Today is my “Army Birthday”. I joined the Army on this day 14 years ago. So I thought it might be a good time to reflect back on how I ended up in the Army versus other branches and how I got my first job.
September 11, 2001, changed everything for me, as it did for many people. I graduated from high school that same year and was trying to figure out whether I would go to college or not, and how I would pay for it. What I wanted to do was be a police officer, and if that did not work out then I would probably go to college for Information Technology.
Joining the military was always on the table. After all, I had a desire to serve the community in some way, and I could use some money for college. When Al Qaeda attacked the homeland, the deal was sealed.
I initially went to join the Marine Corps, but the recruiter told me I was too fat to be a Marine. So I walked next door and talked to SGT Rodriguez with the US Army. His only questionwas if I could go to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) the next day, on December 4, 2001. I, of course, said “yes.”
I had no problems at MEPS. I scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, better known as the ASVAB. My physical health checked out, though I was told my feet “might be slightly flat.” Then came the waiting game. I had to wait to see a Career Counselor who would help me pick my job and write up my contract. I sat in the waiting are for about two hours before getting my chance.
Somewhere it had been put into my head that I did not want to be Military Police because they were “trained differently” from civilian departments, and that training was not always desireable when you get out. So, I was pretty set on enlisting as an Intelligence Analyst. When the Career Counselor at MEPS first called me in, he said “I heard you want to be an MP.” “No”, I told him, I wanted to be an Intelligence Analyst. After trying to convice me for about 10 minutes, he sent me back out into the waiting area.
A couple more hours past before the Career Counselor called me back into his office and said, “I heard you want to be an MP.” But I want not falling for it. I put my foot down and insisted I wanted the $3,000 bonus that came with being an Intelligence Analyst. He smirked a little bit and asked “Do you want to jump out of airplanes for another $3,000?” Well, this was the best thing I had heared all day.
“You’re going to give me $6,000 to be an Intelligence Analyst that jumps out of airplanes?”, I asked.
“Yes”, he said.
I was scheduled to ship out on February 11, 2002, only about two months after I had completed MEPS. For those two months I was as proud as I could be. I wore my free Army t-shirt and carried my messenger bag with the “Army of One” logo everywhere I went. I paused to salute the colors every morning and evening, and I stood at attention whenever I heard the national anthem. I could not wait to get to Afghanistan and see Al Qaeda man-to-man.