By Lori Kerns | Librarian
Sandra “Sandy” Joiner is the oldest of three daughters born and raised in Brunswick, GA. Her parents would take the girls to the nearby beaches every weekend. Once the family bought a boat, they expanded their love of the water to skiing on the river. Growing up, Sandy always enjoyed playing sports and looked forward to lettering when she went to high school. She was very disappointed when she learned her high school decided to stop the girls’ sports program. Luckily, they allowed the girls to play intramural sports giving her the opportunity to play softball, volleyball, and basketball. As a child, she also enjoyed playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and soldiers. She enjoyed playing soldier so much that she always dreamed of serving in the military.
After graduating high school, Sandy began to work for a doctor as a respiratory therapist. The doctor tried to convince her to go to college and come back to work for him. Instead, she decided to live out her dream of serving in the military. During this time period, women were not allowed to join until they were 21 years old. They were allowed to enter if they were 18 if they had their parents’ permission. Sandy’s parents granted her that permission.
She had initially talked to the recruiter and asked how she could be sent to Vietnam to serve. The recruiter advised her to become a medical corpsman. However this advice turned out to be incorrect because at the time, women medics were not allowed to serve in the field. Women also had a one-year period to serve before receiving orders to work overseas. She still chose to become a medical corpsman. In July of 1969, the twenty-year old set out for U.S. Army basic training at Fort McClellan in Anniston, AL. When she graduated basic, she had gotten an advancement and was promoted to E-2. Her first assignment took her to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for training to become a 91A10 medic. Because of her respiratory therapy experience, she was referred to a colonel who decided that she was suited best to work in that field.
Her next assignment was for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There was one other female respiratory therapist working with her. She soon discovered that she and her coworker were the only two females working in that field for the Army, an honor that Sandy’s hometown newspaper published. She stayed at Walter Reed for about two years before taking a short break so that she could reenlist to change her MOS (military occupation specialty) to 76 Yankee. Her new assignment was to begin training in supply. During the weapons training, she was sent home because women were still not allowed to handle weapons. Once her training was complete, Sandy worked for a year and a half as a supply clerk in the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) Company.
She was sent back to Fort McClellan again for a WAC leadership course. Here, she was chosen to become a drill sergeant. She attended drill sergeant school and was sent back to work at McClellan in the WAC Expansion. After three years, she was reassigned to military police school. Still assigned to McClellan, she worked for the military police as an NCO (non-commissioned officer) for students in correspondence courses. Wanting a change of pace, she looked into an opening with CID (Criminal Investigation Division) in Panama. Once her records were reviewed, she was accepted into the command but got sent to Hawaii instead. According to Sandy, “it was a hardship tour, but someone had to do it!” She was assigned to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii to work as an admin NCO for the next three years. Her next orders were to report to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to work with the senior ROTC. She was here for another three years until receiving a duty assignment to work for the IG in Fort Gillem in Forest Park, Georgia. She also served back at Fort McClellan as a first sergeant for the 3/48 Infantry Battalion. By 1989, Sandy had served over 20 years and had earned the rank of an E-8 first sergeant. She retired from the Army on January 1, 1990 receiving several commendations, such as a Meritorious Service Ribbon with a Silver Oak Leaf, Army Service Ribbon, NCO Leadership Ribbon, Drill Sergeant Badge, and more. She also left the Army as an expert with a rifle and marksman with a pistol. According to Sandy, the highlights of her career were serving as a drill sergeant and first sergeant.
Upon her retirement, Sandy lived in Anniston, Alabama and sold insurance for about a year until she started community college. She earned an AAS degree and began working at a hospital until she came across an ad looking for a medical/lab tech. She applied and got a job working in the quality control department for a water-bottling plant. She stayed with the plant, running the quality control department for 15 years until she decided to retire altogether. She stayed active in her retirement by volunteering at her church. She took part in the creation of a summer camp for underprivileged children. This camp is still in operation today. She was the mascot lobster (costume and all), for the church’s inaugural lobster fest, held to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity.
Sandy always knew about AFRH, especially since she taught about the home as a drill sergeant. After seeing her sister’s struggles in taking care of their parents, she decided she did not want to be a hardship to her or anyone else. She decided to apply to AFRH-G because the coastal area reminded her of her hometown in Georgia. She applied for AFRH-G but was placed on a two-year waiting list. She got a call about an opening in AFRH-W and decided to move there in April 2017. Sandy lived at the DC Home for one year until she took advantage of an opening at the Gulfport campus. She hit the ground running when she arrived at AFRH-G in April by signing up to volunteer in the library and at the administration desk. She also enjoys her retired life by watching movies and sports. Her favorite sports to watch are football and fast pitch softball. AFRH-G would like to extend a warm, beachy welcome to Sandy!