Posted by: Jacqui Murray | November 30, 2010

Enlisting isn’t Easy Any More

army of oneMy son changed his life. After four years of college, he decided to be Army Strong, an Army of One. He’s 23. It’s his right as an adult. He couldn’t find a job. He gave himself three months and then went to talk to the recruiters, figuring one of them would take an interest in a kid with a double major, worked his way through college, doesn’t drink or smoke or take drugs or have any tats.

Enlisting was nothing like what is shown in the commercials–an earnest recruit, a smiling recruiter welcoming him. In fact, it was so difficult, my son almost gave up.

We’re a Navy family so he started there. Their office usually wasn’t open and when it was, the recruiters barely paid any attention to my son. He wanted to be an officer, but Officer Candidate School (OCS) was available only to those with a 3.5 gpa in a technical major. My son’s are history and economics.

My son moved on to the Army’s desk. That recruiter explained the facts of present day recruiting to my son. With the lousy state of the economy, everyone wants to enlist. OCS can’t handle all the college kids who couldn’t find jobs so are trying to make lemonade out of lemons. That being said, at least the Army recruiter paid attention, explained my son’s options and got him started, which meant taking a preliminary version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery-ASVAB. This is an initial screening device. Recruits need around 40% to be considered. The recruiter wanted to make sure my son was at least that smart, college not withstanding.

My son passed the preliminary exam so they went to LA for the official test, the medical exam and the swearing in. I cried. All I could think about was boots on the ground, Afghanistan and dust. My son explained that, depending upon his score on the official ASVAB, his enlistment contract would specify his job. I told him if it rhymed with ‘infantry’, he was out of the will.

Then my son got a perfect score on the ASVAB. Wow. No one does that. No one anyone could remember did that. The question from the other wanna-be recruits was, if he’s so smart, why enlist? My son’s answer: to find a direction for his life. Army strong.

And then the problems started. Questions about some medication he was on a year ago. Concerns over his vision. The Army doctors medically disqualified my son for surgery he had at eighteen months old. They said it wasn’t healed, despite that my son has run varsity cross country, played varsity golf and everything else an active boy does getting to twenty-three years old. Even the top Army doctor in Los Angeles insisted my son be DQ’d for that one. It took a decision ‘at the highest level’ to get beyond that one.

But they weren’t done. He drove up to LA on yet another Wednesday to be sworn in, only to be rejected again. Why? His high school transcripts didn’t show that he  passed Algebra, despite that his college transcripts showed A’s in Calculus. The recruiter hustled over to Laguna Hills High School, collected an extended transcript that showed Algebra passed in Middle School. Whew. Dodged another bullet.

Interestingly enough, the recruiters don’t reveal what jobs are available until the recruit signs on (complete with a lovely picture of the ceremony in front of the American flag. I wish I could have gone). At that time, whatever is available is what the recruit can pick. If the only thing available was ‘infantry’, that was it. Finally, my son’s luck turned. There was a slot for 25S–Satellite Communication Systems Operator Maintainer. It comes with twenty-six weeks of training (after the nine weeks of boot camp) and a $22,000 bonus (paid in increments). My first thought as a mom was, will the war be over by then?

Since then, he’s been part of the Army, complete with a military ID he proudly uses to get as many discounts as he can and a USAA account. The recruiter continues to be exemplary. Every week, he collects all of the future warriors and works with them, preparing them for boot camp and beyond.

In case you’re wondering about the Air Force, they were never even open.



  1. […] Enlisting isn’t Easy Any More « USNA or Bust! […]


  2. Congratulations to your son. You must be proud. What about the Marines? They weren’t open?


    • He didn’t think he was up to the Marines — physically. He’s a tough kid, but maybe not Marine tough. I am very proud of him. I’m a very lucky mom.

      Thanks for dropping by.


  3. Found your post through searching tags. Congratulations and Thank You to you and your son! I’m in the process of enlisting in the US Navy, and it’s true. Enlisting isn’t easy. I’m having my share of obstacles to overcome, but with the help of my recruiter I hope to soon earn the privilege to wear the uniform.


    • Thank you to you, too, Kristen. It’s a wonderful career and a noble effort on your part. My daughter’s in the Navy and loves it. She’s on the USS San Diego, still under construction in Pascagoula Miss. Before that, she served on the USS Bunker Hill. She works hard, but loves what she’s learning.

      I wish you best of luck getting started.


      • Just wanted to stop by to say that finally I’m in the Navy. I had a similar experience as your son; it took me about 2 months back and forth until I finally got a contract with my first choice A-school guarantee. I’m looking forward to serving alongside your daughter in the Navy. You must be such a proud mom to have raised two kids so dedicated to service. Thank you for your kind wishes, and I appreciate that you’re still blogging here. I’m following along until I start my Navy career in November.


      • Congratulations, Kristen! It is a wonderful career. If you end up on the LPD22 San Diego (they’ll be in Pascagoula MS), look up my daughter, Lt. Meaghan Murray.

        What is A school?


  4. Good afternoon,

    My brother is in the process of getting his SEAL contract, which will give him a chance to go to BUD/s and then hopefully become a Navy SEAL- My question is what did your son do to prepare for the ASVAB? Was there any thing particular that he did (books, sample tests etc.) My brother happens to be intelligent as well; he graduated NYU with a 3.8 in economics. But, after much research he decided that becoming a SEAL is his ultimate purpose.
    Thank you


    • 3.8 is a wonderful gpa. My son also graduated in econ, double major in history, and worked his way through college. His gpa was close to 3.0. He did nothing to prepare for the ASVAB, just showed up and took it. And aced it. He applied the normal college grad skills of problem-solving and critical thinking and that seemed to be sufficient. If your brother has a SEAL mentality and that 3.8 gpa, college grad, I don’t expect he’ll have much of a problem if he pays attention, thinks the questions through and approaches each question with an open mind. There was a part on car mechanics that was a bit confusing to my son. I know he wished he’d prepared better for that, but it all came out well in the end.


  5. A-school is the initial job training for enlisted ratings. I’ll be an Aerographer’s Mate, working in weather and oceanography. My A-school coincidentally is at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, right next door to Pascagoula.


    • If you end up in Pascagoula, say hi to Lt. Meaghan Murray. I’ll pass your name on to her. I know she’d be happy to show you around an LPD. By November, it should almost be built!


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