Sunday, November 7, 2010

Off Topic - Capt. Schmoe Meets Sgt. Ashmore

Most of you will remember last month's post about #1 son wanting to enlist in the Army. In it, I was fairly frank about the conflicting thoughts and emotions I had over his decision.

The Saint That I Am Married To and I pondered the situation and came to appreciate the positive components of his decision while understanding that the negative aspects are out of our control. We affirmed our support and our enthusiasm for his choice increased as well.

Of course while this was going on, #1 Son was having some issues with the U.S. Army Recruiting Station. The only option for his desired MOS was a reserve position, one that had had him away for about six months, then be assigned to a reserve unit about an hour from our home. He would be on the hook for one weekend a month and a two week stint per year. Unless of course his unit was deployed overseas. The hook was that he had to leave for boot camp in five days!

I kind of liked that option, he would be in, but not necessarily gone. He would receive the training that he desired and yet still be in our lives. When he called me and told me what the deal was, I told him I liked it. He said that he was going to go the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) that night for processing in the morning. 

I received a text a few hours later telling me that there is no way he could leave in five days and that he had called the recruiter and advised him of such. Of course, I am at work and can't get away to speak with him face to face, so I called him.

He was honest, he said that he was not emotionally ready to leave that quick and that he was not real happy with the reserve position. He also said that his recruiter, Sgt Ashmore, was not happy and that he had been calling him all afternoon, pressuring him to sign the next day. He shared with me some of the statements that Ashmore had made, I recognized them as similar to ones made to me in 1978.  I told him to stick to his guns, Sgt. Ashmore's job was to look out for the Army's interests, #1 son's job was to look out for #1 son's interests.

Sgt. Ashmore was waiting in our driveway when The Saint pulled up after work. He was trying to contact #1 son, who wasn't taking his calls. #1 son wasn't at home so the Sgt. was out of luck. He bid the Saint good day, then left.

Several other exchanges between our son and the recruiters occurred over the next day with no resolution. Then, things quieted way down and we heard nothing for a week.

I happened to be in the town where the recruiting station was located the other day. On a whim, I stopped in to see if Sgt. Ashmore was there. I wanted to meet him and see who my son was dealing with. As luck would have it, Ashmore was out of the office, but another recruiter gave me his cell number. I called it and left a voice mail.

Ashmore returned my call within 10 minutes. Fortunately, I was still in town and we agreed to meet.

Sgt. Ashmore is a very short wiry man with a gold tooth. He is in extremely good shape and is very polite. I could tell that he was a little uneasy at my presence. Another recruiter sat in a chair behind me, I couldn't help but think he was there to intervene if somehow I went crazy and tried to strangle Sgt. Ashmore.

We began to discuss my kid's situation. I am looking for Sgt. Ashmores version, as if it is radically different from #1 son's version, I will have additional issues to deal with at home.

Basically his version is EXACTLY the same as #1 son's, except that he places the blame on my son, as he won't sign unless he gets the MOS he wants, in the regular army. Inside, I jump for joy as it appears that he actually listened to my advice and followed it.

Of course, I felt the need to share my pride and advised the Sgt. of my advice to my son. I won't say that the good Sgt. was dismayed by my advice to my son, but I could tell he wasn't as pleased with the kid's following it as I was.

After a few more minutes, we shook hands and parted ways.

On the drive home, I pondered for quite some time over whether the meeting was such a good idea. I didn't really learn anything, really didn't offer anything and I really didn't feel any better about the whole experience.

The quandary of my kid's future is up in the air, as it seems that maybe the military thing isn't going to work out after all. Again, conflicting thoughts and emotions, all of the good aspects of military service will be denied to him if he doesn't go, yet he won't be in harms way either.

Two hours after me leaving the recruiter's office, my son gets a call from Sgt. Ashmore. Ashmore tells my son that a Regular Army spot opened up for his MOS and that he won't have to leave until April. My son agrees that is exactly what he wants and agrees to go down to MEPS on Tuesday evening for enlistment on Wednesday.

Coincidence? I think not. If not, why all of the bullshit games regarding the MOS. Couldn't they just check every day until a slot opens up, then plug my kid in? What about your kid, or the one down the street?

I understand that the recruiter has to fill slots and that some slots are harder to fill than others. I also know that these are the same games that have been played for eons. They are played because they work.

I hold no ill feelings toward Sgt. Ashmore, he is just doing his job. He just needs to understand that we need to do ours.

We'll see what happens on Tuesday/Wednesday, I'll keep you posted. Oh Yeah, his MOS? He wants to be an MP. An MP, a cop. We will definitely have to discuss that one.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Schmoe, thanks for sharing. Good luck to you and Son #1.

  2. Cap,

    Glad to hear it worked out, and good on your son for not caving from what he wanted.

    I think you understand the system pretty well. The recruiters get a quota of certain slots they have to fill, and they may specify or "encourage" certain MOS', ship dates, and duty status (active, reserve, guard). The Sgt attempted to use the carrot of the MOS he wanted to get him to accept a hard to fill slot. Reserve/Guard slots have gotten harder to fill-why join the reserve when you will end up deployed and on active duty for two and a half years of your first 4 in service, without the benefits of being on active duty? Good luck going to school or keeping a job under those conditions, especially in the current economy.

    I do sympathize with the recruiter. They have a very tough job, and are under enormous pressure to make their mission/quota.

  3. Cap,

    Forgot to mention this-don't try to talk son #1 into a Army firefighter slot (12Mike?). Almost all Army FFs are miserable due to the assignments they receive-they get attached to ammo companies and end up doing collateral duties rather than firefighting. The only service worth chasing a firefighter position is the Air Force, and those have been cut way back and are tough to get. Navy doesn't have FF slots, and the Corps restricts us to the airfield for ARFF 99% of the time.

  4. Capt.,
    I was in a very simular situation when enlisteing into the USAF. Except, I wanted to go in as an officer being that I was a EMT-P, RN. I was 'duked' into signing basic enlistment papers. I called a supervising reruiter, explained my situation/complaint, then told him "I quit" as a result of the deception. My original recruiter was severely repremanded and I was "discharged" (so to speak) even though they offered to make it right and let me go to officer training. Trust had been broken.
    You gave your son really good advice. He was wise to listen. I wish him well. My husband was an MP during Desert Shield and stood at a gaurd shack of Luke AFB checking ID's for 6 months. He was just glad that he wasn't being shot at or shot down.
    Good luck to your son, I think that he will do well. :-)

  5. Thanks for the kind words folks, it's interesting to hear the various thoughts and stories regarding this subject.

    I know it's not what he wants, but standing guard duty at a stateside base sounds pretty good to me. I know however that he will volunteer for anything that appears to be out of the ordinary so it will be interesting to see where he ends up.

    Thanks again.

  6. I wish your son luck in his journey with the Army. My son went through a mess with the Marines and was on hold for 3 months before he was able to go to bootcamp. He was finally given his orders to bootcamp after I called in a favor from a VERY high ranking friend. 4 months later and he is now in Afghanistan. Yes, he volunteered for a special assignment.

    He wanted to join the FD but thanks to the recession, no jobs. But he is happy with his decision and despite my wanting to protect him and keep him out of the Marines, his wish to join won out.

  7. Thanks, Lisa - I wish your son luck as well. "The Stan" is not a very friendly place right now but I hear the Marines are doing good work there, especially around Marjah.

    Tell your son to keep the FD in his long range plans, being a veteran is an asset when applying and interviewing.

    Thanks for commenting.