Monday, January 24, 2011

The ASVAB, TAPAS, and why being a girl sucks right now

 Second installment of the "Hey wow I'm enlisting in the military!" series.   

     My roommate dropped me off at the recruiting office, and after a few questions and instructions we were off to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery).  Making sure I had no weapons, my driver’s license and my social security card we drove over to the federal building housing MEPS and ASVAB testing in our area.  We went through a metal detector and went up to our floor.  Apparently the recruiters can only go so far, so soon I was on my own.  I handed over my paperwork, showed off my license and social, signed in (felt embarrassed because I didn’t know my recruiter’s name) and got a binder of general info/rules.   Then I sat and chilled and watched Sportscenter in a waiting area.
      When it was my turn my name was called and I got my fingerprints scanned and picture taken.  Very similar to taking the MCAT.  Then I dropped off my coat and headed to the testing room.  There were rows of computers.  I signed in again with my fingerprint.  The proctor led me to a computer, asked for my service branch and then helped me choose the right test. 
     And after a short tutorial, I was set to start.  It was a maximum three hour test.  I didn’t take that long, though not because it wasn’t hard (mostly because I got bored or simply didn't know something).  I’m pretty sure it got harder every time I answered a question correctly.  The nine sections on the test are General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Information, Automotive and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. 
     The toughest for me were Auto and Mechanical.  They would show me pictures of objects I have never seen before in my life or use words that I have never heard in any life.  My favorite sections were Mathematics, Word Knowledge and Assembling Objects.  AO was really fun though difficult as well.  Assembling Objects has you link objects together or put the pieces all together and you have to choose which one has the correct pieces.  It reminded me of those old Highlights magazines that I would only ever see in the doctor’s office in which you had to find all the objects hidden in the picture.
     When I was done, I had to take two more tests: TAPAS and some sort of computer literacy test.  TAPAS stands for Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System.  TAPAS  is a personality test which gives you two statements and you have to choose the one more like you.  It forced you think because sometimes neither statement was like you.  I’ve tried to do some research on it, but I’m still not sure why it is used.  Some say it can predict some personality disorders and others say it’s used to see who is motivated and responsible and who is not.  I got my scores back from that but I don’t know what they mean other than one score is “can do” and the other is “will do”.  As for the computer literacy test, it was a tough test asking all sorts of serious computer questions that I have no idea about.  A couple of easy questions snuck in too.
     After all this, I finally got my scores.  I took the folded sheet, grabbed my coat and then called my recruiter.  He asked me for my scores.  He’s said “a 99 right?”  I looked at my scores and yep, a perfect AFQT score, a 99.  (The AFQT, Armed Forces Qualification Test, score is what is used for general purposes including enlistment eligibility.  The other ASVAB scores are used for job specific purposes.)  I admit I wasn’t quite expecting due to all the difficult questions I was sure I had missed.  Then I looked at the rest of my scores.  Perfect or near perfect in all categories except for Auto which was still a really good score.  Weird.  My recruiter was quite pleased.  He arranged for someone to pick me up and take me back to the office.
     The recruiter who came and got me was clearly not relishing his recruiter position.  He didn’t want to do it, but had to do it for career advancement.  I mean when you’ve been in Germany and Korea for the past ten years I can’t blame ya.  Actually it was funny how much the recruiters opened up to me.  I think they were just glad I wasn’t a young teenage tool with no common sense or respect. 
     Back at the office the First Sergeant, the head guy there, worked on getting me the job I wanted.  When only three jobs showed up (compared to the fifteen for the guy who got a 50 on his AFQT and no college degree) the Sergeant called up I guess recruiting headquarters and talked/flirted with the woman.  So everything’s great, right?  Excellent scores.  No legal, drug, or medical problems.  College degree.  Perfect age.  Perfect recruit.  Except for one thing...  I’m female.  The sergeant found that apparently there are no jobs available in the entire medical field except for men currently.  Whoops.
      I was disappointed.  He tried to explain this last ditch thing we could try, but it seemed like it fell under the miracle category.  He told me to consider my other options and floated the Linguist job.  It’s a great job.  Loan repayment.  Easy switch to the civilian world and making the big bucks.  Even a 22,000 signing bonus.  One problem with that: I hate languages.  That’s my father’s thing, my brother’s thing.  It’s not mine.  I could do it, but I really really rather not.  The sergeant sent me home to think about it and to look at some other jobs.
     So I left feeling pissed that with my perfect scores and experience, it all came down to availability and I could nothing to change that.  Also I knew I wanted nothing but medical.  There are a lot of great jobs in the military, but they’re not for me.  I’d rather opt out and apply to D.O. school and hope I can get by than do a job for two/three years that I don't want to do in the Army.
     Then ten minutes after I left I get a call.  It’s my recruiter (who had been busy so he wasn’t the one to go over job selection with me).  He says not to worry, that he and the First Sergeant talked to their boss and that they’re going to try everything to get me medical.  He asked if I could come tomorrow early morning, bring my college diploma, sign my packet and something confusing including circumventing the normal job selection process and exceptions…I don’t know.  But he said not to worry and that he would everything he could including finding the right person to beat up to get me medical. 
     So I might get it?  I will know more tomorrow.  After looking at all the jobs again, the only ones that interest me aren’t available to me as a woman, so it’s medical or not enlisting.
     (In a side note I got accosted by my minister because she had heard about my military intentions from others and demanded a sit down next week.  Hey, if she asked I would have told her.  The other minister asked, so I told her.  It’s simple really.)

1 comment:

  1. This is a really interesting piece. I have to retake the TAPAS test (80 is failing if you have a GED, like I do) and was wondering: how did you pass? What was your strategy?