I gripped my arms around Haus pressing my face against his chest to block out the Seattle terminal bustle. “Three weeks,” I muffled with a sigh into his shirt. Pulling back I asked again, “Why do I want to go to the East Coast?” He smiled down at me and brushed my hair behind my ear. “You’ve never been, remember?” The gate agent announced last boarding call and I stiffened with a new flood of tears. “I’ll miss you so much,” I said before kissing him and dragging myself to the plane.
I squeezed into the airline seat and tried to remember my day. A month of training ended with a ROTC Advanced Camp graduation in the morning, lunch with Dad and Haus after, hugs farewell and good luck from Dad, then four blissful hours alone with Haus. Now onto my next commitment. When I signed up for the cadet exchange program in the spring, I thought, why not go to Virginia? My only time further east than Utah was spent in the fifth grade when my family took a trip to Disneyworld in Orlando. Florida’s not really the East Coast though.
I felt tears pool again as I stared down at my jeans and almost dipped into a “I miss Haus” pity party when the passenger in the next row distracted me. He was about my age I guessed with a high and tight haircut and brown Army t-shirt barely visible under his collared shirt. Must be a ROTC cadet like me, I thought. It was pretty apparent that the entire time I was snuggled up to my Haus wishing the clock would tick slower, this dude was consuming all of alcohol he missed out on during the month long Advanced Camp. I laughed a little despite myself as he drawled on about the intricicies of the Apache helicoptor to the passenger next to him. Hard to have a pity party when you’ve got that dude drawling on. I closed my eyes and let the whiskey fumes waft around me before finally falling asleep.
Virginia was hot and sticky as I departed the bus with my fellow exchange cadets for our hotel rooms. Smart Alyssa, I thought as the heat and insect buzz enveloped me. Virginia in July. The Cadet Troop Leader Training program or CTLT paired recent Advanced Camp graduates with Army Lieutenants for job shadowing. My participation in CTLT mean following a 2nd Lieutenant at the Fort Eustis, Virginia Transportation Advanced Individual Training (AIT) school for three weeks. It sounded pretty cool on paper when I first received my assignment. I imagined studying a Platoon Leader in action, seeing how the Army really worked. In reality, the LT I was shadowing was on leave, some Captain AIT commander didn’t really have time to teach anything, and the Drill Sergeants assigned to the company had enough on their hands with the Privates right out of Basic. Oh boy.
On the positive side of things, I quickly learned the ins and outs of an Army chow hall (Hey troop, you ain’t eatin’ in here with them flip flops), found out I run pretty well in humidity (while my clothes retain sweat in humidity even better), and got my first taste of an East Coast summer (ate a variety of bugs). Without a car, I was pretty much stuck. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only stuck one. A friend of mine from Advanced Camp also found himself “shadowing” for a different company on Fort Eustis AND had family close. One of my weekends off, he and his brothers took me to Virginia Beach and then the next weekend he took a few of us stranded cadets to Washington D.C., my first time at the Capital.
I did what I could to help time pass during the week by working out, asking the Drills questions during training time, trying not to annoy the busy AIT commander, and writing letters to Haus. I had my own hotel room with a phone which was a huge improvement from talking to Haus on the pay phones next to the barracks during my camp training. I remember one night in particular leaning back on my pillow and hanging up the phone after a late session of me goobering to him about how much I missed him. The Army stuff was easier with him, I thought, easier to handle when I could vent to him, easier to go through when I knew how proud he was of me. I stared up at the ceiling as my air conditioner hummed.
Yikes, I thought suddenly sitting up in bed. I think I always want him there… which means… he’s the one?
To be continued…