Monthly Archives: March 2015

West Coast bound

I’m preparing to head out to California later this week. I’m excited and really looking forward to spending time with a special person in my life. I can’t wait. I love road trips and so does she. It’ll be a great outing.

I’ve been working for a while but I’m taking a break to travel. I decided early on that travel is important to me and I won’t let the hustle and bustle of life in America stop me from exploring this great country.

I’m taking my trusted Audi,  so been working on it making sure she’s ready for the long ride west.

I still have to check in with my recruiter every week and inform him of any changes in my life. Injuries, employment status, law violation, anyone gotten pregnant by me..whatever little change, the military needs to know.

It’s officially spring now and it has really warmed up the last couple of days. The grass is back and the trees are getting their leaves groove on. Lots of outdoor activities all over. It’s also raining a lot here. Haven’t run or cycled in a minute. I hate being rained on while working out. I continue with weight training and keeping shape.

Hopefully I’ll write on the road..

Joining the Air Force Part 3

The next process involved going to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for a physical. There is a chance that most people won’t make it through the vigorous tests set in place to eliminate those with conditions that disqualify one from joining the military.

The process is long and starts very early. Due to this the military pays for one to spend the previous night in a hotel. The hotel was very decent. Crowne Plaza. I was supposed to report to the assigned hotel before 7.30pm on the day. You share a room with another member of the same sex even though they might be joining a different branch. I was paired with a guy joining the Army National Guard (ANG). Dinner is catered for. There is a briefing the same evening by a MEPS liaison. We were briefed on what was expected of us the following day. There were 2 groups. Us going for a physical and those shipping to boot camp. They get priority as they have flights to take across the country the following day.

Wake-up call was 3.45am. Breakfast was ready by the time we went downstairs. Everyone in the bus by 5. I had chosen to drive myself there and informed my recruiter. I followed the bus in my car to the MEPS location downtown. About 15 minutes away.

First order of business was a briefing. Stern warnings were issued about lying. Clean underwear was a must. No underwear and you are disqualified. You go home. No thongs for ladies. TMI if you ask me but hey, no shame in the forces.They could cost you time in jail..yes, the military doesn’t play around. Breathalyser test was done on all of us before the medicals started to see if anyone was high. We had been warned not to use mouthwash with alcohol the night before. Tattoo sheet was next. If you had one you fill out more paperwork. Then the same questions the recruiter asked you a couple of weeks earlier. For any ‘yes’ answer you provide an explanation.

Urine sample was given under supervision of a MEPS official. Yes, someone is present as you pee. They watch you. Quite unnerving having someone watch you pee I tell you. Next was a vision test. Lots of rapid tests..colors, depth perception etc. I failed depth perception. Hearing test was next. You press a button every-time some low sound goes off. Not easy but I’d done one before so it wasn’t so bad.

Getting blood drawn followed. The nurse couldn’t get a line and had to call for back-up. Two pricks on the same arm wasn’t my cup of tea, but it had to be done. Next we undressed and remained in boxers. We waited to go in to see the doctor. Imagine a couple of guys in boxers just sitting and waiting..hilarious.

Finally my turn to see the doctor came. He was an old dude. He already had my waiver in the file. Wanted to see the scar on my right knee. It was easy. I was in boxers 🙂 He then asked me to drop my boxers and inspected ‘down’ there for abnormal lumps and then wait for it..turn around, bend over and part your butt cheeks..yes..shocking but I had read about it but to hear it was something else. He was done in a second. Checking for hemorrhoids it is. That was a bit traumatic but I was expecting it.

Next were the exercise..walking on your knees, the ‘duck’ walk like we used to do as punishment in elementary school, marching, wrist movements, arm coordination, knee high kicks..all these in boxers..quite amusing.

I passed my medicals. Went to get fingerprints taken for FBI security background checks. Next was choosing jobs. You have to choose 10 jobs in order of priority. The job that you are interested in doing in the air force. There was lunch served in between all that.

The last order of business was the the Oath of Enlistment. It was done after a briefing about the Uniform Code of Military Justice chapters touching on desertion and AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave). Punishment is severe for those who do. The swear-in ceremony was short and voila..I was a member of the US Air Force Reserves..

“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Why Reserves? I’m on DEP (Delayed Entry Program) for up to a year. I will not ship to boot camp until a job is available for me. This means you only go to boot camp if your technical school is ready. Until then I’m USAF inactive reserve.

Trying to join the US Air Force Part 2

My ASVAB results were in, my knee surgery waiver was approved. What next? Certification of my Kenyan school certificates. If your high school diploma and college certificates are not from the US, Certification is required to see how they compare with the US education standards.

The recruiter referred me to the agency that is certified in Houston for certification purposes. I scanned and sent in my school certificates. It would take 2 weeks for the results to come back. It cost about $280 for that. It was quite straight forward. The certified copies were in my mail about 2 weeks later. I submitted those to my recruiter and I thought I was good to go. Wrong.

