In the “Year of the Volunteer,” it is worth honoring those who choose to serve their country in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Though these are not generally thought of as “volunteers” in the usual sense of the term, it is a choice that entails more than an occupation. This is a choice where a person cannot walk away from it if they do not like it. This is a choice where a person is putting their life on the line for the sake of their country.
The tradition of a volunteer militia goes back to the Minute Men of Bunker Hill fame. It was not until the Civil War that manpower needs outnumbered supply, and a military conscription, or as it is more commonly known as, the draft was inaugurated. However, it was quite unpopular and even resulted into deadly riots in New York City. After the Civil War ended, so did the draft, but was brought back during World War II. This time the draft endured because of the rapid succession of US involvement in conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. But the anti-war movement that grew out of the Vietnam War eventually resulted in the United States moving to an all-volunteer military in 1973.
I served as an Air Force recruiter from 1980-1984, and I can attest that it was a challenge. There was still a hangover from the Vietnam War and military service was seen for many young people as their last option. Sadly, among the hundreds of young people that entered my office over those years, I only remember one (!) that said that his primary reason for wanting to enlist was to serve his country. (And sadly, he did not pass the physical and thus had to be rejected).
But with Desert Storm in 1991 and especially after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, patriotism was back on the menu. In a survey of area recruiters (who preferred not to be quoted), it appears that the desire to serve for patriotism sake is very high for a number of recruits. Yes, many look forward to the experience and education that will be acquired, but the uniform and what it stands for is a high priority.
For those young men and women interested in serving their country, there are a number of steps that need to be followed. It begins with visiting a local recruiter, which in the Williamsport area is the TJ Maxx Plaza on the Golden Strip, 1774 E. 3rd Street, Williamsport. It is quite acceptable to bring a parent or close friend along. It is a good idea also for the applicant to bring along their social security card, driver’s license, and birth certificate. The recruiter will ask questions about education, health, and any law violations. It is also standard practice to weigh the applicant, as there are minimum and maximum weight requirements.
The recruiter will schedule an Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is the same enlistment test used for every branch of service. There are minimum test scores for each branch, but the scores also determine the particular fields the applicant would be eligible for. At the recruiting office, the recruiter may conduct a short physical training (PT) test for potential recruits, but everyone will eventually go to a MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) for a physical examination. Like the ASVAB, the MEPS physical is the same for all the branches of service. It will include height and weight measurements, urine and blood tests, drug and alcohol tests, etc.
Once all these eligibility requirements are satisfied, the applicant meets with a service enlistment counselor to select a career field in their particular branch of service. Once this is determined and a contract is signed, the last step is the Oath of Enlistment. “I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” And for all those who voluntarily take this path, a grateful nation thanks you!
Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.