Archive for March, 2011

SF-86: Personal Problems

I know I will have to fill out an SF-86 for my Army career and looking into what the form entails, I think it’s best that I’m starting a year and a half early. Firstly, I have some personal problems: no references. I feel like such a loner and a sociopath typing this, but the truth is that I’m a very private and reserved person. I don’t like socializing and I don’t think having friends should be a requirement for joining the Army as an officer. But, really, they ask you for references for each place you’ve lived for the past 7-10 years, plus three personal references, plus contact information for each employer you’ve had during that time as well! I never talk to my neighbors, I never have kept contact with former employers, and I have no friends or acquaintences that can vouch for me.

Now, I consider myself to be a good person. I’ve worked with children and animals and I think I’m compassionate and reasonable. I’ve spent five years in the workforce and four years at college and I’ve gotten along fine with everyone.  I think I’m personable and, although I don’t have the friends to prove it, I think I make a good friend. In all honesty, I moved to the city I live in now right after high school and shortly thereafter met my boyfriend (now husband). I’ve spent all of my free time with my husband or alone and that is the way I like it. But this isolation has a cost: I don’t know what to do about filling out this form. I only have three or four family members who even know me well enough to comment on the person that I am today. Some people out there are super critical of this; if you don’t have friends then something must be wrong with you. Yes, I guess that by their standards something is wrong with me… I am reserved.

So, I fear also that if I ask a recruiter about this then I’ll get a response like, “Do the best you can.” Ya, well, I can do the best that I can and my application may be denied due to it being incomplete or insufficient. But what can I do? I cannot make up for ten years of being reserved with new friends that can only give a reference for the last year. References need to span all 7-10 years. Overall, I don’t think that having a lack of references will make me look like a terrorist or a true sociopath (those people just manipulate and are actually very personable when they know it will benefit themselves), but I fear that it will hurt my chances of being branched military intelligence.

Am I a Good Fit for the Army?

As people go through the recruitment process they often realize the truth in JFK’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Joining the Army is about sacrifice; sacrifice of not being able to choose your living location, working overtime, not being able to choose your jobs, medical coverage, limiting when to have a family just to name a few. Yes, as good of deal the Army seems to me, there is always the other side of the coin and thus a different story behind just what I’m getting into. Joining the Army will take a lot of sacrifice on my part, and this makes me wonder if I am a good fit for the Army–even if I think the Army is a good fit for me.

I’ll be honest: I love sleep. And that will make me a poor fit for the Army. I have had periods of my life where I’ve woken up at 6:00am every morning, and other periods (now) where I’ve woken up at 11:00am every morning. If I am going to be indoctrinated into military style concepts of time, I’ll be rising at 4:30 or 5:00am every morning. Now, I think it is good to eat about an hour before one works out because you need to have calories in your bloodstream. I’ve never worked out in a fasted period (read: skipping eating before my workout) because I feel it’s a stupid thing to do. However, in the Army, after my early wake up, I will be expected to workout for a couple hours before breakfast. There is no buts about this: you will workout before breakfast, no exceptions. Okay, so I can change…I can start getting up earlier and I can (gulp!) workout without any calories in my bloodstream. The more I do to adjust now and changing under my own control will help me when I eventually get to basic training and onwards to officer candidate school.

I am a good rule follower. Although I wasn’t raised Catholic I seem to have about an equal guilt complex of a Catholic. And that will make me a good fit for the Army. I can’t jaywalk without fearing I’ll get a ticket and suddenly it turns into police searching my car and my apartment and then getting sent to jail–all for jaywalking. I know, I know: if I’m innocent I shouldn’t have anything to hide. Well, it’s not that I’m hiding, but I am a private person. I’m an introvert, and while I think that is a good thing and I have the extra talent of being extraverted when needed, I fear I’ll be picked out of the group in basic training for being an introverted O9S. Even though I’m excited to follow the rules and follow them well, I know everyone has a breaking point and they will be looking for mine. They’ll want to assert dominance and control by making everyone watch the female O9S who is submitting to them. Is this an overblown Catholic sized guilt trip or what?!  But, I do think it’s better to fear the worst and go in knowing how you will handle yourself than to try not to think about it and end up being humiliated.

