The Decision 2007 (Final Part)

There were about thirty of us who arrived at MEPS on the same bus. We passed through security doors and unloaded our suitcases into a storage area before being herded into a briefing room. The MEPS commander, the first naval officer I ever saw, gave us a rundown of the rules and what we could expect from visit. The majority of us were there for initial processing, while a few others were either about to officially enlist or ship out to whatever boot camp they were destined for. After this briefing was done we were shown to the recruitment area, which essentially was the exact same thing as the plaza my recruiting center was part of. It was a large waiting area similar to a doctor’s office, and along the walls were the offices of the five military branches, though the Coast Guard center was dark and lifeless.

The waiting game then officially began. The few of us there for the Marines sat for what felt like hours in front of the Marine Corps office, watching as the two recruiters inside go about their paperwork, phone calls, and texting as if they weren’t even aware of our existence. After a little while an elderly volunteer entered the area and announced that cookies and refreshments were available down the hall way. One of the guys next to me stuck his head in the office and asked one of the recruiters if we could go, and the recruiter shouted “You already know the answer to that!” Undeterred, the minute the inner office door shut the same enlistee got up and went down the hallway and came back with a cup of coffee. I was tempted, but did not want to blow my chances over sweets I certainly could go without.

Finally one by one we were called into the office to answer a bunch of preliminary questions. After my turn I was ordered to proceed with a packet of papers to the medical wing where my processing would truly begin.

Several minutes later, the testing began. Just about every single test, checkup, and exam possible was done on me, as well as having the earwax sucked out of both my ears. In a room with several doctors and other recruits I was made to strip down to my underwear and perform various dexterity tests and physical exercises, notes being taken nonstop. Passing all of this, I was sent to lunch and told to report back immediately afterwards. More testing followed, and after another hour-long wait in the recruiting areas Ssgt. Rivera arrived, retrieved documentation from his colleagues in the office and asked if I was ready to go. I had passed another step.

Having passed my background check and health screening, the time had come for me to officially enlist in the Marine Corps. As it would be too much to be done in one day, it meant that I would have to go through a similar experience the following week.

Therefore, the following Thursday I again brought a small suitcase to class with me, and once again a recruiter met me at the door to bring me back to the station. This time, I had a brief meeting with Gunnery Sergeant Love, the chief off the recruiting office, making sure that I was 100% sure that this was something I wanted to do and that I was aware that once I took the oath I was officially a member of the United States Marine Corps as a poolee, and that I would be held to high standards and shipped to boot camp in San Diego as soon as I was done with high school. I assured him confidently that I was ready, and after almost breaking my hand with a firm handshake he transferred me over to Ssgt. Rivera, who was waiting with another recruit-to-be for the second trip to Lansing.

The hotel stay and most of the early morning MEPS activities were exactly the same as they had been the first time, only since I had already completed my health screening and everything it was more administrative this time. Fingerprints were taken, briefings were given, forms and forms and forms were filled out followed by the signing and dating of even more forms. Again, I was given time for lunch, then returned to the recruiting office for more paperwork.

The only time I broke bearing the entire process was when one of the civilian employees made me sign a form designating my next of kin, and that if anything were to happen to me en route to my first duty station (boot camp) that the government would provide six months’ pay to cover funeral arrangements. I could not help but chuckle. If anybody had the misfortune enough to die serving his country before even having a handle to put on a uniform, it would be me. Other than that, I was collected and confident the entire process.

Finally, at the end of the day, there was only one thing left to do to make it official. A group of us were led into a brightly lit room where flags from all across the military, as well as several United States flags, adorned the walls. We stood at attention as an army captain greeted us and ordered us to raise our right hands. He recited the oath enlistment that we followed in spurts, and then we all went back to attention. He shook each one of our hands and posed for a brief picture with us and we were sent back to our recruiters. I was no longer a civilian. I was now a Marine Corps poolee.

Ssgt. Rivera, punctual as ever, appeared right away to pick the two of us up that he had delivered to the hotel the previous day. Instead of taking us home, however, he informed us that MEPS was only the first stop. He drove us down the street to the recruiting HQ for the state of Michigan so that we could be formally inducted as future Marines.

For this task, he turned us over to his friend Ssgt. Leal, a much larger, more intimidating Marine than any of the ones I had met so far. He threw both of us a poolee t-shirt which was to be our uniform of sorts whenever we attended a poolee function. He explained to us that once a week we were expected to appear at our recruiting office to undergo physical training, Marine Corps knowledge, and other items of importance. One Saturday a month would be an even larger poolee function, also required, that would further help build teamwork and Marine Corps values. We were to do the best we could in school, stay out of trouble, and conduct ourselves professionally at all times. Recruiters were to be addressed as “Sir” and any order given was to be acknowledged as “Aye aye, sir.”

