people, and then us. They open that little pit, and then we have the codes that open up the seven-ton plug, that opens--goes down and is the access hatch for us to go in and do our work [both laugh]. They'd be out there getting one number in and then 01:17:00they get the tap--because you had to go in the truck, because you would freeze. Or you'd get tapped because your lips are blue. If we had to do maintenance and do repairs on that, it was just crazy. Until they got better equipment over the years that we're in there. But often, we'd have to take the parts, but there was a certain part of it we can't do, 'cause when it came time putting the combination in, the security police had to do that, 'cause we weren't allowed to know that combination. So, that kind of limited who had access and when. But then, we'd have to bring in the truck and then they'd have to do that part. And then, they'd put it back in, and then we'd have to test all the components, then they'd have to test--it was just kind of a strange operation to do when it's so fricking cold out.
STUART: I mean, I had mukluks, winter gear--we had to do winter survival. Youalways carried an extra bag of winter clothes with you. But when you get to your first duty station--so, I get to Minot, I still have another four-and-a-half months of training to do, which is their team training branch. Which is your on-the-job training. So, I'm waiting to get into the next class 01:18:00that's going through for that. Security clearance going on, maybe got a call or two to fill out some paperwork while I'm in tech school. No one's really bothering you. So, while you're waiting, you're just learning random stuff while you're there. You're learning how to wax floors and take wax off the floor, so the maintenance people can come in and mess the floors up. And the first time I'd seen a female first sergeant come down the hall and she introduces herself. Later tells me "I really went there because I heard there was a female finally, and an EMT, so I had to go"--which is Electromechanical Team. So, our job was the EMT team. And she would later tell me, "You know, whether you 01:19:00have to be the one with that razorblade scraping the wax out of the corner before you wax it for everyone to mess it up, or if you're out there putting your codes in your missile to get it on alert, you do everything the best that you can do it. And if you're not the best, just learn to be better." That was very good advice, that actually stuck with me. It would be really important to me later. So, you're just learning, you're shadowing toolboxes, you're helping load 'em on trucks, you might be the one washing the trucks--until later they got a car wash. Because before you went out to a site, you had to inspect your equipment, sign everything out, boxes were shadowed so when you got off a missile site you could quickly open it up and know if something was missing before you close it up. So, that's--and actually I did it with my toolboxes after I got out, because I was just so used to having a spot for everything. You know, and you'd be up there and you'd be like, "Shit, hang on, I'm 01:20:00missing this"--my magnet mirror or something--so, you'd have to back down there and you'd have to inspect to make sure you had it before you closed up the plug and they locked it up. Theoretically, if it was to launch, that one tool spinning around could maybe cause damage, or something. It made sense. So, you're just doing all that stuff while you were waiting. You're getting your training, you're learning your code training, then you start taking your tests monthly to keep your qualifications. And then, I got told, it's like, "Oh, someone is here in the office, they're from the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation]." Like, y'know, "What?" I'm like, "The Fabee guys?" That's from Married with Children. Once she said, "The Fabee guys are here!" [Halaska laughs] I'm like, "Oh, okay." You know, I'm thinking it's just my routine or final thing, because until you get your clearance--well, I didn't have my clearance yet, I was doing the testing, but my testing didn't count yet, because you had to have the clearance before you can be certified. It was 01:21:00more like practice tests. But you would need that later. And they come and they're like, "Well, we have a few questions to ask." So, I'm answering them, and they asked me something. They didn't tell you who they spoke to, but because of what they said, I knew exactly who they spoke to--to ask me about sexual abuse as a child. And I looked, I said, "Well, that was never actually any of your questions that you asked." I said, "But how does that reflect on how I can do my job or not?" They stopped and looked at each other, and they're like, "You know, that's right--you're right." I guess, my response is what it was--it wasn't what I said, it was how I said it. They were looking to see my emotional stability. Not realizing it, I'm thinking I was very powerful and convincing. Later realizing when I know some people from the FBI, it's like, "Oh, they're looking at your confidence level, because you said, 'How does that affect how I do my job?' You probably said a few other things. They were looking at your demeanor, how you answered. Did you pause? To see if 01:22:00that"--theoretically--this is the Cold War era. Was that something they could use against me? You know. Could the Russians come in and blackmail me about this and my past? Which was the theory behind--one of them--behind homosexuality, later, too. That they could blackmail you and tell your family and out you and you could lose your jobs. So, that was kind of weird to me. Trying to put something behind you and coming into this new--for me it was a brotherhood. There weren't many sisters, exactly, where I worked. On base, yes. But where I worked, there wasn't. They either worked in transportation or equipment. Or there was a few in the office. They were in administrative jobs. So, in the missile wing, not a lot of women that didn't have to do with actually hands-on maintenance. And they were really like sixty-three brothers for me. I worked with the greatest guys, I learned things about men I didn't wanna 01:23:00know [Halaska chuckles]. When you work, it's like having--I don't--I can't--I can only assume, they're like having one--police have partners, or whatever. You're in the Army, you have like the buddy system, we don't really have that in the Air Force. But when you're on a team, you work closely with that one individual and our teams are usually two people only, depending on the job. But ninety-five percent of our jobs were two person tasks. Whether that task took four hours or it took, y'know, twelve hours, that's what you did. So, you worked a lot. I mean, from loading the truck and getting your coffee--my job was to get the coffee for my team chief. So, it was nice when I became team chief, someone would come and bring my coffee [both laugh]. Which was weird, he's like, "I love it. I know exactly what she wants, it makes her happy in the morning. She does her paperwork." So, I'm here just learning what I need to do. I got my clearance, I'm getting into training and you're doing all the other 01:24:00certification and getting your 623, which is our Air Force Training Record, that we document and sign that we've been trained on certain things. That 623 follows us everywhere we go and being trained on everything. I'm sure the Army has something similar. So, your training record, basically. That's what ours is called. I don't know why I remember these numbers. So, I get into team training, which is more--now, you get to train on the mock missile site, which is on base. And then you begin to actually get to drive out to launch control centers. Every launch--we had a hundred-fifty Minuteman III ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] in North Dakota, in Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. There are ten launch control facilities, so they each control ten missiles. So, whether that's, y'know, Alpha to whatever--to Oscar--those were our missile sites and they each had ten, and then one launch control center. There were different tasks you do at the launch control center that we're assigned to do, 01:25:00like work on battery chargers. We actually replaced our suspended twelve batteries that are under there. So, each team has different tasks where no one person does everything. So, sometimes we'd get to go out there and it was kind of cool, because it's kind of like going out to a building in the middle of nowhere that has a cook, y'know, beds if you ever needed to stay. I only had to remain overnight, which they called RON [remain overnight], I only had to do it once in my entire career there in six years. But you could order--when we're on a missile site, we could order, too, because they brought it from the launch control center [laughs]. So, it's kind of weird to have pizza and tater tots brought up to you. Or the McMissile, I learned [Halaska laughs] was the breakfast sandwich. So, when we get there, we could order before we went down, and then we'd have to come up and get it. But it was just really interesting, because that's the first time you actually had officers in there, because the two officers that turn the keys--literally, like one there and one over there. It's not supposed to be where you can do it. But you get to see that 01:26:00for real. Then you begin where you get your other certifications to where you actually can go to an actual missile site. So, you train how to access the site with a mock hatch and stuff, and then you learn on some equipment and do some training there. But some you can only do at the site, because it would be too expensive. So, that was kind of cool. And my family came, actually, to visit. And they got to see the trainer. They got a tour of that. But they got to go out to an actual launch control center, so that was kind of cool.
STUART: So, they got to go in and see it. And see the Thunderbirds, because theywere there. But it was pretty cool.
STUART: Yep. The Thunderbirds.
HALASKA: What are the Thunderbirds?
STUART: The Thunderbirds are like the air--the travelling air show group.
HALASKA: Oh! Okay.
STUART: What is it in the Navy? The Navy something. So, the Air ForceThunderbirds are their--and actually the commander for it has a golf 01:27:00cart that's in the shape of a Thunderbird, they're red, white, and blue. He drives it--I've got photos of that. It's kind of weird, I came across them not long ago. But they had seen, camped, and saw Mount Rushmore before I ever did. I went the next summer to see Mount Rushmore, because they told me all about it. Pictures weren't developed yet, you know, it wasn't instant. So, I didn't get to see them, yet, but I got my own from being there. But my cousin, who later went into the Marines, he had come up with my brother and my dad. And he always told me, "That inspired me." And when I was in the Air Force, actually, I was at Minot, and I was selected as a Super Airman and I got to go on this competition to California, he was stationed there. And he rode up on his Harley to see me. And I brought him a sweatshirt that said "North Dakota," and they all laughed that I had given him a gift that was a sweatshirt in California. He goes, "Oh my God, that sweatshirt saved me. In the mountains driving back, it's 01:28:00cold!" And he said, "I had that sweatshirt forever and told people, 'this is my mountain sweatshirt.'" It happened to be white. But it was kind of cool that we got to meet like that when I was also, later, did some training--I was in Biloxi, after I was in the guard, my cousin was in Louisiana, so I got to go to Fort Hood and went to Texas. We were gonna meet in Louisiana, and then I actually went to Fort Hood, so we met. So, it was kind of cool. I got that opportunity to meet both of them after they went in. Both saying they wanted to go into the Air Force, but were duly suited for where they were, which was really cool. So, anyway, I get into my training and it's more like a family of four people going out and working and training. So, it was pretty quiet, a small team--I actually had a group of four of us that were supposed to be trained, but one dropped out and the other dropped out. You see how that goes, right?
STUART: Not me! [Laughs] I was like, "Un-uh, I got this, I'm going."01:29:00You might occasionally get someone that you might be doing a task and they might--like we're trained on how to open the access hatch and get in, and maybe we're doing a block and tackle, and we have to wear a harness and lanyard--maybe they're learning that.
HALASKA: What's block and tackle?
STUART: A block and tackle is a device that uses a rope and a pulley system tooffset the weight, so you can do it as one person. So, you--on the missile hatch, the access hatch--it opens like this and there's a steel piece. So, you put this metal thing that has ropes and pulleys. So, we will hook equipment on it and lower it down.
STUART: And that's actually how all of our equipment as EMT goes--it only goesdown to that access hatch.
HALASKA: Did you have to climb down a ladder? To get down there?
STUART: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, when they--the security police open theA-vault, which is actually the security vault, so it's literally about this big and it's blue and it's a vault. You know, it takes one person to lift it, but two people often would lift it [chuckles].
STUART: Then there's this plug, so we open it. Later someone smart01:30:00devised a drill to do it, so you wouldn't have to hand crank that stuff that would open it, which was really cool.
STUART: And then, you would go down. It was less than six feet.
STUART: Because I later got them to release that you didn't have to wear aharness and lanyard that activates at six feet. I said, "We would be splattin' before this opens." It makes no sense, unless the plug is down, to wear the harness and lanyard, because we would--to hook up before we stepped across the hole and we'd have to lower and raise equipment in a bag.
STUART: Wonder why I got shoulder problems later. So, a lot of our equipment'sheavy, so everything goes down through there. So, we opened the codes and it's a seven-ton cylindrical door. Not much room, it's probably like this table.
HALASKA: Okay, so like four feet across. Or, no, like three feet across?Something like that?
STUART: Yeah. So, this steel plug--that's why they called it a B-plug. So,A-vault, B-plug, it goes down very--it depends on the site, they're all timed differently, it's--they all change the timings--and then a 01:31:00retractable ladder goes down with it.
STUART: It sucked, because we replace those when they go back. That was a lot ofwork. Everything's a lot of work and some not so much. But I'd never seen wrenches--I've seen wrenches as long as this table, and torque wrenches like, just like crazy, like going two-handed pulling this torque wrench. Using the steel, like--"You got that in?" And you have to--because you have to tighten these bolts on these batteries that are suspended on the floor. And you can't be underneath, because that would be a violation of safety, and then you'd be decertified. You're decertified automatically if you make a safety violation while being inspected.
HALASKA: Oh, okay.
STUART: Which happened to me once. I reached across an A-frame and I didn'trealize that technically, if that fell, my arm could have been smooshed. Even though I doubt it, but it was a safety violation, and I accepted that. But I got retrained on the spot, [laughs] so I was lucky. But that could happen 01:32:00if quality assurance came out to inspect you.
HALASKA: Mhm, mhm.
STUART: So, that retracts down and then it stops. And then, at that time, you godown the ladder and you have your stuff in your backpacks, or if you have a lot of equipment, the team member--so, the team chief will go down, and then team member puts on the harness and lanyard, hooks up, and lowers everything with a bag and a rope.
STUART: And that's how it all gets up, too! [Laughs] Heavier stuff that requiresmore than sixty pounds--it was more like eighty--then we'd have to use the block and tackle, and hook up the bag, or hook up--you know, maybe we had a charger or some of the--the cylinder--the B-plug shoots out twelve lockbolts and the lockbolts are this thick around, I know because I had to lift them.
HALASKA: So, how many inches?
STUART: They're thirty-five pounds apiece.
STUART: And they're like this. So only so many of those fit in a bag.
STUART: So, a lot of times, we would put a lot. So, there would be01:33:00more than sixty pounds in this bag, going up and down. And nobody wanted to hook the block and tackle up. It wasn't a problem to use it, it was a problem to fix all the ropes and get it right--
HALASKA: Mm, mhm.
STUART: So the ropes would move, and it took longer. But anything you get downthere, and then whatever your assignment was, you'd bring all your equipment you'd bring down. If you had tested--they didn't like if you changed, removed and replaced a drawer, because even though our equipment would tell us it's a diode that's wrong, we didn't go onsite and replace the diodes. We weren't electricians. So, we had to know what was wrong.
STUART: But it was quicker to pull that rack out and put a new one in, becausethat's less time that sortie would be off alert. The missile.
HALASKA: That what? The missile?
STUART: The missile. I'm sorry, I called it sortie. We call it sortie alertrate. And that's slang for missile.
STUART: Because that missile--nuclear deterrence. That missile alert rate is thefirst thing they ask when they start war planning, is "What is their nuclear deterrence rate? Was our missile at rate?" Ours, on average, was 99.6 01:34:00or higher--Minot Air Force Base, we had the highest in the missile fleet. Later you'd understand that. At first, it'd be frustrating. Like, "Really? I can replace the diode. I could probably do that." Later you would see things, like we tried to redesign the screw, because if you save money--I was trying to do it. Our steel back here where my cousin worked, but then they ended up replacing the entire panel, so that sucked ass. We would have made a lot of money. But you learn that, because maybe you wanted to get a job in the electronics lab or electronics branch, training lab. Or you'd be a training instructor. You could work in TTB, the Team Training Branch. So, there were different jobs you could go and work in after you had so much skill and training. And for me, of course, I liked electronics, that's where I wanted to go. So, I came with the knowledge, and then the knowledge they taught me. I still had more knowledge. I was like, "I could really"--but then you learn, it is quicker. We bring a drawer out with us that's ready to go. So, it's like, take that out, put this in, 01:35:00that missile's back on alert. It's down, you call job control center and say it's back on alert, and then it's marked as only been down for forty-five minutes, versus, you know, waiting for you to replace that diode, it could be three or four hours. What if we needed to launch in that time? That's theory, when you--later, I got to do war planning when I worked in job control, so I got to do some fun stuff where you play war and you realize what it means. How many trucks, how many pieces of equipment, to exhaust your resources, to where if it fails and those missiles aren't on alert, or if they steal and we have less missiles. We don't know where those missiles are going. We don't know what codes are on the codes we load on those missiles, but somebody else does. They know that there might be nothing, and there might be shrapnel in that missile and there might be actually nuclear warheads in this missile. We don't know. We don't know which of the three heads are nuclear or aren't, that's not our job.
HALASKA: Oh! So they--not all of them were nuclear missiles? Some of01:36:00them were--? Okay.
STUART: Well, they're all considered, but we never know that.
HALASKA: Oh! Okay... got it.
STUART: That's the higher-ups that have that information, because where thatmissile's pointed, I don't know. The launch codes tell that missile where to go. And annually, when they review--or if you were sent out to change codes because you were headed out there, and they wanted you to, you knew they were realigning it for something. You knew. You didn't know where, but you knew, "Oh, somebody's in trouble." Or maybe someone's doing well and they don't need that pointed there [Halaska chuckles]. You didn't really know, but you thought in your mind, "What's going on?" But you just--annually, it was kind of fun when we did the annual codes, because all the other--missile maintenance, pneudraulics teams, all the other teams. Like, even some of the training instructors were a team, quality assurance who inspected they formed a team, because it took everybody to get one hundred and fifty missile sites and get their launch codes 01:37:00changed. And you had, I think we had seventy-two hours? To change the codes. Because you'd be taking a missile down to reload codes--
HALASKA: Mmm, mhm.
STUART: Before it was back up. So, the whole three days, the site's going on andoff, on and off, messing with your alert rate. And they'll hold you. They'll be like, "Hold it, don't go down," because they're waiting for somebody to put theirs back up. Because it all effects your alert rate. You learn that later, but as you're doing it, you're like, "What's going on?" But the--from the commander to the missile squadron, to the first sergeants, to maybe your officer, they drive around in trucks--in six-pack trucks. We call them roach coaches [laughs]. With food! Snacks, sodas, sandwiches.
HALASKA: Oh, yeah.
STUART: And they would go up. 'Cause we would be going to probably three to fivesites a night. They couldn't work you over a certain amount of time before they'd have to keep you in the missile field, and rest you for eight hours before they allowed you to go back out. So, they would drive around 01:38:00and at least hit your site once, so they could, you know, it's kind of like a treat. You're doing all this work, you've gotta do it quick, you've gotta do it fast, but it's got to be right. So, it was kind of neat. So, it kind of built camaraderie with the other people that were qualified, but maybe hadn't been out in the field a while, but they retained their training. They don't have code training, so only an EMT could be the persons--the two people to hand the launch codes. Because we were certified at a higher level for that. Just like security was certified in a certain way for the codes to get in that pit. So, the launch codes were handled by us. Back in the day, they used to carry a .38, but all the fun stuff stopped before I went in [Halaska chuckles]. They said they took that out of our training, because they used to train us in Chanute and give us--they gave us some training, and then when you got there you qualified on the base. But they cut that out. You only qualified on the shotgun with buckshot, because that was the trivia question: What are the only two pieces of 01:39:00wood in a missile site? They're the butts of the shotguns.
STUART: You check it every time you come in and every time you go out, 'causeit's on your list. You check it and you count the ammunition, and then you go. Because theoretically, I'm supposed to be down there, you're stealing a missile, I'm going to load up my shotgun. I ain't going to shoot you. I ain't going to shoot up the steel tube and shoot you. I'm going to shoot at certain designated equipment. The one where the launch codes are. I'm going to make that missile so it can't be launched from that location. So, even if the launch control center sends a message, it can't, 'cause the electronic connection is dead. That's our job. So, you can go down and throw all your grenades in there, our first thing is to grab that shotgun and shoot--that's why it's buckshot. It doesn't have to be precise, we're not, you know, we're not snipers, but you're shooting at steel--well, actually, we would be shooting at the wires. Because that's what we want to just blow up. But you'd always like--you'd catch people like, 01:40:00"There's no wood, it's all steel and metal." I got to see--I worked on the system that launched it, so I didn't work on the missile itself.
STUART: I worked on parts that told the missile what to do and checked if itwas, you know. My job was that it would go or the electronics would launch it. My electronics--you know, if they supported help to blast the doors, which is pneudraulics, mainly, but that one-hundred-ten-ton door--it's one hundred tons of steel and another ten tons of boron concrete, because they realize it wasn't heavy enough to get caught up on the fences when it went by. 'Cause the door is covering, and then it's blasted and blows straight across, and then the missile comes out. But when missile maintenance teams were there, MMTs, they would have the hatch open where they put in their--I don't know what it's--their--it's a little thing they stand on and it goes around and they just ride on 01:41:00it. It's not like it's an elevator, but it's for maintenance, for them to work. So, you got to step on that, you know, if you asked. And you got to look in and see [Halaska coughs]. And one time I got to see the nozzles when pneudraulics was out there and they were underneath. And I said, "Hey, I've never seen that, do you mind?" And he said, "Yeah, absolutely." And he was showing me--stuff I knew because I'd seen the photos, I did the training--I had to know how that all worked, but really could I see it? And really when pneudraulics is out there at the same time, when they have the hatches open, you can see the pneudraulics and the stuff. So, it was really neat. I'd always ask, like, "Hey, do you mind?" I had team chief be like, "Kim's going to ask. QA's coming out here and she knows she asks in front of them, that I have to say yes." But it was really neat and later helped me when I became a team chief, because I just, it gave me a better understanding. And to actually see it was different. To look down and see the tip of an eighty-foot nuclear weapon, or to see the nozzles that, you 01:42:00know, blow this enormous amount of fuel to send this rocket wherever it's going. Is it going to China? Is it going to Russia? I don't know. Is it going nowhere? Or in the middle of the drink? I don't know. But it was just really neat. It gave a different perspective.
STUART: All guys, all guys.
HALASKA: All guys.
STUART: I even had to have them redo the thing for a hard hat, because I hadlonger hair when I went in, so I put my hair up. And when I put--with the bobby pins and all that crap--when I put the hard hat on, I didn't get the same fit. And I'm like, "For one, it hurts, and two, it's not right. My hat's loose all the time. Or I rig it up to where it's pinned on there. It looks silly!" So, they got--or I could wear a ponytail. So, then a lot of the women liked that. They were like--one of the few things for women is to allow you to keep your hair, because it's like one of the few things they couldn't take from you is that you could have hair. Later I got it cut short, but that was one 01:43:00of the few things they didn't realize--or with the harness and lanyards with women. There were issues with it. I know later they redesigned them, but not yet when I was there. But a lot of things that were different for us to use, just like with Kevlar for women. There are--it takes a while for that, but they didn't know because they didn't have any women telling them. And until me, they didn't have any women sharing that with them. And I would. I'd come in and I'd say, "You know, this--" Because when someone asked me and they wanted to know, I really believe they did. And the people asking me actually did. They didn't want me to say, "No, everything's fine, sir." That's not what they wanted. They actually wanted to know. So, when somebody gets the attitude where they really don't want to know, it doesn't compute with me, because I really am genuinely thinking you wanna know. So, yeah.
HALASKA: So, what was your--what unit were you in? Like, what--?
STUART: When I first went in, it was called the 91st OMMS, which stood forOrganizational Missile Maintenance Squadron.
HALASKA: Okay, and--01:44:00
STUART: It would change names and commands. I went--that was under Strategic AirCommand at the time. Then, we changed and we were Air Combat Command.
STUART: So, we changed the letters and the numbers around. Then we became SpaceCommand. And it was last called when I was in--I was in the 741st Missile Squadron. We were divided up into three under that squadron. So, I was in the Green Hats, which was cool, because I like green. We actually had baseball caps--and I still have it, actually. The brim's all kind of weird, but--
HALASKA: So, how many people were in the squadron?
STUART: In our squadron, well that included everybody, not justelectromechanical teams.
STUART: So, you had parts of each that were assigned to each squadron, and thecommander would be over it. So, I don't know how many people were in there?
STUART: In my shop, there were sixty-three. So, our entire shop would be, youknow--which was weird. That's what they really--why they kept 01:45:00splitting us--everybody wants to do something different when they came in. When we competed, we were--Our base, for the missile squadron, our mascot so to speak was Teddy Roosevelt. So, we were the Roughriders. I have [laughs]--You know, people laugh, I don't throw some stuff away because I just don't know how to throw it away. When I was sent on that competition as an outstanding airman, I wasn't--the missile--every year the missile squadron sends people from all the five bases to compete at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where they'd actually do a test launch. So, I actually did see it go somewhere, and then they had to blow it up. But they work and they do on who's the best team, and they do all this training. I happened to go because I was outstanding, so I went as a guest. The first time I'd seen enlisted stewardesses on an aircraft, which that was weird. They don't have it anymore. But I was like, "What? That's--just an airline stewardess? That sucks!" Because I'm like all maintenance. But I had 01:46:00to go in my blues and stuff, but I got to go on all the like party buses and having colonels cook and barbecue for me and stuff. So, I got treated just like the competitors. So, going there, I got a jacket and it's--
HALASKA: Do you remember what year this was?
STUART: No, but if--well, I had been in a while. So, I think--I went in in '88,so it'd be early-'90s, because I got out of active duty in '95. I would know if I looked on one of the pins, because there would be a year. But we got these maroon jackets with gold, those were our colors, and embroidered with Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughrider. But, part of the competition is you each have pin--each base makes up a pin. So, I have all these cool pins that everyone else had. But there's a competition and what you do is if you can steal someone's insignia--and you're stealing an officer insignia--and then, the highest rank you steal goes on your hat and that's what you're called [laughs]. 01:47:00You can steal or acquire. And I think I had up to colonel on mine. And the first one you steal is what your rank is, and I think on my hat it's captain. So, I have the Roughriders ballcap and it still has the captain insignia on it. So, that was kind of fun and I keep a bag over that, because every now and then I show it. But that was just kinda cool and it just reminds of that. There were different opportunities or different ways you could go and do that. But to compete is what you would want to aim to be. And a lot of those were--are the team training instructors and the quality assurance instructors, not necessarily the people that are still out in the field, even though theoretically that's what it's supposed to be. So, they would pick like one or two, and then you could be alternates. And then all the five bases fly people down there. You get to the house by the lighthouse and see dolphins [laughs]. And like, "Where am I?" Like, "In California." [Coughs] But it was just a really amazing 01:48:00experience. And I didn't really get to go anywhere when I was in the service. The only travelling I did, actually, was playing sports.
STUART: Trying out of the Strategic Air Command softball team [laughs]. Butthat's, y'know--how lesbian is that? [Both laugh] But so, I do this training, I'm working, I'm more dealing with being the only woman, but I'm finding it not to be too difficult. But as I was having difficulties being under the big cylinder changin' those thirty-pound lockbolts,
STUART: I found I couldn't hold it up long--long enough to like hold it up andput it in. So, we had to lubricate 'em and we had to hold 'em all up and put 'em all in. And I'm like, "Jesus, I feel like I just like was holdin'--I just lowered equipment and my arms are just hurting." And they would just ache and it just got really annoying. I go, "Wow, I'm just a pussy." [Laughs] You know? I'm like, "I'm weakening!" So, what would happen is, my two teams I 01:49:00mainly worked with, because we had rotating schedules, he's like, "Hey, you're good at doing the locks." So, I would actually take apart the locks and all the pieces and put them back together, which actually was easier for people with small hands. Men with small hands or women [laughs]. So, that was easier and quicker for me to do.
HALASKA: Said, the locks?
