I walked through the door and was met by a couple of soldiers in class B uniforms. They looked at my file and said “Oh, you’re prior service…you’ll be coming in with the same MOS.” Without even thinking, I replied “Well, the recruiter told me I’d be able to change my MOS…” and before I even finished the sentence I dropped my head and started laughing “Right, right, what was I thinking…”. As it turns out, you actually can change your MOS when you reenlist. The problem is, the only things you can change to are Infantry, cook, mechanic, stuff like that, jobs that most people don’t want and that the army has a hard time filling. Things like computers and such were impossible to get into because they were highly sought after. So I got snookered by the recruiter. “Well played”, I thought to myself. The chances of me actually signing up after that were very slim but they didn’t give up. I explained my situation, that I would be leaving a good job to do this because I wanted to see Europe and finish my Masters Degree and if I couldn’t change my MOS then I would always be in the field and I would never get to work on my degree so it wouldn’t be worth it. First they guaranteed me a slot in Europe. Then they tried to sell me on the idea that my MOS was not that bad, that there’s not that much field time and that I’d still be able to work on my degree. They mentioned the GI Bill but I told them I didn’t qualify because I had already had partial GI Bill with the reserves. They tried every trick in the book to convince me but I would not budge. I was convinced that there was something they could do to get me an MOS change and I was determined to call their bluff. They even called some General Officer in charge of something or other and tried to get a waiver but nothing doing. Then one guy said “What if we could get you money under the GI Bill?” to which I replied “I already told you, I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify.” But he said he found the regulation that says that because I was in the reserves and only received a partial amount, they could give me $16,000. I thought about it for a minute. That much money would certainly be enough for a Masters Degree. They also informed me that because I was prior service, I would only have to enlist for three years instead of four. They were making it very attractive but they still weren’t giving me the one thing I wanted, a change of MOS. I held firm on that point and after a couple of frustrating hours for everybody I told them no thanks. In a way I was bluffing to see if they wanted me bad enough to somehow get me an MOS change but mostly I really meant it. I was not interested in enlisting, quitting my job, leaving my friends and family and going to live in a tent for three years.
The recruiter picked me up at the bus station and asked what had happened. I guess he wasn’t used to people coming back from the MEPS without enlisting and just could not understand why I hadn’t after everything they offered me. For the first time I think he realized that I wasn’t like most of his other recruits and decided to take another approach with me.
“Look man, I’ve already passed my quota for this month so whether you come in or not doesn’t really affect me that much. So let’s be real. You came to me for a reason. You seem like you have a good job and everything but there’s obviously something missing and that’s why you came. I’m not going to give you any bullshit, if you sign up and go to Europe, you’re going to spend some time in the field. I spent a couple tours there so I’ve done it and I’m telling you first hand that it’s not as bad as you seem to think. You still spend most of your time in garrison and you still have plenty of time to do some traveling and even take some college courses if you want. It’s not paradise, it’s the army. You’ll have to put a lot into it but you can get a hell of a lot more out of it if you really want. Most guys never realize that but you’re smarter and have been around more than most guys that I put in. Just do me one favor, just take a few days and think it over. Today is Tuesday. Call me on Friday and if you haven’t changed your mind then you’ll never hear from me again.”
I was convinced that I wasn’t signing up but I agreed to think about it and call him back on Friday. I got home, opened a beer, watched some television, then went to bed and fell into a deep sleep. The next day I was back into my routine, making sales calls, having fruitless sales meetings, the usual. Except that now I began to believe that there was a way out. I didn’t have to do this anymore if I didn’t want to. The real question was, “how bad did I want to leave?” The answer: very bad. I finished up the day and went home. My mother was in the kitchen cooking dinner and I sat at the counter and said I needed to talk to her about something. I told her about the events of the day before at the MEPS in Boston and said I was having a very hard time making this decision. I didn’t ask for advice and she didn’t offer any. Instead, for the first time, I just started pouring out my frustrations with how my life was turning out, that I felt like I had accomplished nothing and had nothing promising on the horizon, about how miserable I was at my job and especially how embarrassing it was for me to be twenty-six years old, working two jobs, and living with my mother. All my friends were getting married, having kids, buying houses, and here I was no better off than I was in high school. What I realized was that I might be miserable in the army but I was already miserable so why not be miserable in Europe at least? So I decided to look at the worst case scenario and see if I could live with it. The worst case scenario was this: I join the army and go to Europe. I spend most of my time in the field and never get to do a lot of traveling or take any college courses. I still finish after three years having seen at least a little bit of Europe and with $16,000 to go back to college with. Could I live with that? Hell yes I could. I was joining the army. I was joining the army!
(Click HERE for Part XI)