The Truth About Joining The Military
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For many young people, especially after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, joining the military isn’t necessarily top of mind when they consider their future. This week, V is interested in learning about what factors drive people to enter the military today and why modern recruitment efforts look nothing like the patriotic messaging used in the past. Marine veteran Nicholas Miranowski and Navy Lieutenant Alexis Travis tell V about the unique paths people can pursue that don’t include fighting on the frontlines. We’ll hear about their journeys of why they became service members and how we can make sure the system is continuing to take care of the people who serve this country.
Follow Nicholas on TikTok at @ogboomer1371 and Lt. Travis at @milmama_ontherun.
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V Spehar, Alexis Travis, Nicholas Miranowski
V Spehar 00:00
Hey friends, it’s Friday, July 1st, 2022. I’m V Spehar. Welcome to V INTERESTING. As you know, on our Friday episodes, we get to dive a little bit deeper into what I’m most curious about. And today, I don’t know why, but it’s military recruitment.
Seeing as how it’s the Fourth of July weekend, I wanted to spend some time talking about our service members and the extensive journey they go on to put on their uniforms and defend our country. For some, it starts by taking an aptitude test known as the ASVAB. Did any of you take this test in high school? If you didn’t, have you ever even heard of it? It essentially tells you and the military about your vocational strengths and where you would be best placed within the system. I find the ASVAB test and the entire recruitment process truly fascinating, like what makes somebody motivated to join the armed forces, especially at such a young age? What skills and opportunities are they being promised? What misconceptions are there about actually serving? And how are we making sure that the system continues to take care of those who serve this nation? I’m excited to welcome two my friends who are going to tell us firsthand about their experiences. Nicholas Miranowski is a marine vet. He is better known as at @OGBoomer1371 on TikTok, where he talks about the military veterans and folks who are seeking mental health help. He also talks a lot about his own experiences with PTSD. I’m also joined by Navy Lieutenant Alexis Travis; you probably know her best is at @millmama_ontherun. She is also a TikToker. Of course, I love my tic tock community. She’s the project lead on something called the warrior toughness project. And we will get into that just a little bit later. But I kinda want to give you guys both the chance to just introduce yourself a little bit more. Lieutenant Travis, let’s start with you.
Alexis Travis 02:04
Yeah, sure. So as you said, I’m with Alexis Travis, more commonly, I guess, in social media sphere is known as […]. I do a lot of advocacy work for diversity, equity, inclusion and mental health. That’s kind of my passion inside of what I do in the military, which is actually I’m a supply officer, qualified expeditionary and submarines. No way involved in recruiting other than, you know, I got recruited. And I see the impacts of recruiting on the people I work with all the time, which has been really, really interesting. And that’s kind of, that’s me. That’s all there is to know.
And you’re active right now, you’re in?
I am, I’m still active duty. All of my social media work is just it’s just me, even though being part of me is right now, obviously, my job being a service member, but yeah, it’s an interesting new platform to explore what it means to be a service member.
Yeah. And Nicolas, who I’m going to call Boomie, for the rest of this interview, because that’s how I know you what made you say, yes, I’m going to join the military.
So both my grandfather and great grandfather served in the military, World War 1 and World War 2. And as a kid, I just played soldier all the time. So I kind of knew I was going in. I had all of the paperwork ready to join as a naval officer and go to the Academy. And my recruiter just bailed on me. And the paperwork went with him. So I walked into the army recruiters office, and all they talked about was bonuses. I knew I didn’t want to join the Air Force. So when I walked into the Marine Corps recruiters office, I looked at one of the gentlemen there, that’s our row sauce, that became my recruiter. And I said, hey, do you have recruiting bonuses here? And they said, No, go talk to the army. And like, oh, I just came from there, they wouldn’t shut up about it. I just want to join. And that’s when we started the process and the paperwork. I joined, I wanted to do something in construction. So I joined as an open engineer contract ended up blowing things up and finding roadside bombs. But hey, it all worked out.
I love that journey. And you are excellent at blowing things up. As evidenced by your TikTok account, which is very robust and often talks about blowing things up. I wanted to know what are some of the factors that do drive people to enlist you had said like, you know, the Army is like offering bonuses, you wanted to be in the Marines like you went for the Navy, I find the Navy to be incredibly fascinating. And not just because of the popularity of the Top Gun movie. It’s just, I think one of the coolest branches, they do really awesome stuff. What are some of the things that kind of like, get people interested?
