In Their Own Words: An interview with Dean, Popeye, and Turtle

Roughly one year ago this month, 3 brave men set out on a path that would change both their and their families lives. These 3 men enlisted in the United States Armed Forces. In honor of this milestone, we (Boo, Marie and Ollie) decided that it would be fun to interview our sailors (Dean, Popeye, and Turtle) to get their point of view on what this last year was like. Without further ado, let’s get started! 

Hello Sailors! For the record, could you please tell us your name and your rate? 

Dean:
FN Dean- E3

Popeye:
SN Popeye- E3

Turtle:
AME AR Turtle- E1

When you were growing up did you ever fathom that you would be in the military? 

Dean:
Absolutely not!

Popeye:
Absolutely not! I dreaded the whole thing- with bootcamp and getting yelled at. I was kinda a messy child. I think my parents could agree.

Turtle:
No, when I was little I wanted to be a police officer more than anything, so I guess this was just the next best thing.

What prompted you to look at the armed services as a possible career?

Dean:
Money and a way to better myself.  Basically to make up for past mistakes… AKA I are not a shitbag!

Popeye:
Well, I graduated with a degree in International Relations and Russian language. I thought I had a shot at a government job, but unfortunately the economy tanked. Also my school was untruthful about career opportunities. I got sick of part-time jobs in retail and I started looking seriously at getting into a field that I would enjoy. To do that I found I needed either a security clearance or a masters. I didn’t have the money so I started looking at different ways. The best way to get it was in the military. So, I proceeded to talk to a recruiter.

Turtle:
I have had a lot of family in the armed services, back to civil war times. So it was always an option, I never truly decided it was what I was going to do til I got into my senior year of high school. I’m not a “college” guy, it wasn’t what I wanted. Then when me and Boo got engaged, I knew I needed to get in to provide for her and our future. At first, I was going to go Air Force, but Navy provided me with a quicker time schedule, and it has turned out for the better.

Was picking a branch easy? How did you go about choosing the Navy?

Dean:
It was surprisingly easy but I actually originally wanted to join the “Chair” Force to join my cousin as a linguist.  I spent over a month chatting with a Master Sergeant and set up a meeting and a time. When I got to the recruiting station, Master Sergeant had gone on leave.  So I’m thinking to myself “Well… crap!” I walked down the hall and sauntered into the Navy Office and asked “What can the Navy give me over the Air Force?”  Let’s just say it wasn’t a difficult choice.

Popeye:
Um… that is a complicated question.

I went to an Army recruiter first, and I went in blind.  All I knew was it [the job] had to be in the intel field. Army did have a great enlistment bonus, but what turned me off was that the recruiter was really eager to sign me up. He really wanted me to sign up.- Really quickly. Too quickly. To convert. By the way, the Marines were automatically ruled out. I had no desire to go into the Marines.

After that I went to talk with a family friend where to go and what to look at in order to see what they had. The Air-force was what really turned me. (missed something here)

So i looked at that. What turned me off with the Air-force was the recruiter. He was very impersonal. He gave me half answers and didn’t seem like he knew what he was talking about. It was kind of bland.

I went home and I said lets give the navy a try. I had never really considered the Navy, they were the last ones that I went to. So, I went into the navy recruiter prepared. Talking to him, he gave me yes answers. He gave me answers that were straight up and that is when I said this is what I want to do. Yes let’s give it a try.

Turtle:
As I said before, I originally wanted the Air Force, because I wanted to work on the planes. But when I went through the recruiting phase, it took them 6 months to tell me that they were 300% over their limit, and it would be a 6 month to a year wait. Well, I went to visit Boo in her home town and we talked to a Navy recruiter that had me in MEPS the next week, and had a leave date for 9 months later.

What did your recruiter tell you? Is your experience anything like what the recruiter described?

