I’ve always been a pro-active person. I pay my bills early and always schedule my future doctor appointments. I am organized and rarely let myself run out of eggs, bread, or milk. So when I started thinking about joining the Air Force, I did my research. Of course, you can’t believe everything the internet tells you, but you can get a pretty good idea of how things work by Googling.
I’m writing this because I want you to feel confident in the choices you make when pursuing a career in the Air Force, or military in general. You may have questions, and I’ve been through it first hand. I can offer you updated information because I just went through it all.
So read on, friend! Let me know if you have any questions! To enlist in the Air Force, here’s what you need to do first:
Call a Recruiter
When I began showing interest in enlisting in the Air Force, the first thing I did was reach out to a recruiter. A recruiter’s job is to explain the benefits of their military branch and try to get you to join. They’ll answer any questions you may have, but they’ll also coat the truth. Just remember that recruiters are the military’s salesmen. They have a quota to fill every month.
The best way to find your branch’s nearest recruiter is to Google it. I found that the Air Force’s site was not up-to-date with the latest recruiter info, so Google was my best chance. Good luck finding one close to you. I live in St. Louis and currently, there are only two Air Force recruiters within a 75 mile radius. Other branches have more recruiters, so you might not struggle like I did.
Since Obama started pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. is considered to be in peace time, the military as a whole is reducing the number of enlistees they take by massive proportions. That means that recruiters who retire aren’t being replaced. My recruiter told me that the Air Force was taking 30,000 people, but because of cuts, now they’re only taking 22,000. In short, he turns away a lot of prospects and covers most of the St. Louis area.
So how does a recruiter know whether you’re fit to move further in the enlisting process? He’ll do something they call pre-qualifying.
Pre-Qualifying for the Military
Some of the first things a recruiter is going to ask before you ever step foot in his/her office is whether you have any illnesses, physical disabilities, felonies, misdemeanors, psychological problems, credit problems, or dependents. If you have a child and are unmarried, you are automatically disqualified. If you have children, you must be married to qualify for enlistment. I highlight this because it tends to be a big deterrent from joining. There may be loopholes, but a recruiter probably won’t work with you much right now since they have so many people interested.
They’ll also ask if you’re a citizen of the United States, your age and education status, and if you’ve used illegal substances. Be prepared to get personal. Don’t lie either! That will only hurt you later on. The military WILL find out if you’ve had past issues. If you’re upfront first, you can usually find a way around any bad baggage.
If everything checks out, you will be given the go ahead to take a practice ASVAB. That’s only if you’ve never taken the test before. This practice test is to gauge whether you’ll even score high enough on the real ASVAB to qualify for their branch.
Note: A lot of this will only happen if you’ve already chosen the branch you want to enlist in. If not, you’re just going to be shopping, and recruiters may not get this far with you.
Filling Out Paperwork
If you take the the practice ASVAB, score high, and show promise, your recruiter will ask you if you’re ready to start the official process.
Depending on when you visit them, you could begin filling out tons of paperwork right then and there. That’s what I did. You’ll fill out medical forms and sign privacy forms, harassment forms, etc. There’s a lot of paperwork. They’ll take copies of your license, social security card, birth certificate, etc.
You give your whole life to these people. It can take several days to make this happen, if you work a full-time job and your recruiter’s office isn’t close to you. Depending on how quickly you get all the paperwork and official documents to them will depend on when you move on to take the official ASVAB and get processed at MEPS.
Taking the ASVAB and MEPS
I don’t want to go into too many details here since I’ll be elaborating more on my experience later, but the gist of it is: you go to the MEPS building (mine was in St. Louis), and you take the ASVAB and possibly process into your branch the very next day. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way. It may take several trips to MEPS, but it’s easiest if you can do the “One Stop.” That’s where you test and process in a two-day period.
If you make it through that, you’ll come out as an official future member of the military. It’s called the DEP, or Delayed Entry Program. You hang out in this program until a job slot you’re qualified for comes through and you can get your date to leave for Basic Military Training.
That’s the basic process. It can take just a few days or months to finish these first steps. Then you may have to wait even longer to get a job and date to leave.
Patience is key.
Those are your first steps. If you have any questions, please let me know! I’ll do my best to answer!