Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Journey To Now: in 250,000 words or less

This is a truncated version of how I ended up here. Everyone's story will be different, but chances are good we'll all face similar challenges along the way.  This was my route:

  • The Decision
  • Research
  • Recruiter
  • MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station)
    • ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery)
  • DEP (Delayed entry Program)
  • Boot Camp
  • "A" School



I've done things in reverse order. I earned a college degree, a Bachelor's in Electronic Media and Film, then decided to join the military.

I joined after watching the documentary "Carrier". Actually, that's oversimplifying it. I joined because I want to serve. And travel. And get a hands-on education that has real value in the real world.

Check out "Carrier", though. Watching it pushed me into action.  This was December 2008.


#1- Know the job better than the recruiter. Or at the very least, don't go in blind. More on that under 'recruiter'.

Mass Communications specialist is a very new rate.  It was created in 2006 by combining Photographers' Mate (PH), Journalist (JO), Illustrator/Draftsman (DM) and Lithographer (LI).  Add video, graphics, and some website training to that list. There are links to the left with good information.

#2- Do you want to be an officer?   Because I'm a degree holder, the officer route was open to me immediately. PAO, or Navy Public Affairs Officer, is the commissioned officer version of MC.  I applied for PAO first.  They accept about two a year, so even though I scored well, I was not selected.  I may apply again in a couple of years, but at 32 my age is working against me.

PAOs are many times picked from the MC pool, so keep that in mind if you've got your eye on officer.


Some recruiters don't understand the rate.

This is really important.  I've talked to other students here and I almost always hear the same thing.  I don't know why, they just don't.

One guy here failed out of the school because he can't write well.  His recruiter told him he could just do photography if he wanted.  Another student just told me yesterday that he joined the Navy to shoot video.  Both of these guys rolled the dice when they enlisted.

Mass Communications specialists are expected to be proficient in everything I described in the first post.  There's no picking and choosing.  You may end up doing one type of job out in the fleet, but here at the Defense Information School, you'll be expected to conduct interviews, write news stories, take photos, record video, etc.  I'll go into detail about what we study in a later post.

You may have to fight...and wait.

I, along with many others here, was told the chances were slim to none of me getting in.  That's especially true now.  The U.S. military has plenty of potential recruits to pick from.  Couple that with the fact that the MC community is extremely small (and popular) and you've got an extra tough rate to get into.

How do you do it?  Score high on the ASVAB.  It makes you more marketable, which gives you some leverage.  Stop by Navy Cyberspace for the latest requirements to enter the MC community.

STUDY!!  I couldn't believe how many at boot camp rolled into the test hungover and unprepared.  There's free ASVAB study guides and pay ones.   You'll probably take a practice mini-test at the recruiter's office. Take it, it's a good predicter of how you'll actually score at MEPS when you take the real thing.

Walk in ready to tell him or her that you'll only take the MC rate. I told my recruiter that from day one.  It doesn't give you a guarantee by any means, but you may save yourself the headache of being pushed towards other rates.

At the end of the day, however, there has to be an open seat available.  I waited 7 months in the Delayed Entry Program for mine.  You'll find out about that at MEPS.


MEPS, or Military Entrance Processing Station, is the one-stop shop for all branches.  This place is an assembly line that collects young civilians and churns out certified grade "A" recruits ready to be shipped out to boot camp.  