Nicholas Miranowski 04:53
I know for myself and a lot of people that I joined with, it was escaping where you were, a lot of us did come from, I didn’t come from a low income family, but I didn’t have mommy and daddy to pay for college. So I didn’t want to take out student loans. And I was in no way ready for college, I would have failed out the first semester. And I just needed to get out of my town, otherwise, I was going to end up just doing the same old thing there. So that’s what, I think that’s what makes a lot of people join is just better themselves. There are a lot of great benefits of the military, but you do have to put up with a lot.
Sounds kind of like religion, right? It’s a place that you’re going because you think that you have a shared belief system, you want to do this thing together. You’re committed to it. It’s community, it’s a family. But sometimes there’s stuff in it that they didn’t tell you on the upfront. In those posters, with the perfect marine with the sword, or I graduated high school just the year before 9/11 happened. So we lost, like a third of the guys that I went to college with ended up just enlisting right after that, because there was this like, super call to action, like we have to do this thing. Travis, you’re nodding. Did you experience that as well?
Alexis Travis 06:14
Yeah. So I was a little younger, too young to be recruited when 9/11 happened. But I think you hit on one of the big pillars, which is like, popularity, like that patriotic duty service, motivation for joining, comes and goes. And I know that a lot of people in kind of my generation, I don’t think I qualify as an elder millennial, but around there, that was a big part of it was that post 9/11, like, we got to do something. So like, it’s those people who want to get away, like he was talking about where it’s like, anywhere, but here is fine. And someplace that will pay, you know, give me a bed and three square, and some vocational training, and they’re going to take me out of you know, where I grew up, sign me up. And there’s, you know, that patriotic duty, which is great. But again, like, it comes and goes depending on a lot of big cultural factors. And then I think the third one, which is one of the ones that I see a lot, it’s one of the ones that resonates with me a lot is like, there’s a lot of good benefits. There’s the GI Bill, there’s bonuses, there’s the vocational training that you can either stay in or take out into the civilian sector, we have lots of programs to help you with transitioning those skills into their civilian equivalents. And it’s like, if you don’t want to shell out $100,000 for college for something that you either can’t make into a profession or at 18. Like who is really totally sure what they want to do. But then instead, you can get paid to get free training. Like that’s not, it’s not a bad gig, like a lot of the benefits a lot of them, you know, recruitment tools that we use like that. I think they’re effective.
Yeah. And recruiters, like you said that those moments of deep patriotism come and go, there’s like a World War 2, or there’s a 9/11, or there’s like the Gulf War kind of thing, we were able to kind of capitalize on this idea that we have to do something and like, I did go to theater school. So the boys that came from my class were singers and dancers and had former Broadway dreams. And they went and signed up because we were in New York City when it happened. I mean, these guys, and I am saying guys, because the ones that I knew were in particular men, but I know a lot of women also signed up at this time as well. And like, absolutely respect for them just talked about my personal experience. They were like, I’m taking off my tap shoes, and I’m joining the army. And I’m just going to go and do this. And we had that moment, but we haven’t really had that patriotic strike since then. And Gen Z is decidedly really kind of anti-war, right? They’re not feeling that. So how have they changed the messaging from like guns and grunts and patriots, to, hey, we can train you how to be a doctor, or how to be an engineer, how to fly a drone, or how to do all these kind of like computer things that they’re interested in?
Alexis Travis 08:59
I think you nailed it. So much of it goes into messaging. You know, the recruitment, like I said, when I was at, you know, that age where those recruiting ads were aimed at me, it was all the crisp uniform and your sense of honor and duty, and that’s what they were striking on. And that gets some people in the door for sure. Especially people like us with military backgrounds. We’re like, yeah, my grandfather did some very patriotic stuff. I would also like and my grandmother’s both served as well. You know, it’s like I want to be part of that legacy. But right now people are a lot more I think pragmatic. People are a lot more practical about I want you know, food and some of it’s the recession it’s you know, it’s the general state of the world after living in closets and single bedroom apartments for two years. Is like I want to place, I want opportunity. I want to open doors I want experiences which is something I think we capitalize on a lot. Speaking of Top Gun is like, you see that and you’re like, where else? Am I going to stand on a flight line? And do this while a jet was is nowhere? And you’re like, what if I could do that? And they would pay me sounds great. And so I think that’s a lot of training. And then the really unique experiences is kind of what we’re trying to capitalize on now.
