Let me tell you how this came about.
Younger Daughter has always wanted to travel, and was trying to think of some career excuse to do so. The Navy seemed like a good choice. Don is a Navy vet, and while over the years he's talked about his time in the service, he never ever suggested it as a choice for either of our girls.
In other words, Younger Daughter reached this decision entirely on her own. She thought about it for several months and researched it extensively before letting us know (and her decision took us totally by surprise).
She narrowed the job selection down to several possible choices for a four- or five-year enlistment, and made an appointment to see a recruiter the same day she took her algebra final exam in early May. She promised us if the jobs she wanted weren’t available, she would “walk” and not enlist, at least not yet. Since she wants to travel, she wanted to be on a ship (not land-based), so that was part of her selection process.
On the day of her algebra final she only got about four hours’ sleep (upset stomach through the night from eating a too-spicey dinner) and was very nervous about meeting the recruiter. (She got an A on the final and in the algebra class, by the way.) The first thing the recruiter had her do was take a practice vocational aptitude test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The minimum for getting into the Navy is 35 percent. On four hours’ sleep, an algebra final, and pure adrenaline, she scored 85 percent.
Immediately the recruiters started talking to her about the nuclear engineering program (“nuke”). Younger Daughter had already looked into this program and decided she didn’t want it, partly because of the six-year commitment but mostly because of the working conditions. The pay is astronomical once you leave the service but working conditions are grim (18-hour days, etc.).
The next step was a two-day overnight sojourn at the MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in Spokane, where she was given physical exams as well as the multi-section ASVAB (covering general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, numerical operations, coding speed, auto and shop information, mathematics knowledge, mechanical comprehension, and electronics).
This time the ASVAB wasn’t a practice test; it was the real deal, and would determine what jobs she would qualify for. Two other young men from Coeur d’Alene who were enlisting scored 60 and 75 percent. Younger Daughter scored – 95 percent. (This is apparently termed a "nerd score.")
Then came the big moment where they called her in to let her know what jobs were available. They had five or six possibilities on the table, none of them great. She called Don twice during this process to get his opinion about two of the positions she was offered. None were what she wanted, so she walked.
At least, she walked for about five minutes. One of the positions she had been offered (called Advanced Electronics Computer Field, AECF) didn’t appeal because it had a six-year commitment (two years of school, four years of active duty), and because of that she hadn’t really investigated it. It’s a position requiring higher ASVAB scores, so she was qualified. The work sounded interesting, and she would have the chance to be on a ship, which she wanted. She went back in to the recruiters and accepted the post, signed the paperwork, and swore the military oath.
(Taking the military oath, along with another recruit)
However evidently she made a bigger impression than she realized. Her ASVAB scores rippled up the chain of command and garnered quite a lot of attention from some muckety-mucks in Washington. At a follow-up meeting with the recruiters, they kept trying to persuade her to be a nuke. A female nuke, apparently, is something the Navy really really really really really likes to see. They even offered to bring in a nuke to talk with her about the position. As I said, it has brutal working conditions but amazing pay (after an enlistee’s service is up and he’s ready to leave the Navy, they offer re-enlistment bonuses of around $100,000 if they’ll stay in the Navy).
(Here's Younger Daughter with the recruiter, looking a bit shell-shocked. Notice the height difference: YD is a hair over five feet, the recruiter something like 6'5")
However the more she investigates the AECF position, the happier she is with it and she has no interest in becoming a nuclear engineer. She leaves after Thanksgiving for boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, so we won’t have her for Christmas. After that, she’s in school for two years in Great Lakes, and then her active duty begins. She’ll have vacations, so we’ll get to see her once in a while after boot camp is over.
So why the interest in a military career? As YD put it, "I've never met a vet I haven't liked." She had four college math classes with a cadre of vets and liked them enormously.
In my opinion, the military brings out the best in so many people because it doesn't cultivate anyone's "inner snowflake." It strips away immaturity and victimhood and teaches personal responsibility and self-control. This creates a subculture of Very Good People on the whole.
By the way, a funny thing happened at MEPS. According to Younger Daughter, the recruiting office's goal is to do anything it can to qualify applicants, and the goal of MEPS is to do anything to DISqualify applicants. Since the MEPS she attended is in Spokane, and marijuana is now legal in Washington, the issue of drug use was investigated closely.
At one point a doctor tried to get YD to admit she'd used pot. YD denied it. "You can tell me," the doctor urged. YD denied it. Come on," the doctor persisted. "Are you SURE you've never used marijuana?" YD denied it. He continued to push, until Younger Daughter said, "Look, I was homeschooled on a farm by Christian parents. When would I have had a chance to try marijuana?"
At this the doctor stopped pushing. Instead he smiled, shrugged, and said, "Okay then."
So she’s off to a good start. With her high moral character and frugal upbringing, we have a feeling she’ll do well and go far in the Navy. She may even make a career out it. Even if she doesn’t, the training she gets will insure she has no problem getting a civilian job after her enlistment is over.
We're proud of her decision. It will be tough to have her leave so abruptly, but we're launching a good kid into the world.