A full-time college student’s process to joining the military

Published by Madeline Bundy, Date: September 15, 2023
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My initial process to joining the military started my freshman year of high school back in 2015 when I started to look into the military on my own. I was always interested in joining the military to serve both my community and my country.

After reaching out and learning some basic information, I received a letter in the mail that said I was too young at the time to enlist, but when I turned 17, if I was still interested, I could enlist with parent consent.

Fast forward to August 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic started and had closed anything that was not considered an essential business. We were now fully online for classes via Zoom. During this time, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and was beginning chemotherapy treatments. After, she beat it two times in a short window.

Toward the end of the Fall 2020 semester, I started to look into the military again by researching online about the best way enlist but still finish college at the same time.

My process looked a little different from people who normally enlist in the military. While I was in the process of enlisting, I was a full-time college student doing 18 credits per semester, and I was also helping take care of my mom while she was going through her appointments as well as the home care and medication she needed.

When the Spring 2021 semester rolled around, I had been in contact with a recruiter for the Army Reserves from Robinson, PA. I had my meeting with my recruiter on March 19, 2021. This is when we went over a lot of the beginning information, and when I started filling out my entrance packet with all my basic information and background information and everything else that was needed.

After that was completed, my recruiter was able to schedule my visit to the Pittsburgh Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for me to take my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and do my physical for April 8 and 9. During my physical, we ran into issues with my eye and hearing exams.

Before I could sign my contract and swear in, I had to see an eye specialist to see what type of astigmatism I had to make sure it would not interfere with any of the duties I would have to perform in the military. With my hearing, they figured I just had to get my ears cleaned, and I would be able to come back and redo the test after the cleaning.

I was taken to the specialist a few weeks later when we got an appointment scheduled. After that, it was decided I would be fine, and a waiver was submitted as documentation. After that, but before I could get back to MEPS to redo my hearing test, my mom’s cancer came back for a third time.

At this point, she had made the decision with my dad and her doctors to stop treatment all together and just live her life and be with family for however long she had left. This decision was made around the end of September and beginning of October 2021. She passed away the morning of November 4, 2021.

After that, I put my process on hold for a few months to process what had happened and to take care of the things that needed to be taken care of when someone passes away. After taking a few months off, I reached back out to my recruiter in March/April 2022 to get back on track and finish the few things that had to be done before I could sign my contract.

But, from all the times I reached out from March to July of 2022, I never heard back from my original recruiter. At this point, most people probably would have stopped, but I did not. Once the Fall 2022 semester started and we were back on campus, I reached out to a friend who had recently enlisted and had just gotten back from training for the military to see if she had any tips or suggestions for me.

After talking with her, she put me in contact with her recruiter who is based on campus. Once I had my first meeting with him, everything after that went fast. We had some slight hiccups at the beginning trying to find the stuff I had already done, like my ASVAB, but that was because I had started the process with the Army Reserves and had switched over to Army National Guard.

Soon, we had everything that needed to be completed done. One of those things being my hearing test, which when it was completed, it was also decided that a wavier would be submitted, and my job choices limited, so my hearing did not get any worse. By the end of September, I was off to MEPS again to finish signing my contract and to swear in.

At the time of my enlistment on September 29, 2022, it was decided that I would finish the Fall and Spring semesters, and then I would ship out to Basic Combat Training (BCT) in May of 2023. Once I finished that, I would go straight to my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where I would learn my MOS, or job in the military. I would return to SRU for the Spring 2024 semester.

But, this is not the end of the story. After enlisting, I got an email explaining that until I finished both BCT and AIT, I would be attending drills once a month starting in November 2022 in Butler, PA. These drills prepare you to go to BCT and to go to your main unit upon returning from AIT.

During my time at these drills, not only did we do physical training to get in shape for BCT, but we also got hands-on training and classroom training on some different topics that we would need for BCT. We would also learn more once getting there. Knowing a little bit about the topics before hand would help and make learning the other stuff a little easier. This ranged from drill and ceremony, medical training, land navigation and weapons training.

Soon, April rolled around, and it was time to get ready to leave the month after the semester ended to go to BCT and officially start my military training. At the April drill, we did a final look over of my paperwork to make sure everything was in order. Then, the week leading up to when I would leave, there were multiple phone calls to make sure everything was still good to go, and it was, until two days before I was to leave.

That is when I got the call that I could not leave because no one caught until now that my original physical from 2021 had just expired at the end of April. This started the process over again with trying to get into MEPS to get another physical done. My physical was redone in July, and everything was good to go. I was told everything was pretty much the same as before regarding my eyes and hearing.

I would have to return in about a month to do my height and weight because I was slightly over, but it was not anything to worry heavily about, and I had to wait for a new training seat to open to get my new ship date. I went home and got my school stuff for SRU back on track because I was told I probably would not get a training seat until spring.

Shortly after getting my school back on track, I got another call saying my hearing was worse, and it had to be redone again. Then, a few weeks later was another phone call that, after taking a closer look at my hearing tests, had gotten worse. I would be getting a medical discharge.

That call came in the middle of August right before I returned to campus to begin the current semester. Then, at my September drill, I got the news that after October, I would no longer be in the military. My papers would be signed by that time.

So, this college student’s process to enlist in the military lasted two long years. One of those years was spent being enlisted and learning some valuable skills and lessons that I will carry with me onto whatever I end up doing in the future after finishing school. But, even with the outcome of getting medically discharged, I would not change anything that happened in the last two years or how I handled some of the decisions that were made.

This experience is not something that many people get to have. It has made me stronger, and I will be able to bring some valuable knowledge and skills into my degrees when I graduate. I also got to experience a small amount of what our military members go through, and it has given me an even bigger sense of pride for the friends that I have that have also joined the military but also made me understand what some of my family members do and have done for our country.

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