No Regrets As A Female Military Officer But…
The best day of an 18-year-old African American female was joining the United States Armed Forces. This is not only the biggest decision in one’s life but also a life changer. I am an African American with a ready-to-take-on-the-world attitude because I am full of that red, white, and blue pride. I am that American asset who maintains the law and order in the world. I am the one other nations look to for protection, to control ruthless leaders, help preserve or take a life, and provide humanitarian support for the world.
Yes, this all sounds good and mighty on the surface, but people really do not understand an American soldier’s position. You see, as an American soldier, people do not hear or see my lived experiences. As my red, white, and blue blood flow through my veins, I become the strength of the United States of America. The most powerful thing to me as a soldier is not my uniform or weapon. It is the power of an ORDER GIVEN and the EXECUTION of the ORDER. That ORDER has power over my mind, body, and spirit.
In other words, an ORDER GIVEN has control over my mind; telling me, giving me, and allowing my body to physically act or act in a particular manner, while my spirit becomes unnerved, unsettled, and immovable. The power of the ORDER is not just hearing it, but actively listening to the given instructions. Once an ORDER is GIVEN, I have the power to talk the talk in understanding what needed to be done and the expectation to walk the walk by taking action to EXECUTE the ORDER.
It is easier said than done. Once the ORDER is GIVEN, I must process my steps and strategy in order to execute. How will that ORDER GIVEN affect me as an American soldier when I know and feel in my heart that it is wrong, immoral, or unethical in some kind of way? Look at it this way, I have a mission to do, and my comrades expect me to perform my duties regarding the EXECUTION of the ORDER GIVEN, one way or another.
Now, here is the story of the ORDER GIVEN. Fetch those refugees out in the water and take them to the detention center. It was a pitch-black night. I take a patrol boat with a couple of my comrades and we could feel the darkness all around us. We were overwhelmed with refugees crossing the border to seek asylum in the United States, but exactly where is the borderline in the middle of an ocean or sea? We were pulling refugees onto the patrol boat who were swimming and floating in shark-infested waters for 10 days. They told us there was a group of 10, but five were eaten by sharks. I take count of three male adults, one female adult, and a toddler female.
I pulled the boat into the marine dock on the United States side of the border. We off-loaded the refugees. This night was different from all the others. I was the only female soldier on duty that night. The Commander meets me and the ORDER GIVEN was strip search the female adult and female toddler and make sure you search their private parts. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘what the Hell did he just say to me.’ I had no problem searching them, but something changed about the way the search order was to be EXECUTED. I am a soldier, and my duty is to follow ORDERS GIVEN without question.
In my mind, I was praying, “Lord, how do I strip search this toddler who is obviously traumatized, fleeing her country, and who has been stranded in the middle of the ocean now for multiple days without raft or life jacket?” I walked the two females over to the female search room. I explained to the female adult what was about to happen when the toddler looked at me with these big black sad eyes full of terror. Here I am, this African American female soldier, carrying this big M203 Grenade launcher, flexi cuffs across the front of my uniform, and this toddler is so traumatized she burst out crying. The adult female was trying to comfort her, but I could not allow the female to touch the toddler because I was about to strip search her.
Before I proceeded to conduct the search on the adult female, I tried to comfort the toddler by explaining to her that she was safe. I remembered I had a fruit snack in my uniform pocket. I gave it to the toddler and she stopped crying. I told the adult female to stand up, and I proceeded to search her first with her clothes on, then I searched her naked as ORDERED.
As an African American female soldier, I was embarrassed about the type of search I was about to conduct on this toddler because I knew this was not a normal procedure. Now, it is time for me to strip search this female toddler. I explained to the adult female I had to do the same thing to the toddler and if she could please let the toddler know everything was going to be okay.
I asked the toddler’s age and the adult female stated, “She is two years old.” How do you tell a toddler you are about to strip search her and have to physically touch her private parts? I used the back of my hand to search the toddler because I did not want to add to the trauma she was already living through. I was embarrassed, angry, and I felt like a pedophile having to do this type of search on a toddler in the first place. I kept explaining to the toddler everything I was about to do, including taking off her clothes to putting them back on her. I thanked God I did not find anything that could do harm to myself, my comrades, or other refugees from the searches.
Afterward, my comrade brought some dry clothes for the two females and I was able to transport them to the detention center for female refugees. The ORDER was EXECUTED once I checked the females into the detention center. My commander came back by to make sure there were no incidents with the five refugees we retrieved from the water. I told him I was uncomfortable in conducting a strip search of a toddler. I questioned his ORDER GIVEN and asked why it changed to such a violating search, in my opinion. He explained to me that on the northern border, two US Marines were cut with razor blades the night before while searching adults and children refugees who had made it across the minefield.
The female refugees would tape razor blades and knives under their breasts and put them into their private parts to use a weapon. The razor blades were put in the private part area to fend off the enemy soldiers who may have caught them during their escape and tried to rape them. Okay, now the new search ORDER GIVEN made sense to me. We did not want the female refugees to smuggle in any type of weapons and possibly use it against us or other refugees in the detention center. It became a known fact that small weapons were taped to children and adult bodies.
I admit I felt embarrassed by the actions I had to take as a soldier, but there are no regrets, in taking the ORDERS GIVEN and no regrets in the EXECUTION of the ORDERS. Although, I must say I now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to having to strip search every female adult or female child. I still see their eyes and feel their pain from the trauma they lived through as refugees in search of a better opportunity in life while running away from a country that mistreated their people. I was able to put many refugees on unmarked aircraft to start a new life with better opportunities and safety in the United States of America.
For those people in the world who lack compassion, love, grace, and mercy for others who were traumatized by these experiences, walk-in these peoples’ shoes and endure what they endured before you speak hate or curse them. Refugees, no matter where they came from in the world, are trying to escape from bad situations because they are tired of the violence, death, dehumanization, various types of modern-day slavery such as sex trafficking, drug trafficking, gang associations, war, and many other horrific events which caused them to fear for their lives and their family lives. It is not easy living in this world, but one thing for certain is that whatever happens in this world will end up affecting us all at some point.
America advertises itself as the land of the great and free, land of the brave, peacekeepers, and land that trusts in God around the world. So, when refugees seek asylum in this free country, looking for a better place to live, find comfort and safety within our borders, and gain wealth and power in the U.S., we as Americans go against everything we stand for as a country when we treat some of these refugees as if they are not human. Families get separated, unauthorized deportations occur without notice, and other acts of violence happen toward them. Yes, some Americans do fight for these refugees, but as a country, we are not trying hard enough to help resolve the refugee crisis. If we truly trust in God as a country like our anthem states, then we need to open our hearts to show true compassion, love, mercy, grace and extended it toward any refugees seeking a better place to live.
You see, somewhere out there in the world, there need to be people willing to fight for the safety of others because, in my eyes, we were created by God. Being a product of God makes us one body no matter your race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and sex because He loves us all. One day, love will engulf this old world and there will be an end to the sufferings, bloodshed, hate, broken hearts, inequality, killings, or dehumanization taking place. For those who choose to be bad, evil, or cause pain to others, they will no longer be relevant.
There are no regrets being an African American female soldier in the United States of America Armed Forces. I have no regrets for my time in the military, but there are things I have seen and done that haunt my mind, body, and spirit to this very day. No regrets because I am here and will always protect and serve my country the United States of America because my blood runs red, white, and blue, and I am a child of God.
By Dr. Carlette Satterwhite