Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Enviable Decision I am Unable to Make

During a previous edition of Educated Soldier, it was implied that, at some point, I would again produce discourse concerning the struggle that has been boiling recently in my life. After a long discussion concerning the matter with my Mom (an entrusted confidant, by the way), I decided that tonight is as good as any night for just this task.

This endeavor is going to be conducted professionally; via a sort of benefit analysis. I am just going to generate the positives and negatives that are associated with the two options that I have before me. This should make for easy (but surely not brief) reading for all of you while I will be left with, at worst, a permanent document reminding me of exactly why this decision is remaining so difficult to complete. At the conclusion, I may include some commentary.

First, we must make clear the two choices currently available to me. In doing so, I remind everyone that either of these choices are desirable ones. And, on that note, I feel fortunate to have such a difficult (but enviable) decision to make.

SPECIAL FORCES:

It should be understood that, even before completing high school and ever since, I have maintained some professional association with the military. For the most part, I have always enjoyed my time in the service. While I came to believe that the world had much more to offer than a life spent on active duty, I tended to miss the service when removed from it. This void was easily filled by enlisting in the National Guard.

From nearly the day I entered the service, an overwhelming adoration for the Special Forces began. Before I left for my first tour of Iraq, I wanted to be a part of their illustrious group. While in Iraq, my passion to join their ranks grew. I saw them operate often and I became a student of their professional niche. While my peer soldiers also envied the “Green Berets” because they sported high – tech gear and non-regulation hair grooming habits,


I found my personal interest being rooted more deeply. I found myself jealous of the autonomy and responsibility that was granted to these men. I could think of nothing more personally fulfilling than being granted such “benefits” when they could potentially mean the most: while at the forefront of the nation’s security. Moreover, I found myself passionate for their mission set. The Special Forces main purpose is to utilize their combined physical grit with superior knowledge bases to train foreign militaries to fight for themselves. This seemed (and continues to seem) like the exact sort of “outside-the-box” lifestyle that I would cherish.

Finally I have taken the steps to bring this dream to fruition. I am currently in the National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group training program. And I can say without much hesitation that I am doing quite well for myself. I am progressing according to plan and, should I keep my eye on the prize, I could very well be Special Forces – qualified sometime next year. This is the perfect time frame because, ultimately, my dream is to operate with a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha in Afghanistan, hunting the world’s deadliest – and I have a strong feeling that I would get exactly that opportunity almost immediately upon qualification graduation.

LAW SCHOOL:

Since leaving active duty, however, I have been a student at the University of South Florida. It should be noted that I have always had a flair for politics. I have nearly no memory more cherished than meeting President Bush while partaking in a lobbying mission on behalf of the Veterans For Freedom organization.

While memories of war contributed to the development of Educated Soldier, its production was far more motivated by a love of discussing and writing about politics. Should one review the site’s archives, I am sure he or she would read much more about general political affairs than any other matter.

Moreover, my entire life has become increasingly more influenced by my obsession for politics. I have noticed myself viewing everything through the shadings of my personal political bias and have many times paused and wondered if others do the same. Of the many sites that I review daily, one of the first is RedState as I love to read the outlook on the issues from politically-active, like-minded individuals. Only four stations are viewed on my television. Three of them include CNBC, the Food Network, and ESPN. The amount of time viewing them, however, pails in comparison to the time spent watching Fox News. I find myself as nervous and excited on election nights as I am on nights that the Flyers battle through important hockey games. I can hardly think of one thing in life that I am more fervent about than politics and nearly all that know me can attest to this being the case.

Finally, my sister lives in Washington, D.C. which affords me the opportunity to visit often. With each encounter with the District, I grow to adore it more. It has everything I require in a place to settle. Culture and history manifested through artifacts and museums, public transportation, the propensity to encourage physically active lifestyles, non-franchised establishments for food and drink, diverse neighborhoods, my preferred industry (government, of course): these are all characteristics of Washington, D.C. that have made it clear that, sometime upon graduation from USF, I will be happily transitioning there.

Those interests combine with my success in my undergraduate studies to make Law School an enticing option. At USF, while double-majoring, I have maintained a 3.85 GPA, been named to the Dean’s List, have received the distinction of being a Horatio Alger Military Scholar, and participate in the University’s Honors College. Should I only do well on the LSAT, which I feel I will, I will be afforded the opportunity to attend one of D.C.’s prestigious law institutions.

