Monday, July 18, 2011

MEPS, ASVAB And Other Acronyms

In my last post, I described how I came about the decision to enlist. The stars had seemingly aligned, and poof! I had a moment of genius that made Bill Gates look like a dunce. I was going to be a Guardian!

Oddly, that was the easiest part of the whole enlistment process.

The online application to enlist in the Coast Guard is deceptive. Basically, 'click here if you're looking for information on enlisting' equates to 'click here to sign your life and first born child away to Uncle Sam'. Literally less than 24 hours after I sent in the form, I was contacted by my recruiter, a Chief Aviation Maintenance Technician named Dave Stubbins. Dave was a pretty swell guy to talk to throughout the whole enlistment process. Within the first two e-mails, he had my dates to take the ASVAB and get my physical in Lansing all lined up for me.

Needless to say, Uncle Sam had me, and he had me fast. It was slightly disturbing to think that for the next four years of my life, I would be labled 'government property'. Still to this day, I laugh when I think about it. I half expect to wake up one morning with a huge barcode on the back of my neck...

Being the smart person I am, I enlisted the help of an ASVAB study guide from Barnes and Noble. You'd be surprised at how many different study materials there are for the ASVAB, including a familiar one:

This thing was over two inches thick. Good night.
 Instead of spending nearly $50 on a book I'd need for a test I'd only (hopefully) be taking once, I grabbed a smaller, cheaper book off the shelf with all sorts of practice questions from the ASVAB. It was all I needed, really. After all, I had been out of high school for three years at this point, and had flunked out of two colleges due to a serious lack of responsibility on my part, so a review was slightly needed. While working at the marina, I'd have my study guide out behind the desk, taking the practice tests between docking boats, answering radio calls and stalking Coasties.

Dave called me two weeks later, reminding me of my date for the ASVAB. Nervous and excited, I reported to the Sector Field Office in Grand Haven to take the test. On my way in, I was greeted by a first class petty officer, who looked at me and said,

"Just relax. It's an easy test, and you'll do fine. Good luck!"

Grand Haven Sector Field Office
Elated, I walked in. A Coastie had spoken to me! Wished me good luck, even! Oh man! I'm on top of the world!

Yes, I am that big of a loser. Or just that cool. I can't decide.

There were five of us. Two for Army, one for Air Force, and one for Marines besides myself. Now, let me tell you this... You know that stereotype for each branch? These guys had it. The Air Force guy was a nerd. The Marine, a literal jar head. The Army guys? Yeah. Don't get me started on Army guys.

Nervous, we all began taking the tests. And halfway through the first section, I started chuckling to myself. This test was simple. It was easy. It was so easy, a caveman could do it. I got done answering the questions within three minutes of starting the test. We all finished early, and began the next sections. By the end of it, we had all gotten done an hour earlier than projected. The lady giving the test, and her dog, were amused.

When she returned, she stopped by my chair and gave me a once over. I was terrified. Had I failed? Did she think I was a complete idiot? What the heck was that look for?

"Are you related to a Craig Timmerman? Maybe David, too?" She asked, holding my results in her hand. God bless it, I couldn't help but think, just give me the damn results, don't quiz me on my geneology!

"Yeeees... Craig is my dad, and I have a cousin Craig too. David is my uncle."

Her face broke out in a big smile. Apparently she knew my family well, including my cousin who is now a doctor. So it was a great relief when she finally showed me my result and said,

"I wouldn't expect anything less from a Timmerman. Congraulations."

I scored a 92.

Elated, I left, and immediately called Dave. He was floored, raving about how I could go any rate I wanted in the Coast Guard, how my enlistment was going to go so much more smooth because I had scored so high, how well I was going to do at basic... My heart was high.

And then I went to MEPS, and everything changed.

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