Afghanistan Means No Holidays

As summer ends, the September issue of Essence Magazine let me know that I wasn’t the only soldier girl making strides to redefine what it means to be a black woman in the Army and the civilian world.

In August, I went home on leave, celebrated my birthday and was selected for the promotion list for E-6, which means a staff sergeant in the Army. As sad as I was to see August go, I welcomed September with open arms and this month is off to a good start. Last Tuesday, I officially pinned on the rank of Staff Sergeant. You know what that means? Mo’ money! Mo’ money! Mo’ money! Of course, my promotion means more to me than increased pay. I’ll acquire increased responsibility and higher expectations from my subordinates, peers and superiors. Yeah, no pressure right?

At times working in the US Army can be quite overwhelming, but everyday I pray for the strength to survive and disprove the doubters that look at me and assume that I fit that certain stereotype. You know, the neck-snapping, eye-rolling, hands-on-the-hip, non-college-educated, attitude-having, heavy-Northern-with-a-touch-of-Jamaican patois-accent girl from Brooklyn. The last part of the aforementioned description does apply to me, but the rest absolutely does not. You may think the general “black girl” stereotype is gone, but it still exists because I see women who feed into it. When many of them meet me, they hold me to those same expectations and then when I speak, they’re confused.

‘You don’t sound like you are from New York.’

‘Oh, you graduated college already?’

‘You don’t act like you’re from Brooklyn.’

At times, some have gotten the best of me and I eliminate all doubt regarding my origin, both U.S. and Caribbean. But afterward, I am embarrassed that I let people dictate my behavior.

Black women in today’s society have two factors that work against them in the corporate world—yes, I look at the military as a corporate market too and the President is the CEO. As sistas, we can face a difficult time climbing up the ladder of success and labor twice as hard to get the same effect as many of our counterparts. This why I was so happy to see the September issue of Essence highlighting four Black women in Afghanistan, each holding important jobs which are key to the combat mission. From gunner to Chaplain, these sistas showed that we are out in the field working everyday until the boss says we can go home.

Not long ago, it was Labor Day weekend, the social closing to the summer, in the U.S. but here in Afghanistan, there aren’t any holidays. It’s still 102 degrees everyday and my week hasn’t ended since I laid my boots on the ground in February. As much as I wished I was home to attend Brooklyn’s West Indian Day parade and wave my Jamaican flag with great pride, I was hard at work here on the other side of the world. Another 24 hours of physical fitness, strategic planning and fighting on the invisible front lines. But with every stride and promotion I earn, I know my work to protect and serve the United States is worth it.

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