Dean:
Luckily my recruiters had the two jobs that I had been seriously considering: Operations Specialist or Nuclear Electricians Mate.  They are both stand-up individuals who answered my questions fully and always gave me the whole picture.  That’s what makes them one of the best stations in the USA; The sailors that enter the Navy through them want to be in Navy despite the challenge and obstacles that might be in their way.  It has been pretty much as expected: Boot Camp was awful but in the grand scheme not so bad and like any other job, there is stuff you will not want to do but you drive through it because it makes you better and it’s one step closer to my goals.

Popeye:
He tried to sell me my job and honestly, he didn’t know much about my job. He knew I would have a lot of shore duty and I would be a specialist to be called in when I was needed. For the most part, it would be like a normal desk job, with the exception of duty days. He was pretty right about that. And he was pretty right about bootcamp. Actually, he was more correct about boot camp. It’s a lot harder than the videos show. It’s harder and they push you and they challenge you. He said there were going to be some sucky times and he was right.

Turtle:
My recruiter told me a bunch of lies and didn’t tell me things that would have made life a lot easier. He told me not to get married when I should have. He didn’t work out with us as much as he should have. I had to call the guy that worked in the desk next to him if I wanted straight up answers. And while I was in boot, my wife called THAT guy when she was worried and needed answers. So, no, everything was different than what he told me.

Was it easy to tell your friends and family that you were thinking of joining? How did they react?

Dean:
Tears, Anger, Piss, Joy, Exuberance:  Just a few emotions that were thrown around when I was talking to my friends and family.  For the most part, everyone had nothing but good things to say, some did require a little extra information to be at ease.  There were a few people where it was the best way to cut ties.  Blunt but sincere.  I love having the safety net though of knowing the right people understand and support my wife and me in our adventures.

Popeye: 
It was a lot easier telling my friends that I was joining the navy and the military in general. The friends I spent the most free time with, were at first shocked and opposed to it, but after some time, when I got to tell them what i would be doing, they got a little bored.

My parents on the other hand- my mom in particular- when I brought all the literature with me, she was really shocked. She wanted me to really think about this. So I did. And when I showed her what it would be like, she was like ‘oh do you really think you can do that?’ and I said yeah, I really could. When I showed her the Navy thing and it was even better. She stared joking around with it. What really turned her in my favor was that my grandfather was thrilled with it. That is what got her onboard. I know my dad was onboard right from the start. It’s funny that he didn’t like that I was being underutilized and he was happy that this could be a stepping stone.

Turtle:
Well, my wife cried. Then the next day, smiled and told me she was in. With my family and friends, it wasn’t a surprise and they supported me 100%. It was Boo’s friends that doubted me to the point that it caused problems. They didn’t think I could do it, showed them didn’t I?

After signing up did you leave for bootcamp right away?

Dean:
Hahahahahaha In a word… No.  Nukes have a particularly long DEP process and I waited about 7 months.  My Navy birthday is in October but my boots didn’t hit the ground until May.

Popeye:
No. There was an October to May wait.

Turtle:
It was a 6 months wait.

What is the DEP pool? Did you have to do anything special to get prepared for bootcamp? Can you tell me a little bit about your experience being in it?

Dean:
DEP stands for delayed entry program and it is pretty much just a way to keep tabs on you and prep you for certain things you will need while in the Navy.  We read and memorized some regulations and had special meetings regarding for example, sexual harassment, college in the Navy, rank and recognition or uniforms.  It was a nice way to meet a few people you might see one day in the Fleet.  The fleet is huge but in a way still small.  There really aren’t that many degrees of separation between sailors.

Popeye:
The DEP pool is a group of people in my region that went through MEPS and are currently waiting to go to bootcamp. We met and we talked and the recruiter told us what to expect at bootcamp.

As far as did I do anything to get ready- not really. I tired to work out a bit. I didn’t realize how difficult PT was going to be. I was very unprepared in that regard. I didn’t really have to do anything else. Because of what I was going into, the only thing I had to do for my clearance was stay clean.

