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It’s Military Appreciation Month, and to mark the occasion we’re sharing stories of some of the mocha-fabulous women featured in The Mocha Manual to Military Life and sharing some tips for military bliss.

Shon Gables, Army Private 

Shon Gables is an award-winning, nationally syndicated television host, and by the looks of her camera-ready appearance and designer suits, you wouldn’t believe she cut her teeth in the U.S. Army Reserves for six years. As a self-proclaimed “Private Benjamin,” referring to Goldie Hawn movie character where a spoiled and clueless woman naively joins the army, Shon credits the armyfor teaching her discipline, focus, and how to make a mean bed.

Shon shares her perspectives on surviving her rude awakening, using Crisco on her hair in a pinch, dealing with natural desires when you’re a sister soldier.

No Money for College

What drew me to the military was that I had a scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma and I lost it in my freshman year. I lost my focus and went from being an honor student to failing. My mom said I Couldn’t come back home. I had royally screwed up a great opportunity, and I needed to do something drastic to make me appreciate what I had lost. I have six siblings, and four of them were in the military. They would call and say how much they hated it. I figured if I had a similar experience, then I would appreciate college. And I miss college.

I called the recruiter for air force and army reserves. I decided to go with the army reserves and be a weekend warrior. Even though I tested well on the assessment test, which recommended that I pursue and officer route. I joined as an enlisted PFC. I was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for the twelve-week basic training and had the wake-up call of my life. I was a black female version of the movie character Private Benjamin, played by Goldie Hawn. Plus, I had a severe defiant attitude against authority.The first day U got there we crossed the entrance of Fort Jackson, and the drill sergeant started yelling in our faces, I said loudly, “Um, excuse me, why are you yelling?” An it was downhill from there.

The Boot Camp Wake-Up Call

I had a lot of anger and blamed it on everyone but myself. I had a major transformation in basic training. They took this wild stallion of a twenty-year-old and tamed me. I began to respect authority, to recognize the value of teamwork, to ficus on integrity, and to understand the importance of honoring all contracts (financial or otherwise).

The Harsh Realities

I’m very grateful for the experience now. I have discipline and perseverance that I would never have without seven years of army reserves. I realize that the army is not just preparing for war, but preparing you to be a good corporate and civic citizen. It is a character-molding experience.

Military career? Thanks, but no thanks.

I joined as a private first class and left as a private first class. I was only there to get money for college and had no interest in becoming a career reservist or service member. I turned down every promotion opportunity. But it wonderfully leveraged for my career as a journalist.

Five Tips from the Wise

  1. Understand your objectives. Are you in it for a career or not?
  2. if this will be your career, seek a mentor who is a seasoned veteran.
  3. Take the timer to know your rights. As a female you are guaranteed certain rights and privileges. People will usurp those rights from you.
  4. I advise every female to remain abstinent during basic and advanced training duties. This allows you to stay focused and not have the emotional baggage of dealing with a relationship that is probably not going to happen.
  5. Have fun.


Excerpted from The Mocha Manual to Military Life by Kimberly Seals Allers (Amistad/HarperCollins)

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