THE COMPARISON:

SPECIAL FORCES: The Positives

  • Becoming Special Forces – qualified has been an important goal throughout my adult life.

  • I have been dedicating three to four hours a day to physical conditioning to ensure that I will successfully complete the requisite training.

  • Perhaps one of my most desired goals can only be obtained through Special Forces qualification – participating on an ODA in Afghanistan.

  • I enjoy the camaraderie amongst A-type personalities that is a unique characteristic of Special Forces.

  • Through the National Guard, I would be given the flexibility to participate nearly as often or as little as I desire. Through the process known as “Guard Bumming,” I could perform Special Forces missions nearly as often as my active duty counterparts while still maintaining a lifestyle outside of the service that I prefer.

  • The training and experiences are unique and distinct from those that I could find in any other profession or institution.

  • Also, should I cease my current path to Special Forces–qualification, it would be little more than quitting. Quitting – even if, ultimately, is only really temporarily pausing my pursuit of this dream – would be personally devastating. Returning to a non-Special Forces National Guard unit would cause that “tail-tucked-between-the-legs” syndrome, and while there, I would hardly enjoy my duties nor give much effort to doing them well.

  • Perhaps most importantly: each time I witness an individual in a service uniform, I feel an internal tug; something telling me that becoming Special Forces – qualified is something I was meant to do.

  • Less important, but notable: I have an obligation to the National Guard regardless. The units in the state of Florida are already on alert for a deployment to Afghanistan tentatively scheduled for 2009, although rumors suggest 2010. Nothing would devastate me more than to be caught in a deployment with a conventional (read: non-SF) unit.

LAW SCHOOL: The Positives

  • The opportunity for substantial personal success; I can think of nothing that I would more naturally excel at. My natural talents and interests make Law School and a subsequent career in politics a no-brainer. I feel that I would make a quality Special Forces soldier. But I grade my prospects connected to the Law School option even more greatly. I would graduate highly distinguished from Law School and would be a star in politics. I am not naturally an intensely self-assured individual, and those that know me well would be slightly surprised by my candid and absolute positivity in this matter I am sure. However, I simply know that I would be highly successful should I choose this option.

  • Whether I graduated from my preferred Law School, Georgetown, or even American or George Mason (all of which I would be more than satisfied to attend), I would be nearly assured of securing a job within the District and becoming financially stable.

  • I love the collegiate experience. I enjoy my time now at the University of South Florida because of the experiences that it offers. I love spending my free time with friends, I have ample time to work-out, I love nothing more than attending Bulls sporting events, and I am generally passionate about being a student. I want nothing to interrupt this current state of happiness. I predict that I would enjoy Law School for equal but different reasons. I truly feel that I have scholarly desires at heart and would really relish the challenge of being knee-deep in acquiring knowledge constantly as is required by Law School. Continuing on my Special Forces path would both interrupt my current studies and delay (or cause me to forego) any Law School studies.

  • Attending Law School hastens my move to Washington D.C. which is where I want to be as swiftly as possible after my undergraduate education.

  • Law School would validate the hard work I have done in maintaining undergraduate success. In other words, if my effort has afforded me the opportunity to attend a Law School that will, more than likely, define my life and enable me to become financially set for the remainder of my life (while doing work I truly believe I would enjoy), it would ultimately be a waste to fail to accept this opportunity.

SPECIAL FORCES: The Negatives

  • Becoming Special Forces – qualified now will require an immediate and perhaps lengthy absence from school. It would be necessary to miss at least the upcoming semester. This is a semester that I deem particularly important because I have 16 credit hours scheduled (out of the mere thirty that I require to graduate) and two of these classes are seminars that cap my dual majors. When entering the Special Forces training program, I was aware that a break in school would be incurred. But now that it is actually approaching, I am becoming hesitant about putting school on the temporary back burner.

  • If I attend Law School, it seems possible that after graduation, I could still pursue the SF dream should the passion persist. However, the reverse probably is not true. Because I would so enjoy the Special Forces lifestyle, I doubt that I would ever embrace the opportunity to attend Law School.

