Bob's War: Enlistment
I expect everyone has a different reason for enlisting, but coming down off Vietnam and with only the Cold War going on I doubt patriotism ranked high in the reasons. Mine was simple, if not very glorious, I had fallen in love with a pretty brown-eyed girl.
Some of the fellows in my flight in Basic Training came from small towns or bad neighborhoods, so for them it was a way out. Others were interested in the GI Bill so they could afford to go to college, and some were leading lives that were going nowhere. I was among the latter. I had screwed up college and was living at home washing dishes at a small Sicilian restaurant. It was a crappy restaurant – in fact we all often went to another Sicilian place called Cataldo's on the East side of Milwaukee to eat after work. About the only thing worthwhile that came from working there aside from developing a real talent for catching rats was meeting the sweet girl who would eventually become my wife. I realized two things – that I was hopelessly in love and that there was no way I could support a wife on minimum wage so decided enlisting my be the way to go.
The Marines were out because I didn't feel like six weeks of being beaten up, the Army because I wanted a more technical job. That left the Navy and the Air Force (my apologies to the Coast Guard). The Navy had a lot of very technical career fields, but the idea of leaning over a railing feeding the fish for six months out at sea had no appeal. As a newbie 90% of my time would be sea duty. I also have this thing about being eaten by sharks. So the Air Force it was. I am not keen on flying, but I knew chances were slim I'd spend much time on aircraft (that turned out to be a bit inaccurate). So down to the Ar Force recruiter I went.
Now nothing personal against Air Force recruiters (or any recruiters for that matter), but recruiters are lying bastards. Hey, I understand they have a quota. Mine promised that I would stay in little bungalows with four other guys, a day room with TV, etc, which turned out to be a fairytale. I still wonder where that SOB got a picture of those bungalows. I did land a job as a Precision Measuring Equipment Specialist, however, so at least I wouldn't be toting a shovel or a shootin' iron. The only trick was making it through Basic Training...