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Old 02-09-2008, 08:21 AM   #21
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Forty-seven years ago, I did just that. Joined the USAF when I was 17. It took me about 3 months to convince my father to sign. I consider that one of the best decisions I have ever made primarily because of the circumstances I was in. I was poor with no college education in sight and I could have been headed for lifetime poverty. Enlisting got me a college education, lifetime pension, medical care and lots of travel. Yes, that included Vietnam, which was my toughest assignment, but it was only one year and like most of the people who went there, I survived.

Talk to the recruiters about training and initial assignment. He should try to get trained in something that interests him and that is marketable, should he later decide to get out. See if he can get an initial assignment to Europe. K-town is a great assignment. By the time he returns, who knows, maybe things will have cooled down in the mid-east. If it hasn't, well, he'll be older, wiser, and stand a better chance of surviving. Get everything in writing before signing anything.

I wish him well and I hope you don't lose sleep over this (although you probably will).
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Old 02-09-2008, 09:06 AM   #22
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First - thanks to all the great responses - it is a tremendous help. On the MEPS matter - am I allowed to accompany him? Should I? I'm thinking that - for my sake - I need to.

Thanks again!
Not sure on why you wouldn't be able to. If they told me no I would be asking why. If it was because of a "rule" I would ask to see the boss. Security wise they might make you sign in so they know who is there but my guess is that is normal.

What does you son want you to do? I would probably talk to him about it to make sure he wants you there. But if I wanted to go I would tell my son I wanted to go and the reasons why I wanted to go. Probably don't want to get yourself in a position where it appears you are doubting him. Rather you are interested in what he is doing, you are proud of him, and you want to support him. If you can get some wisdom in while you are there that works also.

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Old 02-09-2008, 09:49 AM   #23
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What does you son want you to do?
Tomcat98
He says he wants to serve and fight in Iraq - Calvary Scout is where he is leaning - note that he has never been a fighter or even an aggressive kid. I can't really get anymore out of him. It's not about the money - It's not about training for a civilian career - It's not about college.

The only correlation in his life is he has been in Scouts since he has been eligible - though he is not pursuing his Eagle.
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Old 02-09-2008, 10:05 AM   #24
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Tough call but I would vote for letting him turn 18 and doing what he wants. God forbid if anything would happen to him, you would be second guessing your decision and blaming yourself for the rest of your life.

FWIW, I was the same as your son and my mother refused to sign for me. I didn't like it and it didn't change a thing. I still got what I wanted, a combat tour in Nam as a grunt. Boy was I stupid at that age.
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Old 02-09-2008, 11:09 AM   #25
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17 is too young to make life changing decisions like joining the military. I would not sign for him and make him wait until he is 18.
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Old 02-09-2008, 11:23 AM   #26
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Sounds like my dad who ran away at 14 and joined the Army. His mom came and found him but he ran away again at 16 and she let him stay in. He was with the 1st Cav in Korea. Turned out alright though.
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Old 02-09-2008, 11:39 AM   #27
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Hi,
My parent's signed for me at 16 years old and I went in on my 17th B-day!!! I graduated HS a year early and had a full ride for college, but things were going on in the world I wanted to be part of - youth is quite impatient and doesn't realize you can finish college and STILL pursue the option if you have the inclination. My story turned out quite well, but doesn't cause me to lose objectivity on the issue - I would NOT sign for him.

Just went through this with my nephew and SIL was fretting pretty hard. I went w/him to the recruiter after listening to the BS my nephew was regurgitating - needless to say the young SSG who was handling started changing his story of 'guarantees' to my nephew as I was present - I tightened up his commander while I was there as well. Seeing this was a good slap in the face for a 17 yr old who could only focus on his desires...he's now attending college and thinking of dipping his toe in the water via ROTC, but he's not jumping into anything.

Find a retired (or senior active) military person to talk with your son who has your interests at heart or at least DOES NOT have any of the recruiters interests - I hope you can, as it will change the demeanor of the recruiting staff considerably as well as provide a reality check for your son.

A rash, uninformed decision is just that - regardless of the nobility of the cause. Those of us who have posted with successful outcomes are very fortunate and probably deviate from the norm (hence we're all about ER!).

