Category Archives: Military Life

My most memorable job interview

I’ve had several jobs before joining the military. I don’t remember the interviews very well, which I guess makes them not memorable. To be honest, I think most of them consisted of just asking me questions and then giving me the job anyway.

Interviewer: “Are you going to steal anything?”
Me: “No.”
Interviewer: “Cake or pie?”
Me: “Whichever you like, I guess.”
Interviewer: “You’re hired! Start right now.”

It really didn’t matter what job I applied for in the early days. Maybe I set my sights low, but I still got 80% of what I applied for. It wasn’t until 9/11/2001 when I started having issues finding work. That is, until I decided on the Air Force. I think most people would rather hear about that than how I got a job selling housewares for Montgomery Ward, or swept up popcorn at a movie theater, or assembled barbecues, or mixed paint, or wore a tie while delivering office mail, or sold dolls and collectable plates, or– Yes. Dolls. I sold dolls.

As I was saying, one day I decided to join the military. My decision had something to do with unemployment checks and terrorism. There were other reasons, but I’m going to try to stay on topic because that list is lengthy.

I walked into the Air Force recruiter’s office and said I’d like a job. He asked why I wanted to join the Air Force and I told him my reasons. He asked why the Air Force specifically and I said I wanted skills other than killing people and blowing stuff up, something that would be useful when I got out. There’s not a high demand for infantry in the corporate world…yet.

Having past the first test, the test of sincerity and wit, I set about working on the background check paperwork. The packet was probably close to 30 pages and involved trying to find my closest relatives for their addresses, which I didn’t have. I’m a bad relative.

I walked back into the recruiter’s office about a week later and we went through the background package. The whole thing had to be put into a computer, waivers had to be signed, then it all had to be approved. While it was going through the approval process, my recruiter took me into D.C. to take the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery because, for a reason that angers me to this day, I never took it in high school. This test was basically to see what I might be good at. If I remember correctly, I was a little hungover. When I got the results back, I was just as surprised as the recruiter but I think for different reasons.

Recruiter: Do you know what these scores mean?
Me: I know. I totally could have done better.
Recruiter: No, these are really good. You’ve qualified for any job in the Air Force.
Me: Oh. Uh…OK then.

After a month, all the paperwork was finished and I was ready for the physical. This was all done at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Baltimore beginning in the early morning. There both I and the doctors learned I can walk like a duck, lift things over my head, and I don’t pass out at the sight of my blood being drawn…unlike the guy next to me who passed out while they were drawing my blood. While he was unconscious I asked not to be stationed anywhere with him. There was also an incident with a doctor shrieking because she found a tick on someone during a physical. Not a bad morning overall.

I passed the battery of tests and in the afternoon went on to round two: picking a job…or five. This was a hassle because my goal had been to leave the military with viable skills and the guy helping pick a job was being, um, difficult. The military has really cool sounding jobs that have civilian equivalent jobs that aren’t as cool sounding. For instance, Ecology in the military is a bug exterminator in the civilian world. The guy and I went back and forth over a few jobs; he wanted someone to fill needed positions in the military and I wanted to get the most out of my high test scores and do something I liked doing.

Job finder guy: “What about ‘driver?'”
Me: “As in vehicles? No thanks. What about photography?”
Job finder guy: “Says here you’re color blind. How about electronics?”
Me: “I thought you said I was color blind.”

I said I was going to walk out because clearly the Air Force didn’t have any jobs I wanted to do and nothing that would use my talents. He turned a deeper red and said he was going to use the bathroom. Should someone use his computer while he was gone to find jobs, said person would have to pick five before he got back.

I had five jobs selected in under two minutes. Computer networking, Public Affairs…No wonder he didn’t list those. They sounded exactly like what I wanted to do, not what the military wanted.

He told me they weren’t guaranteed jobs and that I shouldn’t expect to hear anything soon nor get the job I wanted. I had a phone call two days later seeing if I wanted to work in a hospital stock room. I said no thank you. I was told again that jobs don’t come along very often and it’d be best just to take something. I gritted my teeth and said I would take my chances with the next job. He reminded me yet again that they don’t happen that often and it was difficult to get a job off my selection list. I said thank you and was rather polite considering.

An hour later the guy called me and said he had a job in Public Affairs if I wanted it. I rolled my eyes. He said the girl that had the position got pregnant and wasn’t able to go to basic training. I said I would take it. He told me I started Tuesday, and four days later I shipped off to Texas to continue the job process.

Continue the process? Yep, I technically worked for the Air Force but didn’t have the Public Affairs job yet. There was always the risk of sucking at something and getting reassigned.

About three weeks into basic military training I met with what I believe was a job counselor to make sure I was happy with my choice, and I think she was also responsible for recommending to continue me on to get trained for the job. I believe part of the interview was to make sure I didn’t have a speech impediment in case I ever had to do an on camera interview. She told me I was the first person she ever met to have Pubic Affairs as a guaranteed job coming in to the Air Force. I also took a typing test that day on an honest to God typewriter. That was the last time I saw a typewriter.

I graduated basic training and went to my technical training school where I learned my job. Again, there was still the risk of failing and being reassigned. It wasn’t until I was near graduation that I was assigned a Public Affairs job at an Air Force base. Start to finish, I’d say it was about a 10 month job interview and qualification process.



Filed under Military Life, postaday2011, Writing, Writing Prompts

…but a whimper

Not with  a bang but a whimper. Such is the way my scheduled deployment ended. After all the training and struggle to get deployed I get medically disqualified. Simply put, I have a sleeping problem and that will keep me out of a war zone until it all gets figured out. Now I wait to see if I get to keep my career.

