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Soldier Specialist E-4 Jessica B. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     When and why did you
decide to join the Army?


I made the final decision to join in November,
2001. Many of my friends serve in the military and I knew after September 11 that our country would
be going to war. I just couldn't picture staying home and watching the news as my friends fought.
However, I had considered the service while I was in college - and thought about doing Officer
Candidate School but never did. After September 11, I spoke to recruiters from every branch of the
services and finally decided on the Army.


If you weren't in
the Army, what would you be doing? What did you study in college and what did you do
before joining?


If I weren't in the Army, I would probably be working
either in the communications industry (public relations or advertising), or in politics. In college I
studied both: I have a degree in Public Relations with a concentration in political science.
Immediately before enlisting, I worked in public relations.Hopefully, if I hadn't joined the
military, I would have moved to Washington, D.C. and be working on
Capitol Hill.


What are the best and worst aspects of being in
the Army?


The best part is the benefits - not just money for school and
loans and discounts, but you get to travel and meet new people. However, because you travel a lot, it
is difficult to settle into something permanent. That is the worst part. I serve in the Army
Reserves and am on active duty right now. I know that it's going to be hard over the next few years
to get a steady job and an apartment because every few months there is the possibility of being put
on active duty for anywhere from a few days to a couple of years. Especially now,when so many
reservists are deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan, it's going to be hard to have a normal
life.


What places have you visited while in the Army and how
did you train for them?


I did Basic Training in South Carolina and job
training in North Carolina. After that, I decided I never want to live in the South during the
summer again. But I feel like I learned a lot about myself. I am more confident in my abilities to
do just about anything, physically and mentally. I learned a lot about people who are from other
parts of the country, too, and made a lot of friends.

Now I live in California
and am studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute. In just under 47 weeks, I have gone from
not even knowing the Russian alphabet or how to pronounce the letters to being fluent enough that I
could move to Russia and do fine.

I never would have believed that I could learn
a language so quickly, and I would never have been able to if I hadn't joined the Army
because language studies here are so much more intense than in college. Even though sometimes I wish
I could do something other than speak Russian five days a week,I know in the long run I will
benefit from all I've learned.


What is your opinion of the
United States' involvement in the war? Are you worried about being sent to a different country? Is
there a chance that could happen?


I think the United States got into
this war with the overall intention of doing something good, but circumstances in Iraq have become
too difficult to control. Now it's going to take a lot of damage control to repair some of the
situations. But I support the military, and I know that the soldiers and sailors and Marines and
flyers are following orders and working their hearts out, putting their lives in danger because they
think we can make a difference in the world.

There is a definite chance that I
could be going to the Middle East, Afghanistan or a completely different place, like Bosnia or
Kosovo. Right now most of the members of my unit (the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion in Rhode Island)
are in Iraq. But just because my unit has already done a rotation doesn't mean another one can't
come up right away. Soldiers are going to need to go in and replace those who are coming home, so
there is a chance I could get deployed.


Have you ever
regretted being in the Army?


No - I am so glad I made this decision,
and I would definitely do it again. In fact, if I could re-do it, I would have joined the Reserves
after my senior year of high school and done basic training the summer before I began college. Then
the Army would have paid for my education and I wouldn't have so many loans, plus I would have been
able to train all over the country and in Europe while still
in school.


What are your plans for the next five
years?


I hope to go to graduate school and get a Master's degree in
international security studies. I am getting married this year, and my fiancé also serves
in the Army, so I will be moving wherever he gets stationed when he graduates from school. But
eventually I hope to end up in Washington and work in foreign policy.I am not exactly sure doing
what yet. My contract with the Army lasts until 2007,so I will continue to drill once a month once
I come off active-duty status, and do at least two weeks of active training a year in addition to
monthly drills.There is a definite possibility I will be deployed, which could
happen anytime.


What is your rank in the Army? What did you do
to reach that rank?


I am a Specialist (E-4). I received this rank when
I enlisted because I already have a college degree. Normally you come into the Army as a Private
(E-1) and have to serve for a few years to work your way up
the ranks.


What is the greatest experience or knowledge that
you have gained from your experience in the Army?


Well, besides
learning to speak Russian fluently, I have learned that I am capable of doing anything I want if
I put my mind to it. I have learned my physical, mental and emotional capabilities are far greater
than I thought, and I have made many good friends. I know I will continue to learn all kinds of new
things!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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