Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dancing Lessons From God, Part 9

The next day I got to my office with my customary large regular coffee from Dunkin Donuts, sat down at my desk, pulled out a sheet of paper and put my mind to work. I decided to make a list of everything and anything that I wanted to do. I put myself in the mindset that I was starting from scratch and had nothing to lose so anything goes. My final list consisted of two things:

1. Travel, especially to Europe.

2. Go back to school for something that I enjoy and can actually make a career at.

As I looked at the list I thought to myself “man, imagine if I could do something that would allow me to do both, like going to college in Europe”. But since I couldn’t even afford to go back to school in the US doing so overseas was obviously out of the question. Suddenly the idea of enlisting in the Air Force occurred to me again. It had been a few years since I tried the first time so maybe they had changed the “no prior service” policy. Besides, I had finished my enlistment in the Army Reserves almost two years earlier so I wasn’t even in anymore. I excitedly picked up the phone and dialed the recruiter. My joy was nipped in the bud pretty quick as they still weren’t taking anyone who had served in any other branch of the military. I considered the army but quickly dismissed it. That may sound crazy to people who have been in the army because at the time the US had a lot of bases overseas in Europe and I was sure that I could get a slot there. However, there were several other factors that prevented me from seriously considering the army. First of all, if I was going to quit my job and join the military it would be for two reasons: to see the world (or at least Europe) and be able to get my Masters Degree while on active duty. I knew that most bases had an education center where I could probably finish my degree cheaply, if not free. The problem was that my MOS (job skill) was a 31K which was a communications job. I had met several people in my reserve unit who had been on active duty in Europe with my MOS and they all complained that they were never able to take any college courses because they spent so much time in the field on exercises and whatnot. That was a big turnoff for me because the thing I hated most about the reserves was going to the field for our 2 week annual training exercises. If I was miserable doing two weeks a year how could I even consider going active duty where I would no doubt have to spend a lot more time than that in the field? Not only that but if I’m in the field so much that I’m not able to finish my Masters Degree then when I finished my four years I would be in worse shape career wise than when I enlisted. So the Army was out. I would have to come up with something else.

Another week or so went by and I still had nothing. The army kept creeping back into my mind as possibly my only option. I started thinking that maybe if I were able to change my MOS to something computer related it might work. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that anyone with a lot of computer skills had a bright future so maybe that was my way out. I might spend a lot of time in the field but if I’m learning a skill like computers, it would not be wasted time. Eventually I started considering the army as a possible option. Not a very attractive option to be sure but I was getting desperate. The other thing I had to consider was that I didn’t even know if I was young enough to enlist. Now that might sound funny since I was 26 at the time but I felt like the oldest 26 year old in the world. So about a week after I’d been denied by the Air Force, I placed a call to the local US Army recruiting office. At this point I still hadn’t decided that it was something I wanted to do, I just wanted to get some questions answered so I could make an informed decision one way or the other.

“US Army recruiting office, Nashua, New Hampshire”

“Hi, I’m just hoping you can answer two questions for me. First question is, what is the age limit for prior service enlisting active?”

“Thirty-five…”

“OK good, second question…I was in the reserves for 7 years and have been out for almost two. If I reenlisted active duty, would I be able to change my MOS?”

“Yes.”

“OK, thanks, that’s all I need to know.”
-CLICK-

Now I‘d dealt with the recruiters before from my time in the reserves so I knew how they worked. I was familiar with their little tricks and games that they can sometimes play on unsuspecting possible recruits. I was determined not to be one of those na├»ve recruits who believe everything that the recruiter tells them. I knew that the recruiter can promise you all kind of stuff but it’s not until you get to the Military Entrance Processing Station – MEPS – that you actually find out what’s true and what’s not. So I knew that I had to talk to the recruiter initially to get my questions answered but I would have to get to the MEPS in Boston before I could really make any decisions. I thought about it and if I could truly change my MOS, this might work. I decided to go through the recruiting office in Manchester rather than Nashua because there was much less chance that I would run into anyone that I knew. The recruiter that I talked to was a young E6 who was actually a Manchester native. He told me that the army had a program called “Hometown Recruiter” where you could volunteer to be recruiter and they would send you to your hometown to do it. I didn’t let on how desperate I was to get out and that army seemed to be my only option as I wanted to maintain the upper hand. I wanted to make sure he knew that while I was considering enlisting, I still had a good job and didn’t necessarily need to enlist so he was going to have to offer me a really sweet deal to get my name on the dotted line. In fact this was actually not too far from the truth. I was still very hesitant about joining the army. It’s not something that most twenty-six year old college graduates do, for good reason. I asked about Officer Candidate School and was told that it’s easier to enlist and apply while on active duty – this I knew to be true from people who had done it – so I kept that in the back of my mind. After a couple of visits over the next week or so it was time to go down to the MEPS in Boston. I called in sick that day, the recruiter put me on a bus and away I went. I went through the battery of tests and application forms. As I looked at the kids around me, most of them seeming so young, desperate and impressionable, I actually started feeling better about my situation. Some of them were from really bad backgrounds and neighborhoods. This was probably their only chance in life. Finally sometime in the afternoon I was called to go to the guidance counselor office where the “negotiations” would take place.


(Click HERE for Part X)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about part 9?

Rik said...

Whoops, I mislabeled them...fixed.

Sorry bout that.