After I got out of high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I got lucky. I scored high on the the Armed Services Verbal Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and pretty much qualified for every job offered to an enlisted person. I scored particularly high in one part of the ASVAB that determined a person’s ability to learn a foreign language. After the ASVAB, my recruiter told me that they would like to do some more testing and I would be taking the Defensive Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB). Everything is an acronym in the military. So, I took the test and qualified to become a Russian Voice Intercept Operator. But this isn’t about me. For me, the process was simple cause I qualified for anything in the military and most people today won’t be as fortunate so here are some tips to get yourself the best deal in the recruiter’s office and get a good start to transitioning to your military career.
Recruitment Office 101
Army services recruiters have good duty. It is also a duty that is extremely stressful and has long days. Recruiters not only talk with prospects in their office but visit schools, job fairs and do a lot of shuttling of prospects to the different military facilities that do the testing for entry. They are also the negotiators for the government and have the power to bestow financial incentives, advanced rank upon completion of Basic Military Training, or affectionately knows as boot-camp and they are the ones that try to make the right fit for the prospect and the needs of the service. They are not your advocate, in most cases and could care less about little else than you signing on the dotted line and getting to boot camp. That happens and they get credit for one enlisted person. Now they may have a 10 person quota a month and this recruiting gig won’t last long if they don’t perform. The recruiter is the “Used car salesperson of the military.”
So, You want to join the military
Better have a reason better than “because,” If you haven’t dreamed of serving your country for many years and know for certain this is the life you want. You need to seriously reconsider your choices and how it will affect you, your future and if married or a parent, your child’s future. There are no holidays in the military, the word “NO” doesn’t exist. If you are okay with taking orders and a regimented physical lifestyle that for some will be days of not knowing if you lice or die. That’s out of the way and the committed are still reading so we shall proceed.
Picking an MOS or AFSC
Let us assume you scored great on the ASVAB and all opportunities are available to you from being a cook to a crew chief on a B1-B Bomber. Now it is time to pick your job in the military. The U.S. Air Force calls their jobs, AFSC, which is Air Force Specialty Code. It is an alphanumeric code for what your specialty is in the Air Force. Mine was 1N5X3. That was an Airborne Russian Cytological Voice Intercept Operator, vernacular would be person who monitored radio frequencies aboard aircraft then translated and decoded intercepts. The rest of the branches use the same, MOS as their designation. MOS means Military Occupational Specialty. It is the same as the Air Force leaning heavily on letters more than numbers. Don’t ask me why the U.S. Air Force gets their own acronym, I haven’t a clue.
Negotiating with the recruiter
If you got qualified for the real terrible jobs in the service, don’t expect to be in much position to negotiate. If you have a GED rather than a high school diploma, again you won’t have much room to negotiate. If you graduated high school, maybe even have some college and scored high on the ASVAB, you are in the catbird seat and you hold all the cards. You are in such good position. You can go to all 5 branches, don’t forget the Coast Guard is a branch of the military, and negotiate deals. Recruiters have a tough time filling certain jobs and a candidate that qualifies for one of the hard jobs to fill may count as a 10 quota, rather than 1 person quota. So, these recruiters can offer you Cash enlistment bonuses, extra rank upon graduating boot camp, and in some cases, BOPs, which are Base of Preference. BOPs are awesome because if you want to be stationed in Hawaii and that branch has a need for your specialty in Hawaii, they have no issue stationing you there. So make sure you are negotiating if you feel your ability requires the government to make you feel special. Don’t be afraid to tell the U.S Air Force recruiter that you feel the package is a low offer and you will go talk to the NAVY recruiter before making a decision. If he hasn’t thrown everything on the table at that point, he will before you leave that office.
Delayed Entry Program
So, you got your job and negotiated your deal, now you go to Delayed Entry Program. 99% of recruits spend some time in the DEP before they enter boot camp. It is basically a period where you committed to the military and they committed to you. Mind you, you can be forced to go, but it has never been done, so between the time you sign and enter the DEP, there is still a way to get out. So if you are a rock star and your band gets a gig in Europe, you can get out of the deal. I spent 6 months on the DEP waiting for a slot to open up at the Defense Language Institute as they wanted me to roll right out of boot camp to Language school. I did boot-camp at Lackland AFB in July and August, a brutal time to be in Texas. That is another story altogether.
Make your time spent on the DEP work in your favor
If you aren’t physically fit. You have the time you will be spending on the DEP to get in shape. Do yourself a favor and change your life the minute you sign the deal and make that commitment to getting ready to begin your new career. If you arrive at boot-camp in shape, you have one less worry. If the military requires you to do 5 pull ups, run 3 miles in 20 minutes, and do 50 sit ups, make sure you can do 3x the amount of the requirement. Each branch is different with the Marines being the hardest and the U.S. Air Force being the easiest. Makes sense because the U.S. Air Force is a tactical support branch of the military whereas the Marines are the guys who get in done. They will be the ones dodging bullets. Semper Fi to all the Marines out there.
What to expect at Boot Camp
I personally had no issues in boot camp. As a matter of fact I didn’t mind it at all. Made some good friends, had fun on the one day pass in San Antonio, Texas and actually missed the regimentation at times later in my life. Boot Camp is a mind game if you are physically fit when you arrive. If you aren’t in shape, you will be in the torture zone the entire time you are there. Drill Instructors don’t coddle people and their job is to separate the weak and train the strong. Your day starts at 05:00 and ends at 22:00 hours, lights out. From morning PT to lights out, it is one regimented dance. The first few days are a trip. Those are the transition days and you will hear lots of crying when the lights go out. Don’t be surprised if you see some empty bunks the first few days, those are the weak that left. When you go home after boot camp, you will see them at the local McDs, say hello. The days are filled with physical training, classroom instruction, military decorum like how to salute and understanding rank and jargon. And there is some time for religious service and of course meals. The meals were my favorite time of the day, just learn to eat REALLY fast.
The military is a commitment and it is a good calling and a great career. It isn’t a job. There are no 40 hour weeks, no holidays, no weekends, and no time and a half. If you think it is for you, well go down to your recruiter and find out your options. Take your time making a decision and before you decide on joining the Marine Corps, make sure it is more about what you want and not to impress your friends or the girl you are in love with in school. The Corps doesn’t just hand out Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblems to anyone, you will earn it. Good Luck and Godspeed.
Subscribe to Tom Reddy articles – -make sure you click the subscribe button in the yellow box, you can unsubscribe at any time through any sent email and your email address will not be shared with anyone.
More content from this contributor:
Will We Be Immortals?
Tips to Survive Office Politics
Have Aliens Already Visited Earth?
My Favorite Discontinued Foods
Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down