V Spehar 10:20
Boomie, I want to ask you, Lieutenant Travis just made a good point that like for a lot of the elder millennials, it was like our grandpa’s right, or our parents oftentimes, were fighting like World War 2 or the Korean War. And then that was so cool. And like my grandpa’s had the best stories, and it really romanticize the military. But then I look at my uncles who were more like Vietnam and the Gulf War. And the way that they came back was not the same. It was not the same, if I saw their experience, have that same kind of like romantic view of the military. Do you think some of the issues with PTSD and with just the lack of services that there have been for folks who are getting out of the service, color’s the way that people trust the military to even want to sign up in the first place?
This is a touchy subject for me. So, my grandfather was in World War Two. And he didn’t talk too much about the service. He walked around with a bag that people knew were his awards and things like that. And he walked around the farm and dug holes and buried all of them. My uncle was in Vietnam. And before I went to Afghanistan, I’m like, hey, what was your experience? What can I prepare for what? And he wouldn’t talk about it. It’s like, we’ll share stories at the end. Like, okay, there are great services that veterans have. As much as people complain about the VA, if you respectfully advocate for yourself, you can get any service that you want or need. But the issue is, when we get back into a corner, or feel like that, we explode. And the VA isn’t the greatest either at telling us what we have or need. And a lot of veterans just give up. So I don’t know if that’s the turning anybody? I sure hope it’s not. Because my experiences have been a lot different. I’ve been in the VA system for 10 years, and I’ve had amazing service through them.
V Spehar 12:37
Yeah, before we get kind of out of that, and into what happens after, part of the experience is being in the military. And like you said, you asked questions about like, what’s it going to be like? And is it going to be scary? Is it going to be cool? Like, I have this expectation of like, a really tight niche group of like brotherhood sisterhood? Like what is being in the military? Like, on the average day?
Oh, man, there is no average day, there’s no average day.
It really does vary from job and branch of service. My time in, I mean, combat engineers had a 25% life expectancy when we were deploying. It was not great. It was even less than World War 2 when we were carrying around flame throwers.
What exactly is that? So this is when you’re looking for explosives in the field?
So, we didn’t have to grade […]. So we were very close, very tight knit. We knew everything about everyone. And, you know, even my, even the subordinates that I had, they, I knew, you know, their family, their mom, their dad, their wife, their kids, whatever it was. And every single weekend, we were doing something together, it was a family.
Alexis Travis 14:02
So much of it comes down to you know, command, we call it command climate, I assume it’s the same across the branches. And kind of the not the problem. But the complicated thing about that is you can have a ship that has a really difficult deployment schedule, or they’re in the yards and they’re, you know, they’re getting really ground down. And with the right kind of supportive leadership, the right kind of interactions, which are managed at like a big cultural level, you will still have that camaraderie where it’s like, yeah, we all just turned wrenches and we sweat and we counted boxes for 18 hours, you know, sweating in the build or whatever, and we still want to go grab a drink after work. And you can have a ship that has, you know, by military standards, a pretty relaxed schedule. And if there’s a lot of dissonance among the leadership, it If there’s a lot of undermining of each other inside of that command, if there’s a lot of infighting, then it’s going to become, you know, like, the cookie cutter worst corporate job where it’s like, I clock in, I do my job, I leave. Because you don’t want to be around that any longer than you have to, you’re not going to suffer more than you have to. And different rates, we call them rates. I know the other branch is called like MOS and some other things, but the different jobs, foster that camaraderie in different ways.
That makes a ton of sense to me. And we were going to take a quick break right now. And then we’re going to come back and we’re going to talk a little bit more about the culture inside the military, for active folks what types of jobs are available? I think when we think of the military, we’re often thinking of like, okay, here’s your gun go. But that is like a very small amount of what’s out there as far as jobs and training go. So we’ll just take a quick break, and then we’ll come back and we’ll get more into the diversity of training that’s available. Okay, we are back. And we are going to be talking now about just we know what the recruitment practices are. Now we’re going to talk about what it takes to actually get in and then some of the cool jobs that are available in training that you might get access to if you do join up. I was reading here a quote from the Department of Defense says that 71% of young people are unable to serve in uniform due to obesity, drug abuse, poor education or crime record. And since the 1980s, the percentage of males who identify themselves as definitely will enlist is down to just 8%. Can you guys talk a little bit more about those standards of fit for duty? And maybe Boomie start with you?
Nicholas Miranowski 16:42
Yeah, absolutely. So the body composition that you have to keep within, you know, the height and weight standards of the military is actually being shown to give people body dysmorphia. But I mean, even as a, you know, six foot, six foot one, I think your max is like 215. And then you start getting taped. The tape is a horrible thing where they measure, they measure your waist versus your neck. And then they do like the pinch tests. And they figure out if your body fat is too high. So for the people who are big boned in the Marine Corps, or just like the corn fed people, you would call them, like, I had a friend who was like that, and he had to work out his neck, so much so that he would just, they wouldn’t have to do any pinch test or anything and just pass.
