Tuesday, June 21, 2016

30 Before 30 - Day 2: Enlisting

What better way to continue than to reflect on the day that changed my 20's (and my life) forever.

The day I enlisted in the U.S. Army. The left - the day I came back for Christmas after three weeks of initial training only to return two weeks later.

When I was in high school there was something fascinating to me about the military - but I didn't want to be in it. Ever. In fact, I said I would escape to Canada before I ever joined. This was in 2005. Fast forward to 2010. I hadn't found work in Los Angeles, went back to Chicago for a final semester to complete my degree, couldn't find work there, and moved back to Kansas at the end of 2009 where I then continued working part time at a minimum wage job at a movie theater, living back in my old room in my parent's basement in my mid-twenties.

Even though I had an absurd amount of student debt (thanks student loans!) I first thought I should apply to a graduate program in my hometown. In the midst of this process (which was ridiculous and I wasted time taking the GRE) I was approached by a friend who was planning on joining the U.S. Army. Well, it was more like I approached him. One day Paul McPheeters was talking about the ASVAB (the 
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), the initial standardized test the military uses to gauge different areas of competency for jobs. Having no idea what this was and being curious, I started asking questions. After a small chunk of time he said to me, "You seem to be pretty interested in this. Maybe you should come into the recruiting office with me."

So living in the basement of my parent's home with a part time minimum wage job, I agreed without a second thought.

Within the week I was walking into the decision that would change everything. I sat down and they had me take the practice ASVAB. With that underway, I decided I should pursue this further and they scheduled me to take the real ASVAB. I hated it just like all standardized style tests but I was excited about future possibilities and this was an open door. And one that I really didn't fully understand.

Initially, having a college degree, I attempted to go in as an officer. It went better than I thought at the first board but I had never been more nervous in my life. They still saw something in me they felt was leadership material and sent the papers up. The problem was at this time they had set up a second board, one that only gauged off of paperwork. This was the real problem. And that is where it didn't go through. 

I was stuck in Kansas and I knew I didn't want to stay. I was meant for bigger things. I could wait six months and try again or I could enlist. I was stubborn and impatient. So I enlisted, thankfully as a higher rank still (E-4/Specialist) thanks to my college degree and went went in the direction of military intelligence (35S-Signals Collector/Analyst) and signed an 8 year contract (3 1/2 years active duty) and garnered a Top Secret Security Clearance (yes I can keep secrets well). But I did have to give up the possibility of any other citizenship. The U.S. doesn't want other countries having their secrets used against them, after all. Nothing would ever be the same.

Five months later (November 2010) I would ship out to basic training. That was the worst and most important experience of my life so far. And then I would hate my life for three years in a solitary confinement cell with no window (the barracks) for three years in Hawaii. But on the bright side, at least I got to see things like this cool little fantastical creature.
I still found a way to have adventures!

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