STUART: There's--when we do the combinations on that B-plug, there's two combos.Those locks actually, and those components, we actually take apart. Later I would learn to take it apart and put it back together and not have to do the--I was actually the fastest. I won that competition. And they said, "Oh, she cheats, she has small hands." I go, "Well, compared to your big thick fingers, y'know, yeah!" But it's because I had a team chief that gave me something else to do, rather than say, "Hey, something's wrong with her." No one, "Hey, I bet you can do that and you can do it better."
STUART: And sometimes it would give them an opportunity to do the stuff theyused to do, rather than doing the bookwork and observing. Because you're doing a lot of teaching when you're the boss, which I learned later. So, for me, I was already doing what I had been doing. But in there, I'm having this problem, I'm still a team member, I'm going to the hospital trying to figure out what's going on. They're telling me nothing's wrong with me. They're starting to tell me it's in my head [laughs]. And I finally tell one surgeon--I have this major. I can't remember his name, but I remember he was a major. And I finally said, "Why don't you just go in and scope it and we'll see what's going on?" He goes in and scopes it, I end up having rotator reconstruction. He comes in and he says, "Wow, jeez, you like, wore a hole in the bone." It was all--they had like--"but you kept telling me it was just a seven." And I go, "Well, you kept telling me I was crazy." I didn't know what to think, but yeah, I was in pain every day. And I said, "So, when are you doin' the next one?" And he did. And 01:51:00when he did it, and he knew what to expect, that it was just as bad. So, I had a rotator--so, I had them done a year apart. So, I had to go and work in the office. So, I went to work in planning and scheduling--
HALASKA: And how many years into your career was this?
STUART: I had... I don't think I yet reenlisted.
STUART: So, I'm a little over--not quite halfway, I'd say. So, I had to go workin planning and scheduling. I's the first time I'm in an office. In this time, I had found out that Chris didn't want children of his own. I said, "Well, that's really the only--that's kind of a deal-breaker for me. It's really only the--" And he knew. So, the engagement--we're actually still friends. He never did have children of his own. He married someone with kids. But we're Facebook 01:52:00friends [laughs], so that says a lot. It wasn't a big surprise. Yeah, it was a little hard, because I did care about him, but I had feelings yet to be discovered. I could have--so, I was coming out, when it was not okay to be gay. And then, all of a sudden, I'm shoved in the office. I'm working rotating shifts, working at night. I'm in the missile field, I don't work closer than thirty-five minutes or I'm two-and-a-half hours from base. That's where my job sites are. So, I have 160 sites to work at, they're not on base. Now, I'm in an office every day. "Hey, what'd you do last night? What'd you--" Everybody's seeing me every day. So, I'm realizing I have to develop a different life that I'm really not having. And I have to refer to any female as male. I know that it is illegal to be homosexual at this point. I'm realizing it. I'm also coming out and I don't realize there is a coming out guide, but you know, I 01:53:00can't--there's no Google yet [Halaska laughs]. Google's the card catalog at the library, to which I cannot go and say, "Where are your books on being a lesbian?" [Halaska laughs]. So, I'm basically--people figure it out and they come to you [laughs] and you either made a mistake or you learn where the very small population of people are. I played softball, so it wasn't hard for them to come to me, apparently [both laugh]. Apparently, everybody was sure about it except for me beforehand [laughs]. Ridin' up on my motorcycle, no lie, first day of practice thinking that's cool, because people in my family ride. I'm thinking nothing of it [laughs]. Realizing how butch it looks, with my mullet hair. I say, "Where do you play?" And I just walked out to left field, I didn't even say anything. I was like, "I play here." And then I get up and I'm cranking home runs. They're like--and then, I said I had a boyfriend, and I had a friend that kept going, "Yeah, sure, Stuart. Whatever. All the nineteens are--sure, everybody knows something, but you don't." I didn't get it and then I 01:54:00learned. Okay.
STUART: So, that was kind of weird. So, now I'm--
HALASKA: And that's before you started working in the office? That's while youwere still working out in the field?
STUART: Right. Yeah, I was coming out, I was still in the field--I was starting,I did my training, I'm now in the field. Then, I'm in the office because I'm having the surgery, so they have to take me out of the field. Of course, they can because I'm going to have a long recovery time.
HALASKA: And just, just kind of going back to--so, you were living on base? Orwere you living in barracks or something like that? And what was like--and you said you were playing softball. What was kind of like going out like? And who were your friends at the time?
STUART: I learned when I got to Minot Air Force Base, if you were eighteen, youcould drink beer or wine coolers on base.
STUART: Not downtown, you had to be twenty-one. I learned early that free beerand all you can eat pizza doesn't necessarily mean you should drink all the beer you can and eat all the pizza you can, especially if it's pepperoni [Halaska laughs]. That was my first introduction to puking. I lived in the 01:55:00dorms, which there weren't many women in the missile dorm. But you shared a bathroom, so your suitemate and you, of course, had to be female. So, mine was getting some--anyone who worked in the missile field, so it might have been an admin person, or someone who worked in vehicle maintenance, and the office that was in there. But nobody lived--even the few women that came along either were married or married shortly after, or left, didn't live in the dorm. So, I did at first. 'Cause I remember having bunk beds and I remember I was engaged. And I remember my roommate would say, "I know when y'all not sleeping. You know this is a bunk bed, right?" [Laughs] But I know that poor boy drove all this way, you've got to--you can't say anything while we're doing stuff! 01:56:00[Halaska laughs] But then I learned, like sharing a bathroom, maybe she has someone over and you accidentally walk in--that got to be a little uncomfortable. Later, they would reevaluate that dorm and the dorms were an inch too small to be double-occupancy. So, then, we would get our own [both laugh]. Air Force! And I learned Blue Curacao isn't to be drank by itself like Kool Aid [Halaska shudders]. I got really sick. I thought I was pouring a big drink. That didn't work out [Halaska laughs]. But Becky was my first roommate. My first roommate was named Becky--no, it was Linda. Becky was our neighbor who thought that we couldn't hear her on the first-floor day room when she was having sex [Halaska chuckles]. I said, "Honey, you don't need a sock on your door, you need a sock in your mouth." And she goes, "Oh my God, can you hear me?" And she comes in the door all sweaty. I go, "Yeah, girl, you got to keep it down." A little weird for me to now see you can bring the opposite sex--and of course, you need permission of your roommate. I started to realize it was a little 01:57:00uncomfortable. Either uncomfortable having my guest there, but really uncomfortable if she brought a guest. And it wasn't a race thing--they were both Black, by the way. Because they would make fun of me. And Linda, when we'd walk together, and they'd whistle. And they'd say, "Not you, the white girl with the big ass." [Laughs] So, I'm like, "Okay, whatever." Of course, the sexual harassment, it's just like it came with the job. So, you're drinking. I'm hanging out mainly with my roommate at the time. So, you're on base. I thought--there were stories that they told that when it got so bad in the winter, they would have ropes connected to buildings so you could find your way. I found out many a winter that that was true. You could not see from the Dining Hall to the next building, and there were ropes. So, you could just--until you got to the door. And I was like, "This shit's not real." But it was 01:58:00close. I liked being on base, it was easy to get to work quick. Dining Hall--I didn't have to cook. Even though my dorm, because were a shift dorm, we got an allowance for food. Basic allowance for subsistence--sustenance? Is that what--yeah, yes. Weirdest stuff you remember now. So, we were supplemented and we had cooking facilities in there if you wanted to cook, because it was easier. And then, I'm coming out, so I'm meeting the people I did play sports with. They're becoming--what I learn is, a place is what you make it. And the more I could do to make this my home--it ended up being the first place I lived the longest. Because I moved when I was five and moved every year since. Didn't think I entered the military to not move. So, it was weird. So, I did participate in base-- for my squadron I played--I ended up being--like 01:59:00everybody wanted me, I ended up being on supply, ended up coaching later. I started umpiring when I injured myself. Thought I was donating my time. So, "Oh, Kim thinks she doesn't get paid. We're all drinking good tonight." I'm like, "Oh, I get paid?" He goes, "Did you really think you're doing this volunteer?" 'Cause I love the young people. So, I started to get to know people and realized there was no gay bar. Even if you went and you hung out with your girlfriend in a room, it was--well, all the other dorms had roommates, when mine didn't. It was pretty cool [laughs]. But theirs did. So, then, I moved off base. I lived--I actually lived not far from Oscar Six. I used to laugh when I go, I'm like, "Hey!" It was the closest missile site to base, so that's also where the protestors were. Because it was somewhat thirty-five minutes from the base. It literally--you'd be driving, they'd have the signs, "Baby killers!" 02:00:00All this kind of stuff. And you'd have to call it in. And wait to clear, 'cause they couldn't be on a certain part of the--because it was public, and at a certain point it wasn't. It was only military. But they knew where the lines were. So, it was kind of strange. But I would pass, I lived in this hodunk small town in a one-bedroom thing, so we could have some privacy.
STUART: Because it was just impossible.
HALASKA: Where did you meet your girlfriend? And was she in the service, as well?
STUART: Yes. She worked in supply
STUART: And I met her playing softball. She was the shortstop. She ended upbeing the third baseman, but she had the best arm--but she was short. She's American Indian.
STUART: Choctaw and Apache--I actually went and visited her family when I wenthome on leave with her. I went to an Indian Reservation for the first time. It was real interesting. She knew it, I didn't, but when I was coming out--but that happened. That was just--a little older than me, nine years. But she 02:01:00was telling me how it is around there. But what became very clear to me is many people assumed that she was. At the time that I went in, it was not known. So, that's when I was realizing. So, I was like, "Okay." When I went into the office, you know, hair was curled, the makeup was on--I knew I was going to throw on a hard hat and be sweaty an' that, but that wasn't the point. I was taught to present yourself. And then, later, whatever. That changed now, when you're a student, I noticed. She worked in an office and she always had. She was really good at what she did, but nobody seemed to really bother her. So, she was used to that because that's how her career always went. Mine went, "Hey, I was by myself." And I had the flexibility to do that. Then, I realized how small the gay community is on base. Because eventually, you're gonna to have to share [laughs]. Not a concept I'm good at. Because it's who knows, who 02:02:00knows, who. Then, you find out there's a group of you. So, I would travel playing softball, so we would like--there were things done between Minot Air Force Base and the other, the second missile base in North Dakota is in Grand Forks. Between our bases there was certain equipment we could share, even though they had Minuteman IIs and we had Minuteman III missiles, certain equipment was the same. And we would meet at a place in the middle, which later I found funny because it was called Churchs Ferry [North Dakota]. If you look on a map, it's literally between Grand Forks and Minot. It's the halfway point and you would exchange the codes. And we would meet with their teams because they would be coded to our level of code, so you couldn't just send anybody. And one time there was a female that came. And we were talking and, of course, ended up being a girlfriend of my first girlfriend, I find out later [Halaska laughs]. They had parties at her house in Grand Forks. So, we would drive to Grand Forks. We're like, "Hey, who wants to go?" So, you would have to drive to go to 02:03:00places, or you'd have to go to an area where--to somebody's house.
STUART: So, I did drink one time too much, having fishbowl drinks when my sistercame to visit, and dancing--doing a Madonna slide across the floor, yeah. I was young. I didn't know what was going on. But I turned and kissed my girlfriend in public. And boy did I get the briefing. I was like, "Oh, shit!" But she had come home and met my family.
STUART: My aunt asked her very specific questions which were inappropriate, butthat was my Aunt Mary Ellen--the one who introduced me to Hunts [laughs]. So, it was very difficult. And they knew it here, of course. The rumors didn't go far. Then, my next girlfriend, she really wanted children. I mean, to the point where she--it didn't matter if she was with you. So, I learned from someone who is very set in her ways, yes, you can be a lesbian, you can like women. But realizing, "I'm not sure how I know more than you," because she used 02:04:00to go, "What do you mean you haven't done anything before?" I go, "Well, don't you like use your imagination at least?" I don't' know what's going on, so it was an interesting learning experience [both laugh]. But anyways--she lives in St. Louis. We were friends after. We had an on and off friendship. So, then, my next girlfriend is very much, "I want kids." She's an engineer, she thinks nobody knows she's gay--
HALASKA: Was she also in the military?
STUART: Yes, all my girlfriends are in the military--
STUART: --while I'm in.
HALASKA: Okay, yeah.
STUART: And then I meet my first non-military girlfriend, while I'm still homeon leave and later come home and end up being with her for twelve years. It was really strange. So, yeah, she's into--I'm trying not to use their names, just because I don't--
HALASKA: Yeah, that's okay.
STUART: I don't have their permission, so...So, it's weird. So, when02:05:00I found out that one's eyes strayin' and she's looking at somethin', so I leave. And the next one she cheats. So, different learning experience with her. She slept with everybody [Halaska chuckles]. She was leaving and I helped her pack her stuff and that, and I called her when she was home on leave, and "Wow, you're at a party, sounds like." "Oh, yeah, I'm at a wedding! At a reception." I'm like, "Who got married?" She said, "I did." [Laughs] Kind of, a little worse, the look I had. Because I had no idea. I mean, I saw the pictures she had of Brad and stuff--I can say his name--but I knew that's something she did for her family. I didn't know she had secretly arranged to get married. Because she wanted kids. She ended up going to Germany--bitch. Marrying him, but then getting' a girlfriend, and couldn't get pregnant and wanted him to get a girlfriend--really strange. She never did have kids. So, anyway, that's drama. That should be another project. So, it's--[Halaska laughs] that's 02:06:00interesting. Then, I began dating someone who works very close to my field in security police. In the section that can actually dispatch with me to a missile site. And had! So, it was kind of weird [laughs]. She had a rotating schedule, so very much understood mine. I had moved back on base. I've been like, on and off base. I was off and then moved back on, then I bought a mobile home on the other side of town, then moved back on base. It was a little different with her, who worked in security police, because I felt she better understood my job. And for some reason thought my job was sexy. Used to ask me to talk about work. I don't know why [laughs]. But again, it's still, of course, not okay to be gay. It's getting a little later into it, so we're hearing about this Don't Ask Don't Tell proposition. We're hearing this stuff already. But the first 02:07:00time I'm in my dorm and it's like seven, eight o'clock at night, and it's very loud. People are yelling. You come out in the hallway and you realize you're being told, "If you're female, go down to the first floor." There was more females in the dorm now. We almost have half of the second floor, it's three levels. And we're told to go in the day room down on the first floor, and we don't know what's going on. Maybe somebody called in a bomb threat or somethin'. I go down there and I see my girlfriend standing outside the day room, you know, in their uniform and stuff. I'm like, "Hey, what's up?" She looks and just she goes, "They're not here for us, they're here for the men." And we both look like deer caught, y'know, in headlights. We knew--I knew then--she knew before she came and was put on the detail that they were coming because of reports of people that--gay men. And one was a criminal act and the others were 02:08:00just because they were gay. The other one actually did something that someone said they didn't want done. I don't know.
STUART: Anyways, then you see them resisting because two were in the upper-levelday rooms, so they're grabbing them and throwing them down to the ground. When I think about it, I see it in slow motion. And one of the guys I knew really well. He was actually the one accused of doing something really bad. Well, he was accused of doing something that the other guy didn't want, and said he was drinking when he'd done it. Whatever. He left his shoes under his bed, so he got caught. I don't know if he got caught, or if it was consensual--and that's not my business. The fact is, someone later said, "No," but they threw him down and they were just yelling. They weren't just yelling, looking--because they had like a dozen, a half a dozen people they were looking to get. Because he wasn't the only one. I just really knew him and I could see it in the way they threw him down on the ground was inappropriate. "Faggot" was the nicest word I heard. So, it wasn't done because they were trying to get someone and arrest 02:09:00them. It was--you could feel the anger, the tension. There was two other women in that day room with me that I knew darn well were just as scared. But it was the first time I realized that what who I was, was illegal. I mean, I knew it, and I thought it, and was being secretive. But that was--that changed, that day. That changed. I was now afraid. I'm like, "I can lose my job." And that's when I had a girlfriend who said, "You know, you're going to have sleep with guys just to sleep with them." I said, "What? Are you fucking crazy?" I go, "No, I'm not doing that anymore." And she goes, "No, you're gonna have to." So, going on a double-date with your girlfriend and two guys is really weird. And then, having to look in the rearview mirror and see your girlfriend making out with them. I was like, "I can't do this. I can't do this."
HALASKA: Oh, that was something that--
STUART: You had to go out and-- what I thought was okay and later02:10:00learned was not--you had to go out and sleep with the biggest big mouth. So, he would go tell everybody about the sex he had with you. So, you just had to get, you know, go to them, "Hey, free beer and pizza night--let's skip the pizza." Just drink a lot of beer. And I would. I would have to get drunk, because I didn't want to try to remember it. I wanted it to be over. And it was just really awkward. And after a few times of doing that I'm like, "I just can't do this anymore. It doesn't work." I had two girlfriends who didn't care. The first one would not have gone for that at all. And it was more difficult after I reenlisted, and then I moved back on base, and I was in the upperclassmen's dorms. Nobody really gave a shit. They were actually really supportive. They'd like party with all my lesbian friends, they didn't care. But it was still a very small community, but the men knew the women and the women knew 02:11:00the men. So, yeah, when you're watching your friends be thrown down and arrested and treated like they just--
STUART: --did some horrible crime. Being illegal and a criminal, just--that'swhen I understood that's how they felt about me. Like, if I told anybody, that's what's gonna to happen. I'm going to lose my career. I didn't know if they were going to jail or if they were going to be discharged, or what was happening, because they were still--
HALASKA: Yeah, do you know how many guys got caught that night? Or how many--?
STUART: I don't. All I heard was, "They're here for like a half a dozen of 'em."And they said, "Of them." That's what they called them. "We're here for half a dozen of them motherfuckers," and whatever language they were saying. It was like you were in the middle of a raid, and it made no sense. But yet, me and the other two--and of course my girlfriend. We were thinking, "What if they were just here for anybody?" I mean, we had to worry about enough stuff being women in dorms with so many men. To also worry that it's criminal. Which 02:12:00later, I learned angry men or men who don't like that you're gay have other ways of making you pay for that, in their own mind. Which, on the cusp of Don't Ask Don't Tell would make very difficult. It would make being gay just very dangerous. Because it wasn't like, "Hey, yeah, then we can as long as we don't say anything." No, [laughs] that's not the way it was. And I was in the very small area of the country, very small backwards towns, so the culture's very reflective. Even the base might be a little more open or accepting or different and changing and made up of multi-cultural people--the community was not. It was white North Dakota. Lot of farmers--I mean, when we changed the missile systems from blue curved cones to a long white rod, people would call up saying the missile was sticking out the hole [both chuckle]. They didn't realize it was an antenna. Or the time we had to go homes and evacuate them, because we 02:13:00thought we had a missile leak. I mean, that kind of--I mean, you're in--that's the kind of area it was. Or if you broke down, a farmer would come and said, "My wife made you guys some sandwiches," and he's bringing you some juice. I mean, you didn't drive by those dirt roads in the middle of nowhere and not wave. I mean, you just--they knew you, they knew where you were. So, it was just...Which I really liked because I grew up in a lot of communities like that. But--and living off base it was like I could be me. But then, I knew as soon as I was getting ready to get on that base, you know, you almost feel like you were, like, a double agent or a spy. You had a cover story for whatever you did that weekend. You know, even though I worked in the office and then I later retrained and went back out in the field, that's when I became a team chief, I didn't really give a shit as much. Because I was so respected and what I did nobody fucking cared [laughs]. But it wasn't a topic of conversation. But 02:14:00then, I did work with people I did talk to about it, that I trusted. So, I was at a point where, yeah, I knew what could happen, but I was less worried that it was going to happen to me because of who I was surrounded with. And who I was surrounded with were great. They weren't a problem. But I realized you can be great to one group, but if you're at a party at this person's house, the people that come there are not gonna be okay with who they think you are. So--and anyone with you, no matter what they are, they're going to be treated the same way you are. Which didn't go well for my friend. But that's--that was the mindset, and the communities were small, and you'd watch your friends doing marriages of convenience. Be like, "Everyone knows you're gay." "Do they? Do they? No, they don't." I didn't want to do that. I considered it, but I was just like, "No, I don't want to live in base housing somewhere with someone, and I just don't want to"-- because then you have play--you still have to 02:15:00play the game. You have [inaudible], play married couples. And, you know, even if you're an enlisted part of housing and you interact with officer couples. I mean, I learned this all from people in that. I don't be a part of that. You know, if God behold, someone's wife became a lesbian and, holy shit, you know he ain't going to be happy. So, the whole base knows. Yeah, it's just--it was really weird. And of course, this whole time, I'm not realizing if I'm doing it right. I don't know, like, "Is this it?" But when I started to travel and be around more people, or go to a gay bar. Like, the first time I went to a gay bar, I learned that when you go somewhere, if you don't know where they are, you call a taxi company--'cause there was no Google.
HALASKA: Ohh! Okay.
STUART: So, you call the taxi company and just never be afraid to ask. Or, ifthey come pick you up and ask, they knew right away where the gay bars were, and they'd be happy to tell you. So, I was like, "Oh, okay." So, when I would go home with-- like when I went home with my first girlfriend and we went 02:16:00out, I was like, "Cool." I would come home on leave and go to Fanny's.
HALASKA: What's Fanny's?
STUART: Fanny's was a women's bar back then. It was the only women's bar back then.
STUART: It was on...was it, just south of First and Washington. She ended upburnin' the place down and going to jail [Halaska laughs]. [inaudible] reopening the place as something else. But it was a cornerstone of lesbian bar history here in Milwaukee, whereas now we only have one, which is The Pint. But even the few that popped in between there. But I would come home and that was the place where I could learn to be me. Now, realizing, I was learning around an urban environment and then going back to rural North Dakota! I wasn't getting the same picture. Unless I travelled somewhere, then I was seeing that. So, it 02:17:00was interesting. We're going to the softball camp every year [chuckles] and seeing the same people. We would go out and hang out and stuff. So, that's just kind of cool. I thought it was always harder for my male friends, 'cause many of them, it seemed more obvious. Whereas being a tomboy was a little more acceptable than being effeminate for a man.
STUART: That's how it was then, so I always--I even had a friend who was like inlove with my girlfriend, but he was gay. So, it was--I was like, "What the? Well, don't tell me! This is just weird." And then, he wanted to marry her, and I was like--but he did teach me how to tack my pants [Halaska laughs]. Interesting. But, you know, he was the first friend on base that I knew that was really struggling with his sexual orientation, as well as his religion. And I got to be the one there with him when he was cryin', and that. It was 02:18:00weird to me because I wasn't sad over it, I guess because it was a part of me, you know, until I came to that age where I had people around me who said it wasn't. And that's how I was feeling now. I'd be around the group and they'd be like, "Yeah, it's okay to learn to be who you are." But most of the time I was around that group, they said, "No, this is--"
STUART: "You've got to be who we want you to be." So, it was really strange. Inthe boonies in North Dakota.
HALASKA: All right, so, now that we have some background what off-base life waslike, and kind of what was going on then--so, now, you're working in the office and all of your personal life is kind of being asked about more so than it was before.
STUART: Every morning.
HALASKA: Every morning?
STUART: Every morning. It's also when I learned how to use a computer for thefirst time [Halaska laughs]. I was trained, and then the next day 02:19:00Sergeant Burns came up to me and I said, "Sergeant Burns," I'm like, "Dave, something's wrong. I did everything you taught me and it's not working." He goes, "Oh my God, I forgot the basic step." He actually changed the manual. "I didn't show you were the on button was." I thought it was on [laughter]. So, this is dot matrix printer days, DOS [disk operating system], entering stuff. So, my job was to do long-range planning out three months for the missile fleet.
HALASKA: Cool, okay.
STUART: So, one-hundred-and-fifty missile silos and the ten launch controlcenters. Which is kind of neat. I mean, you got to see why I got those orders to clean and do the locks and the lockbolts and other different tasks we had to do, either annually, biannually, or whatever. Those things were scheduled 02:20:00months in advance. So, I got to do that and it's funny--this is what this is reminding me of. There were three huge whiteboards like this with the months out, and you had each team and then the tasks that they had to do from pneudraulics, missile maintenance--so, I started to learn what everybody was doing.
HALASKA: Ohhh, 'kay.
STUART: So, I was taking the opportunity to learn. I also started toeventually--part of my job was to review--long-range planning was here, my supervisors in the next office you actually cannot walk through, then another supervisor was for the next office over, and they were daily planning. So, they did everything that they would schedule for the next day and then update it in the morning. Next door, if you walked all the way around and went through the secure door was job control center, who talked to you while you were out in the missile fields. So, when I was working in on the headset out there, I was talking to the guys there. If something happened at the missile site, 02:21:00or an alert's reported, they call over to daily planning and say, "We need this pneudraulics to go out and fix this right away." So, they'll have to change the schedule, order the equipment, and do all this kinda stuff. So, I got a little bit onto that. Long-range planning was easier, so that's why they started you there. But I would read it every day, and then you'd get this big stack of the green and white old paper with the months [laughs]. I would take that--I started to take that home. My work--I was sad. I was sad that I had to be in this office job [both laugh]. I was sad I was never going to play softball again, because this is what I was told. I was having major surgery, then I'm going to have another, so I'm going to be without this arm--which, I'm right-handed. So, I actually learned to write enough to get by and write a help or SOS note [laughs]. And then this one. So, it was like, I had a long recovery and stuff in-between, and I was like, "I might as well learn." And then, my 02:22:00supervisor--Dave Burns, I'll always remember him. He had this whole training procedure on how to make coffee, too. You could never grab a cup while it was making--every time we do that home, to this day, he'll go, "Oh, no, you'll ruin the blend. You must wait for the entire pot to brew." And he's correct, you know. But at home, every time, I'll go, "I'm sorry, I'm ruining the blend, Dave." [Halaska laughs] But he was going to school and taking night classes. And he said, "Why don't you start going to school?" I'm like, "Oh, you can do that?" And that's when they had the tuition assistance and stuff, and they had an education center on base. I'm like--so, I went there and got into going to school. I had to take my... SAT. Because I said, "Oh, I must have missed that day." Because after my mom died, I kind of missed eleventh grade, but I still graduated with my class [chuckles]. But--so, I got in to doing that to keep busy. Lot of challenges. So, I would take that report home and the big part was consistency. And I said, "Well, if you're trying to make it 02:23:00consistent, why doesn't anybody do it?" So, I did it. Pissed a lotta people off, because there were a lot of corrections in there, because job control center were the only ones authorized to go in and change 'em. But their commander came down and said, "Uh-uh, that's the first time that I've been askin' someone to do this. She did it! And you will each have to do these corrections." Afterwards, they thought it was so cool, because we got awards for it when we got inspected by the Air Force. Because every write up should say the same thing. If loose screw changed [inaudible] should always say, "Loose screw changed [inaudible]." Now, loose screw on left edge--so, everything was consistent in a way it should be and all meant the same thing. But I did that because I really thought I was starting to feel a little depressed. I was, I didn't like this sleeping with guys kind of thing. It was just really strange. These girlfriends that were here and there, it's like--"I don't know what's going on." Then, this one knows that one. There's a lot of drama. So, I was like, "Whatever." That's when 02:24:00I got into umpiring. So, obviously, you could say I was doing a lot to kind of keep myself busy. And it was kinda interesting. I went to umpire training camp in Bismarck, North Dakota, and the guy yelled, "I can always pick out where the military umpires are." And he'd point. "Because they're the ones that come with their shoes shined." So, I learned to shine my shoes. Later learned that I could paint them. And then, between each game, as a practice from my twenty-one years umpiring, I would dust 'em off in-between. So, when I did my first meeting, the next two coaches--it was always about their first appearance. They dust off their pants, shine their shoes. So, that was how I learned. I had one guy tell me once, "You don't have to come with all your ASA [Army Security Agency] clothes on, and all the creases and stuff. You're scaring people." [Laughs] I'm like--this is how I learned. And it made me feel good because I felt I could do something. So, I'm--and I learned I got paid [Halaska laughs]. Then, 02:25:00after I get that surgery--and I'm learning to do this. I'm learning to base. I'm starting to learn--there's a lot of other opportunities--I'm still in the mindset--of course, I'm young, I'm in my early-twenties. I'm like, "You know, if I can't come in to do the job I came here to do, I just don't want to be here." So, my goal was to work at physically qualifying to go back to the field. All this stuff was great, I was learning, I got to do the war planning, which I never would have seen. All the videos I was seeing, I got to see the behind-the-scenes stuff. So, I got to get a better understanding of how the base was operating as a whole. Helpful when you date people from other [laughs] places. That flag sent home from supply that was redistributed was my first girlfriend. That's where I got the flag from. Learning about civil engineering was interesting and what they did. And security police, even, I would help them practice. I learned better sharpening techniques for my own uniform 02:26:00from them, because they did inspections every day. So, that was kind of cool. So, everybody had something to offer, even the girlfriend who was Intelligence--
STUART: I learned that--
[Break in audio]
HALASKA: Alright. We are pausing for today, and... alright.
