in which menachem begins his job hunt, curiously (part 3)

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(See part 1 here, and part 2 here.)

I finished the less-than-scintillating boot camp video, and waited for Dave to come continue the interview-cum-informational session. I was completely deflated: Whatever enthusiasm I had been able to muster for a potential two year stint in the navy was gone, by virtue of watching recruits sit cross-legged on hard-looking floors, trying to take notes on fire hazards, or towel-folding, or whatever else is deemed critical knowledge for the “modern sailor” (a phrase the squealy narrator used to the point of nausea). I voiced my concerns/critique to Dave.

“You guys made this whole Navy thing look downright geeky.” Dave was nonplussed. “Nah, it’s cool. You get a hat.” I have no idea if he was talking ironically or not. Family-value thumping conservative folk, take note: Those hats are probably the best guarantee of sexual abstention short of a chastity belt.

Dave and I shmoozed for about a hour. This was — and it was clear to both parties — a sales pitch. Dave asked, “What do you want?” Sorry? “I mean, what do you want from your job? From life?” Gawd. This was harder than explaining to my rabbi that I wanted to go to college. (“You’ll major in pritzus!”)

“Um, satisfaction? Happiness?” Dave pointed his index finger at me, like a sagely ‘gotcha’ gesture. “The Navy provides, and it provides well. You in debt?”

I am not in debt, as it happens. Dave looked deflated. This, apparently, is the Navy’s recruitment logic: You need money + we have lots of it = give us two to six years, and we’ll wipe that debt out. While I recognize that this is, for many, a rather attractive proposition, I am immune.  (Mum + Dad: I am explicitly acknowledging your indirect and partial yet very important role in keeping me out of the Navy. Much thanks.) The salary isn’t much (something like mid-20k; can’t recall precisely), and the benefits are good. They’ll even pay for graduate school while you’re serving. (That said, Dave was never able to satisfactorily answer my queries as to how one attends graduate school while stationed on a boat that doesn’t stay docked at the same port for very long. It could be we have different ideas of graduate school.)

Clearly, I’m not running to enroll for the regular training. What doth the Navy have for highly qualified individuals? Not much, actually. There’s the SEALS program, which requires a fitness test — but that’s a six-year commitment. And then there’s the nuclear program. I asked about it. Dave responded by confirming that I had not failed high school math. I told him that I had done really well in some of Columbia’s higher level math classes. Silly me — I had thought that would assuage him. “But you didn’t fail in high school, right?”

At which point, it became clear that to enter training to control and operate our fleet’s nuclear-powered submarine program, many of which are outfitted with very very large bombs, the main scholastic requirement was: to not have failed high school math.

I’m going to skip to the end, because I’m hungry: I didn’t sign up for the Navy. (Surprise!) But, the truth is, I can see why many people do. And this system I mostly applaud: I’m all for avoiding a draft of any sort. (Except maybe a Canadian draft, which might be kind of fun.) I do, however, have one critique — why isn’t there a place for me in the Navy?? I’m a qualified, debt-free, educated, ambitious (in the technical, job-interview terminology) dude, looking for work. My options are presumably many. Can the Navy not compete? I don’t want to do to training. But I’d really consider jumping on a ship and writing, or snapping photos, or even PR. Why not a tiered program, one that could realistically lure from some other demographics? (This bumps up against a more troubling point of where the Navy recruitment is feeding — the only white face on the wall of recruit photos was the sole future SEAL.) As it stands, the Navy places zero value on higher education. I’m not asking for an overhaul of the system, just an additional system that someone like me might fit into. A regular contract. Competitive benefits, not the debt-wipe they’re promising, or scholarships for your kids.

So, Navy, call me. But I ain’t doing no towel-folding.


Written by menachemkaiser

2 November at 20:56

Posted in rants

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