“Yes, sir”, “No, sir”, and “Aye aye, sir” needed to be drilled into our minds immediately, because at boot camp those would pretty much be the only words ever coming out of our mouths and the Delayed Entry Program was meant to ensure that we were best prepared to tackle the hardest boot camp in the country.

We were left alone in an office, where Ssgt. Leal had turned on a motivational video. After a while we were interrupted by the recruiting commanding officer, a major, who wanted for us to witness our first promotion ceremony. We witnessed a sergeant promoted to staff sergeant , and a corporal promoted to sergeant. The recruiting center sergeant major informed us that these were major milestones in those Marines’ careers, and made us do twenty push-ups for the amusement of the assembled Marines.

Ssgt. Leak handed us each a folder of information and gave me back to Ssgt. Rivera, the other one having had a ride on the way. We stopped at a gas station for an oil change, the staff sergeant talking me through it so he would not have to get oil on his dress blues. He bought me a pop as a token of thanks, and continued on our way.

The only thing I was really bummed about was that I had to wait an entire year before I shipped out. I had all summer break and my entire senior year to go before it was time for me to ship out to boot camp. Otherwise I was completely on top of the world. It was the first of many rash decisions I would make in the coming years, but knowing what I know now at 28, if I had the chance to go back in time and make a different decision I would have joined the Air Force.

Yeah, screw that. I would not have changed my mind if my life depended on it.

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The Decision 2007 (Part 3)

Somehow or another I made it through school the next day. It was a Wednesday, the busiest school day of the week. Waking up early to scrounge on the homework I should have done the night before left me a bit groggy and out of energy for most of the day, but as it grew closer to the final bell I would get more and more bursts of energy.

A smell of pot roast permeated throughout the house when I got home. Ssgt. Rivera was due to arrive after dinner, around 7pm, so I still several hours to do whatever until he got there. Mom had already done a lot of cleaning but I did what I could to make the place even tidier, and knocked out my homework in order to pass the time so I wouldn’t have to pull another early morning. Soon everyone started getting home, we scrounged on the roast, and it was just a matter of waiting.

Not surprisingly, he arrived precisely when he said he would. My parents gave him a warm welcome as I cleared the table, and the four of us sat on each side of the dining room table. He brought with him a huge leather briefcase that was almost half the size of his body, heavy enough that I almost thought the table was going to break under its weight. As he got all several hundred of the necessary documents ready he happily accepted Mom’s offer of leftovers, which he downed in a single gulp with a bottle of water. I think the three of us were mightily impressed.

It seemed like we talked for hours. Every single possible detail of a possible enlistment–the process, the logistics, expectations, and what have you–were discussed in fine detail. As a minor, in order to enlist I required my parents’ permission and their signature on every single document I signed, but neither one of them seemed to have any apprehension towards it at all. Of the available MOSs I formally decided on Personnel Administration, and after a final little talk between myself and my parents when the Staff Sergeant had to to run out to his car for something, we all agreed to make it official. The documents were all signed, dated and initialed, and I was tentatively a new enlistment in the United States Marine Corps.

The next major step in the process was taking a trip to Lansing where the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) was located. Ssgt. Rivera told me that it would be an overnight stay at a government contracted hotel, where a shuttle would bring us to MEPS and our recruiter would pick us up at the end of the day. I packed a little bag for the following night and at the end of the day one of the other recruiters arrived at school to pick me up and bring me to the recruiting station while Staff Sergeant Rivera finished up a meeting. Lansing was roughly an hour, hour and a half from us so it gave the two of us a chance to talk more about what the Marine Corps was like and what was even more pressing in my mind at that point–recruit training. He again assured me that by the time I was finished with the Delayed Entry Program that I would be well-prepared for the challenge ahead. I took his word for it.

The hotel itself was a blast. It was the first time in several years that I had stayed overnight away from the family, and the first time ever staying in a hotel by myself. I met potential candidates from every service branch, was given a stern briefing on hotel rules and whatnot by the hotel manager, a crusty navy vet that gave me my very first taste of how serious and unforgiving the military was. Each room was a full-furnished suite with two full sized beds, TV, and certainly was not cheap. The cafeteria served dinner and breakfast, there was a hot tub, steam room,!workout area, arcade games and tons of room to lounge around at and relax. My roommate (whose name I never got; we simply referred to each other as Air Force and Marine Corps) seemed like a nice guy but did not see much of each other. I spent most of my time watching a “Hogan Knows Best” marathon in the room after dinner, and we both fell asleep rather early.