I wish you the best with this situation.
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Old 02-09-2008, 12:26 PM   #28
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This theme is getting a lot of discussion among the active-duty & Reserves families. A week or so ago I read an article on how parents/spouses felt one way about their serving in the military but felt completely different about their kids joining. I've looked around for it and I'm clueless where I read it, but it was probably a military website. Any of you other veterans seen what I'm so poorly describing?

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My advice, as a mother, is this:
Tell him that you will not sign.
When he is old enough to sign on his own, you need to support his decision concerning the Army completely and without reservations. But right now, he is too young to make this decision on his own. Right now, he should be exploring all of life's options and preparing, not rushing into this or any other decision.
W2R, your response is an example of a parent's concerns which I've seen many times. I can understand a parent who doesn't want anyone joining the military, but what about a parent who just doesn't want their kid joining the military? Parents know what they're doing for the best of reasons, but it's all too easy for a kid to perceive this as unfair treatment. And we know what happens when a parent's denial of permission makes the forbidden even more attractive.

Maybe educational full disclosure is a better vaccine than censure. When our kid was seduced by USNA, everyone else told her about the fun so we pushed really hard to make sure she understood what she was getting into along with that. (I gave her a personal tour of Memorial Hall, which has thousands of square feet of bronze plaques listing alumni & mids killed on active duty. I told her about each of my classmates on the '82 plaque, one of them a roommate, and how they'd died. Then 14 years old, it drove her literally to tears.) Every time you see them doing something fun or "adult", ask them how they'd feel if they could only do it with the permission of the chain of command. Ask them how they'd feel getting "Woo-hoo, spring break!" and "Dear John" letters from their high-school classmates while they're sweating in the dirt. Ask them how they'll feel at the fifth high school reunion when their classmates are going to grad school or pulling down jobs at Fortune 500 companies, when they're barely earning five figures or just starting college.

Our kid has had to spend her entire life with people who have done amazing things, tell the funniest & most fantastic stories, traveled all over the world, met the most incredible personalities, live in a great house in Hawaii, and retired in their 40s. How in the world could she NOT want to join the military? How could she NOT want to be like the host of pioneering women & American heroes we've had sitting around our dinner table for the last decade?

Sometimes the military is just a way to vocalize a teen's fears that they have no skills, no contacts, no experience, and no future-- which is why the military says "No problem!" I've told our kid countless times that when she wakes up one morning in Bancroft Hall to realize that she's made a horrible mistake, I want her to appreciate that it's her own damn fault that she's worked so hard to achieve. We've taken great care to point out just as many bad things about USNA as the good, and we've done the same for NROTC. Over the last 18 months she's realized that she doesn't have to join the military to learn the skills we're teaching her. She's realizing that she can get a job all by herself without govt subsidies. She's realizing that good kids can get college scholarships instead of school loans. She's realizing that if she nails her grades and her SATs that she can go to college just about anywhere, and now we joke about USNA being her "safety school".

When parents say "No, you're not old enough for us to endorse the possibility of your getting killed or disabled", we hear parent talk for "I love you." But what a kid hears is "You're not old enough or mature enough to make your own decisions and I'm not going to be responsible for this." Not only would that cause a kid to shut down the dialogue, it might even force them to feel obligated to join the military to "prove" themselves. They're not joining the military any more because it's their idea of a good career/experience, but rather they're joining the military to show their parents that they're capable of making adult decisions. Is that really what we parents want their motivation to be?

We entertained their fantasies of being police officers & firefighters & Presidents, but we made sure they understood what the job was all about. Why not do the same for the military?

Not, of course, that I'm personalizing any of this.

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When we are young, we want desperately to be older. Only time will make that happen, though.
I think every veteran would agree that if you want to grow old fast, there's no place like the military...
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Old 02-09-2008, 01:18 PM   #29
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Parents know what they're doing for the best of reasons, but it's all too easy for a kid to perceive this as unfair treatment.
You're right - - I always was a mean ol' mommie.

