A couple days ago I had a cousin that I don’t often talk to reach out to me on Facebook. After pleasantries she got to the real reason she sparked our conversation asked me if I could do her a favor. Her boyfriend has been thinking about joining the Navy as a Nuke Engineer; he wanted an opinion that didn’t come from a recruiter's mouth. That was something I could sympathize with, as someone who made the mistake of going in blind as a bat and trusting my recruiters' words like they were gold. I ended up in and out of the most exhausting, confusing, dangerous, and life changing four years of my life, and I wish I had twenty more to give.
I never got in trouble, I did what I was told, I went where I was told, and I kept my mouth shut when I probably should have stood up for myself. In return, I ended up getting screwed over a lot, and I had a lot of great opportunities slip through my fingertips, and I had to do a lot of work that I know I shouldn’t have had to do alone. For the most part it was good because I loved what I was doing; until it wasn’t good enough for me to re-enlist. So, for now, I am going back to school and finding odd jobs to sustain me as I throw the never-ending question back and forth of “do I go back and re-enlist or not?”
Throwing that question back and forth, made me realize that if I had someone like myself back when I was eighteen and blindly throwing myself into whatever the Navy was giving back to me, I would have made such completely different choices, and honestly, I think I would have had way better experience than the one I got.
So I am gonna start off to say: Do it. If you want to be a Nuke Engineer, or a Boatswain Mate, or even a Culinary Specialist, just go do it. One thing that I learned quickly is that every job is terrible, there is no easy job in the Navy and if that is what you are looking for, then you should reconsider joining. There are days when you are constantly move up and down and around the ship, working, planning, fixing, searching, studying. At most, especially if you are out at sea, you will have six hours of personal time in which you have to fit in sleeping, showering, eating, working out, and relaxing before you have to get back to whatever you need to do for work. And forget about weekends or even trying to keep track of days, time is just a construct when you don’t need a real calendar. All anyone is looking forward to is Sunday so you can maybe get to sleep in for a couple more hours, (if you are one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to stand watch during that time) before working after lunch again.
And when it comes down to some of the work, it’s not easy. I’ve fallen out of a small boat trying to paint the side of my ship into jellyfish infested waters, my lifejacket choking me but it was the only thing keep me afloat while my metal and leather boots pulled me down into the water. While signaling for the first time, another ship having to enter our ships dock out at sea, I’ve had to dodge chains that snapped and drag people away before they were crushed by the other boat that lost control. As a first-aid responder, I’ve had to respond to scenes where people have fallen down a ladder well and broken their arm and legs, the person screaming at me that I am incompetent and not to touch them. But at the same time, I’ve made some of the closest and best friends I could ever hope to have. I have travelled the world and been apart of missions that have helped people stranded out at sea and rescued people that needed my help. I’ve learned and trained others under me and watch them succeed past what I accomplished and go even farther in their own careers. Every step, every lesson I learned I loved passing down to the next.
To sum up, the military isn’t a walk in the park, it has ups and downs and it can be so tiring and rewarding. But whatever it ends up being for you, I promise there is going to be a moment, a person, or a memory that will stick with you for the rest of your life that will make you proud.