Generally, I would say that taking advice from someone who has a wealth of knowledge and experience is a good thing. If you want to know about the problem you are having with your car, seek out an experienced mechanic, if you are having problems in your relationship ask someone who’s been there. So, when contemplating joining the military it makes sense to talk to people who have served in the military, right? Well, the answer is a definite maybe.
Although it does make perfect sense to ask those who have served about their personal experiences the same is not true when it comes to asking their advice on the enlistment process. Asking Uncle Louie about his experiences in the Army back in the 1980s might give you some idea of what to expect from Army life, but asking his advice about the enlistment process makes about as much sense as seeking medical advice from the receptionist at the hospital.
So, if you can’t ask your grandfather for advice, where can you turn?
The obvious choice may be a military recruiter. Recruiters are trained on the enlistment process, they know the current standards, and can tell you whether or not you qualify for enlistment. In fact, they are the only people who can tell you if you meet standards. They will arrange for you to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam and set you up for a physical examination. They will also ask you questions about any law violations and drug use. All of this must be done before they can offer you any military job. So despite what Uncle Louie has told you, you cannot be tricked into enlisting by signing a piece of paper at the recruiter’s office.
Another thing your uncle will probably not tell you, and something your recruiter may not mention, is that some branches of the military offer medical and moral waivers. What that means is that there may be flexibility in some of the physical standards as well in some of the law violations that may have made you ineligible for enlistment. If you are disqualified for enlistment, you need to ask if you are eligible for a waiver.
Now that you understand that the recruiter is the expert on the enlistment process, and have decided to move forward in the process, you still have plenty more to do. This is where Uncle Louie’s advice may be useful.
Recruiters are not only trained on the enlistment process, they are also highly trained salespeople and are there to sell their particular service. I recently had a student tell me that she wanted to join the Air Force but they weren’t accepting any new applicants. When I asked her if the Air Force recruiter told her that, she said no, the Army recruiter did.
If you were buying a car I’m sure you wouldn’t take the Ford salesman’s opinion of a Chevy into consideration without first talking to a Chevy salesperson. If possible you would speak to current owners of the vehicle you were considering and would probably do some research on the Internet. You should do at least as much when considering a possible military career.
So, don’t write-off the old guys, their advice is still valuable, but when it comes to the enlistment process, military recruiters are your best source for information. You can expect to hear more advice on this subject in future articles in this old guy’s column.