This is like sorority hazing. I swear to God, this used to happen and sorority hazing in the 90’s they like, draw circles on your fat, how do you even work out your neck?
Alexis Travis 18:01
Harness? I only know that because of the tape.
It’s not great for any of your joints. But ya know, that’s what you do.
And the purpose behind having a fitness standard throughout your career is a couple fold. One, we don’t always have steady medical access, right when you’re on a submarine, you have an independent duty corpsman, which is a corpsman for us. It’s like a medic, with some extra training. And that’s it. There’s no MD, there’s nobody like that on board. And so they’re trying to mitigate risk by saying, okay, if people can do like these basic things, the likelihood that someone has a medical emergency that’s outside the capacity of what we can provide on the submarine is lower. And they’re balancing that risk with, okay, sure, it would be great if everyone could run a six minute mile, their hearts would probably not give out mid deployment. But if we ask 50 year old men to run a six minute mile, the likelihood that they injure themselves trying to do that is higher, and so they’ve like, tried to find whatever that happy, middle ground is where everyone is, like, probably healthy enough that nothing bad will happen. But getting that healthy, also doesn’t hurt them. The problem comes where the rubber meets the road with that, because the height and weight standard is based on body mass index, across all the services, except Body Mass Index has been proven like over and over and over again to just not be a good indicator of individual health. In fact, there was a recent study that said people in the overweight category of BMI, traditional BMI, have better health outcomes than a lot of people in the healthy BMI range. So there were kind of using apples to measure oranges in a lot of ways, which is what leads service members to be dissatisfied with the way the fitness test is being executed because we’ve conflated health, so that we don’t have these like complicated medical emergencies, too often with fitness, which is like ability to do the job. And we’ve brought those things together in a way that is mostly just led to mass confusion, I think.
V Spehar 20:24
Yeah. And we’re, you know, looking at the jobs that we were talking about, the folks can do, the jobs have changed from grunts with guns, here you go, let’s, let’s go do the thing, too. You know, how important is the physical fitness test to somebody who is a chemical engineer, or to somebody who is a manual engineer? Like, like you were booming with the operations engineer? Like, what is, how are they adjusting for that? Is there more of a focus on intelligence and aptitude for these skills? Or are they still like, hey, we’re still the military, and we still want you to be physically looking a certain kind of way.
So I know, for a lot of the Marine Corps jobs that you get, it’s based off of those, the GT scores that you get. So if you’re good with, you know, really good with mechanics, or the mechanical portion of the ASVAB, those are more of the jobs that you’re open to. So depending on how you score on those will open up different MOS for you. Physically, it’s the same across the board. So if you are a, what we’d call a paper pusher and administration, you still have the same physical standards as the gun toting grunts.
With the exception of special forces, all of the Special Forces groups are authorized to put additional physical restrictions. So like the Navy SEALs are held to a different standard than me.
V Spehar 22:03
We had talked earlier about the ASVAB test telling you what you’d be good at, and the amount of different types of jobs that are in the military that aren’t combat related, necessarily, or that aren’t, here’s a guy and go kill people, which is not what happens. That is not what we need to be like, complaining about or talking about, what kind of jobs are there that people might not expect they could get in the military?
Unfortunately, the Marine Corps has been phasing out a lot of different jobs just because of we don’t need them. We don’t use them. Enough tanks have been phased out. However, I think combat cameras still in the Marine Corps. So you can be a photographer in the Marine Corps. Little known fact, well, I’m sure a lot of people in the military know, but the President’s own band is the Marine Corps.
Yeah, some of the most incredible musicians in the in the nation that try out for this band. It’s incredible.
Absolutely. So yeah, that drone pilots, that’s a big thing coming up, cybersecurity is a huge thing that’s coming up. So a lot of it is transitioning from, you know, ground pounding to technology base jobs.
So we also have Combat Camera, and some really cool sort of things associated with that. But we also have a lot of other things cybersecurity, like you said, nuclear power is really, really big, you know, underway under nuclear power is, is a big thing for us. And if you want to talk about like skills you can take to the bank. Understanding how to operate nuclear equipment, being a nuclear operator at the enlisted or officer level is huge in and out of the military. All kinds of administrative roles. So even if you’re like, look, I am great at typing, bad at mechanic’s, which is me for sure. Please do not actually ever hand me a wrench. You know, we’ve got rules for that we have construction of all kinds, right? You want to maintain the equipment, you want to drive the equipment, you want to be a plumber, you want to be an electrician, we’ve got them all. And then on the officer side, you know if you want to drive ships, fly planes, lots of opportunities for different things there and then lots of what we would call you know, support roles or whatever staff roles.
