|What the Recruiter Never Told You|
|Part 2: Meeting the Recruiter|
As I said in Part 1, if you are unsure of which service to join, you may want to visit recruiters from all of the services. If you do this, tell the recruiter, up front, that you are visiting all of the recruiters before you make any decision.
It's often a good idea to bring a parent or relative (or better yet, someone who has served in the military) with you for your first visit. Prepare a list of questions to ask, in advance. Possible questions are:
Be as specific as possible. While most recruiters will not lie to you, remember that the recruiter lives or dies by the number of people he/she can recruit. He or she may not volunteer information which may chase away a potential quota. It's up to you to ask pointed, specific, no-nonsense questions, and expect direct answers. Be very suspicious of any unclear, or vague answers. Always press for specifics. If in doubt, ask the recruiter to put the information in writing, and sign it, or to show you in the regulations, guides, or pamphlets that what he/she is saying is true.
In most cases, you don't want to ask too many questions about specific military jobs. With the exception of the National Guard and Reserves, and Marine Corps, recruiters have absolutely nothing to do with job selections (more on that later). Rather, focus your questions on the general advantages of that particular service (length of basic training, leave [vacation], medical care, barracks/dormitory/housing conditions, education benefits, etc).
Recruiters are busy animals. In fact, recruiters put more hours on-the-job than just about any person in the military. Regardless of what you've heard, recruiters do not get a monetary bonus for signing people up. They get their regular paycheck, whether you enlist or not. If you drop by without an appointment, don't be surprised if your recruiter isn't there. He might be taking someone to MEPS on that day. She might be speaking at a high school or college. He might be at the recruiting squadron (branch, division), taking care of paperwork, or going through a training class. She might be at an applicant's house, trying to calm jittery parents. He might be taking a few days of well-deserved leave (vacation).
Don't waste a recruiter's time. They simply can't afford to spend time with those not serious about enlisting, or not qualified to enlist. Don't make an appointment, then fail to show up. Don't cancel an appointment at the last minute. Treat the recruiter with the same courtesy that you would give if you were at a meeting with the hiring director for a civilian job. If you were trying to get a job with Microsoft™, you most certainly would not walk in dressed as a bum, or make an appointment, just to cancel it at the last minute.
Getting Down to Basics
Sooner or later, you're going to have to stop shopping, and decide on which military service you want to join. During your "shopping trips," you may have met a recruiter who really impressed you, and/or you may have met a recruiter that left you cold. It's important that you not choose your military service based upon your perception of the recruiter's quality. Each of the services have outstanding recruiters, and each of the services have recruiters who shouldn't be recruiting. Don't judge the military service based upon whether or not the recruiter impressed you. Choose your service based upon your interests, not whether or not the recruiter was kind enough to buy you lunch at McDonalds.
Once you make your decision, make an appointment with the recruiter for the service you want to join. The first thing the recruiter is going to do is to "pre-qualify" you. The recruiter will ask you a bunch of questions to see if you qualify for military service. These will be questions about age, citizenship or immigration status, education level, criminal history, drug abuse history, and medical conditions. The recruiter may weigh you, and ask to see personal paperwork (birth certificate, high school diploma, social security card, etc.).
It's important that you be truthful with the recruiter. It's also very important that you not allow the recruiter to encourage, advise, or even hint that you lie about any of this important information. It is a felony to give false information or withhold required information on any military recruiting paperwork. (See I Cannot Tell a Lie for detailed information about possible consequences).
Remember, there is no *RIGHT* to join the United States Military. The recruiter uses the information you give to determine whether or not you are qualified to join, based upon Department of Defense (DOD) and individual service standards. Those standards exist for reasons. It is not up to you, or the recruiter to decide which standards are valid and which ones are not. It is much better to be disqualified for enlistment in the first place and never join, then it is to lie about it, go through basic training, have the lie discovered, then get thrown out of the military (possibly with an administrative discharge that will follow you for the rest of your life).
In addition to the pre-qualification questions, the recruiter may ask you to take a sample Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This is a computerized ASVAB "mini-test," with representative questions in the four areas of the ASVAB which determine the overall ASVAB Score (AFQT Score). These areas are Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, and Arithmetic Reasoning. This "mini-test" has a pretty good reputation for estimating what you're AFQT score is going to be when you take the full-blown test.
What if You Don't Meet the Standards?
Even if you don't meet the standards, many times criminal history, minor drug abuse, and medical conditions can be waived. Whether or not a condition can be waived is not up to the recruiter. It's up to superiors in his/her command (exactly how high up the chain of command depends on what the waiver is for), who make decisions based upon current law, regulations, and policy. Some things can't be waived, and the recruiter can tell you this, straight up front.
There is simply no way to even guess whether or not a waiver will be approved, even if someone has gotten a waiver for the same condition in the past, or -- conversely -- if nobody has ever gotten a waiver for the condition in the past. Each and every waiver is evaluated INDIVIDUALLY, using SEVERAL individual factors, including but not limited to:
I have seen waivers approved for a specific condition, only to see a waiver disapproved for the same condition, by the same service, just a few weeks later.
Remember, each of the services have their own standards and policies when it comes to processing recruiting waivers. If you don't qualify for one service, it's possible that another service would agree to process and approve a waiver.
In general, the Air Force has the reputation for approving the fewest waivers, followed by the Marine Corps, the Navy/Coast Guard, and finally the Army. Because National Guard recruiting policies can differ greatly from state-to-state, many times the National Guard will approve a waiver that the active duty and reserve forces won't even consider.
Once the "pre-qualification" is done, the recruiter then knows whether or not he/she can start processing you for enlistment.