Chante Wolfe: In the belly of the beast


Chante Wolf is a serious and passionate peacemaker. Wolfe was a soldier “in the belly of the beast.” She was a veteran of the first Gulf War. Today, she is active in Veterans for Peace, battling daily to end the current Gulf War.

In 1980, she was 22 from a family that never attended college and did not have money. “I dreamed growing up of being a photographer for National Geographic. My father suggested that I join the service. I thought he was crazy, but it planted a seed in my mind. I did not know how to go to college, and it was never expected of me.”

She looked over her options and settled on the Air Force. The recruiter assured her that she could be a photographer. “Here I was being offered security, a job, training in my chosen field, provided with health care and opportunities to see the world.” At her induction, she was told that training in photography was not available. “I chose air traffic control. By then, I did not want to disappoint my parents; I did not have the self esteem to demand that the Air Force place me in my chosen field,” she said.

She was posted to Spain, where she heard about Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the fascist strongman who ruled Spain from 1936 to 1975. She did not learn that the United States was one of Franco’s top supporters.

Later, she was stationed at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. She noticed many beautiful 18- to 21-year-old women. Young women were regularly invited to the officer’s side of the base. There were numerous gang rapes, she said. “One day, I was called out of formation, which never happened unless you faced disciplinary action, or there was a death in your family. I was sent to see a staff sergeant. I was in a room alone with him. He could have done anything he wanted, and no one would have believed me. The sergeant rearranged his crotch under his trousers—then he proposed that he and another officer could take me away for a few days where we would have a lot to eat and drink and have a lot of fun.” She tried to remain calm and told him she had tickets to go see an aunt that was dying of cancer,” she said. “He brushed past me touching my breast and then he said ‘if you report this incident no one will believe you.’” After that she closely watched her back.

Later when she finished her course work at that base, she did file a complaint. A master sergeant and a staff sergeant were reassigned to another base. On the last day of class her sergeant was waiting for her outside. “He got right in my face and yelled, spitting his words, ‘You lying bitch. I did nothing wrong.’ I was never so scared in my life,” she said. Wolf felt a little bit of vindication. The commanding general of the base was later removed for running a prostitution ring.

Wolf volunteered to go to Kuwait in 1990. “We waited for 2 ½ days in an airplane hangar to be deployed from Dover Air Force base in Maryland. There was so much fear in that hangar about what we would be facing in the Gulf. That fear was pulsing through my body,” she said. “No one had slept in days and we were all chain smoking. There were stories of Saddam’s use of chemical gas—so we had to be proficient in putting on chemical gear. We were all carrying M-16s with 200 rounds of ammunition each. I befriended two 18-year-old boys, fresh out of high school, green around the ears.”

She played cards with them. “I told them I wanted to lay down in a corner to catch some sleep, and asked them to watch my stuff. All of a sudden I woke up and noticed a man was taking apart my gun. I jumped up and grabbed my gun and yelled ‘What the hell are doing?’ The 18-year-old later told me I looked so angry that I was going to shoot the guy,” Wolf said.

They were finally sent off on a plane—after many false starts. Wolf said she recalls sleeping for two days. “We were stationed at an airport in Saudi Arabia being built for King Fhad. The airport was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Scud missiles were flying over us every night.” She heard stories about Kuwait—where bodies laying in the streets were being eaten by dogs. She then withdrew volunteering to go into Kuwait, returned from the Gulf after three months and re-enlisted for another six years.

Eight months later, Wolf fell in love with her best friend. In the military, if you were not with a man you were not valued and labeled a lesbian. One night she drank Jack Daniels and loaded a 357 with hollowed-point bullets. She was going to blow her brains out. Just as she cocked the gun her cats entered the room. “I stopped and just bawled like a baby,” she said. She did not report the near-suicide attempt.

They were downsizing the service, so Wolf took a bonus in exchange for an early discharge. Wolf got involved in a lesbian relationship—and through her partner’s church she heard Kathy Kelly speak. Kelly, who has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, is the founder of Voices in the Wilderness. She heard about the sanctions in Iraq, and the depleted uranium that led to the death of a million and a half people, mostly children. The depleted uranium caused birth defects and cancer.

In 1998, Clinton bombed Iraq when Saddam first threw out the inspectors. She protested the bombing at MacDill Air Force base.

After Sept. 9, 2001 she read books by Ramsey Clark, Helen Caldicott, Chris Hedges and William Blum that opened her eyes to the U.S. killing machine.

She suspects the government knew something was up on 9/11. “There is something strange about the fact the government waited 50 minutes before sending up any planes,” she said. “They could have sent up planes within three minutes of knowing planes were hijacked.”

Wolf has no patience for Democrats that will not oppose this war. She feels great solidarity with other activists in Veterans for Peace. “We were all in the belly of the beast.”