Turtle:
Uhm, they didn’t call it that. Or, I never heard it at least. But, there was a group of recruits that met up and worked out and stuff. I didn’t have anything special, but I think I should have worked out more. But, my recruiter didn’t seem to think it was important.

Tell me a little bit about your basic training experience. How did you get through it? What was your favorite part about bootcamp? What was your least favorite part about bootcamp?

Dean:
I DEP’d in at nearly 200 pounds an had to get roped in and did not work out nearly as much as I should have before boot camp so RTC was a rude awakening for me.  It wasn’t necessarily the working out that got me, it was the lack of recovery time.  Along with the stress and lack of sleep, sex and snacks.  I exited RTC at 160 pounds.  I would not have gotten through it without three very important people: my wife Marie and her amazing letters, and two fellow Nukes H and Y.  So much about boot camp is about the grind and the tearing down to build you up stronger, but what I remember most are some of the funniest moments I have had in my life and some of the greatest characters I have had the pleasure and displeasure of associating.  Just real sincere people with all their faults on their sleeves working together.  My favorite part of boot camp? After hours shenanigans and Chief’s twisted sense of humor.  You felt as if he was going to snap all your bones but in an instant would die for you at the same time and you get the feeling that he was just bored and wanted to do or say something outrageous.  On the other hand though, he could beat you into submission.  It never happened to me but I do have a close friend who saw the brunt of “Chief Batman”.  My least favorite part of Boot Camp was P-Days.  Until you do the real activities, before you get that uniform, you are essentially nothing.  And I’ll agree with Popeye. A whole lot of the experience was hell.

Popeye:
Well it was basically hell on earth. That is the short way of explaining it. It really was no fun. It was an awful awful time. It’s a mind game and it’s physical. My least favorite was the first week there. There was a lot of lost sleep and yelling. They made you feel like they were going to send you home. My favorite was lights out or receiving mail. Gun training was a lot of fun too.

Turtle:
My favorite part of boot camp, was leaving. But, I did like getting mail. The worst part was when I hurt my leg and had to go to LLD and it was AWFUL. Basically sitting around when I needed to be out there, training.

Please describe your rank, job title, and primary duties with the Navy: (If OPSEC Allows)

Dean:
Well as much as I can tell you is I am going to be a Nuclear Electrician’s Mate.  So we run the reactor, making the steam “Make hot rock” so to speak, to power the massive floating tin can.  Or in the Sub volunteers case, a giant lead weight.  And yeah before you ask, the concepts are in Google, the details are locked down tighter than a Nun’s panties on Sunday.  Aka Classified.

Popeye:
Well, I’m an E3 due to a college degree going in. My rating is CTI- Im going to be a linguist and an area expert. My language is Russian.  As far as the job I’ll do- it’s all classified and I don’t even know it yet.

**Isn’t all that classified?
No. What I am doing here at A-school isn’t and yes, you can put that in. What I do as a job I can’t tell you.

Turtle:
I am a E1, and I am an AME AR, which is Aviation structural maintenance and safety equipment, and AR is Airman Recruit. See, even though I am in the Navy, because I work on planes on Navy Air Bases, I am a Airman. My job is basically working on ejection seats and air conditioning systems.

What are your goals while in the Navy?

Dean:
Milk the benefits for everything its worth because whether or not I continue with this field, it is a tremendous stepping stone into being successful.  If the Navy is going to offer me tuition assistance, medical, and other benefits, I would be a fool not to partake.

Popeye:
Just to do as good of a job as I can, not make hiccups- well everyone has hiccups, I just want less of them-, not make may issues. I’m not sure if I want it to be a career thing yet because I don’t know the job yet. But I can tell you I want to become one of the better linguist they [the Navy] ever had.

Turtle:
My goal is to be an admiral! Bahaha. Just kidding. I want to stay in and learn as much as I can and hopefully make it a life time thing.

Have you been deployed yet? Do you know if you will deploy? Typically how long would a deployment for you last? 

