REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — As a little girl, Lakisha Scott said she didn’t want to be like her mom or dad when she grew up. But destiny has a way of changing things.
|Army Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Turner is proud of the accomplishments of his daughter, Pvt. Lakisha Scott, as she continues their family’s Army tradition. |
Army photo by Kari Hawkins
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Today, Army Pvt. Scott is very much like both her parents, wearing a soldier’s uniform.
“I wanted her to join day one,” said Scott’s father, Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Turner, of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
“She comes from a military background and I always believed that after high school and college she was going into the military,” he said.
Scott’s mother, Barbara, also served in the Army. Both parents thought the Army could offer their daughter career and personal development opportunities she couldn’t get anywhere else.
“The military is really good for young people,” Turner said. “It gives you a good start, a good job. It trains you with a skill. It gives you a place to live and pretty much takes care of you. It prepares you for a career and for life, and it prepares you if you do decide to get out after a few years. I think every young person should give the military two years. It can really make a difference for them.”
But for Scott, that vision was not so clear. There were a lot of stops and starts along the way to Scott putting on the uniform. She had some difficult memories of growing up in the military, such as being left with other family members when her parents were both deployed. Even when her mother was home, her father often was not there. A three-time Bronze Star recipient, he deployed multiple times in 33 years of service, mostly with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“I held that against my parents, especially when my mother deployed,” she said. “I was against the military because of those memories. But when I saw the bigger picture, I could see what the military could do for my family.”
As a teenager, Scott toyed with the idea of joining the Army, and imagined herself as a soldier.
“I wanted to join in 11th grade when we lived at Fort Leonard Wood [Mo.],” Scott recalled. “On Bring Your Child to Work day, I visited a basic training unit there and the drill sergeant started teasing me about ‘We’re going to get you.’ So, I was scared and I said ‘Nope, I’m not doing it.’ ”
In 12th grade, while living on Fort Bragg, Scott started thinking again about military service and took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The possibility of being deployed to Iraq scared her off a second time. She went on to college for a while, had a child and entered cosmetology school.
“I started talking about joining again. But I didn’t want to leave my son at such a young age,” she said. “When he turned 3, I really got serious about it, but my parents didn’t believe I would do it. Then, I went to a recruiting station.”
Scott’s father had given up trying to convince his daughter about the positives of a military career long before she finally visited a recruiting station.
“I told her I just didn’t want to hear about it anymore,” he said. “I was really proud of her, though, when she went to the recruiting station. She was getting kickback, but she still kept trying.”
Some issues with scheduling the entry test at the recruiting station made it more difficult for Scott to finally take the plunge into military service.
“I kept crying to my mom about it, and she just said ‘Oh, just go ahead and do it,’ ” Scott said.
“Around Thanksgiving last year, they offered me military occupational specialties as a military police or truck driver when I wanted dental specialist, human resources or supply,” she said. “When they offered me a 42 Alpha — human resources specialist — that’s when it became serious.”
Though in good physical shape, Scott was also worried about passing the Army physical fitness test.
“I had a push-up scare. I just couldn’t do it and I was freaking out about it,” she said. “But Wii Fit (the Nintendo physical fitness game) helped me get some muscles and I was knocking out those push-ups. I got up to 27 push-ups in one minute. That’s when I was good.”
Though she finally decided a soldier’s life was her path, it wasn’t an easy decision to live up to. She got a stress fracture in her knee during the first week of training, and struggled with homesickness.
“It was hard, but my mom helped me,” she said. “She told me before I left that boot camp was a mind game, and that they would break you down and build you back up. So, I knew what I went through was nothing personal.
“My mom tried to give me advice about what she and Dad did, and about what I should do in the Army,” she continued. “But I want to make my own mistakes. I want to do it my way.”
There were letters home that gave Scott’s father a glimpse of what today’s boot camp is all about.
“It’s not the same. I look at me as a private and I see her as a private, and it’s not the same. Of course, I didn’t have a dad who was a command sergeant major,” he said.
“Basic training has changed. The Army has changed. The soldier has changed,” he added. “But the final results — the impact basic training had on me, and on her — that’s pretty much the same. Army training still makes soldiers understand they can go above and beyond what they think they can do. The Army still teaches discipline, respect and all the Army values.”
Some of the changes Turner has seen through his daughter’s experience are in response to the type of person who is now entering military service.
“The soldier that comes in today is a lot smarter walking in the door. They know so much more because of the Internet and all the different ways to communicate,” he said. “When I went to basic training, it was a total shock. Now, young people can visit the Future Soldiers website and see what they are getting into. ” “There were 45 in my unit when we started and 15 when we graduated,” Scott said. “In the first letter I wrote home, I said I was in the worst camp ever. But I learned to appreciate my time in that unit, and what my drill sergeant taught me about myself and about being part of a team.”
Scott again injured her knee while running just before Mother’s Day. On that Sunday, her drill sergeant told her the military police were coming to talk to her.
Scott was worried, afraid she’d done something to jeopardize her father’s career. Instead, she found he was just coming to visit her. “I felt I hadn’t seen him for 30 years,” she said. “I jumped up and hugged him. My knee wasn’t hurting anymore. But I was crying.”
Turner admits to taking some advantage of his rank to see his daughter. But the very brief visit made all the difference for Scott.
“It just convinced me that this is where I need to be,” she said.
Turner took the few minutes they had together to give his daughter some fatherly advice.
“I told her ‘I know what you are going through. You’re going to make it. You’re going to be OK. You’re doing good.’ I think that really helped her,” he said.
Besides having a command sergeant major for a father, Scott, at 25, was older than most recruits.
“At advanced individual training, some people called me Mama Scott because they thought I was old,” she said. “But at basic there were 35-year-old females, and they could still hustle just as hard as anyone else.”
Along with her son, Scott also left her husband behind during her training. The family is now united at Redstone, where Scott is assigned to the 308th, Bravo Company, Military Intelligence Battalion. Scott’s husband works as a contractor.
After her five-year commitment, Scott is not sure whether she will rejoin. It’s too early to tell if she’ll try to top her father’s 33 years of service. For now, she is using every opportunity the Army has to learn and better herself.
“My main focus will be to get back in school and get my degree in business marketing,” she said. So far in her young career, Scott has not leaned on her father to help her along the way. Likewise, her father has kept their relationship quiet in Army circles.
“He didn’t tell my recruiter who he was until it was all done and I was signed up, and then as we were leaving the recruiting station he gave the recruiter a coin,” Scott said.
Even though their secret is just now getting out, Scott felt her family’s support from the moment she joined.
“They supported me the whole way. My mom was excited. She was happy. My dad was just glad I had made a decision,” Scott said. “In boot camp, I wrote them tons of letters and they wrote back.”
It seems some things never change.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)