Thursday, June 30, 2005

I could be there now

     On the evening of May 5th, 1997 I was called by my recruiter after 10 at night to show up at the Boston center at 5AM the next morning, ready to go, two weeks before schedule.  The "pick-ups" right before high school and college let out are usually among the very slowest, and going early meant a switch from 2nd Battalion to 1st Battalion, an improvement.  I was not, however, cleared at that time for my military job, Signals Intelligence.  I'd done better on the DLAB than my recruiters had ever seen, and it was expected that I would report to the Defense Language Institute, likely to learn Arabic, Chinese, Korean or Spanish.

     My lack of a contract (a state shared by only three of the forty-plus members of my platoon) was of little interest to the Drill Instructors.  The Series NCO, SSgt Pena, openly chuckled, telling me I'd likely end up as a cook or as a truck-driver when he found out I didn't have it in writing.

     With one week to go, in the company of other recruits who had more than a month to go, and none of the people from my pick-up, I went to Naval Intelligence Services(NIS) to fill out some forms.  I was asked out into the hall after filling out the very first form, a credit history form.  I had filled it out noting every debt that might possibly be on my credit report, some of which did not.  I was quickly told that I was not what NIS was looking for, was sent back to my platoon, and spent the rest of the day dumbstruck.  It was at that moment, standing in the hall after near three months of Marine Corps boot camp, being dealt with abruptly by a Naval Officer, that I was suppose to have remembered the name of an E-9 down that the Senior NCO at the recruitment office in Boston had given me many months earlier.  I don't know if it would have helped, I don't know if I would have remembered if I had gone to NIS on time (a month previously) it would have helped.  I do know that my Senior Drill Instructor, SSgt Snider, was actually shocked, and supposedly drove over to Manpower to see what he could do.  By the way, I had been writing my recruiter, SSgt Vinson, about the predicament.  He was never helpful or quick with his replies.

     While on the 10-day leave between boot camp and Marine Combat Training at Camp LeJeune, I asked for infantry, knowing that it was the fastest way for an enlisted guy to become an Officer.  I was denied.  The logic was that people without contracts had often been forced into the infantry, so they banned that, and I couldn't even volunteer.

     If either my first or second choice had worked out, maybe I would have stayed in the Marine Corps longer.  Maybe I would have been killed by my own platoon, I'll never know.  But in either case, I might be in Iraq or Afghanistan now.

     My stint in the Individual Ready Reserve ends in one week.

UPDATE:  One week ago was my two year blog annivesary.

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