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Morning Shift

New Military Recruits Preparing For Life In The Armed Services

Going to college is a major life change for a lot of young adults, but the challenges of being away from home for the first time can be even greater for those who choose to enter the military instead.

Matthew Wilbourn, a recent graduate of Phoenix Military Academy High School on Chicago’s Near West Side, was just assigned a job as hospital corpsman in the Navy.

“I chose hospital corpsman because I’ve always been interested in the medical field,” Wilbourn said. “I’m a medic, I love it … [I’m] waiting to go to bootcamp.”

Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia spoke with Wilbourn and Navy Counselor 1 Dominique Anderson about the decision to enter the military and the recruitment experience.

Below are highlights from their conversation.

On deciding to choose the armed forces over college

Matthew Wilbourn: I knew I was going to be irresponsible with money if I’d gone straight to college. I chose the armed forces and then the Navy because I know myself enough to know that I don’t want to waste thousands of dollars and time. I wanted to put that time into bettering myself as a person. So the Navy and the Future Sailor Program will be that for me.

On how recruits know if they are made of the right stuff

Dominique Anderson: The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAP, is an aptitude test. Math, english, and vocabulary sections drive the overall score, which determines if you pass. Other sections of the test are geared toward job placement. It’s not really that much different from your ACT and SAT, so one of the ways to prepare is by focusing on what you’ve learned in high school. I recommend that you get away from the calculator. We don’t use it on the ASVAP test. If someone fails, they aren’t admitted, but they can retake the test in 30 days.

Testing is just one of the requirements. Although we are a volunteer service you have to be morally, mentally, and physically qualified to join. You also have to meet the height and weight standards.

On when recruits discover their job assignments

Wilbourn: Unless a person is in high school and waiting for graduation, they’re usually in the Delayed Entry Program for about three to six months. At that time, they’re doing monthly mentoring with recruiters and meeting other future sailors. 

Anderson: Your job after the [Delayed Entry Program] will be based on your ASVAP test results and what the Navy has available. Once you make a job choice, you’ll get a list of where you can be stationed and you can then pick your three top choices.

On advice for new recruits

Anderson: Be like a sponge and be willing to learn. Pay attention to everything. If you just go into everything with a can-do attitude and trying to learn at every phase, you’re going to excel. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire segment.

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