Back in the day, if someone got it in their head to take off for the military, they could virtually walk into a recruiter’s office, sign up, and be headed to boot camp the next day. When I was in high school, I had recruiters calling my house. In 2005 I was seriously considering joining, and after I had contacted a recruiter, I couldn’t get them off my back. They called all the time to check on me. I still wish I had not gotten side-tracked, and stuck with the idea the first time – I’d be 5 years on my way to retirement by now! But oh well, here I am in 2010, and it’s a very different world. The lack of stable jobs available has turned the military into a very attractive prospect for those who wouldn’t have previously considered it. Right now it’s terribly difficult to enlist as a male. They are currently only readily accepting females and SEALs, and the wait time for a job is about 6-12 months. So I’m lucky I’m a female, but the recruiters still aren’t in a hurry!
I started talking to a recruiter in the Richmond office in October 2009. I told her I definitely wanted to join, and that as soon as I graduated from college in December, I wanted to go to MEPS and take the ASVAB. I guess she stopped caring about her recruit contacts, since she was due to transfer somewhere else around Christmas. So she led me to believe I could just schedule a time to go to MEPS, do the test and physical, pick my job, and swear in. Yeah, not so much. Once another recruiter took over, he sent me preliminary paperwork – a 17 page background check form. I pretty much had to write down every detail of my life for the past 7 years. Hooray for me, my last 7 years were the most tumultuous of my life, encompassing several schools, jobs, living arrangements, etc. To get everything straight I had to sit down and write out a timeline of my life. I had to find transcripts and pay stubs just to get the dates correct. It felt like ripping off a bandaid, as parts of those 7 years I have purposely tried to forget. I had to find one of my previous addresses by going through an old memory box and looking for a letter someone had sent to me there! The entire ordeal was draining, and I wondered why I hadn’t heard complaints from others about it. Then I realized most of the kids joining are about 18, have lived only at their parents house, just graduated from high school, and have had maybe one job. Oh. That explains it.

That was just the beginning. I proudly took my stack of documents to the recruiting office, only to be sat down to start filling out piles and piles of more forms. Asking me personal questions, and medical questions that I didn’t always know the answer to. I had no idea how little I really knew about myself!! There were a couple medical red flags, so they just told me to go get those taken care of and come back later. They didn’t even keep my background check form I had worked so hard on. I went home discouraged, and unwilling to hurry to the next part of the process. I hated that I had to sit there and tell this random dude everything about my personal life, and it wasn’t even enough to get me to the next step in signing up.

After a couple weeks of lolligagging, I made the necessary doctor’s appointments, and collected, hopefully, everything else the recruiters needed. I went to the office yet again, still clutching my huge form, and tried again. I had to re-do some medical forms, and dude told me they still might not be enough. He said he’d send all my forms along, and some people in an office somewhere would look through it and tell them if I was fit to send to MEPs. He said that should take 2 weeks, and that I would hear from them. He also wouldn’t take my security form, and let me in on the fact that it was just a worksheet – the REAL form had to be filled out by me on the official Navy website. Sweet. To this day, I have maybe half of it done. Four weeks passed, and I finally worked up the courage to call them back (since they clearly weren’t going to contact me anytime soon as they promised). Guess what?? My doctor’s note wasn’t good enough. Since I had taken Zoloft some time back, I now have to go back and get a psych evaluation from my doc. Yet ANOTHER co-pay, time off from work, and general set-back. Discouragement sets in again.

The good news is that I know I’m not alone. Some people have even stickier things to untangle before the Navy will let them in. The hard part comes when all the well-meaning folks in my life ask me about my progress. “Nope, still trying to get the paperwork processed…nope, haven’t even gone to MEPS yet…nope, still have no clue when I’m leaving…” It gets old. And what if the worst happens, and I have to tell the world that the Navy won’t take me after all? I really don’t see any reason they won’t, but I’m scared to bank on it until I have an absolute answer. Part of the reason this is so nightmarish is that it feels like a replay of trying to graduate from college. “Nope, still don’t know when I’m gonna graduate...yes, I know I’ve been in school 7 and a half years…nope, they still haven’t accepted my graduation application…” Never would have dreamed the next stage of my life would be a repeat!

So Monday I'll schedule my next doctor's appointment, and try to get this frickin' show on the road!!
Coming soon... WHY I'm joining the Navy... & My Military Heritage