V Spehar 24:31
Yeah, there’s like mechanic, there’s pilot, there’s helicopter pilot. There’s so many things the movie Top Gun, right? You can, don’t join the Air Force. Join the Navy if you want to be top gun.
The Air Force lands on big long runways, if you want to land on a teeny tiny moving aircraft carrier and call yourself the best pilots.
Marine Corps, too. And you’ve got medic and a lot of these skills are things that translate to the real world? But how likely are you to actually be able to pick your job when you’re coming in? Or is that something that you earn later on?
So it varies in the Navy, we have basically two pads. One is you pick your job; you sign a contract for that job. And that is based on your ASVAB score, like you said, so there’s a minimum total ASVAB score, you need to join the Navy. But then there’s a bunch of parts in the ASVAB that says, like, are you mechanically inclined? Are you good at math? Are you good at English? You know, whatever. Are you good at reading, can you understand that instruction manual, not my best following instructions, not an area I scored well on. And each job has a minimum for all of those. So if you want to be the person who fixes a diesel engine, you don’t necessarily have to score particularly well in some of the admin areas. But if you want to be what we call Yeoman, which is the person who does all a lot of the admin work, you don’t necessarily have to have one of those sections, you have to like, understand how things are put together. You don’t necessarily need to score as high in that type of knowledge, in order to get those jobs. So you can pick if you don’t like any of the jobs you’re offered, initially, we have something called an designated Seaman, which is where you’re gonna go through boot camp, and then we’re just going to put you on a ship. And that ship is going to plug you into a job that they need you for. And then you do something called strike. So you say like, okay, I’ve been on the ship for six months, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. Now that I’ve seen how the ship operates, I’m going to try and join those people. So those are kind of the two routes. And there’s pros and cons to each for sure.
V Spehar 26:49
Sure. I think it’s good, though, like so many people are looking for a purpose, right? They’re looking to be told what to do, how could you possibly know what you want to do until you’ve seen what there is to do. And at least with that option, even if it’s a little bit harder, or maybe takes longer to get where you want to get, you at least know what’s available to you where you want to go with it.
My only caution on the undesignated Seaman program is as with all things in the military, the needs of the military come first. So even if you’re like that job is great, I would be great at it. I am the best navigator ever. I tried it out. I’m so cool. If you don’t have the qualifying ASVAB score initially, you might have to retake it. And if they don’t need people doing that, you can’t strike for it. So it is a bit of a roll of the dice. Just a heads up. That’s the con on the designated Seaman program.
Yes, that thank you for sharing that that is definitely like such an optimist. I’m like, great, I would just do that. That sounds great. It’s we’re gonna take one more quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to talk a little bit about transitioning to civilian life after service and how the skills that you learned in the military can be helpful to you but also how sometimes walking away from the camaraderie and the family and the regimen that you get used to can be really difficult for people that are just going back to the regular world. So we’ll have that all right after the break. Okay, we are back with Lieutenant Travis and my good friend Boomie. And we’re going to talk now about how you translate the skills and the things that you learned in the military back into the civilian world after your eight years, or is it eight years? Or is it, can you just explain to folks once you’re in, you’re in, but for how long?
Alexis Travis 28:43
So it’s for a lot of what rates for a lot of jobs it’s 4 and 4 for active and then 4 in something called the inactive ready reserve, which basically means you’re a civilian. But if a big major conflict World War Three breaks out, you’re the first ones on the draft roster, because we already like paid to train you and you already speak the lingo. But yeah, so it’s technically eight. Some people also transition and do some of that other four in selective reserve, which is the one weekend a month, two weeks a year sort of vibe.
Is there any way to get out before those things? Or it’s like, can you get jumped out early? Or is it just it’s not a possibility?
Voluntarily or involuntarily, before then?
Both, I guess, let’s say you’re in, let’s say you signed up, you went through boot camp and you’re like, you know what? Turns out this isn’t for me; you don’t have that choice. You can’t leave.
There are a couple different ways. I don’t necessarily want to go into them too in depth.
None of them pleasant, moving on, next question.