I didn't let her get her ears pierced until she was fourteen, and on her fourteenth birthday she was down at the mall getting them pierced without my knowledge or permission. So, I have to admit that what you are saying absolutely holds true.

She said it hurt a lot, and I told her they looked fine and I knew that she was old enough to have made that decision and to deal with the pain (and asked her if she wanted an aspirin, and asked about what precautions against infection she was planning). I bent over backwards not to act disapproving, since she had waited until she was old enough to decide, and that was the agreement. Not a perfect outcome, by any means.

Still, I think there are reasons for having a minimum age to enlist. I think you are doing a great job of educating your daughter about the USNA, by the way.
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Old 02-09-2008, 02:05 PM   #30
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He says he wants to serve and fight in Iraq - Calvary Scout is where he is leaning - note that he has never been a fighter or even an aggressive kid. I can't really get anymore out of him. It's not about the money - It's not about training for a civilian career - It's not about college.
This has been troubling me all day. When I was 18, I joined the Navy. The public reasons were that a) they were going to put me through college and b) I thought it would be really cool to fly jets off an aircraft carrier. The other reason, which I would not have told my parents, was to get the hell out of Dodge and as far away from them as fast as humanly possible. I'm sure there were also notions of serving my country and testing myself, but I'm not sure that I could have articulated these.

When I joined, I was aware that I might well be asked to fight and die for my country and was prepared for the possibility (of course, like most 18 year olds, I thought I was invincible), but I can't recall that I actively sought to go into combat. Deliberately seeking to place oneself, as soon as possible, in a situation where there is a fairly good chance of being killed or having to kill someone else seems unusual, like a manifestation of some other problem such as depression. Of course, you know your son best, but is there some other issue in his life that he thinks will be resolved by going into combat in Iraq? A failed romance perhaps? Perceived lack of friends? Failure to do well in something else, like sports or school? Death of a friend? Teenagers, who lack perspective, tend toward radical solutions to their perceived problems.

The military is a good place for many kids. It can provide direction, self discipline and a sense of accomplishment. It certainly gave me a good start in life and I am proud to have served. But there are many things the military cannot do, and joining up to run away from some other problem is rarely the best course. I would be hesitant to sign for my son unless I had a better feel for his reasons.

Whatever happens, I wish the best for you and your son. I'm sure that if he does join up you will be supportive.
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Old 02-09-2008, 05:54 PM   #31
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The other reason, which I would not have told my parents, was to get the hell out of Dodge and as far away from them as fast as humanly possible.
That's the same reason I wanted to go to a college FAR FAR AWAY from my parents.
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Old 02-09-2008, 06:02 PM   #32
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Arc, for some reason the Army's included a whole section on their website for parents: GoArmy.com > For Parents > YOU MADE THEM STRONG. WE'LL MAKE THEM ARMY STRONG.

Eh, looks like everyone does it now: Parents & Advisors: Navy

EDIT: One more option (if there's enough time) would be to register at Military.com and then post your question to their discussion board. You'd hear a lot of straight stories, but you'd sure tap into a vein of discontent...

Is this any help? How'd it go with the recruiter?
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Old 02-09-2008, 06:39 PM   #33
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Met with the recruiter for almost 3 hours. He was an 18 year man - recruiting for the past 6. I was very impressed with the man. Nothing close to a hard sale and he made no guarantees except that the combat route was tough. He answered all of my questions so the decision just needs to be made. I am struggling mightily though I am convinced that a year from now my son will still want to join. His interest has been sincere for several years. Here is where I am at:

Saying no seems so easy. I can justify it in my mind and heart with little trouble. That meets my needs - but it is his life.

If I believe he will join anyway than I am thinking that the Reserves now may be the best alternative. I believe Nords mentioned it above and the recruiter discussion supported the fact that if - after boot camp - he indeed doesn't like it, he will have an easier time of it. This seems so from 2 vantage points (1)he can avoid full time by choice and (2)if his unit does get deployed, his job will most likely be in support role as opposed to a combat role - his Calvary Scout choice is not available in the Reserves. Feel free to take shots at the logic.