HALASKA: Alright, this is file three of the interview with Kimberly Stuart, andwe're just going to go back and clarify the work that you were doing with the missiles. And what your exact kind of tasks were. Can you just explain that for the listeners, please?
STUART: I sure can. As an electromechanical team member, we were assigned towork on all electronic systems that would support launch for the Minuteman III ICBMs. What that entailed was anything from loading the launch codes, annually--
STUART: --that would be used, to the batteries or motor generators02:27:00that would run the site. We also would do all the electronic racks that would support any types of communications or signals coming into the missile. And these are all, of course, built a lot earlier in the '50s era, and not much has been upgraded. For that reason, as technology was advancing--the equipment wasn't very recent, because that made it less susceptible to sabotage. You had to work really hard if you wanted to try to get the information. And missiles launched by one of the launch control centers. And they also could be launched from the airborne launch control center. So, there's another way to do that. We didn't have anything to do with that, but equipment we ran had to talk to the aircraft if it were flying ahead. Which, you never knew where it was, 02:28:00it wasn't our job to know. But you would know if you were sent out right away to do something, that it probably had to do with a misguided signal or something. We also worked on the equipment on top of the missile site. We worked on the antenna system, so anything that would detect security. So, that changed from an older three-horn system to eventually a long-antenna system. We worked in the support building on some of the equipment, but not much. Mostly it was placed to go during the winter. We worked on the hydraulics from the door to get in, the door to go down the access hatch--we replaced all the parts from the steel cylinders--to cleaning the locks on both the access hatch pit. We removed and replaced the multi-rung ladder that ran down sixty feet. So, we'd 02:29:00have to work in that, on any pieces and all the equipment surrounding that.
HALASKA: How did you remove the ladder that went down sixty feet?
STUART: We would remove it when the hatch was closed, so then it was six feet.
HALASKA: Oh, okay.
STUART: So, once it was retracted--
HALASKA: Oh I see, okay.
STUART: If it couldn't come back up, the site would have to be mannedtwenty-four hours, because--and it would have to be manned by four people, because of access to that missile site. You had to have qualified missiliers from any of the branches there. But the security police force could only be responsible for the main security pit--the first entry. So, if a site was left open because a ladder broke--if it was coming up and it just busted--we'd have to leave it open until a team came with a new ladder and equipment. Which, most likely a new team would come, because instead of a parts run, they 02:30:00called it, if you needed something you didn't have on you that you anticipated as part of your project, they'd send a team out and just run it out to you. But if they realized you were so far into your task and you go beyond twelve hours, they just send a new team to relieve you. So, at that time--if it was coming up and it did that, you'd know it was broke [laughs]. You'd have to go down the ladder--if you'd seen it was unsafe to do that, you'd just stop. So, then what they'd do is they'd lower the plug and just let the ladder be pulled, or you'd loosen it from the top and then you would go down on your harness and lanyard and you'd have to do--thankfully I never had to that or watch somebody do it. When we did big projects, like the motor generators, which are almost the length of this table [laughs]--
HALASKA: Okay, so like, six feet long?
STUART: They were like, yeah--they were taller than me, so I was about the sameheight at the time and I'm 5'6". So, taller than me--long--and 02:31:00probably about three feet wide. And those have to go out--everything has to go up and down the hatch that we deal with. The missile itself, they go through the big door and they can go down from the big door down--but we have this hatch. Everything goes up through there. So, you--I had to learn to operate cranes and a lot of the equipment that would have to be lowered down and then slid in, and that's where everybody would have the big wrenches and stuff, because you couldn't be underneath it.
STUART: You'd have to reach all the way across to tighten everything. It was amajor effort because you had crane operators up top--I learned to qualify all the cranes--the Lorraine crane, the big cranes--I was flat bed qualified if I was the driver to bring the motor generator out, or if we did battery replacements. Batteries are thirteen-hundred pounds apiece, so you would need a flatbed with either two, four, or six--however many batteries you were replacing-- all went up and down into the hatch. So, it was just a 02:32:00lot. Or the electronic racks--so, we had a lot of cabling equipment. A lot of really old-school like big one-and-a-half by one-and-a-half boxes where you could put in your test leads to test the equipment. And the big cables you'd hook up. It was a lot of equipment to do that. But you'd have to make sure that it could communicate and it could communicate with the missile, it could communicate with the launch control centers, airborne launch control centers. And any small thing from, if a plug was broken--we could change if a cable from one equipment rack to another equipment racks. Were about six feet tall and there are several of them down there for all the different requirements that they had to do. If a cable had a problem in it, we could move it and 02:33:00we'd replace the cable and send that, because that would have to be shipped off site, or some parts went back to Boeing, or wherever they were made because it takes too much time to figure out what's actually wrong. I could tell you it's the positive green wire that's wrong with it, but I don't have the tools or equipment to sit out there and splice it open, change it. It's more efficient to just put a new one in. So, some would be easy, you wouldn't have to pull a rack or have the missile down very long. And when you're out there, you're objective, initially, when I'm learning and I'm a team member, is you want to get down there, do the job as safe and fast and quickly as you can. Get the missile back on alert. Later, I would learn the great importance of that, especially the importance of the safe part. If you try to cut corners, it's not gonna save you in the end. For example, the individual who didn't want to wait for the B-plug cylinder to go all the way down, and then it stops, then you go down. 02:34:00Because the ladder's still retracting. Sometimes, they stopped it--the theory was they said they reached in and thought they stopped it, but they actually had it going up. But either way it was a shortcut--it should turn off by itself. And then the switch is turned to off. So, it should go all the way down, but it wasn't. It was enough to where you could squeeze through--why you'd wanna drop down four or five feet--that five minutes it might save you on the way [laughs], instead of letting it go all the way down. So, as the team chief went down, and then he was going through, and as he was trying to go through it was slowly going up. And finally, the security police sitting up topside in the truck heard and turned it off. And then they had to be told which direction--because they didn't know, they never touched that switch. So, they had to be told what way to do it. They actually got achievement medals for turning it off, 02:35:00because theoretically, it could have torn him in half.
HALASKA: Oh, gosh!
STUART: A steel cylinder going up a steel tube is--has just enough room, barely,so it would have literally. That was the guy I retrained with when I went back out into the field. And I know about it because I was the bailiff for the court martial [both laugh]. Yes, I was asked to wear a skirt for that, too [Halaska laughs]. And stand outside the door. So, not only was I able to witness this Article 15, this court martial proceeding, I was knowledgeable about what was going on.
HALASKA: Yeah, okay. So, what other--okay, so, all of that stuff you guys wouldgo in and fix, or you would take out and--
STUART: Our job was to diagnose the problem and fix it, replace it. Like I said,there wasn't much on site we could fix, that we had with us. 02:36:00
STUART: Unless something didn't work, if it was a lock, because maybe a fewpieces of sand or something got in there that would cause the wafers on the lock not to--the tumblers not be able to turn. So, we'd have to take it completely apart and clean it, which of course I'd be the one doing, because I could do it so efficiently. It could be something like that, then we could. Or, we would have a kit where we would have tumblers or pins or things in it, so we'd have whatever we could with us that we would fix those locks, because that was a mechanical thing.
STUART: Anything electronic that was plugged in that put the missile on alert,those were what's fastest.
STUART: We're not going to pull this out--especially, if it's winter time. We'recertainly not going to try to do diagnostics out there. They would send us with a drawer that was tested, ready to go, on base, so we would have that equipment. If there was anything in it that fell under a code carrying or 02:37:00qualification, we had to go and pick it up and escort it, and always have physical or visual sight of that material the whole time. Which, with a female in the career field, you could see there were no challenges on how you keep two-person control. It was two-man--they did eventually change it. I saw no need, but that's fine. It did change though. What if I had to go to the bathroom? That's where the visual part came in, because on a missile site, there's only one place to go and it's outside, or down in the support building. So, if we had codes and I'd be like, "Shit, augh." "Kim, you got to pee, don't you?" "I do." So, we would have to have it up to where I could see it, and I'd go down this hatch about--I think it was ten feet--and that's where the big motor generator--the backup generators were. We didn't work in there, but we went in there because there was a switch we had to turn on for the security for the site. But in the winter, it was warm in there, because it was 02:38:00next to the generator, so you'd often go in there and warm up. Or people would go down there and do other things they had to do. But normally, we'd have to pee, because it had a suspended floor [laughs] and you could--except for the in the winter--by the time you got all your clothes, then your wooly mammoth clothes off, all of a sudden, you'd be like, "Oh, I can't believe I don't have to pee anymore!" [Laughs] And you'd have to do it that way. So, I'd have to be able to see it.
STUART: While he was talking to me. But those were things you realized thatyou'd have to do.
STUART: Or, we could lower it, but the point was that they aren't supposed to beable to see you, and I can't pee--I don't want to pee in front of you. I could [laughs], because--but I'm not going to.
STUART: So, there were some unique challenges that having the gender differencestarted to effect things. Or, do you feel comfortable, even, bein' out in the middle of nowhere with three other guys? I mean, think about it.
STUART: I never heard of anything happening, but could it? I'm sure.02:39:00But the guards are calling in every fifteen minutes doing their security checks. I can't really say it's likely, but I do get the challenges, especially when--if I would have to stay overnight in a missile field--which I only did once--but they'd have to call ahead to see if there were any women there, to see what the situation was. Because if it was there was one extra bed, but no privacy, they couldn't do it. So, they'd have to send me when the entire room was available, because I was the only female. Because I'm not supposed bunk in the same room with a closed door as men. Nor would I want to. I would just stay up [both laugh]. But I get the point. But again, with the people I worked with, I just never had--I could identify those things eventually. Like, "Hey, I gotta pee and how are we going to do this?" And there were no procedures for, like I said, for watching it and doing a verbal. Because it was supposed to be visual. 02:40:00And I said, "That's--we can both be visual, but how do I know he's--we can both see it, but we both don't know unless we're talking." They're like, "Oh, we didn't think of that." So--because they didn't have to before. They just carried it with them, and they'd put it down, and both peed, and then left. You know--then grabbed it. But sometimes, it was equipment you'd have to get a harness and lanyard and hook up. There are safety hooks everywhere for your harness and lanyard that you'd put on. It's a harness and then you clipped this lanyard on your back, and it has in it where, if you fall, it breaks and opens up and so it's longer and stops you at six feet.
STUART: So, the support building's ten feet. So, technically, if you're nearthat area--and we had a big metal frame that there was an access hatch you opened for that, there was a big metal frame with a wooden top and it opened, and that was to put over it when the hatch was open, for safety. But if you stepped over it to lower equipment, you had to have a harness and lanyard on, because theoretically you could fall. 02:41:00
STUART: When we had codes, they'd have to hook up [chuckles] and lower down, soit was really--you can see sometimes even though if you think about it, it probably took more than ten minutes--fifteen tops. Some people made it as though it was the end of the world, and all life in the military had to change [laughs], because you had to do that. But as a couple more women would come in, it'd be a little better.
STUART: They were in other fields. It's not like they had to carry a missile outwith them, you know? I had to carry launch codes. But it was just a learning process, you know. It was more that isolation working with the men and the job I did. Like I said, I was a tomboy. I did this work with guys all the time. I was comfortable with electronics, I didn't feel like I--so, I guess I just, that's the way I approached my job, and that's the way they saw me, and it's just like, "She's just like one of the guys." You know? Except for certain times, all of a sudden, you'd realize--
STUART: "Oh. Sexes are different all of a sudden." [Halaska chuckles]
HALASKA: One thing that you've mentioned a few times is, you know,02:42:00like you need different people to do different jobs. And kind of, segmenting information or access. and that kind of thing. And you have a top-secret clearance.
STUART: I did when I was--
HALASKA: You did, yeah. You did. And so, the segmented information? And--didyou--were there things that you just knew with your clearance that you knew you couldn't talk about with other people? Either civilians, or people who didn't have that clearance? And how did that kind of affect who you could socialize with? Or did it?
STUART: Well, it didn't affect where--again, a lot of people aren't aware of it,but even though we're at the edge of the Cold War, I worked on nuclear weapons. 02:43:00
STUART: We're forty miles from the Canadian border, and we needed thecommander's permission, because of our security clearance and what we did. Wouldn't you want to take somebody that knows how to get on a missile site? Or knows how to sabotage one? Or, you know--so, those--we were restricted in certain places we could go out of the country. If we flew somewhere, or just anything, our movements we had to be more detailed about. You might want to caution yourself if you are going to go out and just get drunk off base, that you're with people that you know, and not just downtown. I would think the information I knew wouldn't be information I think could have--any one person would have had the knowledge be detrimental. But if you're on the other side of that, and I wanna know the information to do a certain job, I [door opens]--hi. Should I still talk? 02:44:00
STUART: I can--I would find out who's from each area and get the pieces ofinformation from them that I need. So, the any one [door closes] piece of information you have is still valuable [door closes]. It may not solve the puzzle--
STUART: But when you realize it is a puzzle and there are pieces--I didn't learnuntil later--years later--when I worked in the office and I retrained and I had a larger group of knowledge, I learned how valuable the information was that I did have. And you have a top-secret clearance for a reason. Not only because you're handling information that's top secret. I handle stuff I didn't know what was on it, and I handled stuff I knew very well what it was. If I handled a piece of equipment that I knew supported launch, there was a reason. I only had control of that and missile maintenance didn't, pneudraulics didn't, officers didn't. There was a reason for that. Because it contributed to what 02:45:00we did to support launch. And they didn't need to know that.
STUART: Their job was to make sure that missile functions once our electronicsignals give it the signal to launch. And once it leaves the facility, my job is done. My job was accomplished. I got all the signals--all the other stuff that needs to work to get that missile to go, everybody else has that job.
HALASKA: Were you and some of the other people on base ever advised not to talkto each other about what your jobs were?
STUART: Yes. Especially during times when we were starting to--with Iraq andeverything was starting to--threat levels were being increased. And they did at various times, especially for the missile wing. When we--our different Defcon stages would change and we'd be-- Defcon one through four, and when 02:46:00they added five. When that changed, that changed the way we carried our codes. It could cancel a particular job for the day. It could mean they had to add additional people onto your detail. Depending on what the security threat was, either globally, nationally, the state, or locally. So, whatever level that was coming from, it would change. So, you would be told, "Hey, make sure if you're out somewhere and somebody's casually asking you whatcha do, just don't mention it. When you fly or you travel, don't have your ID card in your pocket, or visible." Things that you think everybody's being told, but everybody's not. Certain people are being told for a reason. There's certain safety, but they don't want you to be on an airplane, and yeah, they might figure out I'm military, but if they figure out I work on nuclear weapons, they might want to take you. You might be at a bigger risk only because you're a woman. 02:47:00That's what they're going to think, right? If I'm a POW [prisoner of war], I'm going to be expected to be raped. So, you're not going to surprise me. Whereas a man might be surprised by that. I'm not. I'll just be like, "I'm sure it's coming sooner or later." But that's how they would feel. So, they started at first thinking your gender might be a weakness. Not realizing, of course, the people I worked with--nobody ever directly told me that if you're a homosexual that it would be. We were told that, but it wasn't directed at me.
HALASKA: Oh okay, yeah.
STUART: But we would be briefed that, about your promiscuity [laughs]beyond--and how you carry yourself and present yourself, and how it all reflects on your job and what you do. And the perception of strength or weakness for the overall base.
STUART: When we go to war, like I said [laughs]. I'm glad I'm validated byhaving a medal--that I discovered I earned a medal for nuclear deterrence.
STUART: When I was getting Mess Dress for the Vet Ball last year. Retroactive totime I served. Because I always said that. You didn't go to war unless I did that. Well, when we were deploying our forces, we were brought in and 02:48:00told we were not allowed to volunteer. We were not allowed to cross train. Certain skill levels--people were just getting in and they were waited for training--they were offered right away if they wanted to go. But the people who were already trained, all the team chiefs, we couldn't go anywhere. People were not bein' able to exit the service, so they were extended. I had one friend who is from Wisconsin, who I'll have to get you in touch with. We had two going away parties for her. She worked in security police. I said, "Yay, great, you're done. Inactive ready reserve." She was activated and came back.
STUART: So, after she had to serve again, we had another party--
HALASKA: And what year was this? Where they were saying you couldn't--you guyscouldn't go anywhere or you couldn't... leave?
STUART: I'm going to have to assume--it's sad, I have to think who I was with,because this is a long time ago for me. Well, it's going to be early 02:49:0090s, obviously.
HALASKA: Okay. Was it Gulf War era?
STUART: Yeah, when things started to get going. But they were already perceivingin the long run that this was--they had the information that this was bigger than we knew yet. We were just here--
HALASKA: "They," like your bosses?
STUART: From D.C. [Washington, D.C.] down. So, they were told at everylevel--they know everything that's going on when they hit the war button. I know that's generic, but that's what I'm saying. But as information is filtered, your commander is told more information, but is told what he can tell you.
STUART: Same thing. We were told, "This is what I have to inform you thatthere's a freeze on your Air Force Specialty Code,"
STUART: Which for you, Army's MOS [military occupational specialty] anddifferent for other services. And I'm like, "Okay." Because we don't go to war unless there are missiles on alert. And if we have nobody to keep them on alert, that's not a plus in the war pocket for them. They lose their threat. 02:50:00And nuclear deterrence is just that. It deters you [inaudible], "We've done all this fighting"--this is the way I look at it. "We've done all this fighting, now we can just push this button. Or, we just nuke you if we have to. You know, we hit the A-bomb." That's what that was. That was the ultimate threat. That was power. That's what nuclear power is, nuclear deterrence. So, that was it and if they lost that, or if all of a sudden, their missile fleet was down to seventy percent on alert--well, if I'm your enemy, I'm like, "Well, now I have a thirty percent chance of its not comin' by me." Because they can't go out and right away change the codes. It takes a long time to process those codes, upload tapes, build them, get a team. I would take a chance. I would be monitoring that. If I had spies, I would be findin' out what your sortie alert rate was. Because if that goes down, "Well, okay. Not Minot, because we've heard that a lot of those are pointed our way. But Grand Forks maybe not. Maybe 02:51:00Grand Forks is"--whatever the intel is. We didn't know as--like I said, I didn't know where that missile was going, but it was public knowledge of how many there were. And so, they knew there were a hundred-and-fifty. Just in our location. So, the other couple hundred at all the other bases--so, that's a big deal.
STUART: So, yeah, it started to realize like, "Oh, this is serious." But a partof me is like--so, here I'm telling--I can't go anywhere. I'm disappointed because I thought, "Oh, it's my chance, I can go overseas" [laughs]. I really wanted to go--I have to go take a vacation, I guess. I really wanted to go. And then, when they told us that, I'm like, "Really?" I'm like, "All right." But I'm watching a shit ton of my friends go, because we worked so closely with security police on what we do, and because I dated security police--I mean, I 02:52:00knew a lot of people. And I was always over there. When I didn't work in the office, I volunteered to go over there, too. So, I started to see my friends leave, and I later would start to see friends not coming back.
STUART: So, that was kind of--but I was already beginning to learn--because Iwas working in the office. I was beginning to learn the importance of what I was doing. Although, there was that small part of me that felt like, "Should I do more?" Especially after I get out and keep hearing all this praise for combat. And I would get, like, "Really?" For one, I didn't get to go. And actually, when I went in, I didn't realize women couldn't go to war [laughs]. Right, although they were in theatre already [Halaska chuckles]. But not on film. Not on film that could be submitted for public--
HALASKA: Quote Unquotes.
STUART: Yeah, right, I've seen that film.
STUART: So, it was like a shock to me. And then, when I thought I could andstarted to see women were getting closer and closer to the combat 02:53:00zones and things like that, I thought a big opportunity was opening up. 'Cause apparently, I still wanted to play army, despite my surgeries, I already had [laughs] problems. I felt I was on the mend and I was getting better. I felt there was something I wasn't doing. Until I was taught--so, I wish I was taught that beforehand, like the whole picture. And then--I learned it later. So, I imagine there were a lot of people--a lot of the guys wanted to cross train. They wanted to go. Either because they wanted to defend their country, or they understood the importance to your military career to do that, as well.
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: So, not having that opportunity was limiting. Plus, being limitedCONUS--to the continental United States--we couldn't. We no longer could go to Canada. I mean, it was just getting like really weird. Leave restrictions were getting heavier and heavier. You would have to call in when you were on home leave--on leave, which was weird. Because they--you were on leave, 02:54:00but they could pull that at any time.
STUART: So, they needed to more precisely know where we were. Which you thoughtwas weird, until later I realized why they were doing that. But it was still--then you see, like I said, people coming back, leaving. People left but now they had to come back, because they didn't--they couldn't fill the forces, because they were sending so many over. By the time they could replace them. That's why my one friend came back. And it was interesting. It was good to see her. You know, it was another LGBT person to have around. Not an expression I said back then, 'cause we didn't call ourselves LGBT [Halaska laughs]. We called ourselves "gay." But still. So, it was just really interesting to see how all these pieces were coming together. How the medical--I mean, I've had a lot of physical therapy, so I'm seeing half the people I've worked with for years with my PT-- they're going. They're leaving. They're coming back. A few not 02:55:00coming back at all.
STUART: Just, you just see the shifts around people coming and going, theaircraft, and then, when we had the B-2s and we had the stealth--we were a stealth base.
STUART: So, that was kind of cool.
HALASKA: That is cool.
STUART: I didn't get to tour one [Halaska chuckles] until I took a Hawk toSchofield Airfield--Schofield Barracks in Oahu where my cousin was stationed. And I got to do--and I got in a tour of a Heli. But I took a hope from here on a tanker down there where he was stationed, and vacationed, and then came back. We did Fort Harbor together. It was really cool just to see that and learn what other people were doing. Or what's it--of course, I'm asking, "What's it like over there?" We're watching these videos. It's kind of like--
HALASKA: Of what?
STUART: Of what's going on--about what we were being told about deployments.We're watching these films like it's, you know, like 1902 [laughs]. 02:56:00Kind of like sex ed, where you're watching these videos, but things have really progressed and they really need to update it. So, we're being shown that, like kind of, "This is what's going on out there. And this is why it's important you do what you do." But they didn't make that connection very good.
HALASKA: Wait, so--I'm just--
STUART: Whenever we would--
HALASKA: --so, the informational videos about, like, your nuclear stuff? Orabout the war that was going on?
STUART: It would be us, because we wouldn't get information on that.
STUART: We would get information on the importance of what we're doing--
STUART: Why it's important. We also had information on the, like, Tomahawkmissiles and Patriots, and we knew about that stuff, too.
HALASKA: Okay. Yup.
STUART: We didn't work on it, but if they all got blown up, the first peoplethey're gonna grab for would have been us. So, we're all kind of like, "We don't want you to die, but we'd get to go somewhere." But we would have to 02:57:00learn in theatre, so that was kind of scary. Like, "Anyone can push that button, right?" It's more than that, but still. It was kind of interesting. And they qualified for medals, too. People who worked on those--because they couldn't be where the fighting is.
STUART: You had to be at a certain distance to launch your missiles. And I hadto be over in the United States, but I could nuke you over there. You can play war, but I'll nuke you! I didn't have the opportunity to be in a combat zone.
STUART: So, to, you know, penalize for that seemed ridiculous. So, it was alittle rewarding to find out that they finally did. But yeah, it was really interesting to me. I mean, I learned a lot more of that and it might be mixed because I learned so much in my next career field that really opened up the service for me in a different way.
STUART: Because I was seeing it from the ground up, even though I worked onsomething that would eventually go up, I didn't--it was very rewarding to work on something but never see it go anywhere. HALASKA: Yeah.
STUART: But knew at any moment it could. And then, over time,02:58:00realizing the gravity of that and the weight of that. You don't come with that weight. You're like, "I want to learn how to do it. I do want to be the best Airman I can be." Then, you start thinking, "Shit, you know, this--some dumbass could push the button." And lately, I think of that a lot [Halaska chuckles]. You know? I'm like, "Wow, Bozo hits that button, we're all gone" [Halaska laughs]. So, you start to do that. It comes with maturity, as well, I'm sure. But, when I went into weather forecasting, I've seen thing from a bigger perspective from the sky, down. So, that was a lot neater, because we got to know a lot more, because we were briefing the pilots before they left. And that's different. So, we got to be more where things were happening quick. So, it was kind of interesting. I thought everything I do is interesting [laughs]--enough to get an Associate Degree in each one of my fields, my three fields. But when I started going to school and matching 02:59:00education--civilian education and pairing that with--community college at the Air Force had already established an Associate Degree program, so your skills learning, and then whatever your, kind of like your Associate Degree program said, "This is your core courses, and this is your regular stuff that you need to take. Your electives."
