French did her tour in Alaska – and fell in love with the land
Honoring All Who Served
1973 – 1976
Medals and Certificates:
National Defense Service Medal
Cold War Recognition Certificate
I joined the Women’s Army Corps shortly after high school, in 1973. At that time, the service branch was still divided between Regular Army and the WAC (Women’s Army Corps). But for the most part, women recruits were merged with their male counterparts upon completion of basic training.
For my permanent duty station, I asked for and received Ft. Richardson, Alaska. I was sent there after advanced training in February, 1974. Certainly it was cold, and dark, but I adjusted very quickly and fell in love with Alaska.
My assignment was clerk typist in the Training Aids Services Office, where we stocked more than 40,000 16mm films. Amazingly enough, our most important customers were not any of the multiple service branches, but instead were BIA installations throughout Alaska.
Native American outposts, towns, and even Eskimo villages were in close contact with us all year long.
They were familiar with most of our titles, and they sent in weekly requests for seven to 10 training films at a time. These films were then shown on Friday and Saturday nights in community centers or town halls for anyone who wanted to go to the movies.
The overall mission in Alaska was to hold back Soviet forces in the event of an attack for just a very few minutes in order to give “the lower 48” time to respond. To that end, we were in constant training mode. One of my most memorable experiences was a co-ed 15-mile march. We started early in the morning and before noon, my gear became untethered. Not wanting to step out of line, I quickly gathered it all up in my arms.
Without missing a beat, the male soldiers marching with me in formation began taking my items, relieving me of the awkward burden. No words were spoken, they just pitched in and helped me continue the march to the end.
I will never forget their kindness and respect.