This letter on resiliency was sent to the author’s youngest daughter at the start of 20 weeks of Army training. Basic Training is daunting and her daughter was doubting her strength to finish. The letter is printed with permission & edited for language & personal info.
Alright, baby, it is time to listen up.
First, you ARE strong, but you are only eighteen. You have no idea what you are capable of yet. You are years ahead of the mess I was at your age.
But strong is made, it is not born.
There are four types of strength in metal:
- Compressive strength or ability to resist being crushed. Styrofoam has low compressive strength.
- Tensile strength is the ability to resist tension or being pulled apart. Taffy has sucky tensile strength.
- Yield strength is how well a metal resists deformation of being permanently bent.
- Impact strength is the ability to resist sudden impact.
The strongest metals are iron or steel alloys and those are created, not naturally made or born. Tungsten and Chromium are the hardest natural metals, but they shatter on impact because they are brittle. Titanium has the highest tensile strength, but is soft and corrodes easily.
Man-made strong metals are forged in heat and pressure. The strongest are made through heat, pressure, cooling, repeat.
While fire training is not as difficult as basic training, it still sucked. The hiring physical was designed to discourage women. I had nine minutes to complete it while wearing almost eighty pounds of gear. It was extremely physically demanding. A big guy in front of me threw up on the stairs. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it. I kept breathing through it and thinking: Please God, just let me finish.
And that was just to get hired.
The first six weeks of academy were brutal. My hands twitched from the ax and tool work. Everything hurt from dragging mannequins and equipment and throwing ladders onto roofs. I was beat up and exhausted, and that didn’t include the psychological abuse. The nasty crank phone calls, sabotaging of my equipment, pornography in my locker, verbal abuse, and the constant beat down from other firefighters, some wives, and even members of the public on how women didn’t belong in the fire service.
I might have cried, but I was too tired. I wondered why I was somewhere no one wanted me. I moved forward knowing this was where God wanted me. That first year, I was crushed again and again. It made me truer to myself and to who I was.
Rookies were not allowed to speak, so my tensile strength improved as they tried again and again to pull me apart. I refused to be less that a person of worth, integrity, kindness, and strength. I resisted the impact of personal assault even as I dealt with the trauma of death in everyday calls.
This is who you are – my daughter. Head and shoulders better than I was. REMEMBER THAT! And, think about who you want to grow to be.
Red phase of training will be the hardest. This is on purpose. You are training for life or death, just as I did. You have to be mentally strong to deal with the chaos around you: injury to self or death of a friend. No matter what happens, you must be able to function and make sound decisions. They are forging you into a US soldier. You have natural strength from experiences so far. This is your foundation for the future.
I passed my tests, became good at my job, mentored and trained others to be good, and retired well-respected and missed. You are and will be so much more than I am.