STUART: So, it's kind of having little letters in science with what you reallydo. And that's what an Associate Degree does, it prepares you to move on. But in the Air Force, they accredit that for the career fields only at an Associate Degree for each of those. But I saw the importance of doing that--of learning beyond that and obtaining my skill level, so I could get that degree.
STUART: And realized that that made a difference and increased my knowledge,because it makes me understand better when people go to college. They say, "Why do I have to take English or science? It makes no sense. I'm going to be an architect." Well, if you think about it, you're going to need to know 03:00:00all those things. But people don't see it that way. They seem them as barriers, rather than--I've seen them as contributing to what I was doing. And it could be because I did have time to sit back and realize that an education became a reason--something for me other than just wanting to learn and thinking the world would be a better place to know about. It became a coping mechanism for me, so it was different. It was the only thing they couldn't take away from me. They could take away my use of my arm for six months, or not let me do something. But if I learned something, until I get dementia, you can't take it away. I earned my degree and I have a first sergeant that taught me that. You know, he said--so, I really got interested in learning more about what I was doing.
STUART: Or writing manuals--I was on the technical order review team every year[laughs]. I would find the mistakes and correct them.
HALASKA: Okay. Was this while you were working in the office? Or--?
STUART: It could have been at any time, because I did it every year.03:01:00
HALASKA: Oh, yeah, okay.
STUART: So, once I did it and realized like, "Oh, my God. The most annotations,there's a lot of mistakes--" They invite you back. So, it's kind of a special thing to do before the inspector generals come and make sure that all your stuff is up to date. If a page was replaced and that one wasn't replaced in the other four hundred volumes, they're gonna look. Do you want them randomly to pick the one that didn't? So, you actually page through them, you're looking for spelling errors. You're like--and I'm looking at technical manuals for jobs that aren't mine. You know, the ones that were mine were a little easier, but--so, that was kind of interesting to me because, yes, I would stop and probably do what you would do--I would read a little. I'm like, "Wow, that's pretty cool. Those pneudraulics, I never really thought that's what they'd have to do to fix this part to get the nozzle to, y'know, rotate like that." And you'd hear and see people, "She's over there reading and finding mistakes!" But it was just--it was a point of--it was more than just that. I valued that. I still will 03:02:00see a mistake somewhere and be like, "Oh, crap." I found a couple, I was editing my own paper. They're just simple, but I can see a few of those--or if a page isn't replaced and a safety procedure was inserted somewhere, you're putting people in danger. So, that page wasn't changed, that's a big deal. So, it's just like when they recall something. You're not going to recall the missile. But how you go about replacing that motor generator, we might change that there's a safety hazard that's been there that nobody identified properly. And it's been, so now we have to put that in all the manuals, otherwise we're continuing to put all these people in danger, that if they stand in this certain spot and the cable breaks, they're in the way of a twenty-five-hundred-pound piece of steel and could be squashed against a steel wall. So, those kinds of things. That was important to make sure.
STUART: And later, I got put on those, because I was the one to make03:03:00sure the pages missing. And if they were, you'd found it and you went and you put the page in there. It's all old school. So, it was interesting--so, I began to learn all my manuals later, when I went back to retrain. I took them technical orders home and I read them like they were textbooks. So, when I said, "Can you change that?" It's--I know--I can tell you what page I'm on right now. But to sit and turn the pages is making what I'm doing less efficient. And that sold [laughs]. I just said it the way they needed to hear it. I said, "But as long as I can open that book at any time--" And they would start to do that then, when they changed that. If I was the team chief, I was doing a task, and they'd say, "Where are you right now?" I said, "I'm in Section 2-G." I'd open up the technical order and do it. If you hit a warning or safety issue, you had to open the book to that page, because you had to read it aloud. It didn't matter if you did it five hundred times. So, you would have to know where you are. You know--you wouldn't have to say, "Page 132," necessarily. You 03:04:00could be, "I know I'm in Section 5" and move it along. Some of our technical orders are this thick. And you used to carry it around--
HALASKA: Like four inches thick [laughs]?
STUART: At least [Halaska laughs]. And you'd carry a bin of the basics. But if Iwas doing a task and I was doing a removal and replacement of more than two of the thirteen-hundred-pound batteries, from whatever suspended floor they were on, I would need to check out four other ones. It's like going to the library and getting extra books to do a job. But the basic ones always went out with you, whether you used them or not. So, them specialty ones are ones you would rarely see, or a job that would rarely be done. You'd wanna get on that, even if you were like the tagline rope holder for the crane [laughs], so you could watch them replace like--take the warhead off. You know? It'd be like this [laughs]. I would volunteer to go on those, because that's something you just don't see. That's when you know everybody's coming--quality assurance, the people from the electronics lab are coming out--even though they don't deal with it 03:05:00until they get it. But you see the colonel's out there, y'know, wing commander for supply came for a visit. It's like, "Really?" Because some rare things that happen like that. And rare things--those kind of, for me... kind of neat, because I got to see--and later, I would learn greater importance of that when I taught the entire base to reform all of their training manuals. That's my last job I did in the Guard.
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: So, sometimes when I'm talking, I don't know where I learned it--I knowI didn't know that going into it, but I think every job just--I took with me what I learned from the rest and was learning. So, whether I was sitting in the office, waxing the floor, or I was out there, you know, putting in launch codes. I knew somebody was back there--thankfully they carpeted them later on. It was just silly to me. But we still did it, we still did it. I knew people were back there doing their job. I knew paperwork had to be filed, I knew codes papers had to be loaded. And I know everybody had to do what they had to do, 03:06:00so I could be there doing my job.
STUART: I knew people had to be there in job control, because what if somethingwas happening in my fleet, they had to stop me and send me somewhere else? Somebody'd have to bring me out new--at the time they were code papers. When they changed them to the--we called them "Game Boys", the electronic ones--they could change that code. And it would just need--but they'd have to run somebody out with that, because they'd have to authentic before I got where I was going. If I mis-authenticated, I got jacked up by the armed response team with machine guns--which happened once. If you authenticated incorrectly, because you were assigned a certain number.
HALASKA: Do you want to tell me about that?
STUART: Yeah! It was [laughs]--Whenever you approach a missile site--not alaunch control center, but an actual missile silo--you get to the site, they call it. The team going--the maintenance team going out is given codes. And when we first went, they were on these little pink sheets of paper. You're assigned a number and you're given that number as your whole time, you know that 03:07:00number. And then, when you go on a new code run, they change that number and they tell you what that number is, and then they give you a bunch of paper. So, when you get out to the site, you have to authenticate, whereas normally you would just go, and open the gate, and go on. No problem. But you have to authenticate. So [laughs], there were letters and numbers, and you would take the code that you were given and you would read it for whatever line and number. It's kind of like a scantron test. You know, like fillin' out your name? So, you knew, and you would circle it, and then you would say, "Alpha, Bravo, Zulu, Ten," whatever to match it. They would authenticate that that is actually you. The person they sent out is actually the person that is there, and has permission to go onto that site. So, that's what we'd do. And when you were done, you would burn it. So, everybody, smokers and non-smokers, had lighters, because we'd all have to burn it. Later, when they changed it to 03:08:00electronic you had the boxes. And that's when I got jacked up, because the boxes were new [laughs]. The "Game Boys" we called 'em. And they were about the size of--actually, this. They were like this.
STUART: And they had the numbers and letters, and then the screen. And it wouldauthenticate and be on there, and then send it back to the security on base, and authenticate and verify that this is you. Well, when they were new, there were a lot of problems. And even though I put Alpha in, it was sayin' "three." It didn't matter if I said, "This machine made the mistake." They keep you on the line--I learned this later. They were keeping me on the line, and I thought I was correcting the problem. Well, it given to the armed response team, which is at every launch control center. They were coming out, they were coming out to say, "Hello." [Laughs] Although, I'm sitting there thinking [Halaska coughs] they're really helping work and we're going to get this thing right. 03:09:00No, you mis-authenticate, you do. It doesn't matter whose fault it is. The first thing is to assume the worst. So, all of a sudden, we hear, "Get out of the truck! Get out of the truck!" And our security team's giggling a little bit, because they knew they were coming, because they're also security. But they also are informed not to tell us [Halaska laughs]. So, "Step out of the vehicle! Get down!" I'm like, "What happened? Like, what's going on?" I have no idea. So, you're just listening and you're on a gravel access road [laughs], and you know they're fuckin' with you more because you're probably the first time. So, you're laying down there and they're talking. And then, you start hearing them--they're all authenticating. They're all doing crazy--their extra authentications, check-ins, someone's walking the perimeter. Around you! They're walking around the trucks and you, while somebody's calling in and saying, "Yeah, that's the person, I know who he is doing that." "Yeah, we have them jacked up. We're checking the codes on their thing." They're reloading them. And 03:10:00whatever--then, they give them back to us and have us authenticate. So, we have to go and hide--like you have to hide your password [laughs]. And then, all of a sudden, it's fixed. And they're like, "Okay, have a great--have a good day. You guys want to order lunch?" I was just like, "What happened?" Because I had never been jacked up before. I had heard about it--I saw someone get jacked up on base [Halaska laughs] going to the security desk, and they were getting their codes, and I learned also, "Never sign anything until you read it." Because I signed the wrong authentication card once. I didn't get jacked up. They caught it before I left base, so they just called me back.
STUART: And the guy said, "Make sure you read everything before you sign it."Little shit like that stuck with me! But I watched someone get jacked up at the window, because they called in the wrong code for him. So, he's thinking he's giving the right code and he wasn't. "Get down! Get down! Move back!" [Laughs] And you can't help but laugh [Halaska laughs]. It's like somebody 03:11:00fell and you giggle, but, "Oh, are you okay?" [Both laugh] It's kind of--but I was like down--I was like scared, out in the middle of nowhere on this road, people with guns--I mean, I never had a gun pointed at me before! So, I was like, "This ain't the Air Force I know! What's going on?" But it was just really crazy.
STUART: And then, we just had to go and go on the site and go to work. Butyou're still like, "What?" Like, these guys sit with M16s in our truck all the time, and we ride out with them every time we go onto a missile site, you have two security forces with you. But they never pointed it at me and told me to get on the ground. So, it was like, "Damn." Like, "Y'all are kind of badass." [Halaska laughs] It's fun stuff.
HALASKA: So, alright, getting back to a little bit more linear timeline [Stuartlaughs]. So, you were working in the office and you started learning 03:12:00a little bit more about how everything worked. But you wanted to go back and work out in the field again.
HALASKA: Can you tell me about that process? And what you did from there? Also,what was--[Clears throat] Pardon me. What was your rank at the time?
STUART: I was--I think I was a senior airman at the time [laughs softly]. Iforgot. I actually lost my rank briefly.
HALASKA: Oh, okay.
STUART: Remember that 200-mile radius thing in tech school?
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: I got a call in my first sergeant's office one day, and he said, "Kim,do you know that you're an A1C [airman first class]?" I was like, "No, I'm not an airman first class, I'm a senior airman." I go, "What are you talking about?" He had told me that he's like, "Your Article 15 came through," and I go, are you-- no, they stopped all that. We eventually got it worked out, and 03:13:00I got my time and grade, and time and service back and stuff, but it was--it was just, I had to like, go home and take my stripe off and put on my old ones and--[Laughs] I know, that that's exactly what I was doing, I was crying. Because I swore to myself.
STUART: And I didn't want to--didn't even want to go take [inaudible] [Laughs].And I swore that I would not, I would do a set of blues, and I would do two BDUs [Battle Dress Uniform], but I wouldn't do all four of each that I had. Because I was told, we'll get it worked out. It eventually did, and he came to me, and made a big deal about in the office, which was kind of fun. Because he's like, "Kim's a senior airman again! Not a fault of her own," but I was so mad. I was like, are you kidding me, that crazy--? Anyway, so I'm a senior airman. For reals! [Laughs] I did have an issue where I made a complaint against 03:14:00my--the supervisor for our department for, um... treating me differently than the men.
STUART: When I was two minutes late one day. [Laughs] And I felt he did itbecause I was a woman. He not only didn't--wasn't happy that I came there. He wasn't happy that I was doing so well when I was there, which reflected positively on him, but he didn't like it. So, I filed a complaint. And he was on temporary duty, doing something. And they came in, sat me down and said, "Are you sure you want to do this? You do know they're going to pull him out of a room and read him his rights." I go, "Well, he should've thought of that before he tried to write me up and give me a bad writeup--" which affects my ability to get promoted to staff sergeant. "He should have thought of that, and he should have not treated me differently, because of my gender." I thought it 03:15:00was a little bit more than that, and I'm sure it was. But I went with gender. But I felt offended that they came back to ask me, is that really what I want to do, realizing later that they do that whenever you feel you're going to file a complaint. Sometimes they tell you in a commander's call briefing. "You better make sure that if you accuse somebody of something, that they did it, and it's worth losing their career over." That's how they tell you not to file a sexual assault claim in the service. But I was just like, "Hell no," because right, I was pretty confident then, because I was learning something, like no, I don't care if he's a master sergeant. That's the problem! He's a master sergeant. And I'm this. I could have you come back here and talk to you about the tech sergeant who was my supervisor who did something very inappropriate too, but I didn't do that [laughs]. But right now, I'm about pissed off that I'm being given lower points on my writeups and everything because I was 03:16:00pissed, and he was treating me differently. And he did; he was removed from there. So, I was like, I had enough of this office stuff. I needed--I worked at my physical therapy. I was able to play softball again, I was superwoman for a year, actually, I had bionic arms. That faded [Halaska laughs]. But I was like, I can, wow I can throw it, and my arm don't hurt. Like, I was just like, it was all good for about a year. Then it started, "Okay, I got to take it easy." Then I started realizing I was going to have limitations the rest of my life.
STUART: But I went back, and when I went back, I just asked, he was still mysupervisor at the time, I said, hey look. And actually, he was a supervisor up in EMT when I first was there the first time. But now he was my supervisor. Dallas--I always remember his name because it was so unusual. He 03:17:00became my third supervisor at the time when I said I want to go back. And he goes, "I have nothing but positive things to say about you," and he goes, "But I understand it. You know, because when they do your annual review," he's like, "You know, where do you want to go, where do you want to be?" And I said, "Well right now I'm looking at the electronics lab. I really would maybe like to move to QA [quality assurance]." I was already--
HALASKA: What's QA?
STUART: Quality assurance. So, they're the ones that inspect you. [Laughs] Laterlearning that the road that way would be to either work at one of the labs or other places, or become a team training instructor and work in a training branch. And then you normally, because of your expertise, you learn from teaching people. Then you're selected to be, to go out and inspect people. Which of course helps you in your promotion and your ability to move between the bases, as well, for jobs. So that's where I wanted to go, so I'm 03:18:00like. And he goes, "I support it; I'm going to sign it off. Let me call up." And they go, "You don't even need to call; send her up here!" And he goes, "Well I have paperwork to do." Of course, they wanted me back, that was not the question. They did--actually when I thought I was going to leave and I was--they were actually wanting me to leave the service. My supervisor said, "No. She can go downstairs and work in one of the offices down there." If he didn't say that, I would have probably been medically discharged.
STUART: Because when they realized I needed another surgery. So, I'm likewhatever. So, I got approved to go back. I still retained my clearance, because I had it for so long and I just filled out a form, and then I started co-testing again so I could go. So, then I went back through with someone who was new just coming. And it worked out for him, because he would have had to wait another four-and-a-half months, because there was--you need at least two people to go through a training program. They prefer more, so we got like--and we 03:19:00had a new instructor being taught. So, they were doing everything, like, by the book. I was lovin' that. I had more time, so I got to do more task because we alternated. Before, otherwise you were sharing it with three to five people doing tasks. That was kind of like, you sort of stood around watching. Not this time. I was either doing it, or I was reading it. Every other time. So, every time we were training on a task, I'd either be the instructor or the team leader, team chief, or the team member. And it switched. And we could be doing something for three days, or it could be a three-week lesson. So, it was really interesting, so you were on the books! And our instructor said, when you're not the team chief, we want you to go home, and they would give us homework. Which they did not do the first time it went through. So, they were saying, "What do you guys want out of this?" We were like a highly-trained group coming out, like, out of it. We were certified like day one. It helped him 03:20:00because I had already been through before.
STUART: So, I was able to help him. He's the one that got caught in the B-plug,and had the incident that I was--yeah. He's the guy I trained with that second time. So I knew him fairly well, so it was really [clears throat] hard to watch. He had like nine feet of intestines taken out or something, it was crazy. He was critical for a long time. I didn't know he had that long of intestines, like all that stuff.
HALASKA: Oh! So, he actually did get injured in that?
STUART: Yeah, he nearly would have been ripped in half. But the guards in thetruck heard the yelling and came out. And then they didn't know what to do, so they to call over the radios, and they couldn't hear him because he got to a point he couldn't really talk. And they were yelling, "Turn it off, turn it off, turn it off," and they were like, "We don't know how!" Because they were never taught. That changed for them, too.
STUART: They were instructed after training and that incident on what it meansand what that switch controls. But all they did before was do the 03:21:00combination, and then we lifted it out and went to work.
STUART: We even took the whole thing apart and replaced--all they did was thecombination, because they had the codes to open it. So we could open our door. So, they didn't know what that switch meant. They never stuck their hands in there [laughs]. So, it made sense. But yeah, so we learned everything. Like I said, it was really good for me. So when I came out, I came out and was offered to be assigned a team, as a team chief and have my own team, right when I came out.
STUART: 'Cause they watched us on, like, two things. And I'm like, "How did youknow?" He goes, "They've been talking about you nonstop since you came back here." [Laughs] "For one, your knowledge on the task," and I go, "Well, I read a lot while I was downstairs." [Laughs] And also when I was injured, I had nothing to do. I tried to read to keep my mind off the pain. So, I was offered that job and they made a big deal of it, of course. What was happening is I 03:22:00was being... I was being scouted is what it was. Not just, am I going to be the first female EMT team chief? There had been one or two in the past, in missile maintenance, or pneudraulics. But we hadn't had one in EMT. So, it was a big deal. Not realizing that they were sending me out. They didn't want just anybody. You know, they didn't, like "Who is this girl? Oh, she cleans up nice." I heard all the comments, 'cause that's what they were doing. They didn't just want any person. They wanted someone that could also look a little feminine so they could put you on display when people came. If all of a sudden people were coming from another base and have an inspection, I would all of a sudden either be the team chief on some part of the task. If it was a five-team task, I was one of the team chiefs. Not necessarily I normally would have been asked, but they wanted to show them, "Hey we have a female team chief." So, if you heard someone saying, "Hey, that bitch in EMT," I knew they were 03:23:00talkin' about me because I was the only woman! [Laughs] So it was interesting, but I got to know all the guys. But while I was down and I was learning or waiting, I was learning how to better load the truck. "What do you do over here in equipment? What can be done? What are you doing over here for vehicle maintenance?" You have to talk to the people that are supporting you too, so that's what I did.
STUART: And then all of a sudden, the first time the guy sat my thermos down,he's like, "Kim, we're ready to go." That's when I felt like a team chief. [Laughs] Because I no longer was bringing somebody coffee. We played that in training, me and the guy I went through with [laughs]. So when he was team chief, I would bring him--he didn't drink coffee; I forgot what he drank. It was like Kool-Aid or some shit, I don't know. I don't know how he functioned other than all, on that junk food. He was a big boy. Not after the accident; he was a very skinny boy, but he was a big boy before then, big, firm boy. But 03:24:00yes, so I was happy I went back out in the field; I was happy I was running, I was the boss. I got to learn the paperwork side of it. I got to learn to lead and to manage. I was often asked for people to work with me. I was probably the only person, I wouldn't say it's a gender thing. I attribute it to just being me [laughs]. However, yes, if I, now that I think about it, I had no problem working with the new folks. I actually said, "Hey, if you have somebody new that somebody doesn't want to work with, let me know." Even the guy they eventually discharged for hygiene issues... I still got him to do his work. He wouldn't come and work with anybody. I got him to actually go out and do work. Not enough for--he wanted to get out. He just didn't want me in the service. Even though he was told he couldn't go to war, he thought he was going to go, and he just didn't want to do the work. But he wouldn't do any work when he was out with people, but when he went out with me, he did. I said, it's just the way you handle it, you guys. You can't beat it into him; he's going to 03:25:00leave. He's just waiting for them to tell him he can leave. But if you want him to do something while he's here, if you berate him and make him feel like an ass, then he's going to sit in the truck and do nothing. And nobody can make him do anything. He knows that. And I didn't make him. I said, "Hey I'd love your help," you know, he was kind of heavy. I knew I could lift that apip [??] by myself. I could pick up the toolbox by myself. They would often call me over when the new guys were coming, when they'd be both lifting a toolbox over. It was a two-person lift, it was s'posed to be. But they'd be like, "Hey Kim, can you come and help these boys put this toolbox in the truck?" And I'd come over and pick it up and put it in the truck. "Do you want on this shelf, or do you want it up top?" [Laughs] They were--I know they were emasculating the poor boys, but I couldn't lift that by myself either, when I first came. I was in there shadowing it like they were. But they were like two, you know, scrawny people. But yeah, I threw equipment around and later that would, of course, all come against me with the shoulder problems I had, but... It was a 03:26:00very physical job, but when I got to the more, the mental part of it and see things differently, I kind of enjoyed that.
STUART: It was kind of nice, I started to pursue my degree in education, becauseI was going to school. I could not do that when I went in a missile field, because of my rotating schedule. It'd be great if I was on like AM for a month, and then I would go mid-shift and then night shift. You could--later it became you could ask for an exception, like "Hey, I want to take this humanities class on Wednesdays; could you try not to schedule me on that?" They would try to work with you. That's actually when I remember Dallas was the scheduler [laughs] in there when he was a training supervisor. So, when I came back and I'm like, "Hey, I was taking," he'd say to me, "Do you have, are you still in school?" He asked me. I'm like, "Well I thought I couldn't take," he goes, "No, I can work it out, as long as I know ahead of time." "We'll do the best we can; we can't guarantee it." But the college also knew too, so he started satellite 03:27:00courses that were video on the base, and this is back in the '90s, which was like all new. Even though people see Minot, North Dakota, when I was around Minot University, they asked me if it was one of the fake ones. It's a real university. But I stopped going of course after I got out, so it's kind of funny to me that when I went back to school, I completed my degree in education. I, like, went back to it. It was really weird.
HALASKA: So how long were you team chief? How long did you have that job?
STUART: I was the team chief until I was leaving. They pull you out of the fieldthirty days before your discharge day.
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: That's a short-term, short-timers thing, they don't want you thinkingabout leaving while you're working on a nuclear missile, nuclear deterrence. Um, so I was already getting out, and big meetings about that. People 03:28:00were really upset I was leaving. It was kind of nice, but it was also too late. I mean, everybody, "Kim, why?" Every, I--[laughs] the chief master sergeant and I had all the officers. I had the commander from there, they had the base commander come and talk to me, even though I didn't work for him. Apparently, the golden girl was leaving [laughs]. But once my commander realized what it was and said it's too late, I said yeah, it's too late, but it might, it won't be for the next female that comes through here.
STUART: And not just the one who works in EMT, but the one who might be workingin a desk. He knew at that point that it was too late. But I was getting out, and somebody told me, "Why aren't you palace chasing?"
HALASKA: What's "palace chasing"?
STUART: Yeah, I said I'm not going overseas [laughs]. Still hung up on thatoverseas thing. I'll live through yearbook mark, even [laughs]. He said, "Well, a palace chase is a program where you directly from active duty into 03:29:00you're National Guard or Reserves." I'm like, "What is that?" I knew nothing outside of what I, because why would I? I'm like, "Oh, okay, yeah, that's, yeah that makes sense." And he goes, "And then you can keep your clearance. So even if you don't need it in a job you're going into, you can retain it, and it's more cost-effective for them to keep it." I didn't realize until last year that you can pay as a civilian to upkeep that. 'Til someone told me, but anyway, I don't need it right now, but it was interesting. So the guys was like one button away from taking my clearance away. I'm like, "Well I'm palace chasing." He goes, "Oh, well then we want this button. I almost took your clearance away. And even that would have been a lot of work for me to prove that I pressed the wrong button."
HALASKA: Just going back, so when you were team chief, how many--I have twoquestions. How many people were working for you on your team? And then kind of looking back at that time period, what were some, I don't 03:30:00know, cool jobs or stories that you kind of, got to do or lead?
STUART: Cool. Well, as a team in electrical EMTs, our teams were two people. Butthat could change, if you were a team chief, and there was a big job. And they were going to assign you to it, and that required like four or five people, then they would be under you. They'd try to pair two people that were a team chief, but one would be assigned as leading the task, but one of your members would also be. 'Specially if you were doing a huge, like ten or twelve-hour project, like changing a motor generator, or doing the batteries, or doing a systems rack change that required a lot of deleting and doing a lot of electronic, or schematic work. When you like, lay your schematics out. [Laughs] 03:31:00Like, "Curve it!" Because you'd have to, a curved round floor. You'd have pages on these on schematics back and forth. You couldn't highlight them or anything, it was just black-and-white. [Laughs] Well you had to follow it, because you'd have to determine which was at fault. I'd have to identify it, so I could tell them, but it wasn't their job. I had to figure out which rack to pull. So we had like pages and pages of it. That's when you got TOs [??] like this, because of all the schematics in it that would roll out and be like, four or five pages long. And then go to 4B. So you'd have all these pages and books out. So sometimes it would take, if I only had four other team members, I wouldn't have someone, probably, with skill or enough experience to help me follow the diagrams. 'Cause you need two people in the books at least on those jobs, it took a long time. It was [laughs] oddly rewarding when you would finally identify it and you could troubleshoot it and identify it, that that was it. Because if you took the wrong rack, [Laughs] people were suspending 03:32:00from being a team chief for quite a bit if you pulled the wrong rack. So, you had to be sure. So, those kinds of things were interesting. When you had multiple teams out there and running tasks, and you had two or three different team chiefs from different shops, it was very interesting. Normally, they would assign quality assurance to come out, and they would be the lead. Because it would be hard to determine who should--we knew who was in charge of what we were doing [laughs]. But we needed someone to be sure, because I would know, "Hey, I have to do my job before you can, you know, open the hatch to get in to do yours." And I didn't know who needed permission to get down when pneudraulics came into it. I didn't know. They worked together on that, so they might know, so we would have a lead person. It would be a master sergeant at least that would come and be--and run it, 'cause you'd have cranes coming, trucks going, the hatch opening up. Which is a big safety issue when they're 03:33:00opening and you know, because they had to break the fence apart, so they had to bring special people. So you get, when you have like twenty or more people out there, it's like crazy. And the first site I had of that was the tagline operator [laughs]. Which whenever you have an equipment on a crane, you have a rope attached to it guiding it, so it swings less. So, the newest person is usually the person holding the rope.
STUART: But what they didn't--well, unless they didn't take advantage of it likeI did. I was watching everything. So, when I was on the other side of that, I would tell the person, "Hey, you're not just"--I would like beef 'em up. "You're like, ensuring--none of us can do our job unless that safely gets down in this hole." [Laughs] They're like, "Kim!" I go, they go, "It's not funny that you told--it's funny, you believe that shit." I go, "I do." Because I realize that's true, it all starts there. If it's not safely done, if somebody's not 03:34:00hold that and they get down there and it blows here and it falls, it's broke, the whole job is canceled, because they have to order a new motor generator. So. it's all done, you know. The more important they feel, and don't just like, once their job--don't just leave them, give them something to do and tell them why they're doing it, or why it's important. Like, if you inventory our truck up until this point until we get up, it'll save us forty-five minutes when we come out. And that'd be super, that'd be a big help. Instead of them going and sleeping in the truck or something.
STUART: You know, I want to save time that way, not by cutting corners, but itmade sense. If you inspect it, all I got to do is check one box. That's pretty cool for me. Otherwise, I have to check the entire truck before I leave. And then I have to recheck it because I'm in charge. So, the better you check it, the quicker I can recheck [laughs]. So that's what I learned, working together like that, and trying to find the importance in what you're doing, no matter what it was. The first time I seen the Northern Lights was 03:35:00interesting. It was during a code change, so a lot of vehicles going to different sites, and you're in a smaller truck, which is nice. You don't have big equipment with you, you just have your code-boxes and you checkers, and just equipment you need to go down. Teams are sent ahead of time to open the site up and have it ready for you, and you just arrive, authenticate, go down, and do your job, and then you leave. And then they close it up and everything. So, that's why you can go to multiple sites and why you need all these teams that are all qualified on opening the hatch, opening the access hatch for you. So, it's pretty cool. But when I saw 'em, I was like, "Holy shit, did one of the missiles go off?" [Laughs] I had no idea what the Northern Lights were! [Halaska laughs] All of a sudden I look up and there's green neon in the--that's all, it was just green! Like neon! I'm like, "Holy shit," going down this dark road. And I thought like something was launched, or what happened? Never was I 03:36:00shown a picture that when a missile launches, that the sky will be green. However, it was something I had never seen before, and they're laughing because--well, I would do it to people later too, but I, they know all the new people who haven't seen it would be just fascinated, and probably come up with some--I wasn't the first person to come up with a story like that, but it had been a while since they heard it, "did a missile launch." [Laughs] Oh, I'm sorry. That's what I felt like when I there, I was like, "Holy shit!" It was--but then when I realized what it was, I thought how neat it was.
STUART: I've never seen multicolored lights, but I've seen the neon green ones.It was always still amazing when I saw them, but nothing like that first time.
STUART: An exciting time was then we had a potential leak. And, not often did weget to wear our breathing apparatus gear of our suits with our air 03:37:00tanks and our protective equipment. Kinda look like astronauts [clears throat]. So, you get certified on it, but it's rare you actually put it on in your enlistment time. And I was on my second enlistment, and I got to put one on, so I thought it was cool. But then again, I realized, we were the two being sent inside the site to confirm if it was a nuclear leak or not [both laugh]. So...
HALASKA: Can you walk me through that? Like, tell me the story as it washappening when you first heard, when you had to put everything on, all the way through.
STUART: So, we get alerted, you're on call, you have teams on call on base aswell. So, tasks are scheduled, but if something rare comes up, you'll, you're sent out. So you're like "Okay," nothing happens and you just get a free night off. Well, we get called to come in. I'm like okay, it's just like any other day. "Hey, what's our task?" I go, "We're picking up MSA gear?" And 03:38:00he's like, "Yeah, you need your breathing apparatus."
HALASKA: What's MSA?
STUART: It's, I forgot what it stands for. It's the company. It's notnecessarily what it is, but it's a breathing apparatus, that attaches to the protective gear suit that you're wearing. And I'm like, because you see your equipment list, and you're like, and then it said site inspection for leak. But then when you realize what equipment you have supporting that, and then I could see what technical orders I would have to pick up, I knew. I--this was a test that you learn--you don't actually ever do. You learn about it and know that it's there, but you don't. But nobody was available to--higher than our office to go out with us, and normally that's what they do. They always wanted either a supervisor, or team training branch or quality assurance to go out with you. 'Cause it's just a rare thing, and it's added security or management oversight. So just two of us went, me and the guy I was on call with. So, we get 03:39:00our stuff, we're driving out there like, "Yeah, that's pretty cool, I never put this on." I mean, so you're reading and training yourself. I was--he was driving, so I was reading, so he could at least hear it. About how they check the air gauges, what the temperature codes mean, what the color codes means, when do we adjust it, how do we put it on, because you don't ever get to wear these. You're trained on it, and then you just never use it. You don't get retrained every year. You just get trained once, and then, so here we're doing it. We're pretty confident, you know, we're putting it on. [Laughs] But when we're driving up, we authenticate, get on the site, and all of a sudden, we have to inform our security. We're like, "You need to park in the furthest corner of the site. You both have to be outside the vehicle." We're not allowed to tell them until we get there, because normally they just sit, right, you 03:40:00know, and that's where they can see the security pit or whatever. But we had to have them safe and upwind, in case when we opened it, it was something. If we didn't--because our job is to open it up. We do some testing, aerial testing. And then, we tell them, "We'll go like this. We'll just raise our hand up like this if it's okay, then we're going to go down. We will send someone up again to tell you it's okay. If you see somebody come up like this--"
HALASKA: With both hands up.
STUART: "Get in--get in the truck and leave." And it's also the first time youtell them to get in the driver's seat, because normally they sit in the back. And they're just like, "What's going on?" We're like, "We're just here to test, there's something, vapor, some alarms going off." So, when we--the plug does go down, and we're doing our final--it's like a really long process; it's more like waiting. And you got your stuff on, but you don't completely put your mask on, and turn the gear in and do your gauges until you're actually okay to 03:41:00go in. And that just means if you go in and it's bad, you can breathe enough to get up and get out. [Laughs] It's really kind of done. But they have someone who's qualified with job control talking to us. But, he's not qualified to go out into the missile site. So, the only qualified person was on base [laughs]. While we were out there we were trained, but hadn't done it. So, we're like, "Okay, shit, we're going in," you know? "The paper says it's good, we can go in. Okay." So, we're putting everything on, and then it just feels really quiet, and all you hear is the breathing, you know, inside. I don't know if you've ever--like a gas mask almost, but it's just noisier, because your ears and everything are covered, and you just hear [breathing sounds]. You just hear, and it's quiet. And if you bump into something, you're like ding, everything's vibrating inside this suit with the tank and everything on it, and 03:42:00we're like, and we're like, we're overcautious because we don't do this regularly. So, we're checking our gauges, and we had to hit some button here for the--we don't know what's going on. But then we had to carry our stuff, so like, all right. We can't put backpacks on, because have tanks on our back, so it was really weird lowering. So, we get down in there. Well, first we were like, "Who should go first. [Laughs] Traditionally, you would go first, but I don't mind going first." Like, it was so funny, because he's like, "Yeah, you can go first," not really realizing, I mean if I would have died, he would have been right after me, and he would have died too, because I wouldn't have been able to tell him it was okay. So, it made no sense who went first. But when we get down in there, we have to, you know, know each other's there. You have to verbally--that's always whenever you're in a missile silo.
HALASKA: Mmhmm. And how far down did you have to go, like what was--
STUART: So, the B-plug was all the way to--so it goes sixty feet down.
STUART: And then you enter the site. And that's the access hatch we03:43:00always go in, and always go through.
HALASKA: So, you had to climb sixty feet down a ladder in the suit?
STUART: Yup, so that's--so you'd hit the wall a little bit, like you know, hearthe ding. Well, that would be very loud and resonate inside your whole thing. And you're like--as you go, [breathing sounds], you know. And then you're starting to breathe more but you have this card, and it says, "Relax, control your breathing." 'Cause it's reminding you to conserve your air.
STUART: Because you don't know how long you'll be down there, apparently.Thankfully, we ended up having enough air; obviously I wouldn't be here [Halaska chuckles]. So, we get down there, and I'm down there, so you just hit against the tube, because he can see you, but he's more likely to hear. So, then he's like coming down, and you're just like, I could, [laughs] like breathing. But I had to wait for him, because we both had parts of the kit to test the air. It's kind of, so we're going around, we're doing it. We check in, and we have the special connector, that we normally have a headset on, but we don't, 03:44:00we have--it's already in the helmet, so you have to connect it, it's not like you're connected like the Matrix. [Laughs] So you're connected, so you can talk to the guy who's on base, and he's telling you things, so I'm like, "The cord's not long enough, I had to disconnect, then check in." And he said, "How long?" I said, "You know, give me three minutes," so I'd have to determine how long I would be off, like if it was longer, then that means something went wrong, because what they want to do is get somebody else, not the security police, you're going to tell them to leave. "Go upwind at a certain, like half--" or whatever distance they tell them; we didn't know, that's not part of what we do, to watch it, for someone else to come in and close it up. [Laughs] So just leave us there until they can figure this out. So we're testing, and we're just like nervous. And all of a sudden, you've got these big gloves on, and we're both like this [laughs].
STUART: We start to realize, we don't--what do they do for a missile leak? Wehave no directions what to do once we confirm other than to control 03:45:00job control and verify whatever leak and whatever numbers on the, comes with that [laughs]. But otherwise, it was like, it's--and then it says, wait for further instruction; that's where it ends [laughs]. So basically, they're going to tell you, "If you can close up that site, close it up." And what they would have us do is switch it to go up as fast as we could, either is there something down there we need to do? And it never dawned on me 'til that moment that we could be left down there, that we would have to close ourselves in there [laughs]. So we could be doing stuff but being--having lots of it go up into the atmosphere. And I was like, "Oh my god." And, but this took a process. The reason we got called is because, I recall, this occurred the day before. And they didn't know who to send out, because they didn't--they thought it would clear up. They thought it was some failsafe going on. We were the 03:46:00ones to go and drive to set the cord on with the sheriff's department, so I got to ride with the sheriff. And they sent cars out, because some people wouldn't leave. We had to clear a cordon area, a radius. No, it was the same day, because we had to do that before we could go on the site.
STUART: So, we had the local area cleared--I don't remember what the permitterwas. But it was like a couple-mile radius, or the radius is going to haunt me, now that I think about it. So, you draw it out in a map, and then you call the local sheriff's department, you coordinate it. So, they send out whoever they got available, plus you're deputized to go up to, and tell people to evacuate. Some people don't believe your ass. [Laughs] Like "Hm," like, "Well we have a potential problem at our missile site." You tell them, because they know which one you're going to say, because it's in their area, and everybody who lives there knows, and you need to evacuate your home. They're like, "No, I'm fine." And like, "No, you're going to be ordered by this." "Well, the 03:47:00sheriff can come here and tell me, Bob can tell me." [Laughs] They needed cell phones back then, because Bob had to drive over from John's house, farm, to call him and say, "All right, we'll go. Do we all need to go?" "Well yeah, why would I tell you get in the truck and leave your family here?" [Halaska laughs] So, until that's verified and confirm that you have informed and you believe everybody is gone, or they've informed to leave, and if they ultimately don't choose, we don't have time to wait. So, then we did all of our equipment and entered the site, but I forgot we did that first, and--
HALASKA: So, you're down, down there now and... okay.
STUART: Yup, now we're down there waiting for the [laughs] test to tell us, yesor no,
STUART: So, we don't know, so we're waiting for the stuff, and we're just like,and we have to do the test three times. So that's test one [Laughs] When we start realizing like, if this turns this color, we're done, because we don't have the--it doesn't matter how much gear we have on, it would have 03:48:00gotten, yeah. So that's what we--it would suck, we would have to keep ourselves down here and push buttons and probably shoot shit, and they'd just leave us to die.
HALASKA: Were you guys having that conversation with each other, or?
STUART: We were just saying things like, "Holy shit." And then he's like,"Motherfucker come on, don't turn blue! Don't turn blue!" [Laughs] We knew; we didn't want to talk--because we were plugged in to job control, so we were trying not to--you know, but when we disconnect, we were like--that's like, "Fuck," and you'd yell, because we couldn't talk to each other, because we were not allowed to hook up to the comms inside, only to job control.
STUART: So, the only electronic communication we could do was with them. So, wewere yelling at like--
HALASKA: Shouting through your suits?
STUART: --yeah, shouting, and you'd hear, "[mumbles] Fuck." [Laughs] It wasjust, like, weird. But we were like excited but scared at the same time. It was really weird. So thankfully, all--but we were nervous up until that 03:49:00third test, because like--
STUART: But the first one made, like was really scary, like "Oh shit," like,"How can we live through this three times?" [Laughs] And then we, "Permission to disconnect for two minutes." [Laughs] "Fuck, fuck!" [Laughs] We'd be yelling. It was cool to see that, I never again got to wear one.
HALASKA: Okay, so then it was finally clear. And then you got to--
STUART: It was clear, it was clear. But we had to wait for Air Combat Command atthe time, that's who we were under, they had to clear it.
STUART: So, we had to go to 20th Air Force, all this exciting stuff, because youhad a sortie off alert, because that had to be--that was an important site, I'm--would have been my guess, because we were sent out immediately. We were sent as the only team, because we were in the cordon we were creating, I learned this later. We were creating a cordon for us to walk into [laughs]. We didn't know this at the time, we just were like doing a cordon, and then, like you're local, you're going in, your MSA gear is coming. I'm like, "Mmm, 03:50:00okay," I was reading a manual, but I just didn't know if we were actually going to do it. And so it was just like in pieces, like they were hoping it wasn't sure. But there's also an expense all to that, and we were at a site that was like a little over an hour drive, so to send equipment, and who does--you're deploying all them resources, you have to make sure that, what if this is, you know, the enemy pulling some shit on you because they're really going after some other warhead?
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: I'm not thinking all this, but I realized that later, but they'relooking at a big picture, like are we being attacked? Is this true; is this false? Is it equipment failure? What's going on? We were not told what it eventually turned out to be. But the site was down for quite a while. I'm going to guess it was something inside the tube, because outside the tube was okay. We did have to take readings outside the tube. There was a little hatch 03:51:00you undo, and then we had to like--[laughs]
HALASKA: What do you mean, inside the tube?
STUART: There's, when we go in, we work on a system that launches the missile.
STUART: And so you have the missile itself that's in a steel tube, and thenaround that, you have the bigger part of the rest of the steel tube with all the equipment and stuff. And that's the equipment we worked on.
HALASKA: Okay, got it.
STUART: And underneath, there was more equipment we worked on, but then insidethat tube, only pneudraulics could go in if they were working on, underneath on anything. So, they had to access that. We didn't go in there, because we didn't work on that equipment.
STUART: When they worked on the missile itself, they opened the bay doors, theycalled them, and then they put in their little cart and went around the tube, and worked on the missile.
STUART: That way when it launched, all the burning, or stuff from the otherequipment around it doesn't fly and hit the missile. It stays in that other tube. And, because when it burns, it's all going to burn. HALASKA: Yeah. 03:52:00
STUART: Because it's going to get through and go up through the cord orwhatever. But it's less deflection that, maybe a door blows off for that panel and hits the missile. Instead it's gonna hit the tube. So it's not, like, is it more of a safe thing? So after the one-hundred-ten-ton door blows off, the blast door, it's why they call it that, and the missile goes out, then the rest is just kind of melted.
STUART: Because you have all that fuel. But yeah, it was really scary. It wasscary the time I injured myself as well, that I didn't really know I hurt myself. It eventually ended being, my spinal injury I have. Right before I was getting out, I told you I was already getting out of the service [laughs]. I find myself testing a piece of equipment. Okay? And all of a sudden, we see smoke. We're in a launch control center, down where they launch the 03:53:00missiles. You think it sucks having to take a missile off alert, trying taking a launch control center off alert. Because they have to switch and give one of the control centers twenty missiles to oversee. And that's a lot to switch codes and all, that's done all through 20th Air Force, way up top. Well, I see smoke! So immediately I go to shut down procedures. You know, I'm trying to call, but it's not required, my job is to shut down. It's to yell at the officers and tell them they need to evacuate, because smoke means fire. That's what you're to assume. Well, there's a fire, or it's smoke, we don't know where that smoke is coming from, what's going on; something's burning. So, we're evacuating. And we're doing equipment, so we have one of them big jackboxes, and all these fat cables are clipped into that, into the racks. Well, I have to jump over that in order to get to the next panel, 'cause they were over here shutting stuff off, shutting it. We're shutting the launch control center down 03:54:00completely, and we're telling the officers, because they got shit they gotta do for their shutdown procedures, and verifying they got their keys and all their stuff. Well, when I jumped over it to go over there, I did it. Looked like a good hurdle [Halaska laughs]. But it did it so quickly, the injury I caused, I caused it to degenerate and crack in my lower spine. But I'm still operating, I'm still goin', [laughs] doing everything. We're in the launch control center, so there's like two capsules, like two Tylenol long-lasting capsules [Halaska laughs]. And then there's an elevator shaft in the middle, and then there's stairs. And you know what you can't take during a fire, right? You don't get to take that, usually. You have to go all the way up the ladder. So, we're in this part of the capsule, where the launching is, and a lot of equipment. There's just support equipment, everything over here. We're not in there often. So we're in this tube, which is on a suspended floor, 'cause there's like twelve batteries over there. So we're trying to [inaudible] it out, 03:55:00evacuate, yelling back and forth. We're supposed to meet, and go over the ramp and meet by the elevator shaft, in front of the ladder. All a sudden, one of the officers goes to run back in! The other guy's over there, like ready to go up the ladder. My guy's over there, they're like, ready to leave. I'm yelling, "Hey--" I had to yell [inaudible] to officer control, he's not allowed to go back in there without the other guy. I'm not allowed to go in there because I'm not qualified either, but it was either let him go in by himself [chuckles] and have a loss of two officer and two person control, or not. So, I went in, and he's yelling, "I had to get this and that," I'm yelling, "Okay, I'm right here, I'm right here," we're out, we're going. I wasn't going up the ladder... I can't move anymore. And like, they're-- I go, "Something's wrong with my 03:56:00back." He was like, "We can't take the elevator." And "I'll be all right, maybe I got to--just give me a second; I'll be fine." I just felt sore, but I was not getting the signals to my feet. And all of a sudden, I'm like, "Um, I'm just holding myself up with my arms, and I'm going to tell you guys how this is gonna work," because I had had my shoulder surgeries and stuff already, because I'm a team chief now, so I'm back in the field. So, I had my surgeries. Didn't mean I was one hundred, but my arms weren't--weren't great, and they weren't going to be holding me up on that ladder for long. So he, my team member came behind me, and he would--like, "Kim, hang here," and he would, he's like, "I'm going to help touch you," I'm like, "You do whatever you need to do get me up there," [laughs]. This thing, because now I'm worried, like what if there's this big fire down there? The only way up is, the fire's going to go up through the access hatch, where we're climbing up this--I forget, I think it's sixty feet there. I think, [inaudible] the site is thirty, now it's like sixty. I don't know, because you didn't climb up and down the ladder, you took the 03:57:00elevator. So, this is the first time I'm going up this ladder to get up to the main area of the launch control facility that sits above this [chuckles]. So, he helps, and then they switch off, because then the other officer did too, because they were getting tired, it was a lot of work. So, I get up there, and I just kind of sit, I'm like, "Phew," And he's like, "Hey, can you put her on that wheelie chair? You need to wheel her in here, because Air Combat Command is on the phone, she's got like some phone calls." [Halaska chuckles] Well, I reported the two-officer violation, and that guy didn't--he was supposed to report himself.
STUART: And I waited; I waited until I talked to job control. And I was like,"I'm being yelled at, because I have Air Combat Command, and I have 20th Air Force." And I go, "I'm going up the chain of command, I'm talking to people." He goes, "You're doing it correctly." He goes, "You let them generals wait." I go, "I had to report a code violation." He goes, "Tell me first." [Stuart laughs] So he was thankful I didn't take the call that they told me to take first. 03:58:00
HALASKA: Mmm, mmhmm.
STUART: I said, "No, lemme talk to job control first, and see if this is what'sgoing on." I don't know what's going on. I could have talked to anybody, but the violation would have came up somewhere.
STUART: So, when I reported it, it got--a lot of people started coming out tolaunch control facility. I'm still sittin' on the chair. We finally after all--it was weird, just sayin', "You're talking to General so-and-so, the 20th Air Force." [Laughs] Because I took ten missiles off alert when I shut that site down. Of course, I had to. But I couldn't call them ahead of time. You know, I said, "I'm sorry. [Laughs] I can't order this." It happened so fast. But nobody knew what happened, and what caused it either. What's going on, we didn't know what's going on, we don't know, smoke, fire, what's, is it, are we call going to blow up? So, we had to have teams come and like check and go back down there, new officers, new, they had six, they had teams from three different 03:59:00areas have to go down there. Quality assurance, everybody, something rare happened. But Kim took [laughs] ten missiles off alert, which means our sortie alert rate is, like, down. So, like, holy shit! So, they're tryna figure out which capsule can take over control. That depends where their missiles are pointed, what's going on. So, 20th Air Force has to figure that all out, tell Air Combat Command, who tells them. I don't think we switched to Space Command yet. So, it was like a lot, and I'm just like, this phone, I'm just like, and I'm in this chair. It was so cold, 'cause the facility managers that were in there, and those officers here, they had to like push me over, because I couldn't stand up yet. I didn't know what was going on. So finally, I'm like getting up, I'm like, I needed to stand for a little bit, go in the other room, and I was standing up, you know. And I was like, you know, and I was like, you know, I'm feeling all right; my back just feels weird. I think maybe 04:00:00I, you know, I just sprained something. We get cleared to find--we were there for hours; it was just crazy. It wasn't over when I got back. I was told to report directly, to drive directly through the gate into the hospital, which is right by the gate. Because they had to figure out what the hell happened to me. Then four people from my shop came--three, one was from job control. They're like the police coming to investigate, so people are trying to figure out what happened, what's going on. They have to seize your truck, they have to check all your equipment. [Laughs] They have to go through all your test results, what was happening. Quality assurance is out, they're out then, like already that night, the second group that went out, then they call you and bring you in. It's like, almost like the FBI again [laughs]. Like, "Kim you need to go into this room." Okay, so they asked you, they just asked me a question. "If you're at this step, and you get this result, what would you do?" I said, "I shouldn't get 04:01:00that result." I said, "It's negative." I said, "My leads are reversed." He goes, "You obviously knew what was going on, and he would have known what to do," and I said, "I don't know what you're talking about." I have no idea why he was asking me. I thought it was a quiz or something, they were just buying time. Well, what was happening is when they were taking readings off the battery charger, the meter was saying positive, then it would say negative. Positive, then negative. Well, when I call out to my team member, "What's the reading?" And he tells me, you know, one--14.2, he's telling me the voltage, and I'm verifying that it's correct voltage after we, we've removed this battery charger and we're putting in a new--we disconnected it to do what we had to do. Now we had to reconnect it. When you reconnect it, you're verifying that it's connected correctly. My meter tells me it's connected correctly. If it would have had a negative sign, it would have told me my leads were reversed, and to 04:02:00either check that my team member hooked them up correctly, or if something was wrong with my meter. Well, the smoke and everything, and there ended up not being a fire, that's what they realized what was happening, is the leads ended up being reversed. But I would have had no way of knowing, because my meter was faulty. You know what my team member says to me, like, a couple days later? He goes, "Kim, you know, I had a hard time putting the cables on, and I switched 'em." [Laughs] We realized what happened afterwards, and I realized he was switching them, and I said, "If you switched the cables, they would have seen it." And he goes, "No, 'cause if they had a faulty meter, they wouldn't have seen either one of them, because they already disconnected it." And I was like, "...Well let's wait, because we can't really say, is that where it 04:03:00happened, because I don't--they have to tell me now, because he's saying "I had a hard time and I switched them" maybe he had them wrong to begin with. I don't know. But it was the meter; he did have them switched in the end, but I just couldn't tell because the meter didn't tell me. So, I was just like, "Fuck." So, I was cleared, but I couldn't deploy--I couldn't do it, I couldn't go out and work in the missile field. My clearance was, you know, stopped at that point, because I could have been a terrorist! [Laughs] But it was just so weird talking to everybody. And I'm thinking I'm fine. He's like, "Oh, just take, you know a couple days off, cause, you know, your back's still sore." I'm headed--I only had like a week or so left, because I would hit my thirty days before I was leaving.
STUART: So, this was like right before I was getting out. So, I experienced oneof the worst injuries I got on my way out. I was like, really? Which actually wasn't diagnosed until I got to the Zablocki VA Medical Center. They 04:04:00didn't really know what was wrong with it, 'til I got here and I was at the VA for a while. But yeah, that was my, you know, going away present, I guess.
STUART: And then when I was getting out, I was going through the gate, andsecurity places your final sign, and then you're gone. "Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. We have to hold you here." You know, I'm ma'am by then, I'm like,"..." They go, "Oh, you need to report to the hospital." I'm like--he goes, "We're just, we don't know what's going on. We're just telling you this is where you need to report, who you need to go to." So, I finally figured, I'm like, really, I'm like leaving. I've got like a flight, my shit's packed and gone already. Well, I had to take a blood test, because that panel that smoked and was reversed, all battery chargers on the missile site, at the missile launch control centers have polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs. And that apparently, there was 04:05:00something that possibly could cause, like, cancer, or something down the road. They didn't know. So, they needed to verify like, what would have been my contact at that point, and how much did I suck in and breathe, and that would have, that was a baseline blood test. I wasn't informed though like, should I follow up on this later? Or what's going on. But they withheld me until they got their results, and then sent me back. And it was like, like four hours. I was like, "What is going on?" And you waited until, like the day I was leaving? And it was really interesting. It was a nice hospital, it was just built after I got there. But I was just like "What? I'm just trying to leave, I'm just trying to get off this base." I was like, "What's going on?" But it was odd that it was related, you know, to that incident.
STUART: And how--and I was actually, I was, I got some kinda certificate afterthat for, they said, "You handled everything so good," and I said, 04:06:00"If some guys weren't wheeling me around, I wouldn't have got to all them phones." It wasn't like, you know, cordless days, [Halaska laughs] and you know, I said--it was when we were driving home when I felt in my belly like something was wrong. Something's wrong. But then sent me to the hospital, and then send people to like, get interrogated. I was like, "What's going on?" And I started to get nervous, because I was like, and I'm like, "What did I do wrong"? Because I'm going through, because I could have very well done something wrong. I mean, I don't claim to be perfect. But I could like probably recite the steps to you at that time, so I was like, I just can't see, because if you made a mistake, you just--you know, I made a mistake; I think I did this. You just tell them, because they're there to figure it out. I mean you're able to make mistakes, but I was on the phone with 20th Air Force, and apparently the first one that shut down, ten missiles at a time without telling anyone. I did--I reacted correctly. I did everything correctly. That's what I was commended for. I did 04:07:00everything correctly, and I thank you for not talking to 20th Air Force first, even though that's what they told you to do, and thanks for telling the general, "No." I'm like, "Well no," and I was brought into the commander's office after that too, as they were investigating the loss of two-officer co-control. And he asked me what happened, and I told him. He goes, "You know this guy's trying to throw you under the bus, right?" I said, "I know." And he goes, "I told him to go to hell, and I just pulled his clearance." He goes, "The other guy, everybody said the same thing. He ran back in 'cause he forgot something. And all he had to do was tell me, 'I forgot something, I went back in, but she was there, and she was, you know, talking to me.'" That would have saved his career. But he didn't, he said, I went back in. And that he followed me.
