Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 3

The Armed Forces recruiting office was in a strip mall behind a barbecue take-out and an Acapulco Mexican restaurant.  The recruiters were crammed into tiny offices emblazoned with posters showing the exciting things their particular branch had to offer.  

The Navy recruiter was wearing a white polyester uniform with a couple of chevrons on his left sleeve.  He welcomed me into his office with a hand shake and then started asking me questions.  He wanted to know my background and my interests.  Had I ever been arrested or  taken drugs?  Did I have good grades?  What were my plans for the future?

The job of a recruiter is to fill quotas.  He's not there for wish-fulfillment.  He'll tell you all the bitchin' things you can do in the Navy, but he's really trying to get you into the job the Navy needs.  The recruiter talked to me about the nuclear fields and how I would get out after six years with an Associate's degree and skills I could use operating a nuclear power plant.  

That didn't sound very interesting to me, but I'd play along.

I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test and did pretty well.  The world was my oyster.  I was smart enough for any job in the Navy.  I wanted to be a journalist or photographer.  I could watch and record the action without getting my hands dirty.  It sounded cool.

I went to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) in Los Angeles for my physical.  I was poked and prodded and evaluated.  I was doing pretty well until they tested my color vision.  I was colorblind

With this news, I went to talk to the guy who would choose my "A" school and future job in the Navy.  Before the physical he had been talking up the nuke program.  Now, instead of offering the nuclear program or another high-tech field, he presented three options:

1. Boiler Technician (Advanced Training Field)
2. Mess Management Specialist
3. Seaman Apprentice

Boiler Technicians (affectionately known as BT's) run the boilers in the Navy's steam powered ships.  Boiler rooms are hot, dangerous places.  A high-pressure steam leak in a boiler room will kill everyone in the space before they know something is wrong.  And it was a six year active duty enlistment.

No thanks.

Mess Management Specialists are cooks.  I love food and I love cooking but I didn't want to cook for 1500 people.


Seaman Apprentice?  Apprenticeship training is where the guys who weren't smart enough to get "A" schools ended up after boot-camp.  Airman Apprentices do the grunt work on aircraft carrier flight decks.  Fireman Apprentices work in the engineering spaces on ships doing grunt work.  Seaman Apprentices go to a ship's deck department where they learn how to swab decks, chip paint, and haul on a mooring line.

Grunt work.

"What's the shortest enlistment I can get?"

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