So, I joined the Army…I know it’s a little shocking. Well, I didn’t think it was that shocking but from the reactions I have gotten the past couple months I guess it is. This sort of makes sense as I am 25 years old, in a career track, bought some property and seemed generally happy with my life as it was so let me explain.
First of all, what exactly did I join? I applied for and received a slot for Officer Candidate School in the United States Army. An OCS slot is a lot like applying for college, in fact you need a college degree to even apply, which is what separates enlisted from officers. Some enlisted folks have degrees but officers must have degrees. I had to submit my transcripts, resume, get letters of recommendation, there was an interview and I even had to show my high school diploma. A little different from college applications, I had to get a military physical, pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and score a minimum of 110 on the ASVAB.
So I turned in all my stuff, did the physical, took the PFT, and did the interview. I felt pretty good after the interview. Ok, I felt like I had it in the bag after the interview, nevertheless I squealed when I got the call that I was awarded a slot. I was at work though so I had to play it cool even though I was jumping up and down on the inside.
Getting a slot is great but it doesn’t guarantee anything. As an Army officer candidate, I first must go to basic training. The Army is the only branch that requires their officer candidates to attend basic training before OCS. The other branches essentially wrap their basic training and OCS into one. So first I have to get through basic without any issues. I leave for Basic on September 18th and that will last for 9 weeks.
Assuming I get through Basic with no issues, then I leave for OCS. OCS is 14 weeks. It’s essentially a mini-military school in that you’re in the classroom learning things like military history, leadership skills, land navigation etc., while maintaining a level of physical fitness.
OCS is where I’ll learn what my job will be. That’s right, my job of choice is not guaranteed. At OCS they immediately start ranking all the candidates based on your leadership abilities, PFT scores and in-class test scores. The ranking goes on throughout your time there. Your job assignment is based on your rank. So whoever is ranked first gets first choice at what job they want and so on. If there are three infantry spots available you better be ranked in the top three if you want to guarantee you get infantry. The number of officers needed for each branch of the Army change from class to class. The class before me could’ve taken five infantry officers but my class might take 15 infantry officers. I would like to branch Military Intelligence but that is one of the most sought after branches, meaning I will have to be ranked very high to secure a Military Intelligence slot. Basically there’s a good chance I won’t get the job I want.
Once I get through with OCS and get my job I will commision as a 2nd Lieutenant and go to another school specific to my job called BOLC or Basic Officer Leadership Course (technically OCS is classified as BOLC as well, it’s just the first phase). I chose Army specifically because it is the biggest branch of the military meaning the most opportunity for a wide variety of experience.
So why did I join the military at all?
I don’t know.
For a handful of reasons. Reason number one is principle. I feel everyone should serve in some way. Doesn’t have to be military but as a healthy, young, single person this seemed like the best fit for me. If you know me you know I care deeply about veterans and military issues in general. A part of me has always felt a little hypocritical for having these views given that I have never served.
Reason number two plays off reason number one. I love America. I’m proud to live here. I’m proud of our constitution, a document I believe is one of the greatest ever written. I love the people that live here. I love our story. It’s not always perfect, but we aren’t the perfect guys, we are re the good guys though. I believe free nations around the world are safer because of the power combined with the principles of the American Military. The clearest signal to me that this is truly a great nation is that with our military strength we have the power to take over, I mean literally take over any nation we want and re-name that nation America 2.0, yet we don’t. This country, the constitution, your children; They’re worth protecting. They’re worth dying for. And I shouldn’t put that job on someone else when I am perfectly capable of contributing myself.
Reason number three is the most selfish. There are some great benefits to being a member of the Army. The health care, the traveling opportunities, the pension. None of that is bad.
Reason number four is for myself. I want a new challenge. I want to develop new skills. I want to open more doors for myself. I want to meet new people from all over the country. No, I don’t have an interest in politics, no I am not really trying to set up a career path that leads to the CIA. The worst part of all this is that I will now work for the government. If you’ve read any of my other stuff you probably have figured out that I don’t trust the government and prefer to keep them out of my life as much as possible. Unfortunately, it’s something I will have to compromise on in order to live up to my principles listed above.
Why didn’t I just join the Reserves? Well, that was originally the plan. I met with a recruiter for the first time last August with the intention of joining the Reserves. It wasn’t until February that I decided to switch to an active duty application. A couple reasons for the switch. Building my tiny home turned out to be way more of a headache than I thought it would be. I couldn’t actually build the home the way I wanted because of minimum square footage county code. I knew this going into it and was willing to compromise on size but then my plans still got rejected, and for petty reasons. For instance, the key not being in the right place. Did I mention I dislike the government?
On top of problems with building my home, (I dug a well on the property, then sold it by the way) I was feeling a little stagnant in my job. I loved going to work but felt my contributions to the company weren’t as obvious as they once were.
I also want the full military experience. Starting out in the Reserves won’t really give me that and when I inquired about possibly switching to active duty down the road I was told the process can be difficult and isn’t guaranteed. It’s much easier to go from active to reserves than it is to go from reserves to active. So I signed a 3.5 year contract.
I’ve talked the talk and it’s time for me to walk to walk. Thank you to everyone who has supported me, written letters for me and given advice. Hopefully I don’t regret this decision for the rest of my life.