I know myself. And this will make me an…interesting fit for the Army. I think enlisted soldiers are typically young when they enlist and they don’t know themselves very well. This makes them moldable to the Army doctrine and much less likely to question later down the road. Now, I know that’s a generalization; some people enlist when they are older and do know themselves and others enlist when they’re young but they’ve grown up in a military family and are already molded to the doctrine. There are all types. But for me, I think it’s an asset that I have been in the workforce full time for 5 years. And I’ve also gone to school in the civilian world and gotten a Bachelor’s degree. So, I can definitly jump through hoops even if I think it’s dumb and a waste of time. I’m used to the hurry up and wait song and dance.

Lastly, the Army establishment is in the soutern United States. And that makes me a bad fit for the Army. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and have only left the country once–and hated it! It’s not that I’m against moving… I’m an expert at moving. It’s the fact that I’ve never been to the south and I don’t understand the weather nor do I understand the people. Racial tension is something that one doesn’t run into very much living in the PacNw. So, I guess what I need to do (since I wish to go to OCS in Georgia) is study up on the south and try to understand it. It’s not going to change for me just because I don’t like it. And I think that is the takeaway message here; you must change yourself to fit to the Army because the Army isn’t going to change to fit to you.

Why I Want to Be an Army Officer

In an officer candidate’s application checklist there may be an item listed requiring an essay to be written on the topic of “Why I Want to Be an Army Officer.” This item varies by state and by recruiting station from what I’ve been able to find out. Some applicants must type a page on this subject and also include an exact handwritten copy in their application paperwork. Other applicants must type the one page essay, include it in their application packet and then handwrite a similar essay on the day and at the place of their board interview (for example, I read about an applicant who had to write their essay from memory an hour or so before they went in to their boards).

I do not know what the future holds for me regarding how my essays will  be handled. I can only hope that I write a great composition therefore I am going to seek out all the help I can get on this. I’ve taken numerous writing classes and writing has always been one of my stronger academic areas, however, I’m not going to wing it when it comes to my impression on the people who will be determining my future in the military. Without giving away my literary jewel that I call my essay, I would like to share my reasoning for why I want to be an Army officer.

Firstly, I have a deep sense of volunteerism ingrained in my character. I have volunteered throughout my entire life and I feel being in the military is the ultimate form of volunteerism. But, when a person reaches a certain point in their lives, volunteering 5 or 10 hours here and there doesn’t cut it anymore. I am wanting to make a greater contribution to my country, therefore being an Army officer is my ideal career. Working in the  private sector would eventually consume all of my time and energy and I probably wouldn’t make as big of contribution to my community through volunteering. This is not the future I want for myself because I know I am able to make a difference and contribute to a larger goal.

Next, I love America. I didn’t used to be so patriotic but I have realized that I have been born into and had the privilege of living in one of the greatest countries in the world. Majoring in International Studies has shown me how defunct the world can be, and of course the U.S. is not without its flaws, however, comparatively speaking America is a well oiled machine (ha ha ha… there’s a little pun in there). We have healthcare, schools, relative wealth, functional business, industry, a bounty of fresh water and readily available food. This is a great country and from a cultural standpoint I am thoroughly American. I am independent. I am competitive. I believe people have the right to a peaceful assembly. I believe people have the right to follow any faith they choose. I like my culture. I like going to a restaurant and getting my food quickly, having the check automatically arrive, and being able to swipe my debit card to pay. I believe I’d make an excellent officer because I love America and I am a true American.

Lastly, it is actually a pretty cool gig. Think about it; you get a four-year degree and if you have federal student loans, the Army will help you to pay off that debt. In the Student Loan Repayment Program, all of my federal loans should be taken care of. Then, they give you all of the training you need on top of already having a degree. They teach you how to be a leader although a lot of your personal characteristics are sure to help you in leadership roles. They require you to be fit and pay you to maintain good health. You wouldn’t get those incentives in the private sector. They teach you how to shoot and gun and use weapons–including using your own body as a weapon–which is training you wouldn’t get in a private sector job. In fact, liking guns and weapons may scare your private sector co-workers whereas in the military you are just a normal person. The Army will pay for housing and healthcare, on top of training you how to do a job that can be quite lucrative if you ever decide to leave the Army. You can live in numerous stateside and worldwide locations if you are in the Army, whereas if you were in the private sector you’d be chained to one city until you decide to quit your job to move somewhere new. 

Obviously, I’m not blind to why the Army gives all of these seemingly good deals out to Army personnel. I know it’s because they want their Army to be the best and most prepared Army possible. They want to ensure Army personnel  is working in peak condition because we may be called on to fight for our country. And ultimately, that is what being an Army officer is about; leading in the defense of our country, organizing the flow of people and materials, and making hard decisions that others are unwilling or unable to make.