a financial credit check or a computerized search for a criminal record is conducted. Some types of criminal activity are clearly disqualifying; other cases require a waiver, wherein the Service examines the applicant’s circumstances and makes an individual determination of qualification. Moreover, applicants with existing financial problems are not likely to overcome those difficulties on junior enlisted pay. Consequently, credit histories may be considered as part of the enlistment decision.

Occupational Area Counseling

If the applicant’s ASVAB scores, education credentials, physical fitness, and moral character qualify for entry, he or she meets with a Service classification counselor at the MEPS to discuss options for enlistment. Up to this point, the applicant has made no commitment. The counselor has the record of the applicant’s qualifications as well as computerized information on available Service training or skill openings, schedules, and enlistment incentives.

A recruit can sign up for a specific skill or for a broad occupational area (such as the mechanical or electronics areas). In the Army, most recruits (95 percent) entered for specific skill training; the others were placed in a military occupational specialty during basic training. In the Air Force, approximately 70 percent of recruits entered for a specific skill, while the rest signed up for an occupational area and were classified into a specific skill while in basic training. In the Navy, approximately 77 percent of recruits enlisted for a specific skill, while the rest went directly to the fleet after basic training, 20 percent classified in airman, fireman, or seaman programs and 3 percent entered school 12 to 18 months later. Approximately 97 percent of Marine Corps enlistees entered with a guaranteed occupational area and were assigned a specific skill in that area after recruit training; the rest enlisted with either a specific job guarantee or assignment to a job after recruit training.

Normally, an applicant will be shown a number of occupations. In general, the higher the individual’s test scores, the more choices he or she will have. While the process differs by Service, specific skills and occupational groupings are arranged similarly to an airline reservation system, with the training “seat” and time of travel (to recruit training) based either on the school or the field unit position openings. The counselor discusses the applicant’s interests and explains what the Service has to offer. The counselor may suggest incentives to encourage the applicant to choose hard-to-fill occupational specialties. The applicant, however, is free to accept or reject the offer. Some applicants do not decide immediately but take time to discuss options with family and friends; others decide not to enlist.

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