No Penis Envy Here

No Penis Envy Here

Sergeant LeeAnn Castorena in Mosul, Iraq, 2005 (Photo from LeeAnn Castorena)

If I could name one woman who stuck out and challenged me the most during my Army service, it would be LeeAnn Castorena. Talking to her 15 years after we both got out of the military, I’d finally diffused the tension. I never quite understood what it was about, but sure enough in blunt LeeAnn fashion, she would tell me that it was just women–like anyone else–competing against each other for promotion and recognition. She would also tell me that the infantry line units called our three-person, all female signal team “The Retrans Threesome.” They weren’t very smart, but I digress.

LeeAnn joined the Army in September 1999 and was first stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a Signal Support Systems Specialist. She joined our company in Fort Lewis, Washington, around January 2002. Out of all the women I’ve reconnected with throughout this pandemic season, LeeAnn knows the most about the military version of me, because she was right there down in the dirt with me. LeeAnn was there for all the field exercises, the all night radio watch shifts, and the supervisor dramas. LeeAnn was there in Iraq, there through all the convoys, the guard tower shifts, the remote site rotations.

Here’s the thing, I wasn’t always as self-confident as I am now and I think the reason LeeAnn challenged me was because she has always been, at least in my eyes. She had her own struggles, sure, with the weight standards and always having to be taped after physical fitness tests. But she was as strong a woman as I knew at the time and she remains that way today. The concept that no matter what situation life throws at you, you have to make the best of what you have — she lives it. She is adamant that it doesn’t help to complain if you’re not willing to make things better. I am proud to have served with her because, as she says, weren’t just cogs in a machine. We were connected to and by a mission. The Army gave us the solid foundation to be adults and we both learned how to trust people, life, and women as friends.

“I did just as much as the guys in my unit. They didn’t do anything different just because they had a penis.”

LeeAnn Castorena
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