I've been holding off on writing this post, I suppose because I'm really not sure how I feel about it. I'll start with the good news.....I enlisted in the Navy this past Friday.
The not-so-good news is that I feel like I was somewhat misguided in how to go about choosing a job (or rating, as the Navy calls it). Before I went to MEPS last week, the recruiter gave some last-minute advice to me and another young woman that was going to be processed. Among other things, he told us that oftentimes, Navy hopefuls go into MEPS with their minds and hearts set on one rating in particular. He told us that once we were done completing our physical and medical exams, we would meet with a counselor to discuss what rating we would enlist in. He cautioned us to go in with an "open mind," and even if we were offered something that we didn't want, take it. He claimed that there was always the possibility of choosing another rating that might become available while we were waiting to ship out to basic training.
So I go to MEPS. Take the ASVAB later that evening. Go to the hotel and get some dinner. Wake up at 4am. Blah. I go through all the paperwork and exams required to complete the process (no Pap smear, thank God). Since there are dozens of other people being processed at the same time, there's a lot of waiting and running back and forth as different staff members hand me my folder and tell me to "go see so-and-so." I'm finally done with all of that and the moment I've been waiting for is here. It's time to meet with a Navy liaison and decide my fate. I'm excited because my AFQT score on the ASVAB was 74, and my recruiter mentioned that any score above a 50 would qualify me for "damn near any job." I follow the liaison back to his cubicle, anticipating at least 3 or 4 ratings that I will be able to choose from. My dream job would be a Mass Communications Specialist position.
Imagine my face when I sit down and the liaison puts ONE sheet of paper in front of me. I skim the top of the page and read the words "Electricians' Mate," or "EM." Okay. I continue to read the job description and the major job responsibilities consist of working with electrical circuits. I don't get much further than that, because the rest of it may as well be written in Mandarin. I don't even know how this rating matches up with me and my qualifications, and that's exactly what I tell the liaison. He seems to find my disappointment amusing, and laughs off my concerns that this rating has nothing to do with me and my career goals. He feeds me the same line, that I can always change my rating, since the ship out date for the EM is not until March 29, 2011. He asks what other ratings I would be interested in, and I mention the Mass Communications Specialist. He informs me that that rating is 100% filled. I list off a few others, including Intelligence Specialist (IS) and Logistics Supply (LS). He says that an IS rating requires a credit check, which I was aware of beforehand, but I know I won't qualify if they check my credit right at this moment.
I keep staring at that piece of paper, thinking that I can somehow will it to change to something that I won't mind doing for the next 5 years of my life. Nope, it's still there. I'm pissed now. I can't believe I just spent my whole day here....for this. Then the liaison starts in with a speech about how the EM rating is not that bad, that I could always start my own business as an electrician when I get out, and that I can even switch ratings once I'm in the Navy. He tells me that just like a lot of things in life, sometimes it's all about getting your foot in the door so you can do what you really want. That's true. Not really what I want to hear at the moment, but it is true. He also mentions that if I don't enlist today, I will have to go through MEPS all over again, and God knows I don't want that. After a few more frustrated sighs, I give him the okay.
Another whirlwind of paperwork follows, then I swear in. My recruiter picks me up, along with the other young lady, and I immediately request that he look for another rating because I just can't see myself as an EM. He agrees to it, and mentions something about me stopping by his office Monday to find some other ratings.
I go to his office Monday, and ask if he heard about any other available ratings yet. He says he hasn't had a chance to look yet, then mentions something about an e-mail he got. After fumbling around, he finds the e-mail that lists recent seats for female recruits that became available. There's an opening in July for an Operations Specialist, but I am two points shy of qualifying for that position. I swear God is always looking down on me laughing. While I'm talking to him, a young guy comes in looking for the Coast Guard recruiting office. The recruiter gives him directions, then smoothly sits on the couch and asks the guy, "What makes you interested in the Coast Guard?" The guy says that he isn't ready for active duty just yet, and he wants to finish school before he gets into the military.
"Well, the Navy Reserve is basically the same thing....." the recruiter says. That lets me know he's about to go into selling mode. He ignores me for the next ten minutes or so while he baits the other guy in. I'm a little annoyed right now. I feel like I only got assistance long enough to get me enlisted, and now that they "got" me, it's "on to the next one." Then the recruiter lets me get on his computer to look up the ratings that I would be interested in, while he goes outside to smoke. I pretty much know what I want to do and what I qualify for, so I circle the ones I have in mind and get out of there.
So. Maybe I'm stressing for no reason, since I do have about nine months before I would have to ship out, but I'm less than thrilled that I made a decision based off the strong suggestion of the recruiter, and now he's nonchalant about finding another rating for me to switch to. I guess I have always been one of those people that doesn't like for people to sugarcoat shit for me. Some people like to be bullshitted; I don't. I like to be prepared for the worst. I know all the perks of being in the military and I know that I qualify for most of the ratings in the Navy, but it would have been nice for someone to clarify that even if you do qualify for a lot of ratings, it doesn't mean they will be available.
When I think about it, a lot of military procedures have that "if/then" factor to them. "You can travel to any country you want!" is what they tell you. What they don't tell you: "You can travel to any country you want.....IF the Navy has an available opening at that base." I don't know.....I still think it's a good opportunity, but I just don't know how everything will play out if I go into training for something that I have NO clue about whatsoever. I've also been told that you need to be at the top of your class in order to move up in the ranks and get first dibs on promotions, where you will be stationed, etc. How am I going to be at the top of my class when I don't know a damn thing about electricity, nor do I have a desire to know anything about it? Maybe I'm short-changing myself; maybe I will be better at it than I think.
To be continued..............