The Wall of Honor in the main hall of Oswego High School displays alumni who have gone on to serve in the military after their graduation from the school.
Credit: Trent Delap, 42Fifty.

Joining the military is a huge step in a person’s life. At times it could be hard but knowing what you’re gonna have to do and where to start makes it easier. This article will not be covering the benefits of joining, but rather how to join and get your foot in the door. I will also be giving a timeline about my experience to show how long it will take.

Day 1

The first step in joining the military is meeting with recruiters. You need to be at least 17 to join. You also need to be on track to graduate. If you do not graduate, you will be kicked out of the DEP, which is the program that trains high schoolers who are joining the military. Every branch has its recruiters, so make sure you choose a recruiter that is a part of the branch you would like to join. For Oswego High School, the closest recruitment station is the Aurora Recruiting Station located at 908 E Lake St, Aurora, IL 60506. This building is secure, so you will need to be buzzed in. Just press the doorbell for your chosen branch. Once you are in, go to your branch’s office and tell the recruiters you would like to join. They will ask you basic information like your address, contact information, medical history, criminal history, and most importantly, why you want to join. It’s almost like an interview. They will then ask you to come back at a selected time and date with your birth certificate and social security card.

Day 2-5

When you come back with the papers they ask you to bring, you will start your paperwork. You have to fill out a questionnaire that is about 350 questions. They want to know everything about you, from a small scare you got when you were four to a warning a cop gave you when you were pulled over. You will also have to sign a lot of documents with your first, middle, and last name in all cursive, so be sure you know how to spell in cursive. If you can’t, don’t worry. Your recruiter will show you how. If you are 18, you will be able to sign all the documents on your own. If not, your recruiter will find time to meet your parents so they can finalize the documents you couldn’t sign.

Day 7

You will also be given a packet that you need to fill out. It is a national security background check. You will need to fill in every place out of the country you have been to, everyone in your immediate family, including their address, where and when they were born, and their contact information. You will also fill out where you went to school and every place you have worked. You will need about ten references, and you may not use the same reference twice.

Once your forms are signed, and your packet is complete, your recruiter will give you a day and time to come back so you can go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) 

When you go back to see your recruiter, they will drive you to Rosemont, Ill., where you will check in to a hotel and stay the night so you can go to MEPS early in the morning. The U.S. Government covers your stay at the hotel. At the hotel, you will be given access to a common area only for people attending MEPS the next day. You can play video games, watch TV, play

board games and meet new people. You can also go to your room and hang out there for the night.

Day 8

Hopefully, you got a good night’s sleep, because you need to be out of that room at 4:30 a.m. At the hotel, you will eat breakfast then get on a bus to go to MEPS. Once you arrive, you will go through a security checkpoint and get checked into MEPS. You will then go to medical and fill out paperwork, take a breathalyzer, get your vision and hearing tested, and then you will take the ASVAB and any other testing for your selected branch.

You will then get your blood drawn, a drug test done, a checkup with a doctor, and finally, get your balance tested.

You will then go to your branch office and go over your test results. You choose your job, take fingerprints and finalize your military contract. You will then take your oath of enlistment, and from that moment, you are enlisted into the United States Military.

Congratulations on joining. From here on out you are enlisted. The countdown to boot camp begins. For me, I leave Sept. 15 for the US Navy. From now until then, you attend meetings with your recruiters about things you should know going into bootcamp. They also instruct you to start working out because you need to pass fitness tests in bootcamp. If you are given a later date to go to bootcamp, make sure you prepare—it will help you so much once you get there.

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