Thursday, April 9, 2015

Two years later...I'm in the Army now!

Well, that happened.  Two years rolled by like the blink of an eye and here I am.  Done with school for a full year, board-certified.  Still in Fresno.  Still at my same hospital working as a nurse.  Made significant progress on my weight/health goals. 

School got really tough.  Between work and school and my family my entire life went into doing the necessary things.  Advanced classes.  Clinicals.  Working full-time during clinicals.  Changing work positions and shifts during clinicals.  Studying for comps (the comprehensive exam that passes you from the program with your Master's degree).  Passing comps.  Studying for boards.  Passing boards.  Wondering what to do now...should we stay or should we go?  Roots have been put down here, yes, but it has never quite felt like home.  We miss our family, and rarely get to visit.  Should we try to get back East?  Paying off student loans is a priority now.  Should I take the job I've been offered at my clinical site?  Should I try to get a job at our local FQHC and apply for loan forgiveness through the government, hoping that I get it?  Look for an FQHC back East?  Lots of questions.  Big, potentially life-changing questions.

Meanwhile, a friend in my class who finished a few months ahead of me joined the Army as a CNM.  She was prior service, then went back in at the same time that her husband was getting out.  I got curious.  She is getting her loans paid off, great benefits for her family, relative stability as far as the Army goes due to her specialty, while being able to serve those who serve our country.  Sounds pretty darn awesome.  But ME?  I don't know.  I gained weight during clinicals and found myself just shy of being the highest weight I'd ever been.  I'm SO far from Army ready.  But I figure "What the heck...I'll call a recruiter and see what they say."  So I did.  I'm told that I would have to lose about 60 lbs to even be considered.  I'd have to be fit, too, not just thinner.  But the board doesn't review for my specialty but once per year in November at this time, and it's March.  Could I do that?  Hubby and I talk, and we pray.  We decide to go for it, and pray that God will close the door if it's not His will.

I watch as my friend goes through training.  Ask a million and one questions.  Work hard at getting my health together, but it's a long road.  Meet in person with a recruiter.  One of the first things he asked was if I knew the requirements for the Army (while eyeballing my less-than-svelte physique).  Yes, I do.  And I know I have work to do, but I'm determined.  And if I don't get into the Army it's not going to be because I was too fat, I tell him.  He smiles and says "Ok, go for it then!"  I keep working hard.  Months pass.  I fill out paperwork.  I'm still not quite there with my weight, but SO close.  I'm told that I need to get to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) ASAP to have my physical evaluation done, but I should do a weight and tape in Fresno before driving to San Jose to make sure that I pass.  I do it and fail by 1% body fat.  I ask for another chance.  Two-a-days for two weeks.  Yikes!  I do it again and pass!  My recruiter is thrilled!  I'm introduced via email to my recruiter's superior as my recruiter will be out of the office for a week.  I call him with a question and learn that his wife is currently a Frontier student nurse-midwife!  What are the odds?

Drive to San Jose and check in at the hotel's Officer Club.  Given orders about how to behave.  Curfew.  Meal and departure times.  Yes, sir!  Go to the hotel gym for my "last-chance workout", then shower and to bed.  Wake up with a headache at 2am, 2.5 hours before our wake-up time.  Take an Excedrin and go back to bed.  Wake up and go down with the late teen and 20-somethings group and off to MEPS.  Standing in lines.  Don't move till you're called.  Given a camo-covered NIV Gideon bible.  More paperwork...the Army writes their dates weird, so make sure you get it right.  Blood drawn, vitals taken, vision and hearing exams, urine sample with someone watching (thank God for morning coffee and a full bladder...and I suppose a bit of a lack of shame), male and female separated, strip down to your underwear and bra and do exercises.  Weight and tape.  I'm 161 lbs with a table weight of 154 lbs and pass tape at 30% body fat.  Whew!  Off to see the NP who does a physical exam.  I pass.  Deemed fit for duty.  Off to see another superior about my dual citizenship.  I sign a paper saying that I renounce my Canadian citizenship if I get selected.  Talk to recruiters, then drive home.  "Fit for duty".  Me.  Sixty pounds lost. 

More paperwork and more seems like every day brings another form.  Fill it out, sign it, scan and email it.  Yes, sir.  The big day arrives - 17 November 2014.  The board reviews.  Most of my family doesn't even know that I'm trying to get in, but a few people know and they pray for me.  Then more waiting.  My recruiter texts every now and again that there's no new info, and that we're still waiting.  Then 17 December I am sitting on the floor of my kid's room cleaning when I hear my phone ring.  I don't even see the caller ID and I just KNOW this is it.  Time to learn my fate.  Sure enough, my screen says it's my recruiter.  I take a deep breath and answer.  He asks do I want the good news or the bad news first?  Then he starts laughing and says that it's all good news, that I am officially one of six selected! 

It feels so much more real now.  Still a lot to do.  More paperwork.  Don't slip on the weight!  (hello, holidays) Still waiting for the scroll, then orders.  Scroll comes through - I am officially a direct commission.  I need to go to San Francisco to do - wait for it - MORE paperwork and swear in.  I will be a First Lieutenant, O-2.  The whole family comes and we make a day of it.  The oath is solemn and exciting.  Next comes orders.  Will we make it back East?  I requested all eastern states in my packet.  What if it's Alaska? 

Orders arrive 1 April 2015.  Georgia.  We're going to Georgia!  I tell my family, finally, and they are supportive. 

So here we are.  I have two months until I have to leave Fresno for training.  This brings me to the reason that I started blogging again, and will attempt to more often for at least a little while.  I will be in the first class of a pilot program for direct commissions.  From what I understand, it combines two extra weeks of education with pre-BOLC.  So I go to Oklahoma for a month to do this class, then to Texas for two months for BOLC.  I have gotten a lot of information and advice from people who have been down the direct commission path before me from their blog posts.  I appreciated it so much!  So since I'll be in this first new class I wanted to document my experience for those coming behind. 

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