It’s not necessarily that they’re unpleasant, but you know, it’s an investment like anything else, not, you know, the military is not trying to be like predatory. But after they’ve invested a certain amount of money in you, they, they want something in return. The most common thing if someone has that reaction is that they would either do something called DOR, which is dropped on request, like at Boot Camp, like if you show up at boot camp and you’re like, you know what? No, yeah, it’s possible to drop out at that point. If you make it all the way through the first couple of years you’re in, there’s something called like failure to assimilate. I think that’s the word. That’s usually because you aren’t following the rules well, and your command is doing that like to you, they’re saying, we get it, you want to be here, but you’re not cut from the stuff we want. But it’s, you know, if you were like desperate to get out, that’s probably the only one I can think of. But it’s a process.
V Spehar 30:56
Do most people who make it to boot camp make it through to active service or to mission?
Yeah, I would say most do.
I think that’s like a scary thing for folks. Like, am I going to be good enough? What if I’m not.
Again, it’s an investment. I think people underestimate how much the military wants you there. We want you to succeed. Because if we’ve narrowed you down to the people who are willing to volunteer, and who are physically and mentally qualified, now, like you’re something special that we want to keep, because you’re part of a very slim part of the population. The Navy actually just introduced something called warrior toughness. Oh, yeah. Tell me about that. Yeah, so it was developed for Recruit Training Command, because we were seeing people, you know, drop throughout boot camp, and that we have a program through the Navy SEALs, where they worked with a bunch of psychologists like NFL psychologists, you know, sports psychologist, those kinds to be like, Okay, how do we make people tougher, so that when times get tough, the people are tougher than the times. And they folded that into a program at Recruit Training Command, where they teach all sorts of sports psychology skills, you know, kind of train the mind, train the body, train the soul. And they saw an immediate improvement in the people who were able to make it through the program, able to make it through those initial schools able to kind of meet the stress of the military, because it’s not an easy job. And not only be okay, but perform well. So there’s a heavy investment once we get you to boot camp to get you through boot camp, we want you there.
V Spehar 32:39
I am fascinated by that. And so it sounds like they’ve adopted some principles of like positive psychology or the idea of flourishing, like wanting people to feel wanted feeling in courage feel like they can and that comes from sports training?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we’re talking about like mental rehearsal, you know, seeing yourself make the perfect layup, seeing yourself, perform whatever your job is perfectly, we know that that can help you perform better self-talk, replacing like, I can’t do it, I’m a failure. I’m the worst with, I’m trying, I’m learning I’m going to succeed. We know from civilian high performing sports psychologists that, that has a direct impact on how you do in stressful circumstances. And they were really grabbing that and folding it into, we don’t want you to just get yelled at, and toughen up, because you’ve been through a lot of stressful things, which is kind of like, I think when we all think of like World War 2 boot camp, it was like, raining in the mud on the o course. While you’re getting screamed at and they’re like cool if you can survive that you’ll probably survive war. And now it’s like, but we can teach you these skills that make you stress resistant, that make you able to perform under, you know, duress, to perform in these rare but you know, critical moments. Why would we not arm you with those tools early in your career so that you do better?
V Spehar 34:11
There’s a lot of criticism for the ways that we transition people out of the military, right? So best case scenario, you had a lovely time you saw the world, you ate a couple good tuna fish sandwiches and now you’re going out into the world and you feel like you’re ready to just like get a job or do whatever the case may be. For many folks, that is not the way that it works. You’ve gone from being a part of this well-oiled machine, a part of this disciplined lifestyle into the civilian world where you’re like, okay, they haven’t really addressed my PTSD. They haven’t really addressed any injuries that I got. They haven’t maybe properly addressed like where I’m going to live, what I’m going to do. Can you talk a little bit about what the military’s current plans are for reintroducing folks out of service and into civilian life?
We have a lot of different programs, the most common of which is called TAPS or TAPS GPS is, it’s the sort of two week class where you can choose either I’m gonna go get a job, or I’m gonna go to school. And then they just throw a lot of information at you. If you’re gonna go get a job that, you know, they’ll sit down and they’ll say, okay, try writing a resume, and then they’ll talk with you about, yeah, you’re using these words, that don’t mean anything to anybody except the Marine Corps, the Navy, please don’t use those words, use these words instead. And they’ll help you through some of that, for if you’re going to school, they’ll say, okay, these are the 9000 forms to fill out to get access to your GI Bill. Best of luck. Study hard. Not really. Both courses have, like I said, a lot of information in them. But those are kind of the two tracks. And the same, you were talking about, oh, they’re not addressing my injuries. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is like when I’m ready to get out, 18 months or so before I get out, everything goes to medical, Got an earache? Medical. Twisted my ankle? Medical. forgot to tell them that five years ago, I tripped and broke my knee? Medical. right? Everything goes to medical, because it takes time to get into your record, and you need to have it in your record to have it be service related. And then you need to have it service related in order to get your disability benefits. And people miss out on that a lot. And then the next step is finding people to help you advocate. Wherever you’re at in that transition. There are veterans organizations, there are other veterans like the VSO, who’ve been through that process. And they’ve figured out you know, which hallways in the maze, lead to dead ends, and they want to help you to the fastest way to the center of the maze. Not all veterans organizations are created equally. A lot of them are, you know, they’re a result of the people who run them. But there are a lot of really good ones out there. And if you can find someone to help you advocate for yourself who can navigate the system, it makes a huge difference in that transition and accessing those benefits.
