Question 1455: What is the best thing you have done just because you were told you can’t?
The day I arrived to my first duty station at Ramstein Air Base in June 2000, my sponsor called my new office to confirm I made it there. The first thing the senior NCO asked was, “How does she rate on a scale of 1 to 10?”
He didn’t realize he was on speaker phone.
The next day, as I was being walked around the office to make introductions, I was introduced to the director, the deputy, and the senior NCO. As soon as they said his name, I said, “Ohhhh, so YOU are the one who wanted to know if I was a 10. Do you rate all the new people who come here?”
Awkward laugher. The director looked confused as the SNCO tried to explain it was all a joke.
I was 19. He was in his mid-40s.
I was the only female in that division for several months. I turned down invitations to lunch with him, to run errands with him in the office van. My dorm chief gave me a heads up that this senior NCO used to randomly show up at the dorms under the guise of doing “room inspections” on his troops.
At the end of the year, the deputy pulled me into his office wanting to know if something happened between me and the SNCO. The SNCO said I couldn’t be submitted for any awards because I didn’t deserve any of them.
“We put together an awards package for you, but he was adamant you didn’t deserve it, and convinced the LtCol not to submit. I never witnessed any of the things he accused you of … so I’m curious if something happened that I should know about because it just doesn’t add up.”
I blamed it on a personality difference. I got a sympathetic response, but was encouraged to be more mindful of rank and to maybe watch my tone when I interacted with him in the office so as not to appear insubordinate.
The next year, the SNCO retired and not surprisingly, a whole bunch of allegations from other females followed him out the door. Nevertheless, he kept showing up at the office until our new female lieutenant shut that nonsense DOWN and banned him from the facility, and ordered the rest of us to report to her if he showed up again.
And later that year, I swept the awards season, earning first place in every category they submitted my name.