Here's what happens there.  Individual experience may vary.
  • My recruiter drove me to the Miami MEPS location early in the morning.
  • I was given all sorts of tests to assure physical fitness.  Seeing, hearing, flexibility, blood, urine, etc.  This took a lot of waiting, about half a day.
  • I ate lunch on the government's tab.
  • The second half of the day involved a lot of waiting, taking the ASVAB, the typing test, then getting the job. 
    • I didn't give much thought to the typing test, until I sat down.  It was administered on a friggin typewriter!  That really threw me off.  I was given a letter and told to type as much of it as I could in...I think 5 minutes.  I finished with a few mistakes (you can't hide em on a typewriter) and was good to go.
    • The requirements at the time of my entrance were 20 words per minute.  Stop by to check your speed.  It's easy to use, although the stuff they make you copy is a little harder than the Navy test.  I just took one of tests on that site and averaged 75 wpm, 108% higher than the average.  Just thought I'd throw that in there.
    • I got my ASVAB test score back, which was a 96. My recruiter tried to get me to go the Nuclear route. Big bonus, but no way.
        • We went to see the detailer who immediately said: "Well we've got ONE spot for MC on July 27th."  This was 7 months away.  Enter the DEP.
      • I went into a little room with other newbies and swore in.  This is the first of two oaths that you'll take.  
        • The first is swearing into the Navy Reserve with a DEP contract. (you can still get out of the military at this point)
        • The second, taken on your second visit just before shipping to boot camp, is swearing into active duty (this one's for real, better be sure!)
      •  My second and last visit to MEPS was the day I shipped to boot camp.  I was driven to the area the night before and put in a hotel with the other recruits. (from every branch)  Early the next morning we took a shuttle over to MEPS where I was tested again for drugs and disease. I was held up by some paperwork issues (college transcript I think) and couldn't ship out that day.  Another stay in the hotel and another early morning later I was on my way to the airport in a big comfy bus!
      Try not to get too frustrated at MEPS.  It's a lot of waiting, and setbacks do happen.  Just go in with something to read, and don't lose sight of your goal....Mass Communication specialist!


      The DEP, or Navy Delayed Entry Program, happens to everyone.  It's very rare for someone to ship out right away.  It used to be that way.  But now, there's a longer wait for most rates.  On the plus side, recruits in the DEP have time to get their doughy asses in shape for boot camp.

      It depends on the recruiter, but for me the DEP involved a structured program.  I visited my Delray Beach recruiter office every week to participate in workouts and instruction sessions where we learned the basics of marching and military etiquette.  I was grateful to have such a great group of recruiters.

      Here's what you want to do while in DEP:
      #1  Get physically prepared.  You don't have to be ready to run a marathon, but you don't want to be lagging behind during PT. (physical training)  I ran 2-3 miles every other day and did push-ups and sit-ups after the runs.  I also did some medium-intensity weight lifting 3 days a week. Check out US Navy Physical Fitness Standards for advice on how to prepare while in the DEP.  I'll write more about Navy boot camp PT in the boot camp post.

      #2  Get mentally prepared.  Enlisting in the military is a BIG deal.  You want to be focused and ready for your ship date.  Party it up some, enjoy life as a civilian.  But don't let the day sneak up on you.

      #3  I read Navy recommended books, ran with Navy cadences on my ipod, and tried to learn everything I possibly could from recruits who'd made it through boot camp.


      -BOOT CAMP-

      Ahh Navy boot camp.  That one deserves its own post.

      -"A" SCHOOL-

      Mass Communication specialist "A" school was a mystery to me before I got here.  In a nutshell, it's like college with curfews and early morning PT.


        1. Unless you can prove it via transcripts, you will also need to take a typing test to qualify for MC. The MC ASVAB test requirement is VE + AR of 109, and not the 110 as indicated in your link (according to the most recent Navy CRUITMAN).

        2. Thank you Master Chief. The typing test, while a cinch for some, can present a significant hurdle to others. I'll add something about that above.

          Would you send me a link to the manual you're pulling that ASVAB score requirement from? is still listing the legacy rates requirements. (PH, JO, etc) /sigh

          Also, a search of "Navy CRUITMAN" returned several links, none of which listed the information.

        3. My ASVAB page has the information as taken directly from the newest COMNAVCRUITCOMINST 1130.8H Volume 4, Chapter 1, Section 6, Page 11.

        4. I've directed readers to your MC page for more information concerning entry. I'll be reviewing other links for accuracy and possibly replacing them with ones to Navy Cyberspace.

