Joining the Army is really, really hard.

I don’t know where the notion came from. I guess it was from all of the WWII movies and ‘Nam stories, but long gone are the days of walking into a recruiter’s office and leaving on a bus for boot camp on the same day.

The process to join the military is long. Really long. I mean, you could transcribe “Roots” and it would probably take less time, and would also be less of a headache. (I seriously wouldn’t suggest this, however)

First of all is the part I like to call “Window Shopping”. This is where you look around the internet and see what each branch has to offer. For me it was no question what-so-ever, I’m an Army man. Career-driven and a patriot. I want to serve my country and get valuable experience that will help me as a civilian. After you’ve shopped around, it’s time to go and talk to a recruiter.

I almost feel lucky with my experience with the recruiter.  I had a guy who was very no-nonsense and had answers based on his actual experience in the service.  What sealed it for me is when he told me that he didn’t care if he made his quota, the worst they could do to him was send him back to infantry and that’s where he loved serving the most.  I’m not sure why, but feeling like it didn’t matter to him whether or not I joined was huge in earning my trust.

After I met the recruiter, we looked around at jobs. In college I was a PR major, so I was interested in jobs that were related to that. Either doing PR work, or being able to interact with people on a level that would allow me to make the most difference.

I had narrowed it down to three options Public Affairs Specialist, Psychological Operations and Human Intellegence Collector.

Unfortunately, PA Specialist required at least Associate’s Degree, which I didn’t have so I had to cross it off the list. Disappointing, but I understand.

After I decided on those two jobs, it was up to me to become qualified. I passed the ASVAB and began to build my packet to enlist. Paper work galore. I had to talk about everywhere I had lived, worked, gone to school, been in legal trouble, and talk about my family and medical history…for the last 9 years.

This whole process is ridiculous, and literally took the better part of three weeks getting verification of everything I had said on the application.

Finally it was time for me to take the physical. If you’ve never heard about the MEPS physical, you’re in for a treat. It wasn’t so much “Hurry up and wait” as people make it out to be. There is a checklist and the people there are very friendly and as long as you can follow directions. If they say stand here and don’t move, then do it. If they say go sit there, then do it. It makes the whole process so much easier and by doing that, I was able to turn an 8 hour ordeal into a 6 hour ordeal. But it is still an interesting experience.

After I passed the physical, I finally got to sit down and look at jobs. Luckily, my recruiter told me before hand that PsyOps is a really hard job to get as a non-prior service coming in and that it would be a stretch for me to get it. When we found Human Intel Collector had an opening, it was time to put my money where my mouth was.

I took the offer.

I’m leaving on September 21, 2009 for Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After I graduate from basic, I’ll be going to Fort Huachuca, Arizona to complete my training and learn to do the job that I chose.

Even though the job was my second choice, it so closely relates to PsyOps that in 18 months after I’m promoted from PFC to Specialist, I will be able to re-class into PsyOps with little difficulty at all. Re-classing shouldn’t extend my service time depending on how early I can get re-classed and how long it takes me to finish that training.

As of right now, I’ll be serving until May 10, 2014. It sounds like a long time, but 5 years isn’t much at all. I’ll be 28 when I separate and will have a ton of experience that very few people will be able to say that they have.

I’m going back to Oklahoma City on August 6th to sign the contract and swear in. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this journey and I promise to keep in touch as best as I can.

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2 thoughts on “Joining the Army is really, really hard.

  1. Congrats, Billy. One thing, I dislike how you are talking like you are going away forever, so if you could cease & desist w/ that. Those military guys are allowed to stay in contact with their friends, so don’t act like the world is the ending. Also get me your address in SC when you get it!

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