Uncle Sam Wants You
or A Hard Day's Night of Army Recruiting
Lets say you're a High School senior. You're getting ready to graduate and your whole life is in front of you. You want to go to college, but it costs a lot of money. You don't particularly want to ask your parents to pay for it because you know they'll have to cosign on a lot of student loans, maybe get a second mortgage, etc.
Then suppose someone tells you a way you can get up to 50,000 bucks to pay for college while learning skills in the same field you're interested in. What would you do? If you're like a lot of people I've met, you won't even listen. Why? Because I'm an Army Recruiter...and people have weird myths about Army Recruiters. Actually, these things probably go for recruiters in any branch of the military, but my purview is the Army so I'll focus on what I know.
Myth 1: Recruiters lie to you.
Hey, I've only been doing this for two months now, but I've never lied to anyone. To be for real, I CAN'T LIE to an applicant. It would be counter productive and its against the rules. Besides what is a recruiter going to lie about? What am I going to tell you, that we'll give you a new car if you sign up? That'd be silly! When you enlist in the army everything you're promised is put in a contract. If you want to be an engineer, that's the training and job you'll get....we won't break the contract. If you're promised a 10,000 dollar bonus, that's what you'll get. I have yet to meet someone who wasn't happy with their contract.
Myth 2: If you see a recruiter and sign anything they'll put you in the army.
Bullsh*t! Guess what?! There's nothing I can get you to sign that can put you in the army. A recruiter will ask you to sign a police check so we can make sure you're who you say you are and that you haven't knocked over a liquor store, and they'll ask you to sign a form to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test (ASVAB) and that's it. Afterwards if you qualify recruiters can only begin you're processing. The people at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) can sign you up...not the recruiter. We only show you the options and tell you what you can get. Of course, any information we get about you is strictly confidential. So we can't call the cops even if your police check turns up bad.
Myth 3: The Army (or military in general) is for losers.
Wrong answer, bub. Its for motivated, intelligent, hard working honest people. First of all, you have to have a High School Diploma or a GED just to be considered. We stress education. (right now the Army will pay 75% of your college costs on active duty and its soon going up to 100%) Then you have to pass the ASVAB test and if you have a GED you have to score higher than a diploma applicant....because if you gave up on High School we gotta make sure you have the brains that God gave you. While I can't refuse to process an applicant that wants to join I can make a moral recommendation to my commander if the person seems dishonest. and while a person with a criminal past can be processed it depends on the crime. You'd be surprised to know what things will permanently disqualify you for service. For that matter, a lot of people can't pass the practice ASVAB test....The PRACTICE one, not the REAL test! And its just basic math and English skills! Are they even teaching kids in school anymore these days?
Myth 4: Basic Training is too hard.
Well, duh. It's made to challenge you. But its not made to fail you. Why would we make it so hard people wouldn't be able to pass it? That's counter productive. Its just what the name suggests...BASIC training. You gotta learn how to be soldier. And people that come back from it to visit the station always tell us that they had a good time and are proud of the achievement. Hell, I made it, and I weighed 120 pounds soaking wet when I went in. Plus I was the biggest wuss on the block as a kid. If I ran into my old drill sergeant right now, I'd buy him a drink. He really helped me shape up and get my life on track.
Myth 5: Once you sign up, you'll never see the recruiter again until its time to leave.
Untrue. People in the Delayed Entry Program are always kept in touch with. Heck, we have barbecues with them, take them to the gym and help them out in a lot of other ways. Things we don't have to do either. One recruiter I know helped one guy find a place to live when his parents kicked him out. Another guy helped an applicant get her finances together on his free time. If you're an applicant we consider you part of our team and we'll do anything we can to help you.
There are a lot of other rumors and myths, and I'm practically sick to death of hearing them. People see a movie about the army and think they know exactly what its like. You know, if my every day life was full of bullets flying, drill instructors screaming at me and low pay I'd have gotten out a long time ago. People also have an annoying habit of telling me things like "My friends brother's girlfriend's cousin was in the army and they said (add any derogatory statement or falsehood). Here's the deal. If you want to know about the army ASK a recruiter. We're trained to explain it to you. We have the information you want. Most people that say they had a bad experience usually were troublemakers and got kicked out and now have a chip on their shoulder. No lie....I confronted one guy about it and learned that he was thrown out for doing drugs. So now he goes around telling people the army sucks because we wouldn't let him snort coke. Go figure.
The truth is that people that only plan on doing a few years in the army are pretty happy people. They love their jobs. They have a lot of fun. I can use myself as an example, just as I'm sure Andrew Bontreger could tell you the same things about the mighty Marine Corps. Yeah, I've had bad days, but what job isn't going to have a bad day? I get to do the job I wanted to do, I get to work with the latest equipment and my biggest reason for staying in....I get to travel. Long time readers of the Inferno know that I was stationed in Germany for a long time and that was my 2nd tour there. I practically saw most of Europe on my free time for a few hundred bucks. Plus I have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm serving my country and democracy. That's a feeling that is worth more than the material gains.
