A Recruiter Who Makes Sense

Weeks passed after I decided the Navy wasn't for me and I continued to try to figure out college financing. I kept looking at scholarships, but none worked out. Then, one day while in the library mooching college internet services, I saw a flier on a bulletin board. It said something like

"Money for College - Part Time Job - Call SFC Edward Tomon"

I took the flier and set up an appointment to meet with the recruiter for the Virginia Army National Guard (VAARNG).

I was late to the appointment, so late that SFC Tomon left and I had to call him to reschedule.

The next meeting was a house call so I'd be more likely to attend. He came in his dress green uniform, sat down and started to ask me questions. He had all of the right answers for me, specifically ones about money for college through four different programs, and extra cash earned from working one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

Next, he asked what kind of MOS(Military Occupational Specialty) I would like to pursue. I had no idea what a MOS was, so he explained it's the job or skill you perform in the military. I told him I wanted to be a pilot.

He said there was an aviation unit in Richmond, Va, which is only a 45 min drive from Williamsburg. He then started to ask me some questions about how long I was willing to stay out of school. I gave him the same requirements I had given to the Navy recruiters -- not long.

He informed me becoming a pilot was not the best option for a quick return to school. Flight school takes more than a year. Instead, he suggested that I choose the 12B MOS (Combat Engineer) and then switch my MOS when I had a year to spare if I still wanted to fly. He explained that there was combat engineering unit close to Williamsburg to which other William and Mary students were assigned.

I asked him what a Combat Engineer did. He explained engineers are basically infantry soldiers carrying explosives like C-4, dynamite and TNT to help create and remove obstacles on the battlefield. He added that schooling for the MOS would only last 13 weeks. I could be back in school by the next spring semester.

He packed his things leaving me with some brochures and said he would get in touch with me. I was sold, but remembered the old adage that you should never trust a recruiter. So, I immediately called my father to tell him the news and seek his knowledge on the situation. His advice was to get everything in writing.

In the days following our meeting the recruiter would provide everything I needed in writing, making the VAARNG the best option I would find.

By Bert Stover |  September 14, 2005; 12:10 AM ET  | Category:  Why the Military?
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Why would anyone join the Army? Didn't you talk to someone who had been in the Army? The Army treats its grunts like grunts. You should have joined the AF. In 1969, I enlisted for 4 years in the AF, and I cherish those years. Afterwards I went to grad school on the GI bill. The AF treats its enlisted personnel decently, not as cannon fodder.

Posted by: Max | September 14, 2005 02:11 AM

Pride Max, pride. The Air Force is the best at what it does. It is virtually unmatched, but you couldn't get a Marine to trade his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor for that. We take pride in being treated like crap. Infact, we go to chow and brag to other units about what a hard case the CO is. It's our way of saying we can handle the worst the enemy has to ditch out. For us the military is the military. We're the natural descendants of Caesar's legions.

Posted by: Deor | September 14, 2005 03:11 AM

Good advice to get everything in writing. Decades ago, I volunteered for the german army. My reasoning was not only based on patriotism, I needed to build a nest egg before studying, too, and I wanted to get some experience in electronics. The recruiter told some fairy tales about electronic warfare and persuaded me that this would be the right place for me.

Turned out we weren't even allowed to replace a blown up fuse at our 20 year old consoles. In fact, my new qualifications never came in handy in any way and a radio direction finder wouldn't have helped me at my studies, either. I won't say it wasn't a valuable experience, but the promises weren't held.

So don't expect that the National Guard really will send an infantryman handling explosives to flight school just because he has 'a year to spare' and wants to fly. I guess that would only happen if you're close to someone like the Bush family...

Posted by: Gray | September 14, 2005 06:03 AM

I went into the Marines for precisely the same reasons. However, I joined the regulars vs. the reserves. I just couldn't seem to gather together enough money to stay in college, despite working during the summers and part-time during school.

The recruiter promised me nothing but hard work, harder training, harder overseas duty at the whim of the Marine Corps and circumstances and assistance with college once I got out through the G.I. Bill. As far as I can see he was absolutely correct in everything he said.

That said, there's more options today for good students than there were then. I would not do it again the way I did it. My years in the Marines were clearly wasted, relative to what I'd have accomplished with the same youth, vigor and energy had I not gone into the Marines.

I actually look back at it now as avoidance behavior. I took the easy way out of trying to finance my own college. I let someone else take care of me for some years when I should have been in school. I'll encourage my son to be more courageous.

Posted by: David Walters | September 14, 2005 09:48 AM

Recruiters are generally horror stories. I got lucky. I went to the Marines in the mid nineties when all was good and well. Deployment was at a minimum.

I took college courses right on base. They gave me a 60 day early out in Spring 2001 just in time for the spring semester. I took my credits and transferred into a top 100 school and steamrolled myself through undergrad in 23 months. I graduated and still had a year worth of GI Bill left. I worked for a year and started grad school. Those monthly checks are a big help in offsetting personal expenses.

Posted by: Deor | September 14, 2005 11:06 AM

I like reading the posts, there seems to be quite a few of us ex-military who are following this Blog. Maybe even a disproportianate number of us Marines.

I was born with a family who paid my tuition. Never had to work, and didn't have the strength of character to succeed in college. I joined the Marines because I believed they would be the toughest of all the services. I did pull my shot and joined the reserve instead of active duty, which gave me the benefit of the training without a long active service. I learned discipline, and self confidence that has served me well in life.

I joined in 85 and watched the transition from the vietnam era military to the modern. I think our military has been well served by people seeking college educations. This encourages highly motivated, non-ideological, proffessionaly orientated people to serve in our defense. This gives a proffessional goal orientated military that is the envy of the world.

Now all we need is a forgien policy that is up to the standards that our military can deliver.

Posted by: David P. | September 14, 2005 01:00 PM

I am in the SD Army National Guard. I have been in for 9 years and love it. My recruiter never lied to me either. I like the fact that I can do my civilian job and be a soldier at the same time.
I am proud to be in the National Guard as well!
Also a shout out to all the other branches, I appreciate what you all do for our kick butt country.

Posted by: Casey | April 19, 2006 01:04 PM

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