Following my brother’s footsteps into the U.S. Army

First Person

Gwendolyn Poole, Staff Writer

For as long as I can remember, the army was my brother’s thing. Everyone — from our family to the strangers at the store — knew that he was going to grow up and become a military man, and I was perfectly content with watching from the sidelines and cheering him on.

Imagine how I felt when after talking with his recruiter, the image of me serving in the U.S. Army was no longer a far-fetched concept.

After several visits to the recruiting office and countless days of making pro and con lists in my brain, I finally decided to enlist as active-duty.

Choosing a job was the most difficult part. Any job one could think of for civilians — from construction to journalism — the Army had it. The issue with my searching was finding a position that would be open a year from my signed enlistment.

My initial requested job, 35P Cryptologic Linguist, was one that the other sergeants in the office were impressed to see appear. Not only was this job classified as top secret and I would need security clearance, but it also required a passing score on the DLAB, a test that I couldn’t study for beforehand and was known for generating more failing than passing scores.

Walking into the Sacramento Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) that first day, I had no idea how fast everything would be. I was told where to go and what to do quicker than I could keep up with. There I was, a 17-year-old girl, having to act like an adult in a sea of them. I had never felt so alone and young.

As I sat in the hotel room that first night, knowing not one person, I couldn’t help but think about all the kids that had been in my same position. How many of them were thinking my same thoughts in the back of their minds?

Knowing that I couldn’t adjust to adulthood the way most of my friends would be able to when they would enter college was what terrified me the most.

Those next two days consisted of medical questions, examinations, testing, and hours of waiting. Each step drew me closer to signing my papers and giving the next four years of my life to the service of my country.

By the time Friday afternoon came, I had passed probably the hardest test I’ve ever taken, chosen 35N Signal Intel Analyst as my job, received a $22,500 bonus, and met several guys who were shipping out the next week. As I walked in to take the oath for the first time, I saw the smiles of my parents and brother.

Seeing the pride on their faces almost brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in my life I was actually proud of an accomplishment I’d made. I had never had much confidence in myself before, but standing there with my right arm raised, I knew my life was going to change.

Every day I was at the MEPS and everytime I go to PT, I always remind myself that I’m now a part of something bigger than myself and my life. I am that one percent that qualified and I am no longer a civilian. I am an American Soldier.