It is A Lot Easier to Get in the Army…..

Posted: August 6, 2014 in General
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THAN IT IS TO RETIRE FROM IT.  Way back in the day I enlisted in the Army.  It was a relatively simple process that in total took about 48 hours.  First I went to the recruiters office, he took me to Newark MEPS and I did my testing, selected from my measly ration of available MOS’s, raised my right hand and swore an oath for the first time, went home and waited six weeks to get sent off to Fort Sill, OK for basic training.  Prior to leaving for FT Sill, I went back to the MEPS station, got my physical, raised my hand again and said the same oath, signed my name a bunch of times, picked up some meal vouchers for the trip and was whisked away on my first airplane ride.  I still have the 20 or so pages of my original enlistment contract as well as my subsequent re-enlistments.  Overall, pretty simple, not a whole lot I had to do but show up, sign my name a bunch of times, and, begin my love/hate relationship with push-ups and flutter-kicks.

21 years down the road, I have signed my name many more times than was required to get into the Army and I have seen more people and been through more processes than was ever required to become a Private.  I still have much more to go.  I began the process of making copies of my medical file.  This is my detailed accounting of injuries, surgeries and other assorted ailments cataloged during this amazing journey.  My file after 20+ years is small compared to some of my co-workers; I have never been shot, been near explosions but never blown up, had many hard landings in airborne operations but have never had a serious injury, or required any kind of physical rehabilitation due to loss of limb or eyesight. I know many, many folks who have, several of which are still serving today, kicking down doors and providing the good news to those who deserve it.

Over the last several years I have begun to feel the warranty wearing out on many of the parts of this awesome piece of machinery.  The knees have more creaks and pains than they used to, the lower back sometimes spasms to the point of curling my toes, I can’t turn my head all the way to the left without effort or having the shit scared out of me ( I pay for that for the rest of the day when it happens), my hearing is on the wrong side of good and this is without mentioning all the other assorted wear and tear that soldiers put on their bodies just to try and achieve positions in special organizations that do special jobs and have physical requirements not found in the regular ranks.  There is a reason we are able to retire at such an early age, we get worn out and it simply gets harder to do those things you used to.  The mind is willing, but the body says you need to pump the brakes and slow down.

Medical issues are not the only thing addressed during the transition process.  You have to arrange to have your household goods shipped or work the process to ship them yourself.  There are financial things that need to be taken care of; are you owed money or do you owe money to the government?  Do you maintain your healthcare or find it out on the economy (this includes dental as well)?  Do I maintain my life insurance or try to get someone new to put a dollar figure on my existence?  You have to clear your unit as well as the base.  It is not something you have to go through alone, the Army ahs done a pretty good job at putting resources together to help you and guide you, but at the end of the day, unlike when you joined, they will not do it for you.  If you don’t do it and work the system that has been taking from you for all the years you have been in, then it all falls on your shoulders when you do not get what you deserve.

The interesting thing is after all these years is that you sort of grow up within the system (at least those of us who have actually taken charge of their careers anyway).  In the beginning things are taken care of for you, the recruiters get credit for you actually coming in (thinks salesmen), the drill sergeants and all those other people that support basic training and AIT give you the most basic of tools to go forward and then at some point you reach your first duty station and begin drinking from the firehose, turned up full blast.  At the end of the day, as the sun starts to set on your career you have to take the time allotted to you and begin to break away from the system and begin to work the process.  If you do not, you will be out on the street wondering where it all went and carrying a chip on your shoulder heavier than any rucksack you ever carried was.

It has been a long and interesting ride for the last two decades.  This transition process is really no more or less challenging than anything else I have ever done in the Army.  At this point I cannot even say it is less dangerous either, I have not gotten to the end yet and I am sure there is at least one more asshat in the system who is a subject matter expert in their field that I will need to deal with and want to choke the ever loving shit out of because of either their attitude, or, mine even, just like there has been for every day that there has been an Army.  Simple fact of the matter is there is work to be done right up until the day I go on transition leave.  I may be able to take a little bit deeper breaths on a daily basis than I did for many years and the pace has moved more towards marathon than sprint, but it has been a hell of a ride with some awesome people who have given more for their country than the country will ever know they did.  Each day I get a little more done and move myself a little further away and on towards the next adventure.

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