We were promised a very early morning wake up call. That promise was kept.

(STAY TUNED FOR PART 4, THE FINALE.)

The Decision 2007 (Part 2)

My two classmates were disqualified almost immediately. I learned that one of the guys, Z., had criminal drug charges pending, and was the first to find out that the other guy, B., had a kid. The Staff Sergeant sent the two of them back to class and looked across the table at me in earnest. I had already told him that I had no criminal past or familial obligations, which seemed to impress him quite a bit.

Other things made him excited. At 5’10 and 170 pounds I fit perfectly within my height and weight range, I was on track to graduate, and had that strong military background that I gave him a quick run-through about. He did not want to take up anymore of my class time and asked if he could come pick me after school. Nervously and like the good kid I always was, I did not want to do anything without asking permission, so he loaned me his phone so I could call mom. She was surprised but told me to go for it, so I was sent back to Global Issues with an after-school appointment to look forward to.

Right on time when the final bell rang a couple of hours later, Ssgt. Rivera appeared at the entrance of the office, shaking my hand again and asking if I was ready to rock and roll. The recruiting substation he worked out of was only a five minute drive away, and he spent the entire time talking about himself and the opportunities the Marine Corps had provided him. Before becoming a recruiter he had been in a good service job in the Marines, had been a squad leader at boot camp, and was a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor. What intrigued me most about everything was that he told me he had a bunch of friends who went into Marines that also enjoyed reading and writing, and that if I wanted to go to college I could do so while I was in (for free) or have a brand new GI Bill whenever I decided to get out that would take care of any and all college expenses for me (also for free.) It could not have been timed for perfectly, because the second I was in total awe of the potential opportunities we had arrived at the recruiting station.,

I expected it to be a little cubbyhole in the wall that he worked out of, but what I found was an enormous office FILLED with men dressed exactly like him (he told me they were called dress blues.) I was introduced to a rank I had never heard of before, a Gunnery Sergeant who was the boss of the office, and several other sergeant and staff sergeant recruiters who covered schools that Ssgt. Rivera did not. Beyond that, there was about four or five much younger Marines fresh out of boot camp who were helping with recruiting assistance. All of these Marines wore a different kind of uniform–olive pants, khaki shirts, and the same extremely polished shoes as the recruiters. I was told they were called “charlies” but there was too much information overload going on for me to remember much of this stuff until later on.

The first thing he had me do was sit in a tiny room on a laptop and do a miniature ASVAB test to see if I possessed the basic reading skills and whatnot that even the dumbest Marine needed to have. I told him that I had taken the actual ASVAB only a few months earlier at the suggestion of the Air Force recruiter, which made him very happy, so while I took my test he went to work pulling up my scores from the big one. When we were done, I took a seat in front of his desk and began to learn even more about what the Corps had to offer and some of the various jobs (Military Occupational Specialties, or MOSs) I could potentially choose from. I did not tell him this at the time, but my heart had already settled on the clerical MOS, that line of work being more suited to guy like me than infantry or artillery or any of those combat MOSs he slyly mentioned first. As a gift he presented me with an entire book’s worth of pamphlets talking about the various aspects of the Marines for me to peruse, then offered to take me home because I was interested in introducing him to my parents.

During the ride home I came out with the few misgivings that I had about everything. First and foremost was that I was not in great physical shape. The seemingly permanent smile on his face widened as he promised me that they take care of that before they even ship us off to boot camp. I told him that I already had a good relationship going with the Air Force, and as his lips touched his earlobes in smile he assured me that they steal recruits from the Air Force all the time, and that they were used to it. There was something about his attitude, the sort of kick-ass quality in everything that he said, that not only put me at ease but all of a sudden made me want to become a Marine even though I was still not 100% sure what exactly a Marine was.

I was not able to ask him that before we pulled up to my house. I ushered him up the steps and through the front door, greeted as usual by the family Bassett hound, Flash, and I introduced him to both my mom and younger brother, who both were as admiring of the five foot Marine as I had become. It turned out that Dad was out of town for the night, and Ssgt. Rivera was really anxious to sit down with all three of us to discuss everything in greater detail with the possibility of signing enlistment paperwork right away, citing my obvious enthusiasm and everything. He and my mom scheduled for him to come back the following night and he gave all three of us a firm handshake and smile, Flash a big pet behind the ears, and was out of the driveway in no time.