Dean:
Still in school and but yes I will eventually be deployed. Nuclear reactors are on forward deployed vessels and need operators and electricians.  As of yet I am not sure when or how long though.

Popeye:
Indeterminate. Indeterminate. Indeterminate. LOL. No, I haven’t had a deployment and my deployments are not supposed to be typically lengthy. Then again, I may never step foot on a ship. It’s the nature of what I will be asked to do.

Turtle:
Nope. I have a shore duty, which means if I see a ship it will be for 2 weeks to 3 months.

What are you most proud of in your service so far?

Dean:
My body… and I suppose my mind.  I am in the best shape of my life and I am in the top 1/4 of my class so I feel pretty good.  I am most proud though of a challenge coin I received.

Popeye:
I’m most proud of right now is getting moved in, having a 4.0 in week 9, and having a great relationship with my instructors. Oh.. and not getting into anything stupid.

Turtle:
My fellow sailors and marines, watching us grow as a group.

How has your career in the Navy affected your life?

Dean:
Busy, busy but I certainly don’t mind it.  The Navy has given me back my youthful drive and passion and kept my mind sharp.

Popeye:
It’s a big lifestyle change so far. Lonely nights. So far there are nights when I wish I was home. There are a lot more calls home. I find I have to plan out nights a lot more. I never realized that there isn’t that much time in a day.

Turtle:
It has given me the ability to support myself and my wife. And given us a future together.

Has your relationships with family friends, spouse girlfriend changed?  If so how?

Dean:
I’d say closer with everyone that counts, especially my little brother.

Popeye:
Hard to say at this point. I always had a close relationship with my parents. I’m a lot closer with my dad than before.  With the others… the others are just about the same. I just don’t get to see them as often.

Turtle:
Pretty much the same. Though I get along with my Dad a lot better. See he seems to think he can control my brother and I, and once I moved out and joined, he realized that I am not a child anymore, and we get along a lot better now. Me and my wife have gotten a lot closer, relearning how to be apart has been the biggest challenge though.

How do you think your life would be different if you never enlisted?

Dean:
I would be in grad school getting my teaching license and likely 35 pounds bigger with a goatee and swimming in student loan debt. But I don’t deal in hypotheticals, only facts.

Popeye:
I would be in a boring dead end job. I would have fun with my friends and stuff but I wouldn’t be happy. I was stuck. Waisted potential that I couldn’t do anything about. At least here I have a chance for my potential to be realized.

Turtle:
I’d be broke, and wouldn’t be married. And I wouldn’t have the freedom to do what I want, and I wouldn’t have the experience’s I do now, or the friends. The Navy has changed my life in a large and positive way.

What would you tell someone looking to join the military? Would you tell them to join the Navy?

Dean:
Make the choice that’s is right for you and if you join the Navy, my Navy, you better damn well be 100 percent sure that this is what you want.

Popeye:
Go talk to a recruiter. Some will try to get you to sign up, but you are not obliged to sign up. You have nothing to loose going to look. Who knows it might be the best choice you make. There are a lot of programs and one might be good for you.

Turtle:
It all depends on what you want to do. Talk to the recruiters from all the branches before you decide. Research different jobs you want, and what the different ones offer. The Navy is awesome, but my brother is dead set on Army Infantry. Talk to Veterans and make sure you have all the paper work you need before you even go talk to them. Like, originally I wanted to be an MP (Military Police) but because I didn’t have a Drivers License when I went to MEPS, that wasn’t even on the table for me.

Any last thoughts that you would like to share?

Dean: In the words of Peppy Hare: “Never give up!  Trust your instincts!”

Popeye:

Turtle: HOO-YAH!

Editor’s note: Sailor Spotlight is a recurring feature on the Buoyed Up in which we profile a different Sailor every month. If you have a loved one currently serving or who has served in the past that would like to be showcased, please contact Ollie by email at buoyedupblog@gmail.com

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