Monday, October 6, 2008

Delayed Entry Program

The Navy recruiter in Gilroy, California was happy for another body.

He quickly arranged for me to spend two days up in Oakland. On day one, I would take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Test or "ASVAB." On day two, I would take a physical, sign up for a specialty, and be sworn into the Navy (though I wouldn't necessarily go to boot camp right away).

Shortly before going, I sprung the idea on Elaine for the first time. I'm not entirely sure why I had kept the idea of joining the Navy to myself, but at least in part it was because I felt that if I didn't say it aloud, then I wasn't really committed. In any event, Elaine was naturally surprised, but took my disclosure in stride.

On the appointed day, the recruiter gave me a ride up to Oakland and dropped me off for testing and processing. Though I didn't get my scores immediately, I knew by the end of day one that I had nailed the ASVAB. I then went back to the shabby hotel the Navy put me and the other many recruits for the night.

That's when I panicked. I was in a crappy hotel room with some guys I'd never met in a bad part of Oakland (which is saying something) and I started having second thoughts. It must have been 9:00 p.m. or so when I called Elaine and asked her to come pick me up. A couple of hours later, we were driving back to her place.

I knew that the recruiter was going to go ape, so I decided that I simply wasn't going to take his calls. And that's what I did for the next few weeks -- he called repeatedly. Initially, I had figured that that was about as close to the military as I'd ever get. Instead of feeling relieved, though, I felt at a loss.

With the dream of being a Navy SEAL gone, I had no plan. I felt adrift.

Then one day some weeks later, I stepped out of my dad's house and began jogging down the hill. Inexplicably, as I thought of being a Navy SEAL, I experienced a powerful thrill combined with a sense of assuredness about going forward with my original plan. When I got back to the house, I called the recruiter.

With my good ASVAB score, I qualified for any technical training the Navy offered. I chose a four-month intelligence training course and was told that I would be required to report to boot camp in eight months (it was then the summer of 1991).

Boot camp would be in Orlando, Florida. That would take two months and it was at boot camp that I would have to volunteer for SEAL training and pass an initial physical screening test. After boot camp, I'd be sent to Virginia for four months of intelligence training. Then -- assuming that I passed the SEAL screening test at boot camp -- I'd be sent to Coronado, California for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school (or simply "BUD/S").

I had eight months left as a civilian and I was determined to use that time as wisely as possible to maximize my chances of success in the ordeal to come.


Anonymous said...

Your initial experience with the military mirrors mine except I got cold feet before MEPs. When I was 19(im 22 now), I walked into my local office and asked for a SEAL contract. The recruiter was to my suprise a hot shit and basically helped run the SEAL recruit mentoring program that at one time had a 70% pass rate for BUD/s. None the less I had a couple medical waivers and at that time I was chicken shit scared of BUD/s and that I could never physically measure up. So I call him on saturday and tell him that I spoke with my folks and Im just not ready. He went on repeatedly about how the waivers would be ok to Spec War and how Ill be ready. None the less I i dropped it and since then went back to college and have been thinking about it everyday. I can how we were (i still am) scared of the unknown.

Y. said...

Totally understandable, especially now when becoming a SEAL is the real thing.

When I tried (and failed), there was no war on the horizon. So, the decision to try is fraught with risks on all sides.

If you don't try, you'll always wonder "what if?" If you try and fail -- well, it's hard to live with that, too. If you try and succeed, then you're going to war and all that entails.

My unsolicited advice is to get your degree, then decide. If you go in as an officer, your chances of succeeding at BUD/S will be greatly increased.

Best wishes and thanks for reading!