The Process of Enlisting...from an Enlistee
By Airman Basic Ross Larson, Ammo Flight, 104 Fighter Wing
/ Published June 04, 2009
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- During my time as an intern at the 104th Fighter Wing, my interest in becoming a part of the Wing increased daily. It was a pleasure to work with so many different people, but I was unsure of the process that was necessary to join the Air National Guard (ANG), and become a member of the 104th Fighter Wing.
The first step I took to begin my enlistment was a crucial one indeed. I thought to myself, "Is this really something I want to do?" The answer was "Yes, this is a smart decision and can only better me in the long run." Assure yourself that this is something that you want, are going to follow through with, and not regret later on. Talk to a recruiter and get to know the facts about what it means to enlist. It will give you a stronger sense of confidence and remove all those unsure feelings of jumping into the unknown.
After coming to the conclusion that joining the Air National Guard was something I really did want to do, I set up an appointment with a recruiter to learn more about the opportunities that were available at the base. I also learned about how the ANG will pay for college tuition and fees, a big factor in my book. Going to college next fall would have had a large financial impact on my parents and me but with the benefits of the ANG there will be no student loans now and I can focus on the more important aspects of school. Another upside to enlisting is that the ANG has great financial benefits. Depending on the field of work you enter into, there may be an enlistment bonus that comes along with it. In addition, the amount of pay you receive for working two days a month is unbeatable.
The next step was to get a physical exam that showed I am physically qualified for military service. Also, I had to take the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test which, based on my score, will give me a list of career fields that I am eligible for. To prepare for the ASVAB, I took a few practice tests online to get a feel for what the test was going to be like and I highly recommend taking them. Once prepared, I scheduled a date and took the two tests at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Mass. It was an overnight program which entailed taking the ASVAB in the evening, spending the night in a nice "hotel" on base, and being awakened early the next morning to begin the second test; the Military Entrance Processing Physical. The six hour long physical was composed of many different tests such as hearing, eye sight, blood and urine tests, and a general physical. Passing these two tests is necessary in beginning your Air Force career, so they should be taken seriously.
The next step in my enlistment process was to go to the 104th Fighter Wing to take a tour of the shops and departments that my ASVAB scores determined I was eligible for. In my case, I enlisted later than I should have, giving me a slim choice on what jobs were readily available. If you are dead set on obtaining a certain job, then make sure you give yourself enough time to reserve a spot. After my recruiter took me around and introduced me to the available shops, I made my decision. This is also a very important step and should not be taken lightly. This is the job that you will be doing for the next six years, or however long your enlistment is, as a member of the Guard. Lucky for me, the shop that I was originally interested in still had vacancies.
To finalize the process, there is an exorbitant amount of paperwork that needs to be completed. The forms may seem repetitive, yet, reading them closely is a must. You should know what you're getting into and what all the papers you are signing mean. By raising your hand and reciting the oath you are now, officially, part of the Massachusetts ANG.
Being a new recruit, it would be very wise to go to the Student Flight program which takes place during the monthly Unit Training Assemblies or UTAs. The Student Flight Commander helps to teach the new recruits about Basic Military Training and technical training school, giving a well appreciated heads-up for what is coming down the road. Getting the recruits ready physically with PT workouts, mentally with classroom time, as well as listening to many different speakers, the Student Flight program provides the newly enlisted recruit with an impression of what their next step in the Air National Guard will be like.
If I were to map out a timeline for my enlistment, it would be rather lengthy, but much of the time line depends on how proactive the member is while completing appointments and paperwork. I began filling out my first few sheets of paperwork in late November, and by the end of March the enlistment was finalized. This may seem like a long time to most people, but it worked out well for me. I had certain opportunities that not everyone gets the chance to participate in. My high school internship class provided me with the special opportunity to work with members of the 104th Fighter Wing prior to my enlistment. My assignments included interviewing members of many different shops and departments, such as Security Forces, Avionics, Munitions, and the Fire Department. Thus, I had the ability to look into possible career fields beforehand. This helped in my decision as to what career field I was going to choose and enlist into. The time between November and March included the tests, meetings with the recruiter, and more paperwork. Everyone's timeline may differ, from a few weeks to a few months. The important aspect to remember is that anyone interested in joining the Air National Guard should allow for the appropriate amount of time to complete the process. It's important and well worth the time.