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The 2nd Lieutenant

Life as a fresh butter bar

2nd Lt Julia Mulqueen, USA
MSM Class of 2012

(8/2012) Just a few weeks ago, I marked the day of my commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Army. Four years of my life would soon culminate with me taking the Oath of Office. The morning of my commissioning, I felt almost as giddy as I imagine a bride does on the morning of her wedding day. I couldn’t believe the day had finally come. I would soon be a lieutenant. No longer would I be a cadet. Seven of us were to be commissioned that day. At 11am, we sat down on the stage in Delaplaine Fine Arts Center. We listened intently to our speaker, General Churn, as he offered us words of wisdom and advice as we prepared to enter our new careers in the Army. After he spoke, each of stood up individually to take the Oath of Office. Because my dad was also an officer in the Army, he was allowed to administer the Oath to me. We both remained composed until the very last words "so help me God." He said the words, I repeated them after him, and then we both cracked. Tears rolled down our faces, and he wrapped me in a tight hug. When I sat back down as Lieutenant Mulqueen, I looked at my friend Ashley, and she silently mouthed the words, "We did it!" to me. It was true. We finally did it!

Sunday, May 13th brought our graduation day. It was absolutely gorgeous outside! Myself and the six other newly commissioned lieutenants had our dress uniforms on under our gowns. I felt like a disguised super hero! The graduates soon walked up the aisle and took their places. My foot tapped nervously from the moment I sat down to the moment I stood back up again to walk across the stage.

As per Mount protocol, all seven lieutenants walked off of the stage after receiving our diplomas toward a back hallway in the PNC Sports Complex instead of going back to sit down. In the hallway, the seven of us quickly changed out of our robes and put our dress uniform jackets back on. Then, President Powell called us up onto the stage. He thanked each of us and announced our names, saying the Mount was so proud of us. We stood fiercely at attention as the crowd erupted with applause and stood on their feet. I couldn’t believe it! It was incredible seeing how much the Mount community really appreciated our willingness to serve. It was also incredibly humbling.

I returned home with my family after graduation was over. For me, my actual career in the Army was to begin just one week after my commissioning and graduation. I used the week to visit my grandparents, the rest of my family, and my friends so I could say goodbye to them. It felt as if I were in a dream-state. How could it be that I would leave home in just a few days?

And how short those days were! It was soon time for me to start my time in the United States Army as an active duty transportation officer. Of course, before I was able to leave home, I had to pack everything I would need for the next four months into my tiny, horizon blue MINI cooper. This was a little bit of a challenge, considering I had countless Army combat uniforms, physical fitness uniforms, boots, running shoes, regulation socks, and patches to pack. On top of that, I needed some clothing for my time off-duty, as well as other amenities like my computer and books to sustain me during my time in Virginia.

Like any good leader, I packed my car a couple days in advance so that when the time came for me to leave Pennsylvania I was ready to go. Well, at least I was physically set. Mentally, I was in another world. On Sunday morning, I looked at my parents and my brother. Surprisingly, we were all able to remain dry-eyed. I had thought I would surely cry, but seeing the brave faces my family wore helped me to keep it together as I hugged them and then climbed into my car.

I dug my GPS out of my purse, and while doing so, I found a little scrap of paper tucked in the bottom of my bag. I picked it up and read it. It was a note from my mom, and it said, "Remember--there is no crying in baseball, violent crimes or BOLC! Love, Mom." I smiled reading the note, knowing she was right. I was in the Army after all! And she was just the woman to give me advice. She is chief of violent crimes in our county in Pennsylvania. Of all the people I know, she has one of the toughest and most thankless jobs. So I knew she was right. It would do me no good to cry or mope about leaving my family. Instead, I had to look forward to what was to come.

What was to come consisted of Basic Officer Leadership Course. This is a course that all newly commissioned second lieutenants attend. Each person attends a specific course based on his or her branch. In my case, I had to report to Fort Lee, Virginia because I was assigned to the Transportation Corps. Fort Lee is just a little over 300 miles from my house, so I would be able to drive my car down on the same day that I had to report. My orders stated that I was to report not later than 2pm.

As I waved goodbye to my family, my insides churned. I knew that I was setting out on a new chapter of my life, and with that knowledge came nervousness and sadness about leaving my family. But, I remembered the note I had just read from my mom and promised myself I wouldn’t cry. So instead of crying, I sang loudly and unabashedly as I drove my car down to Virginia.

The drive was pleasant, and I stopped a few times to stretch out and grab chow. Soon enough, I made it to Fort Lee. My hand shook as I reached into my purse and extracted my military identification card so I could get on post. My eyes widened as I looked around Fort Lee and took in my surroundings. This would be my new home for the next four months. I could not believe it. For the first time in my life, I had come onto a post for my job, not because I was following my dad somewhere for his job. This was the start of my career. I drove to the Army Logistics University on post to sign in from leave, and with that signature, I began my time on active duty.

The next stop was Army lodging. Fort Lee, as the center for logistics, has many people staying on post at any given time, so there was no room for my BOLC class. However, the Army makes the transition from college student to officer very easy. The lodging office had already coordinated rooms for us off-post. They gave us government vouchers for our rooms, and with the vouchers in hand, we drove just a few miles north of Fort Lee to our hotel rooms. I crossed my fingers that we would have upgraded hotel rooms with kitchens, and luckily we did. My friend Sarah and I checked into the extended-stay hotel and walked up to our rooms. We each looked into our rooms and could not believe our eyes. Each room had a kitchen with a fridge, stovetop, microwave, and dishwasher. They also had a living room with a flat screen television, a pullout couch and a desk. The bedrooms each had a second flat screen television. The countertops in the bathrooms were granite. The artwork on the walls was tasteful and attractive.

In fact, as I write this article, I am sitting on my queen-size feather bed complete with down comforter and six down pillows. This is the life! Today was my second official day of BOLC. Currently, we are simply in-processing. In-processing consists mostly of paperwork. Yesterday, we filled out our paperwork to begin getting paid, as well as our emergency information paperwork. We also received numerous briefs on everything from the medical facilities on post to lodging to sexual harassment prevention. Today, we received more briefs, and we visited medical. At medical, we rolled up our sleeves to receive shots and have blood drawn. I felt brave as I sat and watched the medic shoot three shots into my arms, and I felt like the Army was officially initiating me.

Tomorrow, we must report to the Army Logistics University at 4:30 am. That means a wake-up call of about 3:30 am for me. Last year at this time, I might have shuddered knowing I would spend my second real week of summer waking up early in order to receive training. Yet, as I sit and type this now, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. These next few years as a lieutenant will be my best years yet. I just know it!

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen