As you know from my previous post in this series, my interest in the Army came from my father’s service. I was not yet born when my father was on active duty, but my early life was sepnt while he was still in the Army Reserves. I heard stories about what it was like in the Army, though many of my father’s stories were 20 years old, not really painting an accurate picture of the Army at that time.
Anyway, I got “reinterested” in the Army sometime in high school. Don’t remember exactly when, but I started pursuing the Army during my junior year, shortly after turning 17, talking to the local recruiter that had the table at the high school and talking to my parents a bit about it as well. I did my research and eventually started seriously talking to the recruiter, SFC G, but more on him later.
I took the ASVAB for the first time in May 1998, which was at the end of my junior year of high school. I pretty much aced it; I had all sorts of options and could have done anything. I was being offered everything. I could have had an 11X contract with an option 40, which is what they give to kids who desire to go to infantry, Airborne School, and Ranger School. I had no desire to do this. I was also offered 18X, which is the Special Forces Enlistment Option. enlistees under this are trained to be infantrymen, but are given the opportunity to try to get into Special Forces from the very beginning of their enlistment contract. Again, not something I was really interested in.
What I really wanted to do was drive tanks. Again, don’t really know why, other then I could get a guarnteed assignment to Germany as my first duty station and I would get to shoot a big freakin’ gun at stuff. My head was filled with visions of war games played with lasers on the battlefields of WWII in Germany. I was about to go for it, too, but the aforemention SFC G had to mess things up.
Since I was not yet 18, I would have needed parental consent to sign a contract. I had all intention of signing my contract before graduating high school, if only to give myself something to do after high school. College was an option to me, and I had already been accepted at some schools, but I wanted some adventure in my life. So we made an appointment for the good SFC to come over and have a sit down discussion with me and Pops about the Army. Both my parents were very supportive of my decision, but like I said, I needed their consent in order to sign the contract. Below is my recollection of the conversation that I, Pops, and SFC G had in the living room at out house:
SFC G: So have you decided what you want to do in the Army?
Me: Yeah. I think I want to drive tanks, and I want to do it in Germany.
SFC G: We can definitely make that happen. Germany is a great duty station.
Me: Yeah, I know. My dad was stationed there back in the day and my older brother was born there. Plus, it would be nice to visit the country where half my family originated.
SFC G: Not to mention that there are bars and strip clubs right outside the gates at all the posts. It’s a great place for a single guy to be.
Me: Umm…that’s not really that important to me. I just want good training and a decent opportunity.
SFC G: Well consider all those other things a bonus then.
Me: Okay, well, I think I will have to discuss this with my parents a bit more before I make any commitments. I’ll let you know.
SFC G: Sure, just don’t take to long. Sometimes the windows on these things close and you might get stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.
Notice Pops didn’t say anything. He’s a quiet guy, so he generally doesn’t say a lot anyway, but he is also a veryreligious person. We talked a bit after the good SFC left and decided that if that was the way that this guy thought he had to sell the Army to someone who was really interested, we could only imagine what he was saying to others who weren’t. As much as I wanted to join the Army then, the sales pitch didn’t really scream “Be All You Can Be,” so I decided to accept my Presidential Scholarship to Weber State and go to college instead, with the intent of maybe doing ROTC or something else.
But all this happened in the early fall, so I had to see this guy at school a few days a week. He kept asking me what I was going to do, and I told him that I had decided to go to school because of the scholarship. He gave me the normal line that recruiters do, something about me being a great asset to the Army and everything, but I just didn’t like the way he thought he had to sell the Army to me. I just let it go after a while.
The story gets better though. Shortly before I graduated in May, one of his superiors called me. This is how that conversation went:
Recruiter Guy: Hey Robert. I see here that you’ve been working with SFC G and you were interested in becoming a tanker. You still planning on doing this?
Me: No, actually I decided to accept a scholarship and go to school instead.
RG: Oh, that’s too bad. From your scores and everything you look like you are a smart guy and will probably be really successful in that. But with your high scores, there is really nothing you can’t do in the Army. Not only can we guarantee you duty location, but we can get you unit preference as well. Is there something that happened that changed your mind?
Me: Actually I didn’t really want to mention it, but I wasn’t too happy with how SFC G presented the Army to me and my father. Telling a 17 year old kid that the most appealing part of Army service in Germany is the easy access to bars and strip clubs, while meeting with his father, may not be the best way to present your organization.
RG: I see. I apologize for that. Please don’t discount the entire organization based on the actions of one person. We are not all like that.
Me: I know, but I don’t think I am going to do the Army right now. Thanks for your call and good luck with what you do.
RG: Good luck to you too. Hopefully you will look at the Army again in the future.
So that was that. I went to Weber State, did about a year and half a semester and decided to join the Army Reserve. But that is a story for another day. But as a final piece to this story, when I was meeting with my Army Reserve recruiter, I mentioned my first experience and what had happened. SSG N, my new recruiter, recognized the name and said that apparently they were investigating SFC G at the time and I was one of many potential recruits who had similar experinces with SFC G. As a result, he was removed from recruiting duty and returned to the “real” Army. I always thought that was pretty funny.
Until next time…