Limey recently wrote a post about how he almost joined the military. I have a similar story to tell, but possibly not as entertaining…
When I was in high school, I was… let me see… how to phrase this… cut from a slightly rougher cloth. As such, I was often in a great deal of trouble. At first glance, you might have said that I was just an evil person, on a collision course with a short drop and sudden stop as they say of pirates. I did well in school especially in history, English, art, and while it wasn’t my favorite subject, math. The real reason why I acted up was simply that I was bored. Boredom led me to fill the faculty lounge with a “borrowed” cannister of nitrous oxide and laugh uproariously when six or so teachers had to hang out in the nurses office for three hours, higher than kites. Boredom led me to publish an underground comic detailing the alleged sexual practices of two of our lesbian athletic coaches, complete with detailed and graphic cartoons. Boredom led me to start a side business selling drugs, alcohol, and test answers to any and all students who had more cash than sense. I get bored easily to this day, but I no longer act out as I once did… now I just troll fundamental christian blogs and post comments about how Jesus was black just to get a rise out of them.
After getting into yet another sticky thicket with the school dean, I agreed to take something called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The test results determine (1) whether or not one qualifies for military service, and (2) if so, what jobs they qualify for.
I honestly don’t mind tests, I actually enjoy them. I took the SATs without studying and got an 1375, so I figured the ASVAB would be a walk in the park. I think I got really drunk and stoned the night before and ONLY made it to the testing facility (at camp pendleton) because a recruiter came to my house and picked me up. So, I spent the better part of a saturday morning taking this test. In fact, it took longer to drive up to the testing facility, than it actually took me to complete the test.
The ASVAB contains nine separately timed sub-tests:
- General Science (GS) – 25 questions with an 11 minute time-limit.
- Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – 16 questions with a 36 minute time-limit.
- Word Knowledge (WK) – 35 questions with an 11 minute time-limit.
- Paragraph Comprehension (PC) – 15 questions with a 13 minute time-limit.
- Auto & Shop (AS) – 25 questions with an 11 minute time-limit.
- Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – 25 questions with a 24 minute time-limit.
- Mechanical Comprehension (MC) – 25 questions with a 19 minute time-limit.
- Electronics Information (EI) – 20 questions with a 9 minute time-limit.
- Assembling Objects (AS) – 16 questions with a 9 minute time-limit.
The score is displayed as a percentile score, itself based on your performance against the population of all test-takers. The percentiles are based upon a 99 point scale with 99 being the highest. So, if you score a 50, then your “raw score” is better than 50 percent of the individuals who took the test.
It usually takes three weeks to get your scores back. After taking the test, I went back to surfing, getting high, and causing problems for anyone in a position of power. After about a week though, I knew something was up because there was a Marine recruiter outside my house when I got home from school one day. After a few minutes of banter I asked him what he wanted, but he wouldn’t say. Just asked if I would be willing to come “talk to some special people.”
I was young, but by no means naive. I wasn’t going ANYWHERE with a military man who wouldn’t tell me exactly what he wanted or what their interest in me was. He left, but he came back with some other “friends.” None of them in military uniforms. They talked about god, country and duty. Three things I have little regard for in the traditional sense. They spoke of growing dangers from the Eastern bloc nations and how a man with the right training could make the world a better place. I wasn’t having it though, and laughed, “Who are you guys? Spooks?”
Not only didn’t they answer me, they didn’t laugh. I never did find out who they were or what they wanted. But I did find out my score on the ASVAB, which explained some of their interest.
While I think I’d look really good in a trench coat and black hat, I would imagine that my personality wouldn’t allow me to function in a situation where I had to answer to someone else. I still find it hard to work for other people.
For the next two years other recruiters would come around, talk about my score and offer me different career paths within the armed forces. The only one that was even slightly interesting was helicopter pilot, but the enlistment required more than 12 years commitment, which to an 18 year old is longer than forever.