HALASKA: Ohh, okay.
STUART: And the other officer said "No." My team member said "no." The other guydidn't even flinch, when and he goes, "No, he went back in." Cause the easiest question was, what would I go back in for? Oh, I'm sorry--What would 04:08:00I go back in for?
STUART: There's nothing for me to--I just got to switch this and do--I don'teven take anything with me. I just shut it all down and let the shit burn. My job is to try to shut down as much as I can so nothing is tripped, and nothing happens. It's to isolate it. I don't bring anything with me. I just leave it and let it burn. But he had codes to get. I didn't. We don't carry codes to the launch control center, only them. So, I was like, but he goes, "That was the best thing," because they would have had a bigger investigation if I didn't go in after him.
STUART: And I couldn't see him, but that's why I was talking to him, because itwas all full of smoke by then, sucking in all these PCBs. [Laughter] So I don't know what's going on now, but that was a thing. And he goes, "But," he goes, "I wish you didn't report it." He goes, "You know we all kind of felt that, but when he tried to do that, that's when I realized you did the right thing." And they had never had it happen before, so they had to write new 04:09:00procedures for that, so they should thank me, maybe? That's how I see it? But it happened all so fast for me. It just was like, "What, what's going on?" But if they didn't help me up the ladder, two people that literally had my ass, had my back [laughs],when it came to the codes. And now that I think about it, I never thought of it that way. But, I mean, I could have just like hung out there. I just would have been like breathing a lot of smoke. I could have like, grabbed a respirator that was down. I'm sure I could have been okay. I probably could have gone in the elevator and got away with it. But, it was like, I could stop, but I just couldn't feel it. I just didn't know. The signals weren't there, which makes sense with the nerve damage I have now, but yeah. I was like, "I just want to go. I just want to get off this base."
HALASKA: Yeah. Um, so you made the decision to leave the Air Force. Would youlike to tell me, or tell us why? 04:10:00
STUART: That's probably easier to tell you why[chuckles]. Actually went in, Iwas going to go and I was going to be an--I was a lifer; that was it. I was going into the service. When I reenlisted, or when I knew that I would be reenlisting, and that's when... Me wanting to stay was kind of part of why my engagement at first was getting a little stressed to. I said, "Well you know I came in." He goes, "Well I thought you'd change your mind." "No, but then the [inaudible] sealed the deal for me. So, as I'm coming out, and I'm having these issues, I'm back in the field, so either less attention's on me and nobody that I work with cared. They probably thought it's something new, even, but nobody cared. I did my job, I did it well. And they didn't want me to go anywhere, so why would they tell anybody? But again, the atmosphere on base wasn't like that. This is 1994 [chuckles]. The year before that, you know, Don't Ask 04:11:00Don't Tell is about, everybody's talking about it. It was worse, in my opinion, for lesbians. Because as a woman, it's--you're in a position sometimes, anyways, for a sexual assault opportunity. But for me, I don't believe that it was just a sexual assault; I believe it was also a hate crime, but there's no penalty for that. And no marker for people who do that to people in the service. But, the atmosphere was very tense. And if someone thought you were a lesbian, you had men coming up to you saying, "You know, if you don't sleep with me, I'm gonna tell people. I'm going to let people know." Or, "I'm going to report and say I saw you." So, it started getting really nasty. Not the people I worked with.
STUART: The whole missile lane was going [???] with me. Some hated me04:12:00because I was good at what I did, that was different. You might have hated me because I beat your squadron at a softball game, that's fine. But I had, and I had already had the "Hey I'm your boss, sleep with me, and I won't tell," that already happened.
HALASKA: That happened while you were in?
STUART: Yes it did. It happened when I worked in the office. it was my secondsupervisor. And so, now I'm at the point where I'm going to a party with someone. I actually didn't want to go. And then my friend said, "No, we really want to go, we should go, everybody's going." I'm like, alright. I like them too, they're cool people. They're the people's house I went to when I had my first surgery and realized people were stealing my pain pills. And they told me to put them inside of my sling. I was like. "Why are they doing that?" Someone says, "You can get money on the street." And I go, "I'm not from the streets." She's like, "Put them in," I go, "I literally just had surgery, and 04:13:00people are--why would they want to starve us--" not realizing what I know now, of course.
STUART: There were people like that. So, this was actually on base, in basehousing. And friends are a married couple, they'd known for years. They're having a party. Didn't realize what an open marriage they had [chuckles]. Explains their party. But we were just going there to hang out and have fun, and a friend of mine wanted to go. I said, "Well let's go together," because she didn't want to go alone. If you were on base, and people thought you were a lesbian, if you were walking with another person who was not a lesbian but was a female, they would just assume she's a lesbian. Or that your lesbian germs are gonna make her gay, you know how it is, gay germs right, cooties, gay cooties. [Both laugh] Coochies, whatever, whatever we got [both laugh]. Anyways, they didn't know actually she was bisexual. I knew that, because she was my friend. And she was dating a guy at the time, great guy. And, we're there and 04:14:00we're having fun. I had like a couple drinks, but nothing--I never really drank a lot at parties like that 'cause I just wanted to get home, I lived off base. [Laughs] No, I lived on base at that time, I was in the upper dorms. She lived off base. So, we were waiting because her boyfriend was going to come later and meet us there, so we felt confident about that, and I knew the married couple whose house it was. I didn't know a lot of the people that were going in and out. But we heard some people talking about it. Of course, Don't Ask Don't Tell comes up. Like, everywhere it was coming up. [Laughs] I'm just like, "Wow, this is just crazy." And I'm thinking, 'That's fine, I don't care it's coming, they just can't ask. I'm not going to--it's not going to affect my career." You know, I thought maybe it would protect me more. That was in my mind, what I thought. And then, as we're there, I don't know how they found out, I don't know the precursor. I never asked, they never want to know. It happens where 04:15:00we're in one of, they have like four, they have a big house because they had a lot of kids. The kids weren't there. And we're just talking to some people, and we're in this room. People are leaving, but we're not thinking anything of it, and just hanging out. Until we hear the door close, and I'm in there with my friend. This is not only the worst thing that probably ever happened to me... It's kind of weird I actually--it didn't just happen to me. It happened to someone else. But it happened to me because, they didn't know for sure, but they just were a hundred percent certain I was a lesbian. I can't say they're wrong. I didn't confirm or deny what they were saying. It didn't matter to me. We were just waiting for her boyfriend to come, because we were like, "Oh this is getting creepy in here." Didn't feel completely insecure yet because there's two girls in there too, besides us.
STUART: They're girlfriends or whatever, we're not thinking. We're justthinking, "They close the door, are they going to be a bunch of dicks or some--?" We had no idea what was going to happen. It was certainly, 04:16:00never would have ever thought that that was going to happen there, at a friend's house. People, we didn't know anybody in the room at that time.
STUART: Real old school, where one of the people was by the door. As well. Oh,on the other side, so we didn't see someone standing in front of the door creating some barrier, you just close the doors. We had no idea. We knew after. Because, he told them that they were done before he left. So, that's how we knew somebody else was [inaudible]. But what was worse, is the women stayed in there. Not only did they stay in there during, they laughed about it, and encouraged him. That was probably one of the worst things. It was bad, but then again it was comforting at the end, but to be looking at your friend while that's happening--that's how I felt, so I'm assuming she probably felt the same way.
STUART: I broke my wrist. But, to me, where I went--my mind saved me,04:17:00if my mind didn't go where it went. Because she said, "You were looking at me, but you were someone else." I said, "Maybe prolonged sexual abuse when you're younger helped, because that place I found to go to help," and I do say cornfield. Because I always said my cornfield, literally, that's where I would imagine myself, because when I was younger, I would look at the window at the cornfield, and wish that I was out there running through the corn, than where I was at. So oddly, the power of the brain. So when my wrist snapped, I felt it just--ear just hitting me on the shoulder as I'm running. I'm completely disconnected to--I can hear, I could feel pressure, but I'm gone. It's almost like I felt like when I was going up that ladder and I couldn't feel my legs from the waist down. That's how I felt. And, I didn't want to look, but they made sure we were looking. They made sure we were facing each other as well, so that was worse. And it got to a point where we thought, "This shit is 04:18:00not happening; it's not happening," We had no idea what was going on. I--it was hard for me, more so, not to watch what was happening to her, not what was happening to me. And later, we would talk about it for years, until two years ago. She took her life two years ago. I felt odd because she was the only person I could call and not say anything, and she knew what was going on. And when she died, I didn't have that anymore. But who else had those years, where something happened and you could call somebody, and somebody really understood? It was kind of relief and sadness at the same time. Like, she's not in pain anymore, but who do I--who calls me in the middle of the night anymore, and just says nothing, from Ohio? Nobody. But it's happening, and it's just... it 04:19:00happens. And they leave. Everybody's leaving. And of course, when we get dressed, and we're just like, we're sitting on the floor and just kind of went--And we didn't say one word. We were just like, "Did that really just happen? What happened?" I knew why they did it to me, and I felt bad that they did it to her because, they didn't know. They didn't think she was gay, they didn't know she was bisexual. They did it to her because she was my friend and she was with me. So to me, that felt worse to me. Would they have felt it was okay if she was bisexual? Then they would treated her just like a lesbian. But that's not what happened. And her boyfriend never came to pick us up. So, we're like, waited, and... we just leave, I--we just leave, and we walk. I 04:20:00forget where we walked. We walked down past--we passed through the hospital, because [inaudible] was on the end of the base, so we had to walk into the base. I think we went into one of the dorms or something and she called a friend. Realized he was called in to work, didn't know he was on call. So bad for him, he--nobody knows anything right now, it's just us. Very few words, we don't--we're not going to talk about it, we don't know what to do. I just said, "I'll call you tomorrow." Like, I went back to the dorm and we waited for her friend to come. So she walked back with me, and... We felt like--if I think about it, we look probably like zombies. [Laughs] We're just like walking, arm-in-arm, just like down--this is a long road from the entrance to the base back into the regular part of the base, and back by the dorms. Minot 04:21:00Air Force base isn't that huge, but it felt like a very long walk, um. And we're just, not talking. We go home. Now, I know my wrist is broken [chuckles]. And I just put a sling on I have at home and I go to work the next day and said I hurt my arm. I went to work, I not only said--he goes, "Are you going to go to the hosp--" I go, "Yeah," I just said I went, and then I went back to work. I didn't know what to do. I did call her. Like, I'm like, "You know, do you want to talk, or do you want me come?" She's like, she goes, "Don't take this the wrong way, I don't want to see you right now either." I thought she was mad at me. [Laughs]
STUART: Later, well a couple days later, she goes, "I wasn't mad at you, I justcouldn't talk to anybody." And all I kept, "He's been talking to me, asking me how the party went and everything, and he knows something's wrong, and I don't know what to say." I didn't have that, I didn't have somebody 04:22:00talking to me. I just go in the dorm and, you know, just go back to my room and whatever. Wasn't sleeping. A lot of stuff was starting to go wrong, and I knew that. It could have contributed to why I started getting really hypervigilant, when I did, I was really like, trying to get into what I did. So I did not have to be in my own head. It was getting difficult. And we were like, "Should we say something?" Well time kept passing. And I'm like, well if we say it, you know, they have families. That, we're blaming ourselves! Because they have kids, they have families. We later did, I told one of them's wife, and one of them actually--he ended up, one actually felt--must have felt bad, or something happen. One didn't feel bad at all, even after I told his wife. It was before I was leaving. And she said--she didn't even say "I don't believe you," didn't say anything. She just said, she goes, "I believe that's what happened." 04:23:00She had no doubt. And, so I don't know what happened, I don't care. I do know the other guy had some really--mental health issues. I don't know what's going on with him. I don't care, that's whatever. But I didn't want to tell; I didn't want to hurt her by saying it and telling her. It was more, I knew he had kids. And he had a girl and a boy, and I was worried--I don't know what he's doing to you, or you have a daughter. I don't--not every rapist is a pedophile. I don't believe that either. But I can tell you, for what happened to me, I had no limits of what this person would do. And he was a son of a bitch, still--I did talk to her a lot more after that, but he was nasty. I didn't know him. I didn't know him, I didn't work with him. Oh, I'm sorry. He worked on the other side of the base, I had no idea who he was.
HALASKA: Okay, so he was in the Air Force too.
STUART: Yes. They're all, everybody, except for one of the girls. One04:24:00of the girls was Air Force. The other two were, and the other one was a civilian girlfriend.
STUART: The guy outside the door, actually I think he's the one that had theproblems. It wasn't the guy, either of the guys in the room. It was that guy. I think he knew what happened? But I don't think he realized... how bad? He didn't hear anything, because not--neither one of us yelled? You heard a lot of ouches, and you heard a lot of stuff, but nobody would have heard us with a hand over your face, anyways. But, still. I was more angry, because I had had my second procedure in my other shoulder. And... I was limited in how I could use it. And I lost motion in this arm when I had my surgery. So, I can't reach back, and tell you to do that. So I knew I was limited in moving. So, holding this arm down, I was like, "That's fine, that arm don't do anything." [Chuckles] So this was, I'm right-handed, so this was the arm I went to grab for, and 04:25:00that's when he turned it. And I just was like--it got really big, and nasty. And I knew a lot of people on base, so one of the guys--I'm like, 's like, "You broke it," because we went base, because I said, "I can't go, because they're going to ask me what happened," and she's like, "Well tell them you fell at work, or on a sidewalk." And I'm like--"I think if somebody just even talks to me about it, I'm just gonna lose it." And she's--I had a lot of friends that encouraged, not just me, both of us to say something. But, there were more people that we knew something happened to, that were in the same boat. So that's sad, that there was kind of more of a support club for people who feel you can't say anything.
STUART: Than for people who did. 'Cause people who did would be accused. Like"No--" I got to say, especially for some friends that were very 04:26:00attractive, they'd get the hardest time if they reported something. Because they were born attractive, so apparently they were asking for it in some way. I felt really bad for them, for the first time. Normally I wouldn't, but all of a sudden you'd hear, she's like, "I tried to say he grabbed my ass," and he was like, "Well of course he would. You walk around like that and your uniform pants are a little tight." That's how women were treated, not by all men.
STUART: Like I said. When I had realized that, I kept going to work and I wouldsee these people on base occasionally, and I would know that they were there even if I didn't see them. I just started to have a really hard time. I started to feel that, a place I came and I finally felt safe that I didn't have to deal with this crap I did growing up, that that took that away from me. That this was not safe for me anymore, this was not something I want to do the rest of my life. I don't want to be here. That's why I wouldn't, until I heard about the palace chase, I didn't even really know. Do I still want to stay, 04:27:00will it be the same? Well I'll just do it now, because maybe they're not like this at home. And they weren't. [Laughs] But, I was really like, not sure. I just know I had to leave Minot Air Force Base. I didn't realize, you know, I could have done something and went somewhere else. I don't think so, because I would probably had to crack. I would have cracked eventually. And it wouldn't have mattered, because time would have passed enough. And again, it still would have been--we would have had, what, five against one, each of us, or two. Who, other than a guy outside, if I would have known he would cracked early, maybe I would have said something. But we were more embarrassed, and ashamed. We felt, it made us feel--she was a really petite person and small, so I felt--I think that's why I felt [inaudible]. I wasn't as big as I am now, but I wasn't like little either. Well actually, before I got out, I actually know 04:28:00exactly how much I weighed when I got out, the same I weighed when I went in, 144, because it was on my ID card. But I felt that because of, I never had problems, I always got along with the guys, why this was an issue. But I felt when it happened, because I physically could not... protect myself, that I felt vulnerable. And I felt weak that every time--like last week, I slipped and I fell and my back was a little sore. I'm on my couch a lot. Not because, just because I'm lazy and don't want to go upstairs. It's more so if I'm hurting, I feel safer that I can see the doors, and I know if someone's comin' in. Now granted, if I'm hurting or something, my back is out and I might--I physically probably couldn't. But in my mind, I feel that I would have the upper hand. But if I'm upstairs, I don't. If I'm downstairs, I can. I can't protect 04:29:00myself or reach for the phone. But that's the fear I still have, and I'm going--you know, I'm almost--well I'm about to be forty-nine at the end of the month. That was a long time ago. I was twenty-four, so I was twenty-three, I was twenty-three, so it was before a year. A little over a year before I got out. Yeah. And I should know, I should probably know the date because it's on that thing. But... after, my friend, we remained friends. Her and her boyfriend, they stayed together. They got married [clears throat] She got pregnant, and yeah. He knew, he knew it was most likely not his. They weren't sure. After the baby was born, they realized, they did testing, so they found out that it was not his. It was from that night. But she was very religious, so she didn't want 04:30:00to not--she didn't want to abort. So she felt that that's what she was supposed to do. She had prior--just after that, she got deployed. [Laughs] So, she was supposed to leave, so she couldn't leave, so she had to wait, she had her baby. She ended up--I had left after this time. She was being deployed. She'd had the baby. I felt bad because I would not go see the baby. I felt like the baby, like I'm going to see the guy's face on the baby, I wouldn't have. She just said, "Don't come here." I don't, she's just like, "Don't. I know you're supportive of me," She goes, "You're more supportive than I thought." She goes, "Just don't come here, because I know what it's gonna make you think of." And I couldn't imagine--I imagine from hearing from her and I've heard from people I've known, I could not imagine doing that. I would have had the opposite reaction. I'd have been like, nope, get it out. It ain't happening, I'm not going to handle that, I'm not gonna do well. You just leave, I--I've contemplated that 04:31:00before, because I had to. Not happening. When she killed herself--so she ended up, she had PTSD [post-traumatic stress syndrome] from MST [military sexual trauma] and combat. Me, I kinda came in with having childhood sexual abuse, but what I experienced in the service--and, I used to just count that last incident as something that happened to me. And I never talked about it 'til like four years ago.
STUART: All the other things, I just said those were things I had to do.[Laughs] Until I started going to therapy. And she goes--she stopped the session, she goes, "What do you mean those are things you just had to do?" She goes, "Each of those count the same!" And I go--"You know, I'm really trying to convince myself right now that I had some control over my decision-making. [Laughs] Can we talk about that later?" I could never really get into 04:32:00a lot about that. I started to get into that maybe about a year-and-a-half ago. Longer, two-and-a-half, just before I started going back to school. I came back, as part of the reason, because when I was in school, my mind was most occupied. And that has been a blessing since I've been in graduate school. Also been a weight in a different sense. I did it because I thought it would be helpful, not to the point to where I would be running away from what happened. But the more counseling I got for the other things that I was leading up to this--I would talk about it, but wouldn't--I didn't get to everything yet. I was actually first dealing with childhood stuff and got through. I was starting to get into teenage stuff before I hit the stuff when I got in the service. So y'know, kind of, working my way through, because I had a lot. I realized I needed to go back and just deal with everything that I didn't before in the VA, finally was offering that opportunity. I never had to claim it. I'd get paid at a 04:33:00hundred percent already. I'm sure I could just go back. I have this all documented, I know that, but I never submitted a claim for it, because I--to me, it's not gonna change what I make, but I have been with a lot of people through the process or sat with them, and made sure that they made an appointment after. And I learn, I try to keep abreast of what's available to you before you claim, and like what services you can get. But I honestly, still never say to people, "Did you tell," but I know a lot of people feel guilty, because I still do. I feel guilty that I didn't say anything when my friend killed herself. Because I wish I would have said something then. It's going to get tough now [chuckles].
STUART: So anyways, that's why I left.
STUART: I actually went to Pennsylvania briefly, but then that didn't04:34:00work out, so I came to Wisconsin.
STUART: And they said--I met with them, and they're like, "What do you want todo?" I said, "I want to do something long, hard, and far away." "I have the job for you!" Again, I wasn't too choosy about my jobs, apparently. But they had no nuclear missiles for me to work on when I went into the Guard. [Halaska laughs] So, I got, I was about to have a thirteen-month school, because as an International Guard member you would do weather observing and weather forecasting school all in one. So, I got long. I got hard, my first class was the one I needed to graduate high school. I had physics. I was like, shit. And far away, I went to Biloxi, Mississippi. So here, it's been strange world, I'm like, you know, send me. I end up going down, I actually live there for two years after. I would condense my training days, and come up here and do them, and come up for like a week, or ten days or something, and do them 04:35:00all at once. So, it was nice they offered me the opportunity. One year they were training in Columbus, Mississippi, and I got to go up there and do my active duty for training, which was nice. For a whole week, they played war, and it was the first time I got to do that, that long. Actually, I was not even trained in chem warfare, until I was at an exercise at Volk Field, [Halaska chuckles] and they gassed the place, and I grabbed the guy's jacket in front of me and I got out, and I'm just like, hey, I can do whatever--because this Army, Volk Field, right? And we're there in support 'cause we're weather. He goes, "Oh my god! We gave you all this gear and told you to carry it, and we just assumed you knew how to use it." [Halaska laughs] I go, "I was missile maintenance; what did they need to give us chem warfare stuff for?" If it reached us, we already done our job, we're done! We weren't trained because we didn't deploy anywhere. So, I had no--I didn't know how to put the gas mask on. And I just like, they did the training a little bit, but again, the bobby pin thing came into it, so you learn with the straps and stuff? So anyways, that was my experience on how 04:36:00to use my gas mask and equipment when I actually got gassed. Not gassed, it was like more of a smoke, but it was irritating, and so I wasn't gassed. So, I did it, I went to Mississippi, and It was--it was a very tough and challenging. Didn't realize that the human eye sees only twenty-seven shades of gray? [Halaska laughs] Because you read satellite images in black and white, or gray, and you had to find stuff. It was really neat, 'cause I got to go to school with Navy and Marines. Marines would be there briefly, and then they'd be sent out. Navy stayed with us for quite a long time, and then they went off to their ships and got specialized training. So, it was pretty cool. I... didn't--I wasn't attached to anything there, so I could do whatever I wanted. So, I played softball, I went to the gay bars, I played volleyball. I mean I was 04:37:00having a grand old time [laughs].
HALASKA: This was Pennsylvania or Milwau--or Wisconsin?
STUART: This was Mississippi.
HALASKA: Oh, Mississippi, okay.
STUART: Yeah, Pennsylvania was just briefly when I switched jobs.
HALASKA: Okay, okay.
STUART: But here, when the 128th International, they told me--
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm.
STUART: They offered me the job, so I took the job in the 126th Weather Flight.
STUART: So, the way the International Guard is set up is it was the 128th, andthen they had the 440th Reserves. But the Weather Flight was on the reserve side. So, we were rather disconnected from the Guard. We did most of our stuff there, and occasionally, we went over to do our paperwork. But we hung out rarely over there. That's how I got stuck in a live fire crew, [Halaska chuckles] because I didn't know I was supposed to go all the way over there. I just got with everybody, because they would do their exercise together because the way they'd have to close out the flight lines. Like whatever. So anyway, I'm in this long school, I'm going to school with these people, very challenging. I get, the first day of class, they stood you in front of a window, and 04:38:00said "We'll come back in fifteen minutes, we want you really to just stare out the window. We're sure no one ever asked you that before. Because when we come back in fifteen minutes, and you start this school, you will never look at the sky the same." And they were right. It was just, really cool. I had some amazing people I went to school with. You were there for thirteen months.