          This blog presents a unique challenge. I want to record my personal experiences while presenting information that's relevant to anyone needing good gouge. For example, a couple years from now, my boot camp experience could be completely outdated.

          The best way that I can see to achieve this is to include links after my stories that direct a reader to another site, such as NavyCS, that maintains current information.

        5. I hope you continue this blog well past your schools. The information you provide to future MCs will be invaluable. I wish more ratings had individuals that would do the same.

          I do strive to stay up to date; I read a ton of pubs and instructions :)

        6. Thank you Master Chief. I also see value in continuing this blog beyond Fort Meade. I have a world of "firsts" ahead of me and I believe my journey can act as a road map for those that follow me.

          Hopefully you can find more Sailors out there that have recorded their experiences for others to learn from. The MCs should lead the way, though, considering we're trained in communication! :)

        7. Aye.

          If you happen across blogs of other rates you find informative, or even other MC blogs doing what you are doing - let me know; you have my email :)

        8. Thanks for all the info, it really helped. i would really like to become a MC, i just have one question that wasnt answered in depth. what score do i need on the ASVAB in order to become an MC? also i noticed you work on the USS NIMITS :D i love that ship, my step father worked on it for many many years he was a master chief(retired a year ago)

        9. Thanks for reading, glad I could help. Check out Navy Cyberspace for the latest info on MC ASVAB requirements.

        10. Hey i have, a question and i really hope someone informed answers. I scored a 91 on the ASVAB and am almost positive that i met the requirements for the MC rate. But at MEPS i wasn't completely sure how the procedure went and they told me to take the ITS rate, and me thinking that was the only rate I qualified for, took it. I signed the papers and was cleared through MEPS, i ship out on Feb 2015, and i was wondering if there was a way i could change my rate before then??? i'd really appreciate a response

          1. They may have been pushing you towards ITS because that's the rate that needed to be filled at that time. The availability of MC, as with all rates, changes on a day-to-day, even hour-to-hour basis. There could be a spot open in the morning when you arrive to MEPS, and the job is taken by someone in a different state by lunch time.

            Yes you can change your rate before then, and even completely back out if you want. The point of no return is when you ship to boot camp. Tell your recruiter you want to change to MC, and that you are going to back out if you can't get it. It's your life. Ask your recruiter to submit a DAR (DEP Action Request) to switch to MC.

            Hit me up if you need any more help.

        11. Hello Glenn -- I have a similar situation like yours. I am a college graduate with a degree in Mass Comm. But, it's been difficult for me to find a job in this field because of my lack of experience. I don't want to give up on my dream and I want to become a great Multimedia Specialist. Therefore, I was considering enlisting in the NAVY. The recruiter that I talked too wasn't very helpful, so I've been hesitant on going back and talk to them again. I have a few questions; as an MC have you got the chance to do underwater photography? ( I know how to swim, I just think that would be cool to learn and up the chances of me enlisting.) Where can an MC be shipped too after A-School? And lastly, since you already had your degree, what rank did you start at? I have heard both E-3 or E-4. Thanks!

        12. Hi Hector, yeah you can definitely do underwater photography. I'm headed down to Key West in a few weeks to do a story on special forces dive training. Also, a Sailor can get assigned to a Combat Camera unit and do a tour of several years where he specializes in underwater photo/video.

          You're most likely to be shipped to a ship, specifically a carrier. An average tour onboard would be three years. You'd spend the next couple years at a shore command then reenlist for more tours if you're happy.

          I enlisted as an E-3 because I had a B.A. in Film. I think you can get to E-4 in bootcamp if you're the top recruit.

        13. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful blogs---
          By being motivated i have written something would like to share with you please read and give your valuable revert.
          Free asvab practice test

          How many times can you take the asvab

          Asvab test

          Asvab study

        14. Hi Aman, I recommend getting an ASVAB guide from the book store and taking the tests in there.

          There is no limit to how many times you can take the test, just a limit on how often. Check out this site for more information: