Daily Life in the Military: Morning Cleanup
After breakfast, we returned to the barracks to shower and change for the workday. For the female soldiers, we had our own section of the building, and later, after we moved, our own building. During the time after PT, men were not allowed in the barracks at all. It was kind of an unspoken rule, because all the women were getting changed. It wasn’t like we had private bathrooms in our rooms; women were going down to the showers in various states of undress.
We did have one time where one of the male sergeants tried to get in. He was up to no good, and I happened to be the one who stopped him outside and told him, “You know you’re not supposed to be here now.” He slunk off, and I reported it to my squad leader.
It was a lot of bustling of activity during that 90 minutes. When we had our own barracks, it was something like twenty women sharing three showers, sinks, and toilets. No privacy – the shower was an open bay with three showerheads and an older style floor that always smelled like mildew. We had to wear flip flips – we called them shower shoes – because the floor would give us athlete’s foot.
After showers, it was off to get dressed. The uniform was typically the BDU—Battle Dress Uniforms. That’s the older style green camouflage ones, called woodland camouflage. The uniform was a set standard for the time of the year, so we couldn’t change it up any like wear a field jacket because it was chilly that day. We could change up the boots a little and instead of wearing issue boots, wearing jump boots (wide toe and very stiff sole) or jungle boots (green canvas sides). We could also use a polyester/wool blend sock instead of the issued wool sock (very scratchy), green, of course. Everything else was standard, though.
The hair for the women then was always a challenge. Then we just had to keep our hair off the collar with a rubber band or barrette that was similar to our hair color. I have really thick hair, so it was always hard to put up my hair. Initially, I tried cutting it short, but that’s surprisingly high maintenance. I had to be really on-time getting it cut, and there was a point where if it got just long enough, I was in violation of the regulations but it was also too short to put up.
What I ended up doing was put it in a pony tail or a French braid. Then I folded it up, then folded it down and put a barrette on it. That wasn’t the far off from what the other women were doing. My roommate had hair down to her butt, and she braided it and folded it up, too.
There were women there who would use every minute of that 90 minutes to get dressed and do their hair. I was like ten minutes, and then I could chill out for a while before doing any clean up.
Cleaning had to be done every morning. Two areas needed cleaning: The bathroom and the hallway. One of the women made up a rotating schedule, so everyone got it every few weeks. One of the women typically volunteered to come up with a roster of assignments for the week, so we could go two weeks without cleaning the common areas, the bathroom and the hallway. We still had to do our rooms as well, though.
The hallway consisted of stripping down the floor (usually on the weekend), and then waxing it. After that, sweeping with a mustache broom and then a quick buff. Sometimes we had to go chasing after the buffer – the guys would sneak in and steal it. The buffer was quite heavy, had bike handles, and was like a bucking bronco – tough to control.
The bathroom was cleaning the floors, cleaning the showers, dumping pine oil in the toilets, cleaning the sinks. If I did it, I dumped bleach on that floor so it smelled clean.
Then we had to clean up our individual rooms. Sometimes that was buffing the floor, but it was also sweeping up, cleaning out the seal on the refrigerator, making the bed, etc. I was never very good at cleaning. The Army wanted us to learn attention to detail by cleaning, but I was terrible with details. Where the first sergeant would bark about cleaning the cracks in the seal on the fridge and expect us to pick up details like that, I simply added “crack in seal” to my mental blackboard of things the first sergeant wanted me to look for. For me, it never translated into how to look for other details like that.
About once every week or two, the first sergeant would make random inspections during the day, checking for cleanliness, so the rooms always had to be pristine. When I got out of the Army, I practically exploded with junkiness! Staying that obsessively neat was too much for right-brained creative me!
At 15 minutes to 9:00, it was off for another formation.