That's where I am - I have a knot in my stomach and I can't think of much else at the moment. The help and support from this board have been invaluable - can't thank you enough.
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Old 02-10-2008, 05:04 AM   #34
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I have been following this thread for some time as the subject is important to me personally, and to our Country. IMHO you are attempting to limit his exposure to a danger you perceive, which is fine, for you. You have to cut the "apron strings" (and I do not mean that in a pejorative way) sometime (either legally or symbolically) and it seems like you can "do it now" or he will "do it later" - IMO I think you should just let him make his decision as he will probably live with it longer than you will. IMO active duty is the way to go, the reserves only gives him fall back position and may limit his incentive. Besides it appears the reserves does not have what HE wants as a career assignment. Some will fail training, but from what you have said about your Son, he sounds like he will make it. Besides he will quickly make new friends in his training unit and they will, more than likely, band together and work together and be successful. I wish him and you well.
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Old 02-10-2008, 08:36 AM   #35
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I went on active duty when I was 17. I turned 18 in Basic training. I had signed up delayed enlistment 6 months eairler. Mom had to sign and did not want to. But she did in in the end. I would have went anyway when I was 18.

I didn't care for the military life too much so I got out after four years. I have no regrets of going in for a term though. I have sometimes wished I had stayed in. Military retirement is good for ER.

It's the Boys life, let him go if he wants. It's really his choice.
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Old 02-10-2008, 06:46 PM   #36
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ultimately it's his choice if he wants to join the army. although, as a parent I can see the reservations. good luck though
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Old 02-10-2008, 10:02 PM   #37
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ultimately it's his choice if he wants to join the army. although, as a parent I can see the reservations. good luck though
It's his choice after he is 18. It's the parents before that.
Could anyone live with themselves if they signed for their kid at 17 and he was killed in the service? I couldn't.
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Old 02-11-2008, 01:24 AM   #38
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I grew up in the Army, but I can't support 17, not these days.
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Old 02-11-2008, 12:03 PM   #39
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Arc, this photo made the Reserves rounds a few years ago. Maybe it'll help your son gain a little perspective...
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File Type: bmp One weekend a month my ass.bmp (526.1 KB, 43 views)
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Old 02-11-2008, 06:20 PM   #40
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Very long post from an active-duty Ranger

Arc,

Your question is very similar to my nephew's experience so I e-mailed him. His Ranger school has been delayed again, so here's his response. I'm including his geopolitical comments as well, although I should point out that these concerns come from a 20-something West Pointer with a history degree who's been reading way too much. These worries were typical in my military of the 1980s and have probably been an issue since the 1780s.

I think your son's military unit, whichever one he ends up in, is going to expect him to go to college (whether he agrees with them or not). He'll probably be surrounded by people who are either going to college around their drills or who have graduated courtesy of the program.

I think I caught all the acronyms but let me know if a term isn't explained. PM or e-mail me if you have more questions about specific units or locations or training or dates.

Regarding the 17-year-old who wants to enlist, my experiences have all shown that program to be excellent. If he wants to be a Cav Scout (MOS 19B or K I believe) he'll want to do it through the National Guard.

After a reorganization in the late '90s, the Guard has all the Combat Arms units, like infantry, armor, cav (a branch of armor), artillery, aviation, etc., along with most of the Combat Support units like Military Intelligence, MPs, etc. The Reserve has some of the Combat Support units and the bulk of the Combat Service Support guys. So basically the NG is the dog and the USAR is the tail. Most of the Reserve Component (RC) guys I've spoken with who attended the split summer training option had an excellent experience. Their first summer will be spent in a regular basic training program, and they'll follow it up with their Advanced Individual Training (AIT) the next summer. When that happens, their AIT class will be primarily composed of RC soldiers, all of whom did their basic training the previous summer. One of my drill sergeants said that we were the second best class he had ever seen - after a class he did composed of NG split option soldiers.

The best part of this program is that whatever RC unit he's going to will have him come to drill in the months prior to his first summer, where they have a special training program just to get these guys ready for Basic. They'll work on PT and all the basic soldier skills he can expect to see when he shows up. After he gets back from basic, he'll continue going to drill, and they'll spend his entire senior year getting him ready for AIT the next summer. That's part of why they make such excellent students when they finally show up - most of the time they have a full year of experience either getting intense classes once a month, or even doing the job that they're being trained for.

