A career at Fort Jackson
March 8, 2012
FORT Jackson, S.C. -- Connie Bowman had to go halfway around the world to come full circle.
After enlisting in the Women's Army Corps in 1974, she spent three years in the Army doing clerical duties, first at Fort Bragg, N.C., and later serving in Stuttgart, Germany, and another three years in the Reserves. She said her departure from the Army was supposed to be temporary, but that changed after she paid a visit to where she finished Basic Combat Training: Fort Jackson.
"My plan was to go back in," she said. "However, I came out to Fort Jackson for a visit, put in an application and got hired within two weeks."
Bowman was hired for what was then called Troop Command, reviewing files to make sure Soldiers in basic training received the assignments they wanted and handling other administrative duties.
Today, Bowman is the investigative operations assistant at the 37th Military Police Detachment (CID) at Fort Jackson. It's a job she's had for more than two decades but says it wasn't a job she sought. In fact, she said she didn't even know CID, or Criminal Investigation Command, existed until she was approached about the new position.
"My name came up 'highly qualified' because I'm a very fast typist," she said. "I can type about 100 words a minute. I was offered an interview and didn't even know CID existed. They asked me questions about CID, regulations, how to type of certain forms ... and I had no idea how to do it."
She thought her inexperience would have disqualified her for the job. Instead, it was just what they were looking for.
"I got a phone call that said I was hired, and I was hired because I did not know the procedures," she said. "They wanted to train someone from the ground up."
When she started, CID agents didn't type their own cases. Instead, they were dictated on microcassette recorders and given to staff members like Bowman, who would type the final reports.
"The next time the agent would see the case it was when he would sign his name," she said.
Fresh from administrative duties with Troop Command, Bowman said she was shocked by the kinds of cases handled by CID.
"I didn't know that people go through so much tragedy and heartbreak," she said. "Our job was to take care of the victims. That was tough for me. I didn't know how much pain people suffered. It was an awesome journey, knowing that you've helped someone or helped a family."
Today, every criminal action taken against a Soldier on Fort Jackson crosses her desk. She's also the alternate evidence custodian and handles disposition forms sent out to commanders for actions against Soldiers taken at Fort Jackson.
Working on post with thousands on new recruits each year, she said the Army has changed a little since 1974, but she believes the basic training experience is much the same.
"I think the experience of joining the military is the 1970s is the same as it is today," she said. "It's the unknown. But those drill sergeants took care of us, and I think the drill sergeants today will do the same."
She doesn't recall Fort Jackson being as fortified then as it is now. Bowman doesn't remember passing through the gates, or even if there was fencing around the facility.
"We were separated," she said of the male and female recruits. "We were in two different barracks. At night only the female drill sergeants were allowed to stay with the females. Our training was separated, we never did training together. We didn't socialize at all except when we were close to graduating and going to Advanced Individual Training. But we were still in uniform and monitored by our drill sergeants."
She's got one piece of advice for young men and women entering the Army: "Never give up."
"It was an honor to be in the military and work for the government," she said. "It's been real good to me."
Col. Craig Currey, Fort Jackson's deputy commanding officer, said Bowman is a good example of Fort Jackson's civilian workforce.
"We have great civilian workers on Fort Jackson, many with past military service," Currey said. "Their experience is very broad and diverse ... . Many of us come here, stay two or three years and never realize the vast amount of knowledge (that) is right here with our workforce.
"You could be surprised by what you learn from those who are part of Fort Jackson's history," Currey said.