Mom turned to me with a huge shit-eating grin and was like, “I love how leetle he is!”

There was no way I was going to be able to concentrate on anything but the military, so I ignored my homework and instead dived into the paperwork I was given. I went to the basement, pulled out the M encyclopedia and began researching as much about the Marines as I possibly could.

My mind was made up.

(STAY TUNED FOR PART 3)

The Decision 2007 (Part 1)

At the end of my junior year of high school, Spring 2007, I made a choice that would change my life forever. I enlisted in the Marine Corps.

I was the last person anyone would have thought to join the military, let alone the Marines. It would not be lying to say that I was the polar opposite of everything one would associate with the Marine Corps.

I was not athletic. The only sport I had ever played was football and that was in the 8th grade. As a result of medications I was taking, I was obese most of middle school and the first two years of high school. Even though I had been off of them for a while and the extra weight very rapidly disappeared, I still could not get up the steps to the third floor at school without being completely out of breath. Athletics and John Siebelink did not mix well. Instead, theater was my passion. I had secured the only freshman role in a school production of “Oliver!” freshman year and acted in two plays my junior year, earning varsity letters all three times. I was also heavily involved in yearbook junior year, and was class treasurer. It was expected that after graduation I immediately go off to college and pursue my dream of becoming an English professor. Military had never been a topic of conversation between myself and my teachers.

I come from a family with strong military ties on both sides. Both of my parents, my uncle, my mom’s parents, and several of my dad’s relatives were army veterans. My paternal great-grandfather was a baby radarman during World War II, and dad has cousins in all four branches. Naturally, once in a blue moon dad and I would talk about possibly going into the military for a while after high school, even if it was just the reserves or National Guard. My folks never pushed me or strongly encouraged it, though. I think they also had the idea that I would go straight to college.

Periodically throughout the school year, the various recruiters from the four branches would set up tables outside the lunch room with their fliers and business cards. I would always make a point to stop by and chat with the Air Force Staff Sergeant whenever he was around, because unlike the army and navy recruiters he was friendly and had a lot of technical knowledge that fascinated my inner geek. At that time I never paid attention to the “military guy” that came around the most, a tiny little bald-headed guy in a fancy blue uniform that always brought a red pull-up bar with him. It wasn’t until much later that I finally learned what branch the little man was from, and how life as it had been for the first seventeen years of my life would be changed forever.

I don’t remember the exact reason why, but for the first time in my entire life I was late for class. My sixth hour was Current Global Issues, and the teacher was one of those who shut and locked the door the second the bell rang. Embarrassingly, I knocked on the door and waited outside the classroom for him to get to me, and as he peeked out and saw that it was me he exclaimed, “Oh John Siebelink! You’re wanted in the office!” I almost shit myself. I had never been called to the office in my life! I was not the kind of student who got detention or in trouble with the attendance officer. I was always a goody two-shoes geek and teacher’s pet.

Slowly and anxiously I made my way to the other end of the hallway and started down the steps, wondering why on earth I was needed in the office. Surely I wasn’t going to have to talk to the principal about my first ever tardy–usually the teacher would only mark a point off, if that. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, though, I had my answer. Leaning against the rail talking to a couple of other guys in my grade was the little Hispanic bald guy in the blue uniform, a giant smile on his face. He pointed at me.

“Are you John?” I answered that I was, and he lunged forward and shook my hand, introducing himself as Staff Sergeant Rivera, the Marine Corps recruiter. I was taken aback. I had heard of the Marines before, but all those months of avoiding him meant that I had never met one in the flesh before. He asked if he could speak with me for a few minutes privately, and without thinking I quickly agreed. To be honest, I was a little flattered. All those many talks with the Air Force guy, the army, and the navy and not one phone call did I ever get from any of them. And here was a Marine (whatever the hell that was) reaching out to me IN PERSON! The two other guys he was with had also been summoned for that purpose, so he we followed him to one of the conference rooms adjacent to the main office and I waited my turn to interview with him.

I did not know why, but I felt that something big was going to happen very soon…

Reblogging Me

I have absolutely no problem with anybody sharing or reblogging any of my posts to their own site to show others. In fact, I encourage it!

But don’t plagiarize. Please inform readers who the original author is (John Siebelink) and where he can be found (the blog CrapPile at siebelinkjohn.wordpress.com)

Lets be professional, please.

Yes, I Write About Politics. And No, I Won’t Stop.

Why?

Because (and not to sound like a douchebag) this is my blog and I can write about whatever I choose to write about. That is the defensive answer.

