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For about 6 days two years ago, I considered joining the Air Force Reserves.
My degree and work experience tangentially lend themselves to a career in the armed forces and honestly, I was a little adventure hungry. After a few phone calls with a recruiter, however, both you and our nation will be happy to learn that I quickly reconsidered. The military is not for me.
In the end, I wound up scratching the adventure itch by dating a guy with a motorcycle which is certainly less costly to our tax payers. You’re welcome, America.
While I chose not to start my career in the military, there are quite a few young people (exceptionally more selfless than I), that have.
Their positions are varied and unique in many regards, demanding a wide range of skill sets, experience, and personal sacrifice far greater than that of a private sector job.
That being said, when they wake up in the morning, they are still going to a job.
The below is an interview with Parker, an avid reader and a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. Join me as he gives us a breakdown of what, in fact, he does every day.
Spoiler: He’s not propelling from helicopters as I originally imagined. Still though, he’s got a lot to say.
Victoria: What is your job title and how did you get there?
Parker: I am a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. I had to go through four years of ROTC while I was in school. Then I went to job training after graduation at Fort Sill. I went to the University of Nevada in Reno. It’s not the best school, but I wasn’t that fantastic of a high school student. I learned a lot about gambling.
Victoria: Did you always want to be in the military?
Parker: I definitely didn’t always want to be in the military. Honestly, until I joined ROTC, I kind of just coasted through life. I’ve never been a good rule follower. I wanted to go to med school, or work in Tech. I’m from San Francisco, so most of my friends are in tech.
Victoria: Why then, did you consider ROTC?
Parker: A girl I dated came from a military family. I knew she wanted to date a soldier, so I went to a ROTC information session. I went through ROTC in college assuming I would do the reserves and work a civilian job when I got out. It wasn’t until I did my 5th year at school that I decided to start a career in the military. I liked the idea of job security and it seemed like the best option.
Some people are entirely consumed by the military, but I think of myself more as a person who just happens to be in the Army. In college, aside from the obvious haircut, you wouldn’t have known I was in ROTC.
Victoria: You mentioned that you were kind of skating by until ROTC. What changed?
Parker: I had a Sergeant that pulled me aside and was like “get your shit together, you’re better than this”. That happens a lot in the military.
Victoria: What does your day to day look like?
Parker: I get up for our morning physical trainings every day then after that I go and get ready for the day. Most days I have paperwork to do and I plan different training events for the guys in my platoon. Some days we are in the field actually doing the stereotypical Army things that you would imagine. Otherwise, I go home every day though and in most cases it’s just like any other 9-5 job unless we are in the field.
Victoria: How often are you in the field and what does that mean?
Parker: In the field basically means that we go out and play war. I’m an artillery officer. Basically, I shoot really big guns at enemies that are far away. “The field” is where we train for war like situations.
Victoria: How is work-life balance?
Parker: It is tough to say the least. You have to put the Army first in pretty much every aspect of your life, which can be hard for those around you. When you’re a soldier, you know what you’re signing up for, but it’s often times your family and loved ones that suffer because they didn’t really sign up for any of this.
Victoria: Do you have an example of a particular experience where you felt like your military career hindered your personal life more than a typical civilian job would have?
Parker: Absolutely. When the military tells you where to go, you have to go. So, any relationship I have, there’s always a layer of my having to move eventually. I’m 23 and I don’t want to get married, I’m not ready for that, but so many people in the military do get married because it’s so hard to date. My high school sweetheart and I broke up because I had to move. We’re trying to get back together, but it’s really hard on her. If I was in a civilian job I could have the freedom to date her without having to consider marriage etc.
Victoria: What is dating like in the military? Do you usually date women also in the Army?
Parker: No!! I basically have to date in my rank (no one lower or higher), so as you can imagine, the pool of candidates in the military is small. Also, Army goggles are a real thing.
Victoria: Do you use the apps like everyone else?
Parker: Yes, but I don’t advertise that I’m in the military, so sometimes I feel like I’m lying to the girl.
Victoria: Interesting. It seems like you have really mixed feelings about your job. Do you feel “fulfilled” in your job?
Parker: Yes and no. I do feel as though I am doing something worthwhile every day and honestly the best part of my job is taking care of those beneath me. Yet, at the same time I haven’t really done anything in the Army. I have been in training environments all of my career and it would be interesting to actually see how I would fare as a leader.
Victoria: How does it make you feel when people thank you for your service?
Parker: It’s so weird. I have a lot of reasons for being in the military, but none of those are for people’s praise. I usually just freeze up and awkwardly thank them for their service back. I appreciate their words, but generally don’t know what to do with them.
Victoria: Is the job what you thought it would be like?
Parker: Definitely not. Not at all. They lie to you so much – the recruiters get to you. It’s a lot more paperwork and desk stuff.
Victoria: Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s exclusive to the military. I think a lot of entry level jobs aren’t as shiny as they seem. Speaking of which, what do you fucking hate about your job?
Parker: All the bullshit, the Army is just like any government job and there are certain channels you have to go through to get things done that do not make sense.
Victoria: Is the money good?
Parker: It’s not the worst, but the benefits are really what make it worthwhile. I get a stipend, housing, health insurance, and a paycheck. Plus, job security.
Victoria: Have you ever dipped your pen in the company ink?
Parker: Yes I have and it definitely was not a good idea. I’m still trying to clean the mess it created.
Victoria: Really? Can you tell me more?
Parker: She was one of my best friends. We were spending so much time together, in such close quarters, that one thing led to another. In the end it was a bad idea. She had a boyfriend and gossip spreads like wildfire in the military. It completely ruined our friendship, which I regret a lot. Every time I would go out and see her, I’d just end up drunk apologizing. She’s happy now, though, so that’s fine. She has a boyfriend and lives in Washington.
Victoria: If someone came up to you on the street and told you they wanted to work in your field, what are 3 tips you would give them?
Parker: First I would tell them that it isn’t all killing bad guys and saving the world and to be sure that they knew what they were getting into. Secondly, have thick skin and be prepared to do things that you don’t want to do. Lastly, be in good shape. Everything I do is mostly based on how I perform physically and my peers who are lacking in that area are probably not going to make it very far.
Victoria: What kind of person would you recommend this job to?
Parker: You need to be patient and you can’t do it for recognition. Also, you need to be humble and you can’t put your achievements before the people around you. Basically, you’re on a giant team, so you need to support the group. Finally, you need a dark sense of humor. People in the military have really dark senses of humor.
Victoria: Anything else you’d like to add?
Parker: You’re mixed with people of all walks of life who have very different values than you. Coming from California I get made fun of a lot, it’s made me realize how different people from various parts of the country are. You need to learn how to communicate with people as humans, regardless of their upbringing or beliefs. Everyone is a person in the end, and what I think is crazy is not crazy to someone else.
I think there is a perception that the country is incredibly divided right now, but being in the military I see firsthand how American’s of all different backgrounds and viewpoints get along and work together.
Victoria: Finally, Parker – are you single?
Parker: Ahhh, we’re trying to make it work.
(Authors Note: Parker followed up our phone call with an email. He had one sentence he wanted to add)
Parker: Being a lieutenant in the Army is basically like being a toddler. No one can really tell you no and when you mess up everyone just thinks it’s adorable.
Parker and I talked for about an hour, and honestly I was surprised how open and comfortable he was on the phone. He seemed incredibly similar to all of my other post grad guy friends. He has responsibilities that they don’t, but for the most part he is grappling with the same existential questions as the rest of us.
In the end I suppose it’s like he said – we’re all not so different after all..
Image via PreechaB / Shutterstock.com