*Note: I had meant to publish this post nearly a year ago--on May 8, 2009, which would have been the twentieth anniversary of my leaving for basic training. However, stuff happened. Life got in the way, and it just didn't get done. Finally, I managed to get it finished, and here I present to you part 2 of my story.
Twenty years ago, my life changed forever. Two years before, I had graduated College with a Bachelor of Behavioral Science degree, my major being psychology and my minor sociology. I'd spent two years in a rather uninspiring job market, unable to find work in my chosen field. I was working part time at Wal-mart, and truth be told, I enjoyed the job. But after nearly two years, I was still part time. I didn't understand it. I was a hard worker. I didn't miss work. In the two years I'd worked there, I called in ONE time. I'd seen people who had been hired after me already promoted to full time, and here I was still part time. I went and asked my department manager, who went and asked our assistant manager why I hadn't been made full time yet.
"Oh, she'll probably never be made full time," was the assistant manager's response. Well, that made me mad, and I thought to myself, "They're not going to make me full time. I'll just go and join the Navy."
OK, so it wasn't really such a spur of the moment decision as that. I'd been thinking about it, but with that answer I began thinking about it seriously. One day in late December 1988, I went into town and talked to a recruiter. I don't remember his name. He had an unusual last name that started with a V, so I'll just call him that. He told me that the Navy was about to put a temporary moratorium on female recruits, so if I wanted to enlist, I would have to go take the ASVAB* that night.
Whoa! I wasn't ready for that. I would have to think about it a little. "Well, don't think too long," V said. "you'll need to let me know by..." such and such a time. I don't remember the exact hour.
I went home, but I didn't have to think long. I knew I couldn't continue on working only part time. Besides that, it was time. I was 24 years old. It was time to grow up and stop mooching off my family. It was time for me to become an adult. I called the recruiter back and said, "I'm going."
V tolde me to meet him down at the recruiting office, and he was going to drive me and another girl down to the MEPS** in Houston. Normally, he'd stick us on a Greyhound bus, but due to the time constraints, he drove us down there himself. So he drove us down there and that night we took the ASVAB, which is your pretty typical standardized test. Once it was over, we got checked into a motel--which I'm not really sure how that happened. V had left by this time, because he had a 2 hour drive to get back home. Anyway, somehow we got checked into a motel.
The next day, we were up early, and back to the MEPS for a day of poking and prodding, and more medical tests than I even knew existed. We got eyes checked, ears checked, blood, urine, --everything checked. You name it, we got it checked. We also had to do some really strange things, like jump up and down in our underwear, squat down and waddle like a duck, all sorts of things. After that, we faced a barrage of questions by the doctor--all to find out if we were physically fit enough to be in the military.
At one point during the day, I saw the girl I had ridden down with. She was getting on the elevator and she was crying. I asked he what was wrong, and she said they were sending her home. She was on birth control pills to regulate her menstrual cycle, and they wanted her to provide a note from her doctor verifying that. They wouldn't let her into the military without one.
Once they determined I was physically capable of being in the military, I was off to get my fingerprints taken and a background check done. Finally, I took the oath and was sworn into the delayed entry program. They put me on a Greyhound bus and sent me home with orders to report back for active duty on May 8, 1989.
Part 1 of this story can be found here.
*Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
**Military Entrance Processing Station