Also, from the perspective of the NG lieutenants who went through Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC) with me this past year, they agree that these soldiers tend to do an excellent job. A lot of these LTs had similar experiences, acting as platoon leaders (PLs) for a year or more before they had the chance to attend the schools that technically qualify them to do their jobs. They were some of the best students we had in IOBC as well. All in all, I think this is one of the best opportunities a high school student can have. The training he goes through prior to his senior year will put a lot of things in perspective, and will probably make him a better student. Not to mention, it's a great topic for a college admissions essay. He should also be able to complete his AIT in time to make it to his first semester of college. You can also let his mother know that he technically can't be deployed until after he's completed both summers of training.

A number of the NG lieutenants that went through schools with me this past summer had been deployed (usually as enlisted soldiers) while they were in college. Though they were forced to skip a year of school, they overwhelmingly said that the year-long deployment actually helped them as students. Much like basic, it helped them become more focused and disciplined, and they all felt that their deployments were actually very positive experiences. They learned a great deal about themselves and about another culture, and some of them actually changed their major or their focus so they could return to the Middle East and make a greater impact the next time. I completely agreed with all of them based on my own experiences overseas.

One of the best friends I made in schools this summer is an experienced NG lieutenant. He was an enlisted NG soldier during his college years. He made one deployment to Iraq as an infantryman, and he's about as decorated as I am. After his deployment, he decided he wanted to make more of a difference, so he attended ROTC during his last two years and received his commission. Now he's in Law School - he finished his first year, then took a semester off this past fall so he could attend IOBC. He's been a platoon leader for the last year, and he's already been promoted to 1LT. While he attended schools at Benning, he also interviewed with several prestigious law firms up and down the east coast. He was accepted by far more of them than he expected, and he attributed it all to his military experience. He said everywhere he went, someone either had been in the military or had a close relative that was currently serving. He was able to really set himself apart from the hundreds of other applicants simply by putting some bullets on his resume about his military service and deployment. That almost always led him to have a good twenty or thirty extra minutes of face time talking with someone at the firm, as opposed to the five minutes most applicants had. He accepted one of the offers to a firm - top 30 in the nation. He gets to intern there every summer break while he's at law school, and as soon as he graduates he'll have a starting salary of almost $200k, plus bonuses and a guaranteed pay raise every year. And the firm is actually supportive of him continuing his service; he can be deployed again and come right back to his job. All because he was a Guardsman. You're welcome to pass along any or all of my comments to the concerned mother, verbatim or summarized.

The number of "Hell no!" comments doesn't surprise me in the least. One of the most worrisome aspects of our current culture is the growing separation between the military and the civilian worlds. I've certainly noticed that the Army is an increasingly self-sustaining organization - most of our soldiers and officers come from military families, or at least from families with a military tradition. That's apparent even in my case, since I may never have been as interested in joining if I hadn't been trading letters with you for most of my life. Most Americans believe in having a strong military - just as long as it's not their own son or daughter that's joining. This is a troubling situation, and it's only going to become worse as the years go by. While the economy slows down a bit I'm sure that we'll end up getting a few more enlistees that would normally have been balancing their decision to join against their job prospects, but even so this will only be a slight change. Meanwhile, I've certainly noticed that there is more and more dissatisfaction with the civilian world on the part of most soldiers I know, of all ranks. The vast majority of those who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan firmly believe in what we're doing over there, and they find it unconscionable that politicians are talking about pulling us out before our work is done. I know these decisions are made far above my pay grade, but I still find them very worrisome. Most of our officers are happy to have civilian control of the military, but over the next twenty or thirty years that very well may change. I can't help but wonder how many of our soldiers (again, of all ranks) will take it if we elect Obama. Personally, I actually like the guy a great deal, and I would vote for him if it weren't for his completely naive views about foreign relations. I'm happy to see McCain has all but locked up the nomination - I think he's the right guy for the next four years.
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The greatest army in the world? What is going on. newguy88 Other topics 25 10-21-2006 09:56 PM

 

 
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