The first day of the rest of my life


Jason Homard

Connor Tomlinson taking the oath to swear into the USMC at Camp Dodge on Jan. 14., 2019

Connor Tomlinson, Staff writer

Another trip to the Iowa State Fair, I go with my family every year and the fair of 2017 was no different, with one exception. It was a nice warm evening as the sun started to set while my brother and I walked the fairgrounds together, and I noticed a particular tent set up. Next to the tent was a big tan military humvee, and a sign with a big white star and yellow outline that read “Army Strong.” I told my brother I wanted to go check it out and we went over to talk to the soldiers at the tent. My brother is 23 years old has already gone to college and started a successful career as a mechanic so he had no interest in talking to a recruiter, but I did.

Growing up I had always considered joining the military but never really had a solid plan to do so until recently. A few months before the fair I had gotten serious about joining the military and did research into which branch I would join and what job I would have. Before the fair however I had never talked to a recruiter and now I had the chance to. As we approached the tent the recruiter greeted me with a handshake and I told him about my military interests. We had a long conversation about the Army and the opportunities and benefits of joining and I talked with him about what I hope to get out of the military.

When people want to join the military but are not yet able to go to bootcamp for some reason they are put into the delayed entry program, and simply see their recruiter once or twice a week for workouts and training. Before I spoke with the Army recruiter I was under the impression that for someone to be in the delayed entry program they had to be fully enlisted in the military, but the recruiter told me otherwise. To participate in the delayed entry program you only need to be 16 and have verbal parent consent. I was 16 at the time and my parents said that would be ok so I decided to start going.

Joining the military is not a decision to be made lightly, it is a very big commitment to make, whether you’re a cook in the National Guard for two years or an infantryman in the Marine Corps for 24 years, all military jobs take sacrifice and devotion. Everyone who joins loses time with the people they love and all risk life and limb when taking on the responsibilities of Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine.

There are many commonly believed misconceptions about the military and I would like to clear up some of them so you have abetter understanding about information in this column, and a better understanding of the military in general.

Misconception #1: The Army and the military mean the same thing. Many people use the words Army and military as if they are synonyms and both mean the same thing. While the Army is part of the military, the military covers a larger area than the Army, which is just one branch. The military itself has multiple branches, which are the Army, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and the Navy, (the National Guard is part of the Army.)

Misconception #2: Every member of the military is a soldier. By definition the only servicemen who are soldiers are men and women who join the Army. Each branch has a different name for the servicemen who are a part of that branch, Airmen are a part of the Air Force, Marines are a part of the Marine Corps, and Sailors are a part of the Navy or Coast Guard.

Misconception #3: Joining the military always means you will be fighting in a war zone the whole time after training. Many people have a fear that joining the military means that everyone serving is always put in direct danger and in a fire fight during all of deployment, but this is not the case. When someone joins the military, what branch they join can determine what job they have, and what job they have can determine whether they get deployed or not, and even if they get deployed that doesn’t mean they will be fighting. There are plenty of jobs in the military such as communications, mechanics, doctors, cooks, musicians, and others that are not as likely to get deployed, and even if they are deployed their jobs don’t have to do with being in combat and some jobs don’t even require them to leave the base.

The Iowa state fair of 2017 is where I took my very first step of enlisting in the military, and through my enlistment process I have experienced more than I ever expected I would. This column is not going to be propaganda trying to get everyone reading to join the military, in fact there is a reason that less than 1% of the American population is in the military, not everyone has what it takes to join the armed forces. The goal of my column is simply to educate anyone who is curious about what its like to enlist in the military, because if you’re like me, it’s probably not at all like you think it is. My journey of enlisting in the military is unique to me, as is everybody’s enlistment process, but there are obviously a lot of similarities everyone experiences while enlisting. As I progress through my journey to joining the military, I will continue this column to keep you all up to date on how things go and what to expect if anyone wants to join themselves.