Six years, needs of the Army.
I have been a bit out of touch lately. I submitted a packet for a rather high-end program within my little field and have encountered last-minute change after last-minute change, reminding me that just because this is an elite program doesn’t mean it can withstand all of the winds that blow against the walls from Big Army. Turns out there are still a few cracks in the walls that still allow some of the dumb to seep through, similar to the miniscule holes in my roof that allow tiny drips to leak onto my music collection when the snow on the roof finally starts to melt. Only trouble with the Army cracks is that I need to do more work than just strategically place a few paper towels around.
My packet was originally up for review in January. January’s board was moved to early February. They moved the board again, and the pre-board was in early February instead. That is about the time they figured out that my branch had failed to complete some paperwork allowing me to be released to the program, paperwork that they promised back in the fall when I called them to make the request.
So my packet was delayed. The February board came up, and apparently after the board the General Officer who actually looks at the packets decided to go back to the old packet structure and request a few more items. Nothing big… oh, wait.
Security forms for my spouse, involving a few hours on the phone and dredging up addresses of people he barely remembers. Letters of Recommendation from whomever was around and able to draft one in about two days. An application letter that requested things I had somehow not discussed in my nearly 20 hours of previous interviews. All that and more, and as soon as possible. Let the hoop-jumping commence.
I submitted everything on time for the pre-board and took my sigh of relief… until another message showed up from the person handling my packet. I had been under the impression that I would have to reenlist for the program after being accepted, an acceptance of which was hardly guaranteed. Instead, on Monday after I had happily sent off the last few items for the packet, I received the message that I in fact had to find a way to ensure that I had at least three years remaining on my contract from the anticipated start date in the program, which is anticipated to be this summer. I have a little over one year left at the moment, so this one last hoop threw me off for a moment.
Then it was business time. Contact the first sergeant to try and see if she can help me find battalion retention, a notoriously elusive individual. Figure out how long I need to reenlist for, which would be four years in order to meet the requirements. Find my husband to inform him of the news and listen to him snicker at my pain… the list went on.
Then, after I told him my plans, the packet-handler had a stroke of genius I had overlooked: why reenlist for four years for a paltry bonus when I could reenlist for two extra years for six thousand dollars more? I about choked as I conceived of another six year hitch: it would nearly double the time I have already been a cog in this machine. But the logic was actually sound, when it was thought through. It is no secret that I could medically board whenever I really had enough, so quite frankly nothing is holding me in the Army with the exception of my possible cowardice of leaving the familiarity of this absurdity in my life. It would sort of be like Alice leaving Wonderland, only she had enough sense to wake up. If I actually do enjoy working on the Other Side of the Army, I can apply to become a warrant officer in about two years, enjoying the warrant ascession bonus as well. If I don’t enjoy it, or if I don’t get in at all, there is that pocket medical board that will allow me to trade in a piece of my pride for freedom.
So logically, it all worked out.
Nevertheless, as I sat and signed the paperwork and my commander barely contained his giggle as he swore me in for another six years, there was the unmistakable taste of bile in the back of my throat. Six years, needs of the Army, for around 17,000 pre-tax dollars, is something that I remember from my past: someone else made nearly the same decision back in 2005 and after I stood in the formation to watch him swear in, someone walked up to me and said, “You’re good at math! What is 16,000 dollars for six years?” to which I merely responded, “[insert approprate impolite adjective here] stupid.”
And now my clock is reset: 4 March 2016 should be showing up on my Enlisted Records Brief any day now. I know that it was a good move and wise given my circumstances, but I also know that the appearance of that date on that document will only have me find new and colorful ways to describe just how stupid I might very well be.