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November 05, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, November 05, 2004

Four explain their decision to join Four explain their decision to join (November 05, 2004)


Petite, blond and energetic, Summer Owens, 17, stands out among the other recruits at MEPS last Friday. She looks more like she belongs back in a high school classroom in her hometown of Fremont than here.

In fact, it was in her government class that a recruiter first approached her about joining.

"I wasn't really thinking about college," she said. "And he made it sound good."

In the middle of her interview, Owens was called into Master Sergeant Steven Graves' office -- it was time to pick her job.

Graves pulled up her aptitude test scores on the computer and showed her a list of the jobs she had qualified for.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test (ASVAB) is administered by hundreds of high schools in the region, including Alta Vista. Those going into the Army who get a perfect score on their test essentially have their pick of more than 200 jobs.

Based on her score, Owens decided to become a civil affairs specialist in the Army Reserve.


Adam Glen, a 19-year-old Concord native, was falling behind in school and mourning the deaths of friends and family members two years ago when he made the decision to join the armed services. He said he chose to enlist in the Navy because it will enable him to do the most traveling.

"I've got to get out of Concord as soon as possible," he said.

After scoring a 74 out of 99 on the ASVAB, Glen was looking forward to becoming a medic or a fireman. He wound up choosing a job in aviation maintenance.

Motioning to the television, which was showing news reports of the latest explosions in Iraq, he said, "It's a big decision to make if you're going to join right now."

Having made that big decision, Glen added, "is a good feeling."


Cyndi Wyatt, a 20-year-old from San Francisco, comes from a military background, with a father who was in the Air Force and a grandfather who served as well. School was too expensive for her family, she said, which led her to the Army.

"I'm not too worried about the war, you know. If I die, I die," she said.

She had just finished her ASVAB, and had not done as well as she hoped. But she remained optimistic about her future with the military and later picked a job as a water purification specialist.

"I figure once I get out, a lot of employers will be impressed," she said.


Gabriel LeBaron, 20, said he does not know why a Marine Corps recruiter singled him out six months ago, back when he was working at a service deli. At the time, he weighed 250 pounds.

"He called me a couple of times. I kept throwing him off like every other applicant (does)."

When LeBaron relented and finally visited the recruiting station near his home in Antioch, he was carrying with him a 2-liter bottle of Shasta Cola.

The recruiter told him exactly what he would need to do to qualify to join the Marine Corps, and LeBaron was immediately enamored with the discipline and sense of belonging.

He was shipped out to San Diego Monday, weighing 185 pounds and able to do five pull-ups and run a mile and a half in 10 minutes. LeBaron said he hopes to eventually join an amphibious assault unit.

"Wherever I'll need to go, I'll go," he said. "In order for you to fight for your country, you've got to love it and respect it."

-- Jon Wiener

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