STUART: I didn't wash out or any of that. I never washed out [laughs], again,since that one time. But it was a long time; I remember several of the people. I was in the dorms when I went there, because I had to be at the dorms. It was weird because I could drive to class, and they all had to like march, because they were all fresh, and I was like a Reservist and Guard. My roommate was pretty cool. When we would study, we would put a map out, and when we forecasted, we had to write everything in the, no larger than a nickel, on all the reporting stations, and they would--that's all, they would go 04:39:00around with a nickel to test to make sure your stuff was in that. 'Cause they had to be, all this data just in there, dots and flags and whatever. So, we would play a game and shoot darts at the map. And every time you did, you had to name the location, you'd have to name historically the almanac data for it, because we'd be studying for a test. We didn't realize when we pulled that off and we left the door--there'd be holes everywhere. We didn't even think that far, we just thought the map. And the beers didn't help. And she drank two Zimas before every test. I thought they were weird beers, clear beer, that was her thing. One of the--we did, we had fun, we did some skinny-dipping on the beach, you could go across the street and you're right in the Gulf of Mexico, at Keesler Air Force Base. I see my first Green Bay Packers game. We took a trip and saw them in New Orleans. That was the night we had too many drinks called hand grenades. It was the only hand grenade I got to hold, about nine 04:40:00of them, I think. [Halaska laughs] And that was the same year that, well at the end of the season, that the Packers went to the Super Bowl. So watching it on TV, I was there! That's where I saw my first--I walked in, I'm like, why is there a roof? I couldn't figure it out. I had never gone to a Packer game at home yet either, but that was kind of cool. When I was there, that's when I went and visited my cousin who was in the Army at Fort Hood. So, I got to visit him. I did leave and drive all the way back to Biloxi, when I realized cockroaches in Texas flew. Yeah, I didn't--that wasn't workin' for me. So back there, so I met a lot of people, I enjoyed it. There were--you had just a wide range of people. People understood the task for Guard and Reserve by condensing it. They understood it was more cost-effective, but. So, we were there, mostly to go into weather-observing school, you go into the field, learn that. And then 04:41:00when you got higher-level qualification, you'd go back and go through forecasting school. We did it back-to-back. So, we went to school and we got all the weather observing, and the twenty-seven states of the sky and everything. But then we went right into forecasting, when we really didn't get the experience and the training to do that. And I'm also learning in Mississippi, in the South, knowing that when I come back here, cloud bases aren't going to be eight thousand feet, they're going to be five or six thousand. Things are going to be different, but you have to adjust for that everywhere you go. If you're overseas, you have to know your bases and your atmosphere levels. But, my job was to go there to learn to forecast for when the KC-135 Tinkers here were in the gas stations in the sky are refueling. I would refuel for their whole route, so I would concentrate on when they'd leave and come back, but mainly for the duration and the level, and type of aircraft that they were refueling, so they'd know their icing conditions and where to fly at, and if you 04:42:00got that forecast wrong for that--you knew the time of day that they were scheduled to do it, everything was just as precise as you could be. But weather is a job that, you get paid for whether you're right or wrong, but you could be right fifty percent of the time or not. The point is, is did you look at everything possible and make the best possible decision? If little things went off, they understood that, or somethin' came out of nowhere. But if you forecasted something and all of a sudden they got hit with an upper-level trough while they were at eighteen thousand feet refueling at F15, that tanker's going to come down and tell you about it. If you told them that they would be VFR instead of IFR, visual flight range instead of instrumental flight ranges, they would tell you. "You told me I'd be able to see, but I had to use--depend on my instruments." That's a different technique, and more challenging, so they needed to prepare for that. You didn't tell them that. You didn't tell them that they wouldn't be able to see. So, they wanted to know those things, so it 04:43:00was really neat. Again, another job, maybe they should review these jobs. Another job, until I took that hop to Oahu to visit the same cousin who was at Schofield Barracks. I got to lay down and be on a tanker while they were refueling two F14s. I got to see two. I got to lay down in the bay, at wave at the pilots, and see what I forecasted for, for years. I should've been sent up in a flight like that before I went to school, because that was cool. Here I'm like going to be getting out soon, and I'm getting to see this. I might have even--I can't remember when I went to Oahu. I might have already been in my other career field by then. I probably was. I don't know, because I changed to base education and training after I couldn't deploy anymore. I never did deploy, but I was deployable. Finally got all that training, but then my spinal condition got too bad, and they moved me. Or were actually just holding on to me when I found out, while inspecting the base, of a loophole for me to 04:44:00retire early, reading all them technical orders. I found out that I could retire early, because I had the points, and I had a disability of thirty percent or more. I was already sixty. I shouldn't have been in there. They were trying to force me out, but I went and talked to my new commander, and I told him what I wanted to do. I said, I just need to hit fifteen. Said, "Why doesn't she want you to retire?" I go, "Well who's going to do her job when I leave?" [Laughs] I go, "I just got us like, an Outstanding Unit Award on a base inspection," And they're so nice to you when you're, the pre-inspection. I got to go on the flight simulator, crashed over Hawaii three times. Coolest thing ever. But, I'd have to rewrite and walk in and make sure your training manual, if I walked in here, I can pick up that piece of paper in front of you. And it's going to tell me exactly how to change that tire on that aircraft. Because if 04:45:00you're all dead, and I come in here, I've got to be able to adequately get that done. Won't be the fastest, won't be the best at it. But all the steps need to be in there for me to be able to do it. And it was not that way. So then, [chuckles] I did that, but not only that, I got to train all the trainers from all the different fields on the base. The 128th. How to train to that, that level, and to do that. I didn't have to know how to do civil engineering; I didn't have to know how to be a jet mechanic. But I could tell you how to teach that procedure that you're doing, and what's missing. Even though I don't know how to do that job. You have the expertise, but I can tell you, you're missing some steps. Because often, the more you learn, you may teach at a level and skip over those, because you know them. So I'd have to teach them to not forget the smaller steps, and you may not do them, but make sure you're teaching them. And if you think it's missing, write it in there. And I would--before 04:46:00Air Force came to inspect, I could walk in anywhere and pick it up, and they'd be like, they'd be like, "Pick mine!" after six months, "Pick mine!" instead of, "Oh shit, she's here again," because I'd have to keep doing it. I did it for like year-and-a-half until we knew they were coming. But it was cool to me.
HALASKA: And where is this?
STUART: It's at 128th International Guard.
STUART: This is after I was weather and I did my forecasting, and I worked withsome great people. I even had an incident over in the Weather Flight when they were doing an exercise, again with the smoke things? I don't get it. But we were playing war, and something happened where we were all shuffled back in the room, but people couldn't see. So stuff got moved. And I knew I was in there, and I was the only woman, and that's--I had an issue, so I came out. And I don't know what I looked like, but --I had the greatest boss at the time, he was 04:47:00a really cool guy. He said, "Kim, I want you to wait right here, I'm just going to keep talking to you. I'm gonna send someone in to call my wife over." His wife was--worked on the other--on the 128th, and we were on the Weather Flight. So we're across, so she has to go and drive all the way over. But, he knew what was happening to me. And he knew that he couldn't touch me, couldn't do--he didn't know because I told him. Even though I have that written plan thing, but he didn't know that. [Laughs] But he knew enough to call his wife over, and how fortunate was I? Because she came over and said, you know, "He's going to go out and make sure them guys clean up their mess, because they don't know how to exit a building properly," and she just talked me through it. And then later, I mean, I talked to her a lot. It was really cool. And I'm like--but I never spoke and had a conversation with him. I just said, "You know, thank you for calling her over here." I had never met her up until that first day I met her. And I was like, but that just freaked me out. I was like, "God, is this always 04:48:00going to be like this?" And I think it was, Fabee [FBI] guys! My reaction to, if something happened, does it affect the way you work? You know, it does. Um, it didn't affect me working on the missile site, but when really bad shit happened to me, that changed my reaction in certain things. And it bothered me, again, because it--I felt that it was weakness.
STUART: Like why can't I--like, is this going to bother me for the rest of mylife? I damn well knew it was going to bother me the rest of my life, but it was just a battle, you know. But it was--I had someone there who understood. There was one girl there when I got there, but then it was just me. But afterwards, more women came after I already changed out of the Weather Flight. So, they were getting more women entering that career field, too. So, not traditionally for women. Then had a female commander, which was kind of cool. But when 04:49:00I went over to the other side--so nobody cares, Kim's a lesbian. I don't talk about it. They'll joke, they'll laugh, but nobody gives a shit, even though it's Don't Ask Don't Tell. But when I changed and I had to change career fields again, because I can't deploy. So just choose base education. I had--anything I chose was going to be over on the other side, 'cause only the Weather Flight was isolated over here.
STUART: Well then when I'm training, I'm in this office with everybody, allthe--whole base now, all of a sudden, I'm like, okay, so I just not talk, I'm training, I'm doing extra days, I'm getting asked, which is odd. [Laughs] There's three people in our office. Two of us are gay. [Laughs] Very religious senior master sergeant is in charge of us. Her husband is the chief master sergeant of the 128th International Guard, very religious people. Nice people, he is. Her, I don't know so much, but we often heard the references. 04:50:00"Don't Ask Don't Tell? We don't need these people in here." And I'm like, "For one, how can you not tell he's gay?" And there's got to be, on my bad days, I come in here, you've gotta think, you know. Am I permanent, but I did. I lied, you know? My girlfriend, who actually was with me for most of my International Guard career, all of it, actually, almost. She's the one I met when I came home on leave when I was hanging out with the lesbians. Actually, she's my sister's friend. But when I got out a few years later, I ended up dating her, so it was for a long time. But when I retired, I told them, like I said, "You know, I really want my partner to be there. Is that gonna be a problem?" He goes, "I don't have a problem, because I think everybody knows, except for Terri, except for your boss." [Laughs] And he goes--so he devised this--he goes, "Well I'll say, you know, you're retired at 12:01 on this date, but I consider 04:51:00you retired now. When I say that, feel free to do whatever you like." so I did, and it was kind of funny. Except for the--my Terri, she didn't like it. She didn't like it! She was like, shocked and--
HALASKA: What'd you do? What was--
STUART: I kissed 'er.
HALASKA: Oh, yeah [laughs].
STUART: Not like, like 'I was getting married kind of kiss.' Like, it was notlike, a kiss on the cheek, "Hey, thanks honey for supporting me for all this bullshit." No, I gave her a big kiss, and she turned all red, she was, "Yeah, that was funny." And my family on there, so they were like, "This is Kim," They hadn't thought nothing of it. Not realizing the atmosphere I had served in, and the commander was just like--he actually came to my retirement party too, it was pretty cool. She did not. [Both laughs] But then it was so funny because the other guy who works in the office comes up to me. He's like, you know, he goes, "How can she not know?" [Halaska laughs] And I retired, I retired 04:52:00early because I didn't have five more years of this Don't Ask Don't Tell crap. So I retired early for a different reason. I didn't feel forced out. I just felt, I needed someone to die in International Guard for me to move up in the job. There were only three of us in the office [chuckles]. Terri was not--she just kept staying [laughs]. So Kevin couldn't go anywhere, and I needed to move into Kevin's spot. You know, that's how it went, you know? I wasn't going to retrain at Grant again. You know, I just got my associates in weather technology, and then I earned it education management too. I was a Community College of the Air Force advisor as part of my job as well, so it was kind of cool. So, I was like, you know, I'm tired of lying and hiding. My commander was signing waivers for me to stay. She didn't know I--she knew I was over thirty, but she didn't know I was over sixty at the time.
STUART: So, I was just, but he knew how important it was to me to retire, and Ifound out I could get to fifteen-year retirement. And, but you know, 04:53:00these was certain socializing I couldn't do, even at home here. So, it started to be, how I was self-identifying was becoming more important to me, and I didn't want to have to tell those lies. I didn't want to have to be somebody else's--It's not going to change the way I work. Actually I would work better and with less problems if you didn't care who I was going home to. I've had the same girlfriend for like eight years. If you haven't figured it out, something's missing here. And my desire to serve was just like, "Hey, if I can retire..." but I would have never known that loophole if I was not inspecting your technical orders. I would have never known. 'Cause it said, call this number in Washington D.C. I did. It said tell your commander. So I went to him, and he's like, "What about Terri?" Apparently don't mind saying her name. What about Terri Lynn? [Laughs] I said, she's not here. And I even asked the 04:54:00lady. She said "No, you were right, it says contact us and your commander. Your commander signs the paper, and then you send it to D.C." She goes, "That's it, that's your chain of command." But he thought it courteous to tell her, and I said I didn't want to tell her until they approved it. [Laughs] So when he got it back, he came, and he was kind of smiling. He was going like this. So, I know he got it, and he goes, "Do you want to tell her, or should I?" I go, "Let's tell her together." And she like went, "What do you mean she's retiring? She's only, not even, she's just about to hit fifteen years." He goes, "Um, yeah, she's doing an early retirement." "They don't do that, they don't--" she was like resisting, and she's like, "How come I didn't know about it?" Kevin knew, because I told him. The other guy knew it. He knew. He's like, he's just like, good for you. He was going to say, because nobody really cared or asked, but he was going to be staying there until he was sixty. He didn't have the active duty time like I did, that's why I could retire early. I was just like, 04:55:00I'm done, just, I got done, I went to that Applebee's with my family, and I'd gotten coins for everybody from the unit to thank, and said something nice to everybody. I thanked them for their support when I went in. A lot of support. Especially I did for my sister, even though we are estranged today. She was supportive when I was in. She was the only one when I came out, I wrote a letter to, which was more risky than telling people. Because I was--that was a document that could be used against me, but I knew my sister, she needed to read it. What I learned later was she read it to that friend she worked at, when she worked at Meuer's Bakery. And that friend turned out to be my girlfriend for twelve years. [Laughs] So just, interesting the way it all happened. I enjoyed what I did, but especially I always got really excited when I knew I could deploy, and I did all that training. I mean, not only did I do the thirteen months, I ended 04:56:00up--I had to do a month-and-a-half at Tyndall Air Force Base. Come back here, I had a shit-ton of training to do, which you only can do one weekend a month in the Guard, unless you do extra days. So, I was finally ready and qualified to go and to, throw me out wherever I want to, I was really excited about that. Not excited that things were getting worse. I knew they were getting worse, but--
HALASKA: What do you mean?
STUART: My back injury was getting worse.
HALASKA: Oh, okay.
STUART: My shoulder were just, not well. I was starting--I had already begunhaving issues, mental health issues dealing with chronic pain. But I had a whole layer of a shit ton of other stuff that I wasn't talking about. But that was affecting that. That was affecting my pain level. Which later would--I'd start to work on. One of the few physicians I've had for a while now is my psychiatrist. Before her was my primary, but now, now it's Dr. 04:57:00Fletcher. She would reach out to other people for other things I needed. But I got the most help--oddly enough, I laugh--when I made the--So I was done, I retired. I know people from UWM [University of Wisconsin Milwaukee] came, so I really was there. I became--I had to medically retire from working, and I was in my mid-thirties, late-thirties? Not--you'd think that'd be fun to retire? Uh-mm, it was very difficult. It took me years to get to that point. The VA was like, yeah, about time. I'm like, you don't pay my bills on this sixty percent. You know, I got a house payment. You know, I saved up for about six months so I could prepare, but by the time I got where I could drive all the way down and be parked in front of Mellencamp [??], and I couldn't go in. You know, I had the physical stuff. The mental health stuff was just out of control. I couldn't go in there. I would drive all the way back to Saukville and call in and 04:58:00say I can't. I even had--but they didn't like that, they didn't like that I had days a month I could like call in. I mean I guess from an employer's perspective, I get that. But it's kind of like my psychiatrist was just waiting for me to catch up with what she was waiting for. She knew there was more. Like three years ago, she found out more than I ever told her before. She's like, she goes--she never pushed me to talk about anything. But I went back to school, got my bachelor's degree, and then when you have nothing else to do, you start making mistakes. And that's what I did. Life sucked for about six months. I had a big tornado. I made some of my worst decisions. For someone who didn't drive, because I had to stop driving eventually, to get two DUIs [driving under the influence] is kind of interesting, but I did it in a month. And I googled for help, and found myself calling the VA. I was like, "What? Who's the 04:59:00Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator?" So, two of my poorest choices brought me back to the VA. One of the conditions for me to enter into the Veterans Treatment Initiative, which is known as Vet Court, was that--would I at least have one meeting to talk about the military sexual trauma? It was the first time that, for one, that I mentioned yeah it happened. But it was the first time someone wrote it down and made sure I talked to somebody about it. And being part of Veterans Treatment Initiative and going to court, in the beginning, like every two weeks, you're there with your attorney, the judge, the VA, Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator to verify you're going to your appointments, and taking your medications, you have your PO [probation officer]. You have this whole team of people which would do the peer support at the time, without--they didn't have females yet, but you know, I worked the best I could. I 05:00:00was unique. I was not part of the alcoholics or narcotics group. I was though, I self-medicated with alcohol group, but I could end up in that group if I keep it up. Kind of thing. So, my program was a little different, so we kind of had to tweak it a little bit. But the only thing I could say no to, was ever going and seeing that MST counselor again [laughs]. So, the only thing I had control over is that I could say, "Hey, I did my appointment. Okay, I'm done, I'll just do all my other stuff." I made a second appointment, and she goes, "Do you mind if I hug you?" I'm like, this must be Building 43 stuff. Building further from the main campus at the VA. She goes, "This is a part of this," [inaudible], and Tony sent me, or whatever the timeframe was, and she does, "Even if you 05:01:00don't come back for a third visit, I just want to say--commend you on coming back and trying to talk about this." So, it was an interesting experience. I had gone through support groups as part of the alcohol and the other drug training I had to do, and I learned that I didn't know that the VA had floors dedicated to AODA.
HALASKA: What's AODA?
STUART: Alcohol and Other Drug--Dependency and Abuse. And I didn't realize theyhad these like, ongoing support groups, and all this stuff, and the stuff with the court. Like I would have to--you'd be assigned a color and have to call in every morning if your color came up, you'd have to go and give a urine sample. They did that at the VA too, because they had the camera in the bathroom and all that. That's all set up on the tenth floor. And all these counseling groups, but my issue was I didn't want to go to a group with men in it, because I said, "If you really want me to see what's going on," Because I knew, there was 05:02:00more going on than even I knew. But I knew it was going to be an issue if there were men in the room, and I said, "I'm going to lie then, and as soon as I lie, or I hold back, I don't want to tell them I'm a lesbian, even though I'm out. I still don't want to do that." And this wasn't long ago. I go, "It's just not going to happen." I said, "I--are there all female groups?" So, they waited until they got a group. But there's three phases, so I got phase one. Then phase two wasn't start for a while, because they have to wait for more female enrollment, which is lax here right now. So, the judge was worried there would be too much time in between, and said, "You know, why don't you just go to that group for now until we can get you in that." The reason I didn't want to go, happened the first time I was there. Actually, it was more creepy than I thought. A guy took my name--my number off the signup sheet, and started calling me, leaving me these like, long inappropriate messages, and 05:03:00describing features I didn't even know about myself. Well, because Dryhootch across the street, where they had their Forward Operating Base. I didn't know what FOB meant until later, because it was my Air Force experience. And I talked to the guy who was acting as my Peer Support Specialist for the Vet Court, because not realizing they monitored how often I went to Dryhootch when you checked in. I didn't know that at first. So, I felt betrayed that they didn't show that with me; I felt like they were spying on me. Anyways, this guy would follow me over there. So, I told him, Bob Branski [??], I said, "Bob, this guy's sending me these really super creepy messages and stuff," and it was from that group. And, he called right away--they knew exactly who it was. Apparently I wasn't the first one, but since he was currently assigned as my unofficial peer support mentor until they could get a female, he called right over to the VA, the supervisor right away. Restricted him, penalized him, Dryhootch made it so he couldn't come in the building for like thirty days. And then he 05:04:00had--I'd never seen such action from the VA. [Laughs] As like, that's, I go, "Do you want to listen?" The guy goes, "No, I don't need to, and I don't want to." He goes, "I'm sure it was very inappr--" I did send it, and so they could have it. But it was, yeah, it was pretty graphic. So, I had to wait. So I said, why don't I see this counselor once a week until the women's group starts? So, I offered to do more before the judge would say it. But when the judge heard about it, she goes, "Dang it!" She almost swore; she caught it. She goes, "I didn't--I thought maybe you were being, you know, overconcerned. But, clearly!" she looked at the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator, per Abby, she didn't represent the VA, but she was the only one there who worked at the VA; she goes, "This--really? This actually happens!" She goes, "I hope something's being done," and Abby had to go through all the stuff. Dryhootch was there to talk--Bobby actually was there, talked about it. So I had--it was 05:05:00[inaudible], but I was on probation for a while.
STUART: It was two years, but my goal was to be done in eighteen months. Wellthen my parole officers didn't believe in me to do that, when I got down here, they did. I did graduate early. You do graduate, get a certificate. I even framed that and put it on the wall [Halaska chuckles]. You do get a nice coin. But I tried to look at my circumstance, or I'd be in a group, and because they started being, they were at the women's center, I did extra groups where I would start talking about, you know, sexual abuse, or military sexual trauma. It could be anything, so they started to say, "Yes, you don't have to limit it to what happened to you. Talk about whatever, wherever it came from, how you're feeling." And I met some good friends, some really good friends I have right now through that. And, I was able to push myself in a way that I wouldn't have if I just did my phase one, two, three and been done with it. I could have 05:06:00lied and sat there and got my free lunch, which I didn't even know they did at the VA, and just done whatever, and been done, and then just rode out my probation waiting. I said, "I can learn while I'm here, I can learn something. I don't have to be, but if I keep this up, I'm going to be like the chick that was shaking and just got to rehab over here. I'm going to be in a"--I didn't know there was--when they said "dorm," I didn't know they meant dormitory, and I didn't know they had inpatient. I said, "I didn't know they had all this stuff going on, and that I'm at the beginning." I was fortunate, fortunate enough to look and say, I'm headed there, if I don't figure this out. I had more than just pain and self-medicating; I had a lot of others, I had like three pets die. My engagement was off. It was like, shit just sucked. So, it was in my house, it was all happening. And when my second dog died like six months later, 05:07:00I was just like, "Fuck this, nothing's getting better. Put this booze down. What's going on?" That's when I finally said, "Something's going on; I need help. This is not me. It's got to be a lot of work to drink." I didn't drink for years, actually. I learned that with one of my girlfriends. We both can't drink. Because I have a switch that you can hit, that you can't hit when I'm not. So, I wasn't ever a really big drinker. So, me drinking like every day or every other day was just not me. But everybody else was like, "Yeah, let's go out and party!" Nobody was like, "Something's wrong with you. Give me your keys, [inaudible]," no, that's not good enough. "Give me your keys again, and let me crash a little more," or not crash, but make something bad. "When are you going to not give me your keys-- and I don't know why you are. And when are you going to say, they suck? Or--" I was thankful that somebody picked up the phone and called that in. Because I was apparently going home to Saukville, but 05:08:00I was on 94-West, near the zoo.
STUART: Walking on a sidewalk, because that's the only place I would have gotcattails all over me, apparently [laughs]. I don't remember the second time, I don't. I woke up in jail, I'm like, "Oh shit, not again." I didn't understand what was happening. The first time, I was like, "What's going on?" I tried to evade the police. It was crazy! But I didn't say, "Hey, those cops put me here." No, I put me there. I never doubted that. So let me do this, and if I--the condition of being part of Veterans Treatment Initiative, you do forty-five days in the House of Correction, and then the eight months or so of the rest of your probation, they will stay. As long as you participate, and they'll observe you frequently like every two weeks or closer. And then they'll spread that out as you do better, and you're--everybody reports that you're doing good. 05:09:00Because they all meet as a committee before they actually do the court thing. That's a really big process. It's every Wednesday [laughs], downtown, probably a lot of people to interview. [Halaska laughs] So it's very interesting, but I mean, I didn't know what a Sobrietor was, had to blow in this thing, and--I was in Saukville, so I rode the bus and commuted to it, 'cause when I had to drop, I had to go to the VA. So, if I had to drop, I had to take the bus in. I didn't know in enough time to go in the morning, so I would have to go at night. Or in the afternoon. And the bus only ran so often, so it was really weird. But I offered to do that, and eventually I moved down here, so I served the rest of it-- But I had a Milwaukee probation officer assigned the whole time. And then the two out there I called Cagney and Lacey just, they said they'd agree to it, but it was really weird, and I didn't get along with my PO officer until the end, when she realized, she thought I was a probation aficionado [laughs]. And I said, "I've never been on probation in my life." She goes, "You have three DUIs!" Said, "Didn't you read my file? I had one years ago, in 05:10:00Biloxi, after I completed Weather School but before I went to Tyndall." But when I got one, it was considered my first in Wisconsin. But the next month--I have to roll my eyes. I can laugh, 'cause I'm alive. If I wasn't alive, I couldn't laugh. So, I'm not laughing 'cause it's funny, I just can't believe I did it still. But I have to admit and acknowledge that. When I got the second one, they could go back indefinitely, so then they could count three. So, I got my first and my third DUI a month apart. And the second one eighteen years ago.
STUART: So, those were combined while I was going to court and going through theprocess, so I was first put on probation for the first time, so I didn't know. I didn't know what I was supposed to do and not do. So you give me a list; I'm not going to do what you tell me to not do. If I'm doing other things 05:11:00that aren't on a list, I don't know. So I would get to court all the time and she'd get all these writeups saying, "She had a wine rack right in her kitchen, didn't even care to hide it on me." I'm like, "It doesn't say I can't have alcohol in my house." She goes, "Yes it does," And I hear, I go, "You can't penalize me for what's not on the list." I heard her supervisor yell from the office, "You can't, and she's right! It's not on there." She was reading it too. [Laughs] Well they thought I was being a pain in the ass, but I was being very parti--like, I don't know. I'm not drinking it, you said don't drink it. It was common--she goes, "It's common sense." I go, I have no--I go, "I didn't know I had--I'm at Walmart buying--"
HALASKA: You need the field manual! [Laughs]
STUART: I had no idea. I was like lost, and she would always throw me under thebus and say I had crushed cans like in the garage. And I said, "Well yes, some of them might be beer cans." The judge told me I had to go in there, because my PO officer was concerned they might be fresh ones. I said, "Your 05:12:00honor, I'm not going in there. My garage when I came home from jail and my sister left my house, and my house flooded. Everything's thrown in--I'm not touch--I'm not going in there at all. I'm not climbing in there. It's not safe for me." And I said, "And if I'm drinking a beer and crushing it and throwing it out there. I didn't have a can crusher, my can crusher was my--they're all back there. They could have been in there for three years. I didn't recycle; they're in bags." I go, "I'm not digging through them." She goes, "Okay, I agree." [Laughs] And I said, "She's seen my garage! Everything had to be just thrown in there." Until I moved, I really had to go through it, it was just, I had to throw away a lot of stuff because stuff flooded. But anyways, it was a learning process, but in that process, I started volunteering a lot, doing more. And that's when I got an interest--I always had a plan to get my masters, but I after I got my education one and I went, individual unemployable, so 05:13:00I'm 180, and I get paid at 100 because I can't work full-time, and maintain gainful employment. Apparently I know that line. I can do anything I want to do; I just can't do it when my employer needs, and apparently that's frowned upon. I just can't do it as long. I was like taking work home with me and stuff, I couldn't keep up.
STUART: But I can do it, I just need to do it on my pace, my schedule. So Istarted volunteering, and when I went, I did medically retire and I didn't work in education. So, I just got my bachelor's, and I was done working. I'm like, well so apparently, I'm not going to go back to school for my master's degree for something I'm not doing. I probably wouldn't be successful, as successful in education doing that. So, until I started doing some volunteering at a non-profit board, and I was at a non-profit seminar given by Senator 05:14:00Tammy Baldwin. It was her first one at MATC [Madison Area Technical College], I didn't know who she was. I learned in my recent studies [laughs] that she's the first openly-gay Senator. I didn't know that. I didn't know my history, I do now. But I gave my spiel to her. She came out to the table, and I realized the name tag, the guy said "Senator's Aide." I realized then she must be the Senator. I didn't know! I just thought she was some lady, asked me what I did, because we're all socializing. She goes, "You know, UW Milwaukee has a table here, and they have a master's degree in nonprofit management and leadership. You know, sounds like it'd be a good fit for you." I kind of got Senator-struck, I'm like, "What did I do?" And they go, "You said, yes ma'am, and did some military thing." [Halaska laughs] That day I went to that table, and Bryce Lord was there from my program, and I signed up that day, and submitted, got my stuff and 'What do I need to do to apply?" So it's a really cool story for 05:15:00me, because now I serve on her Military Service and Academy Committee. Four times I've done it. So it's kind of cool, especially now, you know, doing all that learning of LGBT history. I wish I would have known that history long ago. But I knew I was missing something from all my military time, and not being out in the community. I missed all that, I didn't have that. So it's neat to see everybody else is having it. It's neat to see people having positive experiences in the service, no matter what time frame. But I still know that this is important history. And if nobody's going to talk about what happened then, they--you can't be so [Laughs] dense to think that it's still not happening. It's happening, it's just, people are still like me. Back then, you're afraid to talk about it, because it'll either look bad for you, or you'll be made to feel bad that it'll be-- reflect poorly on somebody else, or overall, on 05:16:00your unit or organization. And I don't know if you're ten people deployed out in the middle of nowhere, or if you're in a big place, if you're in California or LA [Los Angeles]. But you might be in Minot, North Dakota, and it's going to be different. It's going to be different on base, in that culture, than it is off-base. And for anybody to choose whatever they want, you know, but to force somebody to conceal that to the point that they have to lie and feel like they have to do all this stuff, was disheartening. But I served, and I had hoped that me staying and retiring was more than just, that's what I wanted to do and I was able to do it. I thought, someday that may be useful. I didn't y'know, really expect it was going to be useful in the way I'm using it today, that that's a privilege that I was able to do that. I retired and survived and got 05:17:00through all I did, but it was odd that things were happening to me, and really bad stuff at the end. And as I'm leaving, somebody tells me, "Go into the Guard." I never considered--I mean, it's just odd how it happened. And then I never thought I'd come back home and then I do. So, going back and forth, then I come back home again to be here for my dad, when he was dying too. And it was just really weird. And this reemergence with the nonprofit stuff just was like, what was I doing in between there?