  • While I have no doubt about my chances at success in Law School, I have some doubt about my possible success at becoming Special Forces – qualified. I don’t necessarily doubt myself in this endeavor. However, there are many possible pitfalls in this path and it is not unlikely that one would get hurt while traveling it. Despite many being passionate and physically prepared to entire SF training, there stand reasons why only a few eventually complete the process.

  • When I return from the Special Forces school that would cause me to miss my university classes this semester, I would have to obtain temporary employment until returning to school, as school is my current source of funding. With no vehicle of my own and no access to capable public transportation (as Tampa fails to provide anything that I would consider safe or dependable in this regard), finding a preferable job seems more daunting than it should.

LAW SCHOOL: The Negatives

  • Law School costs a fortune. Although I am sure that I would acquire some assistance via financial aid and scholarships, I would almost assuredly be required to take out loans to finance my schooling. As long as I am guaranteed a profitable career from completing my education however, this is not a problem that I consider extraordinary.

  • The biggest problem with attending Law School has nothing to do with Law School itself. The main negative stems from the fact that the immediacy required to genuinely put effort into Law School would effectively kill my current pursuit at my dream of becoming Special Forces – qualified.

And, really, those are the only two negatives that I can currently observe. Other negatives were, in ways, identified during discourse in the other sections.

CONCLUSION:

Well, there is none. Ultimately, I have until my next National Guard drill to make up my mind. At that point, it will be my responsibility to give them an answer and, more importantly, it will be my responsibility to give them my full effort or nothing at all. I am all too aware that Special Forces training and the lifestyle that the training leads to are not things to take lightly. They are more ways-of-life than careers and must be approached and undertaken as such.

I really enjoy and take to heart the comments and the emails that each of you leave when I pose these personal dilemmas. The responses are always helpful in my decision-making process. Of course, the outcome is mine and mine alone to decide. However, some level of maturity has taught me to accept the assistance of others. I am aware that my personality deficiency lies in my inability to really pinpoint what it is that I desire to do in life. I have varying interests and I find myself passionate about each. I tend to take things on head-first and full of steam, for better or for worse. When worse, I am left with decisions such as the current one where I find myself struggling mightily to make a choice.

So I greatly appreciate your help. If nothing else, I thank you for reading. Through this writing alone, I have been able to better personally conceptualize my desires. They remain strewn-about but better conceptualized nonetheless. Thank you.

6 comments:

Bag Blog said...

Being physically fit and able to do the Special Forces would be a big factor. Your brain will always be ready for law school, but your body may not always be able to do SF.

Diana said...

WOW....bag blog, that is exactly what I said to him in my conversatin with him.
He does not feel that his being "fit" would be a problem later on in life, but I beg to differ as I can attest to the body changing on a daily basis.

Diana said...

I hope that there are some SF people reading this and hope that they post.
I also encourage Law students to blog and get some feedback from them also.
I have decided to vote now in favor of ...............
LAW SCHOOL, or at least Graduate School of your choosing and continuing your education.
Surprised?????
Don't be, it is a logical choice and I am a very logical person.

Bag Blog said...

diana, I kind of got that he was not worried about being "fit" but it is a factor. Plus, I have known lots of people who have gone back to law school, my brother included (U of Texas), after being out of college for a while. SF may be more of a "strike while the iron is hot" sort of thing. Just MHO.

Steve B. (WHISKEYBOARDER) said...

I appreciate both of your comments. I also respect the wisdom of your perspectives; perhaps more than you know. Yet, I remain convinced that, in a situation influenced by many converging factors, my ability to maintain physical fitness is the least important.

A new development has come up in this situation and is quite exciting. I can't wait to share it with all and intend to do so via another edition of Educated Soldier that will tentatively be published this afternoon (Tuesday, Jul 15) after my midday class.

Brian H said...

The brain work would actually be easier to put on hold than the SF stuff; youth is a more valuable asset in the military than in college or law. Your anticipation that you'd never be satisfied with the sedentary legal/political life after deploying is hard to assess. That's your personal call, but I suspect you might find that maturity has more facets to it than you currently expect.

And finally: I wouldn't be at all surprised if your military contacts/coaches etc. could make some special arrangement to integrate and sequence your wishes. There are many sides to "law", and if you are mainly interested in politics, consider that many consider there are far too many lawyers in politics as it is! 8-0