It started one day in late August, when I was trying to decide what to do with my life. My plans were vague...something like working through the fall to come up with the money to attend UNCA one more semester, get my GPA up where it belonged, and transfer to a University I could stand.
I don't even think the advertisement I saw was particularly for the Navy, just some branch of the military, "Ask what thisnthat can do for you!" I thought of the Navy for several reasons. I had a lot of family history in the Navy...my grandmother, a WAVE in WWII, my father, my brother, my uncle. They also seemed to be the least physical of the branches of the military, and believe me, I wouldn't be joining for the exercise. And of course, I like water and boats a lot.
I did a quick investigation of the websites officially associated with the Navy, http://www.navyjobs.com and http://www.navy.mil, but they were lacking on the information I needed to make the basic decision about whether the Navy was even an option for me. At the time, it was still mostly a joke in my mind, but it was one I was willing to play through. At the suggestion of navyjobs.com, I called up my local recruiting office and spoke with a man named Doug Pressley.
Doug seemed like a nice enough guy, and he urged me to come down to the office and speak with him there, in depth, about what a career in the military really meant. My schedule was fairly open, and I made it down to the local office in a few days.
The recruiting offices for the four branches of the military are usually in the same complex, and it's no different in Asheville. They're in a squat red brick building that's part of some huge office suite, with pane glass windows facing the tiny parking lot. The windows are plastered with paraphenalia, and during office hours the sidewalks sport signs and brochure stands.
The inside of the Navy recruiter's station is carpeted in light blue, with four desks in the main area, all facing the windows. The national ensign (U.S. flag) stands in a small entrance hall, and several cheap couches surround a coffee table heaped with flyers. The walls are absolutely covered in additional information, cute marketing slogans, and letters from recruits. The right hand wall has a huge map of the world, full of push pins in different colours, which I originally took to be the location of Navy bases around the world.
Doug was busy at the time, speaking with someone on the phone if I recall correctly, so I sat down on the couches and had a chat with a recruiter named Ray Kretschmer. A friend of mine, Erskin, had accompanied me to the office, and it wasn't long before both of us were very interested in what Ray had to say. The benefits were obvious and tangible, even though there were a lot of questions left to be answered.
Still, I was impressed. Here, I'd walked into this office, and this perfectly normal guy named Ray walked up and introduced himself as an avionics technician specializing in coaxial cables. The idea of competence, of the people around me being knowledgeable, is very alluring to me. On top of that, I found out that the push pins on the map, which I'd previously assumed were the location of U.S. Naval bases around the world, was really only the locations that the four guys in the office had been in their stint with the Navy.
Not to mention the fact that I liked them. Of course, recruiters are supposed to be likeable while they lie through their teeth. But I genuinely enjoyed being in the office. Chief Acuff, the Officer of the Deck (guy-in-charge), was a very opinionated and enthusiastic man, and a very honest one. He showed a propensity and a certain amount of joy in solving problems, which was probably a good thing in his job, as I later found out.
Ray Krestchmer was just a fun guy to hang around, with a quirky sense of humour I sympathised well with. He'd met his wife, Grace, in the Navy, and gave me her home phone number so that I could speak to someone with a woman's perspective. They had also recently had their first child, a boy named Gage. Ray grinned like crazy whenever he talked about him.
Doug Pressley, I later found out, would be my official recruiter. Most of the time I knew him, he was looking for a house in the surrounding area, planning to live in Asheville permanently once he retired from the Navy in a few years. He was very congenial, and willing to go to great lengths (and stay up long hours ;) to see me through what I wanted.
All in all, my first experience with the Navy was a good one, but I continued my hunt for information. Now that I knew some of the benefits, I wanted to know what the catches were. RTC (Recruit Training Command), or boot camp, seemed like a big one, and I searched the web for information on that and every other aspect of Navy life. I spoke with everyone I could find who had been or remained a member of the Navy. All in all, I felt like I made a very informed decision once I decided that I wanted to join the Navy.
Back to the Introduction, or on to Chapter One.
Return to my Navy page.