The actual real reason is because in the past I have shied away from broaching this topic because it is such a toxic field, and the second I talk about it it’s like I turn on a homing beacon for haters and critics to appear and try tearing me a new one. Choosing to write about politics on CrapPile is my way of taking a risk. Exploring an area that was always off-limits to me is helping me sway out of my comfort zone, and challenges me to think. Politics is never going anywhere, it is pointless to constantly keep avoiding it. When you have a President in office that makes the news several times each and every day, there is never a shortage of things to talk about. I make it a point to not write primarily about Trump or either of the parties, but obviously it keeps coming up.

Some people love politics and talking about that kind of stuff. Others hate it with a passion. I am not too worried about potentially losing followers over it. I write about such a wide variety of topics–most of which are far more appealing–so people can easily ignore political posts in favor of those that aren’t. I try to title my posts in a way that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into before you start reading. The title of this post is a prime example.

I strongly encourage every blogger to try writing about politics at least once. Even if you are dead against it, it’s nice to push the boundaries a little bit every now and again. From what I have noticed, the blogosphere is not like Facebook or Twitter. Instead of instant vilification it death threats by those who disagree with what you have to say, you will usually find responses to be intelligent and friendly.

In a nutshell, that is why I sometimes write about political topics and why that is likely never going to change. I have yet to write anything about religion, but should I choose to do so the same reasoning will apply. And if I offend you by “furthering the regime” of Donald Trump, as one follower of mine emailed me and frowned upon me for doing, sorry. And not sorry.

Blogging Regularly

As anyone who checks out my blog will know, I tend to post more than once a day. The past few days (as of this writing) I have averaged anywhere from two to four blog entries each day. I do not count tiny “updates” as to how many followers I have or anything, so technically I may have posted even more than that.

This morning as I was searching through WordPress for new blogs to check out, I read a few different posts by veteran bloggers who recommended only blogging a few times a week, and one that encouraged only ONCE a week. I can tell you right now that just yesterday alone I broke all of their rules, but I am not sorry I did.

I am no expert when it comes to blogging–or writing, either–but it seems to be that the only way to get better at something is to practice. How can I, as a new blogger, expect to get better at blogging if I don’t blog regularly? How are people going to find my blog and look me up if they don’t see my blog popping up in their feeds often? I know stats should not be a blogger’s top priority, especially when starting out, but followers and readers in my opinion are extremely important. For one thing, having someone read and compliment you on a good post is a HUGE morale booster, but it also shows that your blog is working. For most of us, but not all, we write for audiences. Knowing that we have an audience checking in on our blog keeps us going and reminds us that we’re making our goals a reality.

The blogger who believes a good blogger should only put out one highly polished blog entry a week and I disagreed over the quality vs quantity argument. To him, it just looks better if you take the time to give your post every idea that you can and polish it so that it’s the best it can be before it goes up. To me, a good writer and good blogger should be able to edit and rewrite and still post it the same day. I admit my pieces might not be the most brilliantly written essays ever, and I occasionally spot typos when I go back and read through them after they are posted, but hey. That’s why WordPress has an edit option. And many of my viewers tend to forgive me, as I tend to blog with my phone and it’s broken spell-check (real words tend to be changed and misspelled words slip through the cracks. Don’t ask me why.)

On top of all that, writing is just good therapy. Not every blogger writes outside of his or her blog (though I’m discovering that a good portion of us do), so posting every day or several times a week is a big feeling of accomplishment. Every time the PUBLISH button is pressed you have done something! Something you yourself have created is now finished and out there for the world to see. Unless you have crippling anxiety that would cause you to have an instant panic attack, that’s typically a really good feeling.

Depending the what your blog is about, writing nearly everyday is ESSENTIAL. Take mine for instance. Mine is an open blog, meaning I post about whatever I feel like writing and posting about. I was able to write about “Roseanne” being canceled minutes after it was announced. If I only wrote once a week that sort of post would have been redundant, but since I was one of the first to blog about it it ended up being one of my most viewed blog posts ever, because it was such a big story. If you write a political blog, you can pretty much guarantee that the current administration can provide you with newsworthy material daily. If you write for fun, it’s great practice. If you write for therapeutic reasons, see above. There’s nothing quite like a feeling of accomplishment.

Ok, I’m done ranting. You get my point. To me there is nothing wrong with blogging daily, and I encourage more people to try it and see how it works for them. I know it’s not feasible for everybody, but a little challenge never hurt anyone. Who knows, it might even make them a better blogger.