Old school is gone, but not forgotten
August 27, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas - While sitting on a stage before her speech, Annabelle Smith pointed out to a female Soldier, sitting with her legs crossed-ankle on knee, that she would have received demerits and an hour of guard duty for sitting like that when she was in the Women's Army Corps basic training because she wasn't sitting like a "lady."
"Things are totally reverse from then to now," said Smith, during a Women's Equality Day observance, Aug. 26, in Howze Theater.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, an amendment granting women the right to vote, Smith, a former member of the WACs and now director of the office of student aid and veteran services at Central Texas College, offered those in attendance a look at the gains women have made over the years.
Smith grew up in Frankfurt, Ind. and enlisted into WACs in August 1959 as a medic. She attended basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. and advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"I had to have a special hat made for me during basic training since my head was too big and I was always getting in trouble and pulling guard duty because it would always blow off," she said.
Basic training for Smith was also quite different than what female Soldiers experience today. She was issued fatigues for only one day where she attended a rifle range and went through a gas chamber. At the end of that day she was instructed to turn in her fatigues, that they will no longer be needed.
Smith also experienced the transition of the Army's brown dress uniform to the current dress green uniform. She was issued both during her initial training.
From basic training and AIT she attended a ten day school for security clearances in Fort Holabird, Md.
After her training she was stationed at Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Penn., where she would sit and listen to individuals with high security clearances while they were under anesthesia and in surgery to insure they did not disclose any classified information.
"I never once had anyone talk about classified military information but I did have someone talk about an affair he was having," Smith said.
From Valley Forge she was sent to Japan where she met her husband.
"When I arrived to Japan I was told that there was only one single man in my section," she said. "Being the sarcastic person I am I told them, 'I'll take care of that,' and I ended up marrying him."
Her job during this time was to out-process Soldiers from the Neuropsychology department.
During her time in Japan, Smith was offered a reenlistment for Germany but her husband was to go to Thailand. She decided to leave the corps in August 1962.
"I didn't want to be on the other side of the planet from him," Smith said.
Fortunately after she got out of the WACs her husband's orders were changed to Germany.
"I ended up going there anyway," she said.
Smith lived as an Army spouse and moved with her husband where ever he went until he retired in 1976.
"I enjoyed every move we made," she said. "It was an adventure."
Her husband has since passed away.
Smith reassured the audience that she doesn't regret going in to the service and would join again, even today.
When asked if she considered herself a "woman in suffrage" she said, "I never thought of myself that way; never thought of myself as being held back."
Her final remarks offered advice to all that was given to her by her grandmother.
"If it is to be, it must start with me," she said. "Live as the example and treat everyone the same."