As for my present job...recruiting...well, I can tell you that other than being a Drill Sergeant, Recruiting is probably the hardest job in the military. We don't look for applicants, we look for QUALIFIED applicants. Not everyone can join. (I've met more sickly people in the last few months than I've met in my entire life....and ye Gods, a lot of teenagers with records so long it takes several pages to list their crimes!) But for those people looking to get their lives together or continue with their education we have a lot of stuff to offer them.
* Army training does count as college credit. Plus you can get a wheelbarrow full of cash for college (up to 50 grand) with the Army college fund. Keep in mind you can take college courses on post, on active duty with 75% (soon to be 100%) tuition assistance. Also we'll pay back up to 65,000 dollars of student loans if you've already been to college.
*Travel is my biggest reason, personally. I've gotten to go to a lot great places, and I've had a lot of fun. I might even fly back to Germany to visit some friends this summer. It'll only cost me about 25 bucks because a service member can catch a military flight for a ridiculously cheap price.
*What other high tech job will pay you to get trained? Add to the fact that I really don't pay for anything in my house except for the phone bill and the cable bill. And I don't have to worry about medical or dental bills since I (and my family) can see a doctor for free. That goes for my cats too. Yeah, I have to pay the vet, but I take them to a vet on post and don't pay as much. (Yes, we can train you to be a veterinarian!) I also shop for stuff tax free at the commissary (supermarket) and PX (think Big-Ass store with everything) To be honest, when I get my check every month its mine all mine.
*The feeling that you get when you're part of a team. I've met so many great people in the army I can't count them all. Even here, I really like all of my current coworkers. There's nothing better than knowing that these guys and gals are behind me all the way.
Chances are that at some point in your life you've been called by a recruiter. Hey, I understand that not everyone is interested in military service. But what I really don't go for is rudeness. You know if you're one of those people that slam a phone down on my ear than do me a favor. Don't bother going to a 4th of July parade or hanging a flag in front your house. Take the "I support our troops" sticker off of your car. Because a simple, "I'm not interested" would suffice, not acting like a jerk. (and remember, if I have your phone number, I have your address.) One kid told me in all honesty, he wasn't very interested in the Army, because he had a scholarship to a university. But he thanked me for the call. I thanked him for the time, wrote it in the log so he wouldn't be called again (by the Army, I can't control what the other branches do) and wished him well.
Recruiters know that calling you at home is an inconvenience....but you'd be upset if there wasn't a capable military wouldn't you? Its just the nature of the beast. You don't have to be an asshole to a recruiter. We're only calling to see if you'd like to know what we can offer you and its not a bad deal. If you agree to an appointment I'll gladly show you the stuff and ask you if you're interested in it. I won't chuck you in a tank. Its sad sometimes, because after a few months at this I've been able to tell when someone is lying to me, even over the phone. Here's some of the things I hear...
"No, my son/ daughter isn't interested."- This comes from the parents when they answer the phone. I'll agree that it might be the case, but if your kid is 18 and you don't believe he has the grumba to tell me that his or herself or make the decision on their own, you actually did me a favor. I don't want a person that can't think for their selves on my team.
"I'm going to college."- Again, probably true. what usually happens is the kid ends up wandering into my office because his family can't afford it. And since I have a decent working relationship with some of the guidance counselors and teachers in local schools I know that a lot of the kids that say that aren't going to college at all, because they can't get in. They're problem is they've heard the myths I pointed out.
"I'm getting a job at Pizza Hut."- (or any other minimum wage drudgery) - Oh-kay. Good luck with that. Way to move up in the world after high school dude.
"I'm going to get a job as a corrections officer after graduation." (or any other skilled position)- That was a direct quote and I loved it. Lemme see, you're 18, you have absolutely no training in law enforcement and you're going to get this job right off the bat? Uh-huh. Actually the job will probably go to the five hundred people in front of you that have experience...particularly experience as a military policeman.
"I'm learning how to be a plumber/ electrician at the local trade school."- That's cool with me, but what I can't understand is why you would pay to learn that when I can get you the job for free with training you'll get paid for. But hey, its your money. Good luck with those student loans.
"I'm in community college, but I don't know what I'm going to do."- So, you're going to take out student loans for community college (which, hey, I'm sorry, but that's a joke. The local CC will take ANYONE. Even GED's. I don't begrudge them for that but would you really want a diploma from a school that accepts people that didn't even pass their SAT's in most cases?) when you can get enough money to go to a big university and the time to figure out what you really want to study?
And one of my favorites...
"The military is EVIL!"- I got this one from a girl who was...now get this....taking course at a local trade school that's located on a nearby military base. So you hate the military, but you'll take advantage of our facilities. Shmuck. And, yeah, I'm evil.....I spend all day dreaming up ways to spread disease and misery throughout the world. I'm Dr. Doom, lord of Latveria. whatever.
Well, my advice to anyone would be to at least talk to a recruiter of any branch if you're looking for training or college money. see what's out there, you don't have to join anything if you don't want to. But knowledge is power, and you might be cutting yourself short if you don't at least listen. More information can be seen at Goarmy.com.
As for me, I'll continue to do my job. Because, really, whether a person joins the army or not I still get paid.
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