Alpha Troop 69 Cav — Part I

Danger and desire in the desert

Stryker Vehicles during training Photo by: CM Jaxon

The sweltering 135-degree day felt like hell on earth. The extra 100 lbs of body armor and ammo didnt help. It felt like another ten degrees added to the already stifling and dry desert heat. Six months into the deployment, Roquel settled into her role as Commander of Alpha Troop 6–9 Cav. Contrary to what the media says, deploying overseas hits differently. Months of training and a rotation to the National Training Center was what being a soldier was all about. She felt a sense of pride. Serving her country, defending the Constitution, and protecting the freedoms of the American people. Although it sounded hokey, it held special meaning for her.

Going out on patrol in the neighboring city with her soldiers was a regular occurrence. Roquel actually enjoyed it. It made the time go by faster. She was a vehicle commander for one of the Strykers, an armored troop carrier that could move her Soldiers across the battlefield protected and at high speed. The eight-wheeled vehicle hummed when it passed by. Inside it was quiet. The suspension made it glide across the damaged roads or the open terrain of the desert. The lingering smell of oil, dirt, and sweat gave Roquel a sense of comfort. Sometimes she would drive it during patrols. This gave her a rush of adrenaline. The feeling of duty and pride mixed with danger kept her guard up. The area she and her troop patrolled was relatively safe. The threat of enemy insurgents was still there. The Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel White, always emphasized that complacency is the greatest threat to the formation. If you didn’t stay focused, it would get you and your troops hurt or killed.

One of two armor female troop commanders in the squadron, Roquel had a lot to prove without the pressure. Her brigade commander was progressive and supported women. More women commissioned into infantry and armor branches in the last five years since the ban was lifted giving them a chance to prove their mettle and advance into the senior management ranks of the Army. But there were still men salty about answering to a woman who wasn’t in a support or medical specialty

The Noncommissioned Officers, or NCOs for short, had the most significant issue. Seeing a captain and a woman was one thing. But a woman leading a reconnaissance troop in combat was something different. The misogyny and resentment grew. The Squadron Commander didn’t play that shit. Anyone caught saying anything inappropriately sexist was quickly dealt with. He was one of the few senior commanders that supported the idea of women in Infantry and Armor branches. He didn’t stick them on staff like some sort of token. He gave them a shot to prove our qualification to lead, even if it was in combat. He believed it made the force better.

Roquel’s presence gave the female junior enlisted troops a leader and mentor they could see themselves in. She understood the unique challenges of being a woman in a once male-only branch. There was no need to be a hard ass on the female troops. There were enough obstacles with being an Armor soldier. Having another female troop commander and a few staff principles helped. It negated the sexist competition they had against each other. Often seen when there were few women in the unit. It also helped in not feeling isolated.

The battle rhythm was pretty routine. Missions in the morning typically consisted of key leader engagements. This meant drinking chai and eating local candy and nuts while engaging tribal elders on a myriad of topics related to winning “hearts and minds.” She kept the chai drinking to a minimum. There were challenges of utilizing the latrine with full-body armor that the men did not understand. Without appearing rude or disrespectful, she slowly sipped her tea. Even though she was issued a She Wee device that allowed her to pee standing up, it got messy. Smelling like pee during the sweltering 135-degree heat was no fun. Especially if they had to walk the compound or eat lunch with her counterparts. After the mission, she typed up her engagement report and drafted a few slides for the weekly update meeting to the battalion. Once she completed these mundane tasks, her attention finally drifted to troop issues with her First Sergeant and Platoon Leaders. She wasn’t married with kids. Staying up to call home was limited to a few minutes of video chatting with her parents and friends.

Living arrangements hadn’t changed in the last 20 years since the deployments started. Roquel lived in a 20ft shipping container called a CHU. She shared the 50 square foot space with another captain. Danielle was assigned to the Brigade Support Battalion. It was nice living with someone who wasn’t in the same unit. Danielle was the Deputy in the support operations office or the SPO. Her job required around the clock logistics support and assets. Support to the maneuver battalions like Roquel’s. Her shop ran 24-hour operations. When she was coming off from duty. Danielle was getting her day started. This arrangement offered each other moments of privacy for several hours.

“Off to work?” Roquel asked. Removing her 9mm holster off of her hip before sitting on her small twin sized raised bed.

“Yeah,” Danielle responded while zipping up her OCP top. “How was the mission today?” sliding her duffel bag under her raised bed.

“Mission was cool.” “Had lunch with the general, then walked the compound as usual.”

Roquel said while peeling off her jacket and boots. While peeking out front, the curtain used to separate the CHU.

Roquel’s side of the room was in the rear of the CHU. Since the space was so small, there wasn’t much furniture. Each side had a wall locker, a small desk, nightstand, and a twin size bed. She bought risers to lift her bed, so it provided extra storage for her tuff box and duffle bags. There were no bathrooms in the CHUs. Toilets were located in one set of trailers, while the showers were in another location. Personal hygiene required a two to three-minute walk. Around the berms that towered 10 feet. You had to make sure you had everything with you going to the showers since the walk is in line of foot traffic. The sandy ground and heats could become annoying on days the winds picked up or on the rare occasion it rained the pathways turned into a muddy sludge.

Danielle grabbed her M4 rifle and patrol cap, “Enjoy your free time.”

“Have a good day at work,” Roquel said, looking over her shoulder towards Danielle.

Part II coming soon…

Passionate Writer thats writes about anything. Boudoir Photographer & Owner of Bohemian Visions. Check out other content here:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store