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What the Recruiter Never Told You

Part 3 -- Enlistment Process and Job Selection

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Over the years, I've met dozens of soldiers who were (for example) assigned to drive trucks in the motor-pool, even though their MOS's had nothing to do with vehicles. A while ago, the Stars & Stripes Newspaper published a feature article about an Army Armored Company deployed to Kosovo (without armor) to man security checkpoints. Last year, the Army News Service featured an article about an Army National Guard Supply Company, who deployed to Iraq, and were "re-trained" as a group after arrival in country to perform infantry duties.

Air Force. The Air Force calls their enlisted jobs "Air Force Specialty Codes," or "AFSCs." The Air Force has two enlistment options: Guaranteed Job, and Guaranteed Aptitude Area. Under the "Guaranteed Job" program, the applicant is guaranteed training in a specific AFSC (Air Force Job). Under the Guaranteed Aptitude program, the applicant is guaranteed that he/she will be selected for a job that falls into one of the designated aptitude areas. The Air Force has divided all of their jobs into four aptitude areas (General, Electronic, Mechanical, and Administrative).

It is unfortunate, but true that a majority of Air Force jobs (approximately 60 percent) are are reserved for individuals joining under the Guaranteed Aptitude program. Therefore, many of the available jobs are not released to the Air Force Jobs Counselor. Instead, they are "reserved" and offered to recruits in basic training, who enlisted under the Guaranteed Aptitude Program.

If one enlists in the Guaranteed Aptitude Program, they will meet with a job counselor around the 2nd week of basic training. The job counselor will give them a list of all the AVAILABLE jobs that they qualify for (medical, moral history, ASVAB scores). Understand that not all Air Force jobs within the aptitude area will be on the list. Only the jobs that have open school seats at that particular point in time. When you receive the list of choices, you have one week to consider it, then you return to the job counselor and give your top 8 choices (from the list). Everyone else in the same week of training, who enlisted in the same aptitude program will also have a list that looks exactly like yours. They will be making choices, as well. The job counselors give each applicant a "rating," which is derived from their ASVAB scores, medical qualifications, and moral (criminal/drug history) qualifications. If, for example, there is a job that has five openings and six people put it down as there first choice, they take the five highest rated and give them the slots and the sixth person, they go to their second choice (of course, that "second choice" may also be someone else's first choice, which would affect whether or not the person would get the slot, depending on how many are available, and how many placed it high on their list).

Individuals generally will then find out which job they've been selected for, around the 5th week of training, right after returning from "Warrior Week."

Those wishing to enlist in the Air Force must be very flexible when it comes to job assignment. For the past two years (and currently), the Air Force has done exceptionally well in recruiting. In fact, the Air Force has thousands of more volunteers than they have enlistment slots for. Air Force recruiters didn't even have recruiting goals assigned to them between May 2004 and May 2005.

Because the Air Force has many more applicants than they have slots for, it is very common for an applicant to process through MEPS, and return enlisted in the DEP (Delayed Enlistment Program) without a reserved job-slot or shipping date. Instead, while at MEPS, they provide a list of job and aptitude area preferences to the job counselor, then they are placed on the QWL (Qualified Waiting List), for one of their preferences to become available. This can take several months. It's not uncommon, these days, for an Air Force applicant to remain in the DEP for 8 or more months before finally shipping out to basic training.

Air Force recruiters will often refuse to process an applicant who is "job locked." In effect, it's a waste of time and resources to process an applicant who is determined to be interested in only a couple of job possibilities, when there are hundreds of other qualified applicants, waiting in line behind him/her, who are willing to be more flexible. Some Air Force recruiting squadrons have established a briefing checklist that recruiters must go over with the applicant and have them initial and sign before they go to MEPS that specifically states that they are going to the MEPS in order to swear into to the Air Force (DEP), and NOT TO JOB SHOP. If the applicant doesn't agree to this and doesn't sign this briefing checklist then they don't go to MEPS. Plain and simple. In order to join the Air Force, one must be flexible with both job selections and dates of availability.

For those with lots of flexibility, the Air Force has a program called the "quick ship list." Every once in a while, an applicant with a reserved slot will drop out of the DEP at the very last minute. As it would be a waste of time and resources to allow this "bed to go empty" at basic training, the Air Force will allow applicants in the DEP to voluntarily put their name on the "quick ship list," to take the place of the applicant who dropped out. The down side? You've got to keep your bags packed, because you may only get one or two days notice that you're leaving for basic training, under this program.

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