Daughter In Boots Continues Family Tradition
November 2, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--As a little girl, Pvt. Lakisha Scott said she didn't want to be like her mom or dad when she grew up.
But destiny has a way of changing things.
Today, Scott is very much like both her parents, wearing the uniform of the Army.
"I wanted her to join day one," Scott's father, Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Turner of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said.
"She comes from a military background and I always believed that after high school and college she was going into the military."
Besides her dad, her mom, Barbara, also served in the Army. Scott's parents both thought the Army could offer their daughter career and personal development opportunities she couldn't get anywhere else.
"The military is really good for young people," Turner said. "It gives you a good start, a good job. It trains you with a skill. It gives you a place to live and pretty much takes care of you. It prepares you for a career and for life, and it prepares you if you do decide to get out after a few years. I think every young person should give the military two years. It can really make a difference for them."
But, for Scott, that vision was not so clear. There were a lot of stops and starts along the way to Scott putting on the uniform. She had some difficult memories of growing up military, such as being left with other family members when her parents were both deployed. Even when her mom was home, there were many times when Scott's dad was not there. During 33 years of service, her dad, a three-time Bronze Star recipient, deployed multiple times, with many of those deployments with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"I held that against my parents, especially when my mother deployed. I was against the military because of those memories," she said. "But when I saw the bigger picture, I could see what the military could do for my family."
As a teenager, Scott toyed with the idea of joining the Army. She imagined herself as a Soldier.
"I wanted to join in 11th grade when we lived at Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.)," Scott recalled. "On Bring Your Child To Work day, I visited a basic training unit there and the drill sergeant started teasing me about 'We're going to get you.' So, I was scared and I said 'Nope, I'm not doing it.'"
In 12th grade, while living at Fort Bragg, Scott took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and started thinking about military service again. The possibility of being deployed to Iraq scared her off a second time. She went on to college for a while, had a child and entered cosmetology school.
"I started talking about joining again. But I didn't want to leave my son at such a young age," Scott said. "When he turned 3, I really got serious about it, but my parents didn't believe I would do it. Then, I went to a recruiting station."
Her father had given up trying to convince his daughter about the positives of a military career long before she finally visited a recruiting station.
"I told her I just didn't want to hear about it anymore," he said. "I was really proud of her, though, when she went to the recruiting station. She was getting kickback, but she still kept trying."
Some issues with scheduling the entry test at the recruiting station made it more difficult for Scott to finally take the plunge into military service.
"I kept crying to my mom about it and she just said 'Oh, just go ahead and do it,'" she said.
"Around Thanksgiving last year, they offered me military occupational specialties as a military police or truck driver when I wanted dental specialist, human resources or supply. When they offered me a 42 Alpha -- human resources specialist -- that's when it became serious."
Though in good physical shape, Scott was also worried about passing the Army physical fitness test.
"I had a push-up scare. I just couldn't do it and I was freaking out about it," she said. "But WEE Fit (an at-home computer physical training program) helped me get some muscles and I was knocking out those push-ups. I got up to 27 push-ups in one minute. That's when I was good."
Though she finally decided a Soldier's life was her path, it wasn't an easy decision to live up to. She got a stress fracture in her knee during the first week of training and she struggled with homesickness just like others in her class.
"It was hard, but my mom helped me," she said. "She told me before I left that boot camp was a mind game, and that they would break you down and build you back up. So, I knew what I went through was nothing personal.
"My mom tried to give me advice about what she and dad did, and about what I should do in the Army. But I want to make my own mistakes. I want to do it my way."
There were letters home that gave Scott's father a glimpse of what today's boot camp is all about.
"It's not the same. I look at me as a private and I see her as a private, and it's not the same. Of course, I didn't have a dad who was a command sergeant major," he said.
"Basic training has changed. The Army has changed. The Soldier has changed. But the final results -- the impact basic training had on me and on her -- that's pretty much the same. Army training still makes Soldiers understand they can go above and beyond what they think they can do. The Army still teaches discipline, respect and all the Army values."
Some of the changes Turner has seen through his daughter's experience are in response to the type of person who is now entering military service.
"The Soldier that comes in today is a lot smarter walking in the door. They know so much more because of the Internet and all the different ways to communicate," he said. "When I went to basic training, it was a total shock. Now, young people can visit the Future Soldiers website and see what they are getting into. They can get advice from other Soldiers, and they can meet other future Soldiers before they are together at basic training."
Pvt. Turner wrote lots of letters home. Pvt. Scott did, too, although there were also some phone calls to her mom and dad.