And Boomie that’s something that you’re working on with the […] discord, yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Correct. o right now we have a few, a lot of it is just elder veterans, as we are calling ourselves now people who have been there done that, and we’ve gone through the troubles of trying to get, you know, within the VA system, because when you initially go off of active duty, and get transitioned over into, you know, the VA for compensation and pension or things of that nature. A lot of people immediately think, oh, I can go here for anything. And just like, you know, the battalion aid station, you can’t, a lot of VAs for service connected, you know, ailments. Otherwise, you still have to pay your co-pays, and things like that it’s a normal hospital. But they don’t do a very good job at putting you right in the center of that maze. They kind of just lead you to it, and they’re like, have fun. But there are organizations, you know, even for myself, and the people within there, they’re like, hey, if you need to talk, this is where you need to get to. And there’s an who else, we have a veterans VA loan officer that’s in there as well. So a lot of it is just elder veterans helping, you know, the younger generation, make that transition, where steps and taps failed.
V Spehar 38:46
Coming up what the military or actually Congress could be doing to help more veterans. And one simple thing, people who are thinking about joining the military can do to learn more about what it’s like to serve, stick around.
Boomie, a lot of times on TikTok, you talk directly to your followers about mental health and the military, especially about what happens once they get out of service. And sometimes they’ll be watching your videos and the way that you just like, look into the camera and you’re like, I see you I got you, like and you even say sometimes I’ll see you tomorrow. We are not going to do this right now. Is that something that you find you have to do for a lot of veterans coming out of the military, just letting them know that they still have that camaraderie available on the outside?
I would think so. I’m just letting them know that there’s a group of people that are here, that actually care that aren’t just gonna say, hey, yep, talk to you know, talk to someone’s oh, it’s good. But the you know, hey, I’ve been in that situation. It really sucks when your appointment gets cancelled and the next one is still six weeks out, you talked to your mental health treatment coordinator and see if there was anything else that you could go to anywhere, you know, you could pop in, instead of just oh, this sucks. And this is how it is. Because in the military, that is how it is, just, you get the word. And that’s the word, cut and dry. So but with, you know, with the VA with other organizations, there’s a million different options. So it’s just getting the veterans to have these options, which is a difficult part.
V Spehar 40:38
I worked on a program through the VA’s Whole Health Department, which a lot of folks might not know about the whole health services, love the whole health people, I ran their food. We were working on like a food systems thing, because we found that a lot of the vets that were experiencing PTSD or lack of hope was because that they were food insecurity was just as simple and complicated as that it just getting one thing done that we could get the next thing done. Is the military seeing this need to put more guardrails in place for the folks that are getting out? What are they doing now to help transition to other than taps like for the actual person?
So, I think that part of the issue with I guess, the question is, the military, does it actually have a lot to do with that transition process? Congress has a lot to do with that transition process. So one of the pieces of legislation that I was reading about it a couple of weeks ago, they were talking about putting in legislation that automatically transition your health care coverage, from TRICARE to the VA, you know, for some period of time, or for the people who qualified because that doesn’t happen right now, you have to go through all of these steps and, you know, provide some unicorn blood or whatever it is to make all of that happen. And that seems like a really insignificant thing, oh, we’ll just automatically transition you. But if you’re talking about someone who has only ever been on their parents health insurance, and then TRICARE, and then you just toss them, and the first time they ever think about the next time they ever think about health care is when they break their leg. And they’re like, What do you mean, I don’t have insurance. I’m a veteran. That’s something that happens. It’s a place where the friction between the military and transitioning to civilian life really drops a lot of people off. And so automating or making those systems opt out instead of opt in is one of the ways lawmakers are trying to ease that transition and put those guardrails up.
V Spehar 42:41
Is there anything that you guys see coming up in the future to better the mental health aspects of having a military experience?