The hardest part to get over is I was ready to go. I mean ready. I was mentally prepared and focused on being there and now suddenly I’m not going. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I can’t believe I even have to ask myself what do I do now.

I should feel relief, but I don’t.

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Good Morning South Carolina!

It was a pretty relaxing drive out here. I drove straight through with no stops. Just didn’t feel like stopping.

I spent the night in the lodging facility on base. It was a struggle to find food on a Sunday, but I managed.

Today I find out what I’m doing on my deployment. It should be…interesting.

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Training: Day…whatever this is.

I no longer remember how long I’ve been here, but I know I leave in three days.

Today was land navigation. My team included an Eagle Scout and two other folks. Add that to my innate sense of direction, scouting experience, intuition, and growing up in the woods. We finished the course 30 minutes faster than the Army standard, which was fast enough for the instructors to think we were using a GPS.

Pff. Waypoints. I’m a gamer. I’ve done land navigation with way points nearly everyday for 12 years.

The fun part was the intuition. Just sort of knowing where the markers are really helps too. “The compass says this way.” Right, but if we cut over this way, we can walk through the clearing and it’s on the edge over there. “Can you see it?” Not yet.

Tomorrow is the final exercise and a test. We graduate the next day. Then the next day I’ll be heading home for a little bit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m flippin’ tired.

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Training: Day…Bang!

Red spurting blood! Left arm!

Today was combat medicine. Yet another class that hammers home exactly what the other part of my job is and where I’m going.

Getting over the “that’s not my job” attitude is difficult, but that’s what this entire training has been about. Today was no different.

I can now close up a sucking chest wound, treat for shock, apply field dressings and tie off a tourniquet. I’ve had the training before, but today was so hands on it made the previous first aid training seem like a joke.

I can’t say I’m just a writer or photographer anymore. It’s a good feeling. I feel more comfortable with what is expected of me. I’m no less scared, but I know what to do when things get bad.

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Training: Day Seven

Balls. Today was not my best day. You can’t have a bad day when you are getting shot at.

Today’s class was urban combat. We spent the morning on tactics and the afternoon on execution. I thought I had a good grasp of the concept. When it came to showing what we learned, I had a problem that got me pulled from the exercise.

Now, I’m pretty honest. If I fail, I’ll say so. I failed.

Before we started, we put on safety gear in addition to our body armor. There was a groin protector, a neck strap that surrounded our neck firmly, and a face mask that locked onto the helmet and wrapped around our head. The smart folks might see where this is going. Compressed chest, neck held, wrapped head…

We swept up the street, kicked in a door and cleared the front room. I cleared the back room and noticed I was a little out of breath.

Huh, that’s odd. I’ll just catch my breath. This air isn’t really flowing through the face mask… It’s just my imagination. You’re smarter than this; you know what’s happening. I do, I can’t breath. No, you can breath, just relax. I’m suffocating and this body armor is constricting my lungs.

My fingers went up to pull off the mask, but I stopped myself. I doubled over. Just breathe, just relax. You are panicing now for no good reason. My hands reached up to rip at the Velcro holding my body armor. I stopped myself again because that’s just asking to die.

The captain looked over and asked if I was okay. I tried to shake my head no, but remembered the mask was holding my head firmly in place. I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t get air. I motioned for him to come over. He asked what was wrong. Somehow I made the international hand sign for I’m not breathing properly, which is a hand in front of your face that moves rapidly to your chest and back again three times quickly.

He yelled that I was hyperventilating (the hand signal worked) for an instructor and he and another guy got my mask off. Within the 10 seconds it took the instructor to halt the exercise and come in, I was already better.

I got pulled out and a stern talking to by an Army Ranger who thought I didn’t have my head in the game and that I need to pull my shit together because I’m going to a war zone. I wanted to explain that it was the mask and not the fighting, but sometimes it’s best just to take the butt chewing.

He asked if I thought I could go through again. Definently, I said. He said I need to get over my shit and find a happy place if I have to. I nodded instead of saying what was on my mind. He said he’d let me go though again, which clearly looked like it was against his best judgement.

I lined up, got strapped into the mask and instantly started to freak again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got a little fresh air and felt better.

We repeated the scenario. We got to the same room and I had a panic attack again. A few years of psychology told me it was not only in my head, but being set off be being in the same place in the same situation. I tried to find a happy place and endedup doubled over again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got some cool air on my face. I was good to go. I broke the cycle.

We exited the building and swept up the street again. I applied the speed shooting trick I learned the day before and shot one guy up the street, one across the street and one behind us as fast as it took you to read that. Three rounds each.

We stormed the next building with a couple teams. We went upstairs and cleared the room. I sniped another guy who was hiding in the trees from my window.

They called a halt. I checked myself for paint and didn’t have a scratch.

So, what did I learn? I don’t know. I guess no matter how smart I think I am, the body is going to do what the body is going to do. No matter how in control I feel, random chemicals in my blood stream sometimes have a different agenda. I learned my adrenaline jacks up my reflexes without causing tunnel vision, but screws with me if my head is wrapped up, neck is held and chest is restricted.


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Training: Day Six

Today was a down day so I picked up a few magazines on psychology and photography, rented Lost Boys 3, and finished Dead Before Dawn. Oh, and there was football on or something.

Tomorrow I get shot at. No risk of death, but good chance of bruising. I took a tally of the bruises I have so far just so I know how many times I get shot tomorrow.

That might sound pessimistic, but I shoot pictures and write stories. Tomorrow my squad will clear buildings and go up against the Marine sniper and other instructors who are all prior service Army infantry at least. I’m just not thinking we stand a chance. We’ll see, I guess.

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