I still had a 20 page application form to fill out. My residence for the past 7 years. If you are from Kenya you know we don’t have street addresses per se. I had to fill in all that info and someone who knows me from those addresses and their contact number. Hard was an understatement. My siblings, parents details, any criminal background, previous work supervisors and their contacts. More questions about your medical background. It was so thorough that it had questions such as bed-wetting since age 12, history of harming yourself (slitting your wrists), have you ever shop lifted, how many beers i take a week (why is the military interested in how often I enjoy my drink) and of course the marijuana question. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, documentation is required. There were questions that didn’t make sense in there but I guess they have a reason to ask all the questions. I guess they are related to addictions and underlying psychological problems. Most of those are disqualifying reasons.

The recruiter went through all the paper work and made changes as necessary. I was booked for Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) a couple of times but for different reasons all the dates never materialized. Finally after a couple of weeks I got a date and was relieved it was finally happening..NOPE. They could not read the scanned copy of my birth certificate. They bumped me off. I was bummed to say the least.

I took my original birth certificate to the recruiter and he rescanned and sent in my papers again, luckily the second time they were accepted and I was all set for MEPS.

To say I was disappointed at times would be an understatement. Luckily they were all temporary setbacks. MEPS came to pass.

Trying to join the US Air Force..

So I’ve thought about this for a while and even consulted my recruiter. He said it’s fine. I can blog about it.

I started the process of joining the military about 7 months ago. It’s been a long process but so far so good. I haven’t lost my desire to fly but I want to do it in a systematic manner that doesn’t leave me in a tonne of debt and restrict my free movement whenever I want to be.

I was interested in a few branches of the military but they all didn’t have openings for non-citizens, namely the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves. I chose active duty Air Force had a lot of requirements. For me the biggest obstacle was getting my medical records.

The recruiter asked a couple of questions and I answered affirmative on one of those. Have you ever had any surgery..Yes, I had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) reconstructive surgery way back in 2010 at Nairobi Hospital. Just by virtue of giving a ‘Yes’ answer, I had to provide all the hospital records, surgeon’s notes, physiotherapy notes and progress reports.

It took a while but courtesy of my girlfriend in Nairobi and cooperative Nairobi Hospital, my surgeon Dr. Timothy Kagoda Byakika (Upper Hill Medical Center) and my physio Mutisya (Nairobi Physiotherapy Services) I was able to get all my records via DHL. I took them in to the recruiter and they were sent in for a medical waiver. It’s a waiver by the Surgeon General of the US Air Force  exempting you from disqualification from serving. My waiver came through a couple of weeks later. It was a nerve wracking experience but it ended well.

Next I was required to study for the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), It’s a test that you have to do before you can join any of the branches. I studied for about 3 weeks and I was still not ready but I had to do it. My recruiter booked me for the exam and I reported to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in downtown Houston for the 3 hour ordeal. It wasn’t so bad. It was a multiple choices test. It basically consists of the following :-

Computerized Test Format

  • General Science (GS) – 16 questions in 8 minutes
  • Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – 16 questions in 39 minutes
  • Word Knowledge (WK) – 16 questions in 8 minutes
  • Paragraph Comprehension (PC) – 11 questions in 22 minutes
  • Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – 16 questions in 20 minutes
  • Electronics Information (EI) – 16 questions in 8 minutes
  • Automotive and Shop Information (AS) – 11 questions in 7 minutes
  • Mechanical Comprehension (MC) – 16 questions in 20 minutes
  • Assembling Objects (AO) – 16 questions in 16 minutes

It wasn’t easy to be honest but it had to be done. Your fingerprints are taken and those are used to go into the exam room with. Kinda smart considering you might wanna try some tricks. All you have is a computer, a pencil, piece of paper to do your rough work on and a plain white  keyboard with A,B,C,D and ‘HELP’ on it. Nothing else. We were about 30 of us wanting to join the different branches (Army, Marines, Navy, Airforce, Coast Guard).  I got a 79. Not too bad everything considered. You get your scores as soon as you finish your exam. Computerization is a good thing I tell you. How long do we have to wait for our national exams back in Kenya? Yea, I know.

Getting my finger prints was quite an affair by the way. The lady doing them tried every trick in the book and for some reason my prints were not registering on the computer. Lets just say I ended up using my middle finger as my sign in. It’s the only finger that could register a faint print.

In addition to the medical waiver, there is also a tattoo waiver. If you have any form of tattoo you have to get a waiver depending on where the tattoo is. If it’s in a place that can’t be covered by uniform then too bad you can’t join. The Air force is very unforgiving about tattoos. The Army, Marines and Navy not too much. I don’t have any tattoos so I didn’t need to do that.

To be continued..