"We wrote letters to people we knew and even to people we didn't know just so someone would write back," Turner said of his boot camp experience 33 years ago. "When one of us got a letter, we would pass it around so everyone could share in reading a letter."
At basic training today, the cell phone is often used as a motivating tool; achieve and win phone time. Some basic units also provide information to families via websites, something Scott's unit didn't do.
"There were 45 in my unit when we started and 15 when we graduated," Scott said. "In the first letter I wrote home, I said I was in the worst camp ever. But I learned to appreciate my time in that unit, and what my drill sergeant taught me about myself and about being part of a team."
Scott again injured her knee while running just before Mother's Day. On that Sunday, her drill sergeant told her the military police were coming to talk to her.
"My first thought was 'I'm going to jeopardize my dad's career.' Then I thought, 'Wait, I didn't do anything. I need a phone to call my parents because I didn't do anything,'" Scott said.
"I was all worried when instead of the MPs coming to see me, it turned out to be my dad. I felt I hadn't seen him for 30 years. I jumped up and hugged him. My knee wasn't hurting anymore. But I was crying."
Turner admits he did take some advantage of his rank to see his daughter. But the very brief visit made all the difference for Scott.
"It just convinced me that this is where I need to be," she said.
Turner took the few minutes they had together to give his daughter some fatherly advice.
"I told her 'I know what you are going through. You're going to make it. You're going to be OK. You're doing good.' I think that really helped her," he said.
Scott's experience with a tough drill sergeant reminded Turner of some of the drill sergeants he worked with as a battalion sergeant major.
"A lot of Soldiers quit. A lot of drill sergeants quit on Soldiers and send them home. A lot of Soldiers get hurt and have to go home," he said.
"But I had one drill sergeant who was sending a lot more home than any others. I had to fix that and I did it by making him send Soldiers to me instead of sending them home. Sometimes I would call home for them and let them talk to their mom or dad. Sometimes I would cut deals with them and say "Give me two more weeks, and if it doesn't get better you can go home.' Over time, drill sergeants get to know their Soldiers and they learn what to do to trigger a Soldier."
Also, in Turner's time, men and women were kept separate in the Army. When his wife went through basic, men and women were being trained together but they were still kept separate in the barracks. For Scott, men and women did everything together, including all training and sleeping in the same barracks. But one thing is the same as in years past -- fraternization is not allowed at all during basic training.
"I believe you produce a better Soldier training them together rather than separate," Turner said. "Males give 110-115 percent. But female Soldiers train better than male Soldiers because they aren't afraid to ask questions or admit they don't know something. Men still have that macho thing going on that keeps them quiet. Female Soldiers are also better at helping other female Soldiers."
Turner views the changes in Army training as a positive, as something that must happen if the Army continues to be a good career choice for young people.
"That's what the Army is all about. We're supposed to change. We're supposed to be different," he said.
Besides having a command sergeant major for a father, Scott was also a bit different than other recruits at basic training because of her age. She was 25 when she joined the Army.
"At advanced individual training, some people called me Mama Scott because they thought I was old. But at basic there were 35-year-old females, and they could still hustle just as hard as anyone else," Scott said. "To me, everyone is equal. Age really doesn't matter, except that I had instructors that were the same age as me and they were already an E- 6 (staff sergeant), and I could have been them if I had started earlier."
Along with her son, Scott also left her husband behind during her training. The family is now united at Redstone, where Scott is assigned to the 308th, Bravo Company, Military Intelligence Battalion. Scott's husband works as a contractor.
After her five-year commitment, Scott is not sure whether she will rejoin. It's too early to tell if she'll try to top her father's 33 years of service. For now she is using every opportunity the Army has to learn and better herself.
"My main focus will be to get back in school and get my degree in business marketing," she said.
So far in her young career, Scott has not leaned on her father to help her along the way. Likewise, her father has kept their relationship quiet in Army circles.
"He didn't tell my recruiter who he was until it was all done and I was signed up, and then as we were leaving the recruiting station he gave the recruiter a coin," Scott said.
"I told her it was best not to be obvious that I'm her father," Turner said. "You just don't know. It may help you. It may not. I told her the best thing is to not say anything about it."
Even though their secret is just now getting out, Scott felt the support of her family from the moment she made the decision to join.
"They supported me the whole way. My mom was excited. She was happy. My dad was just glad I had made a decision," Scott said. "In boot camp, I wrote them tons of letters and they wrote back."
It seems some things never change.