The Marines are excellent at no-nonsense marketing. It's about being direct and setting the expectation.
In June 1985, there was a TWA terrorist hijacking which was my Pearl Harbor moment. That was the moment when I pledged to join the Marines. I knew nothing about the military; not even the difference between the enlisted and officer ranks. But I wanted to do my part to make a difference.
The local recruiting office housed all four military services. The Marines' office was in the back, so I had to pass by the Army, Navy, and Air Force offices on my way. As soon as I walked in the front door, a soldier stopped to offer me help.
"I'm looking to join the Marines or something," I said, shrugging my shoulders as I said the last word.
"Or something? Have you considered the Army?" he asked as he guided me into his office. He could tell I was looking for a challenge so he fired up a 12" LaserDisc to show me exciting clips of Ranger and Airborne training. For about two hours, that afternoon, this Army recruiter told me about what the Army could be. He convinced me take the ASVAB military entrance exam, later that week.
After we finished, I left the Army office and headed to the Marines' recruiting office where I met SSgt Meehan; a Marine I remained in touch with to this very day. The SSgt, who, at 27 years of age seemed to have the wisdom and experience of a senior citizen. He sat me down next to his desk, lit his pipe, and said, "I don't have any fancy LaserDiscs to show you videos. At this point, I have no idea what you're qualified to do, so I can't make any promises. First you need to take the ASVAB. Before you do that, you have to take my 30 minute practice exam."
SSgt Meehan led me to a small room where a couple other potential recruits were taking exams. I don't recall the details of the exam, but it wasn't too difficult. When I completed it, the SSgt reviewed my answers and told me that we could proceed to official ASVAB as soon as he could schedule it.
"Can the same ASVAB exam results be used for all the military services?" I asked the SSgt.
I explained to him about my soft commitment with the Army.
"If you want to be a Marine then I would like you to schedule that test with me," replied SSgt Meehan.
As I headed out of the building, I stopped by the Army's office and gently backed out of my ASVAB commitment.
"I can tell," said the soldier I had spent two hours with, earlier that day. "You're gonna be a Marine."
In my mind, I was committed to joining the Marines and the SSgt's direct and practical approach was the icing on the cake.
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