STUART: It's like often, I was--well I was--it was family; I was really focusedon my family a lot of the time, but when they weren't there anymore, it was just me, I had no idea, and I didn't feel that there--I was still useful until, sure enough, somebody said, "Well what do you mean? You've gone to school, you ever think of going back?" And when she mentioned that, I didn't--it didn't dawn on me, like yeah, I still got stuff to do, or whatever. It was 05:18:00just like, "Hey yeah, you know, maybe I could do something else." And when I was going through the process, I'm like, "I really don't know if I should be doing this." And someone goes, "What is the one thing that never stops with you?" I said, "My mind, it's constantly going." She goes, "How--when you had that best under control?" This is my psychiatrist, actually. I can tell you exactly you it is, Pamela Fletcher [Halaska chuckles]. I said, "When I was in school, when I went back, and I felt most grounded, in the head. You know, and I had the most control, even when I was stressed and all this, I--it was in a different way." But doing graduate school, and doing all this nonpaid, nonprofit stuff, I forget I'm IU for a reason. It's kinda--I'm glad of all the things I'm doing, but I'm kind of beat. I'm tired. But last semester, somebody put that PhD bug 05:19:00in me, so I don't know. I'm excited about taking this further.
STUART: Don't know where. But again, it's all going to come back, on my service.It's all, I want to find out, just what you get the pleasure of finding out from hearing people's stories and what they're doing, but there's so much that's happened that we don't know, and nobody's ever going to hear about. And I may have come, you know twenty-six years later to tell people about it, or it was maybe four years ago when I first did. It was--I always felt, I could have done so much more. But, I have to focus more on, and I can commend myself that I was able to do what I did--
STUART: With everything. So, it's not going to go away, but I don't want it togo away, because I was someone to be clicking around on your site, listening to a story, maybe hear just a smidge, whatever gets put in there, about 05:20:00just, talk to somebody. Maybe that somebody will tell for you, whatever you--I don't know. Don't beat yourself up if you don't, but just know that you're not alone. And the stuff on--I hate to say this, but it's still going to be happening. But if they just hear that, maybe if they hear it happen to them, if it happened to a friend. I go back. I went back twenty years later to tell the VA about it, so...
STUART: They didn't say, "I don't want to hear it." I was shocked to know thatthey did, and that there were so many people! And there's things you can do. Should be more! [Laughs] But how do we fix that? I get that opportunity next week to sit on the--I get a seat at the table with the Attorney General Elect, who's the Secretary Elect, looking over the WDVA budget, Wisconsin 05:21:00Department of Veterans Affairs. I know you know that, I said it for that. And to talk about the importance for me, the importance of the diversity component in that. Not only in healthcare as a whole, but also to really put a voice on the disproportionate rate that that's happened in the LGBT community for LGBT veterans. They can be LGBT when they were in, or they could become part of that community later. That's why our group of LGBT veterans is so diverse in itself, if people really take the time to look at it. That still affects, it still makes you who you are, where you don't have that status yet, how can we help? And not only happens disproportionately but exponentially within us.
HALASKA: What do you mean?
STUART: As far as military sexual trauma .05:22:00
HALASKA: Okay, yeah.
STUART: For women of course is higher, but disproportionate for lesbians, aremore susceptible to it. In addition, if they don't have military sexual trauma, they're going to have--they may--I can't say, not everybody--they're more prone to have mental health issues related to the suppression of their orientation or identity. And on top of already being a woman, or maybe you're an effeminate man, and you have to deal with that, the issues you have with that. Everybody has something different that they're dealing with. But we served with this emotional combat that we had to do, and they still do. Policy changed, but everything hasn't. Transgendered--transgender, not gendered, sorry--service members, or veterans who weren't then but are now, they're facing unique issues and susceptibility to either sexual assault, physical violence, it's 05:23:00four times higher. If you want to serve and have all them other issues on top of that, to deny that to me seems so foolish. I know in the end that will change, but I also understand it causes a big shift in the service atmosphere, community. Things have to change. I know that because as a woman I saw things had to change. Procedures had to change. Living arrangements had to change. They're going to have to face a lot of this that's going to be different among the transgender community, and then if you keep going along that plus, those other twenty-seven letters, there's a lot to deal with all this. And thankfully the education folks are getting now where they have this language that I didn't have then to communicate this, and to talk about genderqueer and be sitting on a military installation, it's crazy. It's wonderful to see military partners, and getting married, and kissing their girlfriend and hugging and 05:24:00welcoming them home when they've been gone, in public. But what about the ones who can't, you know? What about the ones who want to do that, but they've got to go back to that small Air Force base and know that they're going to be treated differently for it. Either overtly or covertly, so I don't know, I could get on a roll now [laughs].
STUART: [Laughs] Talking about issues.
HALASKA: Okay, I just want to--kind of close this interview, just talking alittle bit about your group, Veterans for Diversity, and what your group does, and what your role is in that group.
STUART: Veterans for Diversity, we--what we do now is we represent theLGBTQ-plus veteran community, "veteran" in the sense that you served, not veteran as a sense of the state or federal definition; we're not restricted by that because we're not federally funded. So, we do understand, again, the privilege in the word "veteran," but we want to reach anyone who 05:25:00served. And, we'll determine what your status is later, but you're still welcome with us. And we know of a lot of veterans nonprofits and organizations that'll still help you out. So we focus on honoring LGBT service, and we do that through advocacy, education, and outreach throughout the community, throughout greater Wisconsin.
STUART: Reaching that further now with individuals further in the state. Butmainly being out there in the community [paper rustles], not just being like a website or going to an event here are there, really pushing and being out in the community's important. We partner to offer opportunities for emotional healing, either by attending retreats or other programs so we respond to do that. And important for us is to rebuild--I hope to have had an education scholarship fund in the past. So, my goal is to rebuild that and to hopefully re-partner with the Cream City Foundation, which is an LGBT foundation that has a huge 05:26:00scholarship program, interlaced within with organizations and mentorship programs. So, for, to work that through them as a fiduciary to me, seems to be logical. But for us to be able to raise the funds and to make sure that that's going exclusively to LGBT veterans. And what we mean by that, we may restrict that at the veteran level at first and work down, and then eventually allies and families, when there's all this money when I'm gone and done my job. That's how I see it. It was an organization that started out by a request from a group at the VA Medical Center. It was an LGBT group, and they wanted a consolidated place for information, a way to get information that they would assure that would be friendly for gay individuals, but also to spread the word that the VA is friendly and open and welcome. That was, you know, a decade ago, I wasn't part of that. But the changes they did in there through nonprofit 05:27:00work of other people in the organization, they started working with a retreat program, Veterans Journey Home. Which still exists today. So then they started to do, focusing on retreats. It was a little confusing; it seems like they were doing their job, it wasn't sure. So, they did some events. They had a couple of people come in and maybe raise awareness. But then it kinda flatlined for a little bit, and there was fear that being too LGBT [both chuckle], and showing the rainbow colors and talking about being gay was affecting their support financially. When I came aboard, and two years ago reviewed financially, that wasn't the reason. It was about what you're doing, and that what we need to do is we need to out ourselves as an organization, put the pride colors in our symbol. So people know what diversity we are. It's not just ethnic 05:28:00diversity, it is LGBT diversity, and that's what we want to focus on. We want to--for people to out themselves as allies. We want people to approach us and say, "I saw your logo, or your pen, or I saw you in an event." Whether you want to whisper to me, you want to send me an email, you want to go have coffee with me, what is your story? My job is to get you to where you need to be, not to go out and collecting LGBT veterans, and having my own crew. That is not [Halaska laughs] important for me, and that's why I'm getting rid of the membership that has never been billed. They can revisit in the future, but membership wasn't--nobody wanted to pay to belong, because they didn't know what they were belonging to. We're creating that sense of community and belonging, and while someone will come along in a bit and work on membership. But you don't have to be a member to benefit from what we're doing. If you come to me as an individual, and for example, him, I need to--you know, I'm interested in getting my discharge upgraded. I'm not actually a veteran. Well, tell me your 05:29:00story. It may end up to be nobody can do anything, but I'm still going to listen to you. And I'm still going to say "Hey, come down and man my silent auction table on my Pens for Patriots annual fundraiser?" I will still include you. You served. We do have some grave exceptions to that, that we, for safety, for everyone else we'll have to consider. But, if you did something stupid, and they just won't change, you can still belong. If you were discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell, and you need to know how to do that to get it upgraded, I'll ask you what county you're from, point you to your county service veterans officer. Maybe you've done that and you're having issues, I'll point you and get you in touch with OutServe, who provides legal service for veterans. If you are more into the trans community and want to know what's offered, I'll get you in touch locally, and then maybe nationally with the Trans Veterans of 05:30:00America. My job is to get you to where you need to be.
STUART: And get you help, and to help you. If that also means hanging out, andcoming and hanging out at PrideFest, or going to an event, or doing something, or hey. you guys want to form a group someday--that's fine. But right now I need to know what you need, and need to hear from you, what can I do? We're going to--we keep our same focus on our three program areas, which are the emotional healing retreats and opportunities, the supplementary education scholarships, so maybe you need money for books. It's not just a, here's five hundred dollars to help you with your tuition; it's going to be for smaller things too. But the advocacy, education, and outreach is so broad. And under that, part of that is our color guard. And which last year when we marched in the Pride Parade and led the Pride Parade for the first time, was very iconic. And it's something we're going to continue to do, I actually just talked to them last 05:31:00week. So, we want to do that every year because we find we're getting awareness with that. So, we really want to invest in that. So, we may have our annual fundraiser, and we put money into that through our program area, but it'll be focused on our color guard, because that's our outreach opportunity to get awareness and to grow. Maybe we're doing something with an education program, and someone wants us to come and talk, and talk about diversity and education. We have to, ourselves, be literate and not just reading from a slide. I need to be able to look and say, you know, we have veterans and come to me and they're polyamorous, and they want to know the challenges and the benefits that they can't have because they don't have access to the privilege marriage gives you, because that's not offered to this subgroup of people. [Laughs] Two years ago, I wouldn't have said all that. I wouldn't have known that. But I'm not going to frown at you, or look--I'm going to say, I understand that. But I'm 05:32:00not gonna just read it on a slide and go, "I have no idea what that is." I'm not going to, not go out and say, "I'm an LGBT veteran." I may have times that I hold that back; I may feel unsafe, I may do that. But my job is to be out there, as out as I can be with my rainbow flag [both laugh], trying to understand, educate myself, trying to find people who are more educated, have a different perspective. We don't have to all think alike, we need to have the same shared vision. But how we get there, and other things we can do to get there. I want something that's different or unique than me [laughs]. And that's how we have to grow. So, I see the potential for an organization that has existed for a decade. However, I believe that's exactly just what it did. It existed and it was there. It had big dreams, it tried to grow them. But the biggest thing is a board that's not there.
STUART: I want a board that's present; I want a board that will05:33:00self-identify as LGBT. You can serve on a committee and not--I don't want people to out, you're just saying, "Hey, come and out yourself." That's a choice, and I respect that. But if you're going to serve on a board of directors and be visual in the organization, we need that from you. Or if you're the one non-LGBT, or non-military, you need to out yourself as an ally, or veteran-friendly. That's what we're looking for. I've been working a lot the last two years with both the veterans and the LGBT Chambers of Commerce. That has been very unique. It's also, actually, reaffirmed but educated me more in a sense. I knew there was a division as a person, when I would go to the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars]. Oh, I don't go to VFW, American Legion, I go to the post. But then I would go to an LGBT social. You know, I'd go to the Night Outs at the LGBT Center. I would feel a distinct difference. And where I felt was I was most comfortable 05:34:00when I was out at an LGBT event. Now, I go to a veteran and I feel comfortable, but I didn't feel comfortable enough to say, talk about me and everything I am. But everybody else would be talking about their kids, and "Hey I'm a combat veteran, hey I'm a this veteran," but I wouldn't say I'm an LGBT vet. I wouldn't talk about that. But then I'd have to sit there and lie to you and tell you have a husband or a boy--it just, it was all, and that culture is still there because individuals--multiplying these organizations are still from those eras. Some are learning and moving forward, but that's lagging. I just feel I have the unique opportunity to see, how can I say, we as LGBT veterans are unique, we have unique needs. I'm not going to know what those all are. And I'm certainly not going to know what they are from as narrow as only the LGBT perspective. But if you're gonna be a transgender veteran and help me out, you have to be a transgender person in your community. I need to know what the 05:35:00transgender community and the veteran community have, and how can we be a liaison to that?
STUART: And how can we--wonderful world, there would be no difference, that wecan intermingle. But it's not, and I feel that. I feel that to the point where there's events I don't want to go to. I feel, hey, that's really important, that's really great. But if I go there, I got to dress up [chuckles], not that I always mind it. I got to dress up, and I have to, you know, smile put on a show, and bite my tongue. But I have to make an appearance. I'm starting to feel that at a lot of these events, and I'm like, "Wait a minute, I don't get paid." [Laughs] And I had to wear focus right now. It's really unique if, you know, I'm at, in the graduate school, I'm either going to finish, or I'm going to have to take that, hey I'll finish next semester approach, really wouldn't 05:36:00disappoint me [laughs].
STUART: I do know I have until next semester. I wish they never would have toldme I had an extra six months. I wish they wouldn't have told me that. Because it's in the back of my mind, if I don't do it, I didn't necessarily fail, because I do have a whole year. [Laughs] But it's just weighing on me. But I was just asked by Dr. Jill Fondman [??] who runs the Women's Center, Women's Program Resource Center, and the Women's Consumer Advisory Council that I serve on at the VA. "Because this is clearly stressing you out a lot, here's a heart healthy bag." [Laughs] Just last week, she's like, "Just a quick question, why do you do it?" I said, "Because I care too much." Somebody gave me some very powerful information when I was doing my capstone project for the LGBT Study Certificate here at UWM [University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee]. I was doing a photo-voice project as part of that, where we work kind of as co-researchers, 05:37:00with a participant who takes photos, and then you interview them. They describe the photos on what family means to them. I chose an LGBT veteran who agreed to be part of this project, who's gender-fluid. And she served when you were allowed to serve openly, but experienced issues with that, military sexual trauma, and has had difficulty in and out of that, and doesn't like to be in the veteran world even though she's working at the VA. So, it's been a personal struggle. Great to see us at the Pride Parade, wishes she could do that. Even went to look for a uniform for the first time since she got out. But still not ready to even ride in the vehicle, even though she threw candy out last year. But that was a big step for her. But I got to sit and do this 05:38:00project, and I had already known her briefly, 'cause she attended our first Healing Warrior Hearts LGBT Emotional Healing Retreat, sponsored by the Starfish Foundation that we had just started. And so, I'd met her, I was a staff member during that, and she didn't tell me this until, during this interview. She said, "I had a plan. I was ready. I knew when, I knew I was going to do it down by the beach. I knew what clothes I was going to wear, how I was going to set my place up before I left. And I had enough, I'm done." She goes, "Until I went to that retreat," she's like, "What you do, what you guys do matters. And you literally saved my life." And she didn't have to tell me that. I can publicly say, because I have her permission, it was Nicky, because she was part of the 05:39:00Photo Voice Project, which we display, and tell her story, and her name is on it. She didn't have to share that. She staffed one or two retreats with him, which is great. But she's still struggling with these issues. These are Millennials. [Laughs] I know what's going on with my generation, and then hearing, I know what didn't get to happen for those before. These problems are still occurring, and they're going to still go on with our veterans coming out. We have to have places they can go, and if not, LGBT-friendly to me is not good enough anymore. I want that to be better. You've gotta be inclusive. So I'm willing to go out there and find these places so when you do call, I need to know where you need to go, but I might need to tell you, hey, the DAV [Disabled American Veterans] is a really good place for them to act as your power of attorney for your, you know, appeals, for your benefits. But this is who I'd recommend you talk to, because I feel you'd have the best 05:40:00opportunity, you know. So, I'm meeting not just organizations, but trying to find in those big organizations individuals. You know, that I can talk to about issues, 'cause you don't get as fortunate as I do. Last year at the Military and Veterans Resource Center at UW-Milwaukee, to have the Naval commander coming in and shaking your hand, and thanking you for giving him a Veterans for Diversity pin with rainbow colors in it, and three of them coming over and talking to you about diversity in the service and what that means today. You don't get that. You don't get those opportunities. Those are conversations I couldn't have had maybe a week ago before then, let alone ever in my career. I mean, people can be in military now and google "How to come out." [Both laugh] They can do that, but it doesn't mean that they have that opportunity, or that's best for them.
STUART: And they have to go through the same process. You've got to weigh yourdesire to serve, and as you're learning to be who you are, when you 05:41:00can bring those into one, that's when you truly benefit. You don't have to be in your fifties, or late forties in my case. I'm not fifty yet! [Halaska chuckles] Your late forties before you find that out. But the division that I recognize isn't to say it's a barrier.
STUART: To me, it's an opportunity. It's a place I know I have to buildsomething. It's not a place where everything ends. Say, okay, between the VA and us, there was this barrier. I got to work on committees, I got to redesign the LGBT brochure. I got to be on--Thankfully I just took a class where, between a class on creating those pamphlets and ways to communicate better, as well as with this new language I was learning, realizing that the symbols they had on the front of it was throwing off a whole bunch of people!
STUART: Because you had lesbians and gay couples, symbols on there. That doesn'ttell a transgender person to pick up that pamphlet from a distance, or anyone. So the symbols were already excluding people, and I--this great 05:42:00opportunity, they listened, and they made these changes, and they want to learn. And I get to work with their employee resource groups at the VA. I get to learn things that are happening in the community that I don't get now because I don't work. I just realized that. I don't work, so I don't get this experience I did when I worked here, to be on campus, and have these LGBT alumni groups and stuff like that. I get my experience by going out in the community, and working with a great number of nonprofits, but also for-profits, and other organizations, to learn. I get a lot of job offers now, this masters pending, but I forget. I don't have--I can work for you maybe part-time, but I've gotta work when I can work. I just, it's not a big seller [Halaska chuckles]. Although a lot of people have agreed to consider that. I feel I still--I have a lot to learn yet. And I think what I've best done is used what I've learned and try to put 05:43:00that out in the community, and I think, right now is the only thing I can see that I can guarantee I can still do. The rest I don't know. But I'd love to find people who are--who want to do it, who want to get involved, or maybe have something to offer, or an idea that, hey that's great, how do you--how should we do that? Let's brainstorm. But it's the people. Everybody's telling me, they want this, they need this, but they don't want to come and do it themselves. And that's your veteran group as a general [both laugh], they want it all for free. But the LGBT community, that's, the trust, there's still trust issues. And trying to find a way to bring them together, and doing different things to do that, that's where we're starting.
STUART: That's where I'm starting. We'll see, and my vision, someone's going tocome along. I'm going to set these foundations, and they're going to come along with these grand ideas, and someone like has a checkbook, and this is all going to be great; someone's going to get paid, and I'm going to sit back 05:44:00and watch, and say "Hey, you want me to just staff your booth?" I want to come and do my job, and let someone else come in and do this, and make it better. I don't want to be here forever and be here for ten years, if I'm not effective. You know? Sometimes if you're the captain, that's great, and you're steering, whatever direction, you feel you're going somewhere. But if you come to the day where you think you're the anchor...You know, you gotta let it go.
STUART: And maybe put yourself to use somewhere else. So that's what I hope. Idon't want to be the anchor. I want to go, and I want to get experience, and I want to meet these people. I want to go to La Crosse, I want to get to Green Bay. I'm going to go down to the Kenosha Pride, places we haven't been. I don't drive, so imagine how I get--I do, I find ways to get to these places, because it's not about, how can I not get there. My good friend who had two going away parties, is gonna come, and meet me. We did a hockey game together. 05:45:00But just kind of neat, and a firefighter I served with too, she's from here, and I haven't talked to her in a while. But, they were the only two people I knew from Wisconsin that I knew from--there were a lot--almost half my dorm was from Wisconsin. I wasn't a Packer fan, I liked basketball and baseball or softball. But they would meet in day rooms and group together and watch football. And I thought, well that looks kind of fun. And I didn't know what I was going on, and I was a Chargers fan! Because they had the lightning bolt, and I liked that way before weather, so I was still missiles then. I thought the uniforms were cool, I can't believe I just said that [Halaska chuckles]. But I watched Packer games. And my dorm manager, I should not say that, my dorm manager was from Wisconsin. When I served in the 128th Air National Guard, his sister worked here, and three years ago at Pride Fest, I was going in and giving my ticket at the booth, and she was there. She's like, "Hey Kim, how you doing?" Eckerd[??], I 05:46:00remember it. So, it was kind of weird, but I learned from that, you know, grouping together, and it was a group of guys. Very few women in the dorm, and I was the only woman. Well, later my girlfriend would come over [chuckles]. They'd be like, "Leave it for Kim. Kim and her girlfriend are coming." They would say girlfriend, they knew!
STUART: They'd be there sitting there. They didn't care, because we likedfootball, so we were cool. But to be around a group of guys like that, in an environment, often exciting and yelling, I was comfortable in that. But not years later. Even in my own dorm, you know? I started to feel that, started to not feel safe anywhere. I had to go. [Laughs] Here I didn't have that, in the Guard.
STUART: And it was more free. But you're still not free, if you're chained twodays--one weekend a month, two weeks a year [chuckles].
STUART: So, it was freeing, but I missed it. I didn't realize I05:47:00missed it.
HALASKA: Mm, mmhmm. Yeah, that feeling of community.
STUART: And I miss it, and I think it's great, and I like doing all thesethings, there's so much growth and opportunities. And a lot of the community willing to really help now, or what can we do for you. Questions being asked, I don't know what you can do for me, but all these other people need to be on board too. You're doing it for them, but you don't see them. I need them to see them, I need them to see you. You know, other people to hear from you, if anything. You know, I would say, they always tell you, you're gonna be nothing but a statistic. I'm going out and saying, I want you to be a statistic, I want you to be counted! You have to think of it that way, because every interview, every opportunity, every person who says, "I am an LGBT veteran, this is what I went through; I experienced this as a woman. I experienced military sexual trauma. I have, you know, all this going--" Whatever happened to you when you were in, whatever it was, or "I was, you know, treated poorly because 05:48:00of my race, or because of my religious beliefs." It can be anything! [Laughs] But if you don't tell anybody, nobody can mark that and count it. You aren't going to be counted. And some smart PhD student [laughs] is going to be on a team researching this stuff, because it's already growing, they're starting--the VA is one of the largest opportunities for research, which I learned during my Psychology of Women class that I had in this very building [laughs] two summers ago, Sabin Hall. There's all this research out there and they're starting to count that, starting to count how you want to identify. They're starting to allow you to change your discharge, your proof of military service and your DD 214s, your NG1s, and whatever the Reserve calls it. To change your gender to the identity you choose, and to merge that with your federal records, so that when you die as Jane, they'll know you were John when you served. Rather than, "Jane wasn't a veteran, Jane didn't serve--" They can merge those, a lot of 05:49:00people don't know that. A lot of people don't get VA service or veteran stuff until later in life. They're learning all this. But, maybe they were out or came out later. We have so many groups that they're going to age out, and they're gonna to disappear. And you know as a history--that disappears, it's gone. That value of knowledge, those great stories, they're gone. You were too afraid to check that box. I know what that feels like. I wouldn't check it either, so we didn't get counted then, so get counted before you go. So, I don't--I could get going, I know [inaudible] get really passionate.
HALASKA: Alright, that's good. So, kind of, as we're closing up here--is thereanything else that you wanted to say to a listener about your service, and what you would want them to get from this interview?
STUART: I do. I will say, I come from a family of service, three05:50:00generations. I am the first and only woman to serve in my family, to this day. I was the first in my family to retire from the service. My cousin joined a few years ago when he retired from active duty. I don't regret my service. I don't regret--I obviously can still remember my desire to deserve. But knowing who I was came well before that. I wish I could have done those together. So, I'd encourage them to, if you wish to serve, investigate a little bit more for your job opportunities. I love the jobs I had, but I'd love to do that. But know that if that doesn't fit for you, you have the opportunity to try something different. And, a place is what you make it, and the service is no different. If it's not so great, do something to make it better. Do something to make yourself better. Just take--you're gonna have opportunities. And when you leave, you don't leave. Like they say, there's no oath of dis-enlistment. 05:51:00[Laughs] I have the pleasure of serving veterans still. And, one day, that's gonna be them. And I'm going to need you, when I'm eighty-some years old, which I hope to be, listening to this interview to help, you know, aging LGBT veterans, because that's who I'm going to be. And I'm not going to know what I need, but I hope that you're out there helping me do whatever you do, that you're serving that, and watching all these women outnumber the men like they did, going to Iraq, and enlisting disproportionately to men. That was wonderful to see, but our women veteran population is going to be bursting. They don't know how to handle us. I want you to serve, and I want you to come back and tell them how to handle you. Tell them what you need, tell them what to offer you. Be counted, get what you earned. These benefits aren't free, they're not given to you for no reason. They're given to you for the commitment to serve. 05:52:00And do that. And you are. And you're always going to be--you can always do no wrong [laughs] 'cause you're a veteran, as my dad would say. [Both laugh] And find a community. You may not remember people you served with, or have the opportunity to be in a state where you still know people. But, reach out to something local and connect yourself in whatever way's good for you. You don't have to raise the rainbow flag like I do, and do that. But, find a way to get involved because somebody out there needs you. They need to hear from you, they want to hear your story. And, I will tell you, doing the Pride Parade last year, and marching in the color guard, and watching these little kids--especially my heart goes to little girls. Seeing the little girls stepping up and saluting! They did that for Memorial Day Parade. The boys, a lot of the boys do, but I've seen the girls.
STUART: Go out and participate in these things after you get out. And, show themwomen in service. Because they need to see it, and the kids love it. 05:53:00And you're going to be an idol [chuckles] to some people. Hold onto that, because you can't relive it. But when people get older, you can go to school. You can use your education, your benefits. But you can't be fifty years old and go back and serve your country. So, do what you do with greatness, and then come back out and don't stop.
HALASKA: Alright. Thank you very much.