The Navy is pouring a lot of resources into resiliency training. So that’s, you know, giving you the skills to understand where you’re at mentally, and know what resources you need to get we you know, to get back to ready to fight is in, in the military. That’s the thing. And obviously, those skills to some extent transition to the civilian world of, okay, I’m having a little bit of a stressful day, these are the coping skills that you know, will help me get back on track, I’m having a really stressful day, I need to call in a friend or a family member to help me, okay, we’ve gone way past, you know, whatever, it’s time to call on medical professionals. And we’re doing a lot of work right now to increase access to mental health resources. The DoD just put in place a contract with tele mind. So telehealth services, so that you just literally don’t want to go to base medical because you don’t want people to see you walking in and out of behavioral health. Because despite many of our best efforts, the stigma is still real, if you want, you know, to start seeing someone and your laptop and you know, your bunk bed is the best place to do it. They’re trying to provide that as an option. Doctors on demand is another one covered under TRICARE. So they’re looking for ways to use what we would call cots, commercial off the shelf things that are already available to plus up the resources. And then obviously, the next step and that issue becomes telling people, because the number of people who go to medical, they say, hey, I’m having a mental health problem and they say great, we will see you in six to eight weeks for your intake and your like in six to eight weeks. What is currently a little problem might be a much bigger problem. And knowing your rights and your available resources is something that that we’re still working on
V Spehar 44:46
Boomie anything to add what’s the most important thing the military can do to improve how they take care of the people who serve?
I think what they’re implementing with that, you know, telehealth I think that’s a very smart move. And to make that, you know, readily accessible would be great. Because I know my generation and the generation before me did not do a very good job at making that access available. It was there, but it was never used. Because you were the weak one, you are the one who couldn’t handle it, you were the one who was broken. And anyone who walked through the doors for behavioral health, for something like PTSD, even if it was a minor thing, and you can do, you know, six to nine week, you know, therapy session, like I’ve done many of them and be okay, and continue to fight. You didn’t do it, you walked in, and you were flagged for unfit for duty, almost immediately. And for that to get changed, was my heart.
V Spehar 46:04
Showing people that you care is a universal thing, military or not. And I’m just glad to see the military kind of catching up on those common songs, care initiatives, that hopefully, we do get to take care of the people who took care of us for so long. And I’m so appreciative to the two of you for being here and helping educate us on debunking some of the myths of recruitment and some of the myths of what it’s like to serve and what it’s like to get out. And hopefully people learned a bunch here. And, yeah, do you guys have any final thoughts for folks who are listening at home?
The only thing I would like is, you know, if you if you’re thinking of joining the military, I think an underappreciated resource is social media. You can come on mill talk, you can, you know, search whatever branch you’re interested in, recruiter on, on Instagram, or, or you can avoid the recruiters and search for people who are not recruiters if you know, if you want to see what daily life is, like, a lot of our lives are very parallel. You know, I’ve got toddlers, I changed diapers, I cooked dinner, right? Like I have a husband, he was a grad student, we were, you know, it’s when I’m not in uniform, were people were, and there’s, there’s like a weird understanding out there. And if you are interested, or you think you might be interested, come hang out with us on social media, see what our personalities are like, see what our days are, like, see what our struggles are, I think it’s a really cool lens into that potential lifestyle.
I would have to say, for anybody thinking of joining, if you are in that recruitment stage, make your service your own. If the recruiters rushing you, find a different one. The on designated Seaman route, or the open contract route, isn’t safe. Take your time, get what you want. And you’ll be a heck of a lot happier.
Alexis Travis 48:01
keep as many doors open as you can, if that means you have to retake the ASVAB. So you qualify for a job that you’re actually interested in. Wait the 30 days and retake the ASVAB. And try and talk to people in the jobs you’re interested in. Because what your duty schedule looks like what your deployment schedule looks like, how much you get yelled at. All of those are job dependent. And if you want the truth, talk to the people who are in the job.
That is excellent advice. Thank you all so much for being here. And thank you for your service. And thanks for just being great friends to me. I really appreciate you so much.
Thank you. Feel so honored.
That’s Navy Lieutenant Alexis Travis and marine Nicholas Miranowski. Hey, on Tuesday, we’re going to have another show that’s built around the theme of Independence Day and specifically the idea of independence. I’m going to be talking with Adrienne Lipscomb, she is a chef and co-founder of the 40 acres and the meal project. She believes that freedom is based on food sovereignty. What does that mean? You got to listen to find out, in the meantime, please leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550. Let me know what freedom means to you. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Follow me at @underthedesknews and please have a safe and restful weekend.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.