A Reason for Every Season

Right before Christmas break, we got news of the news we have been dreading to hear – Matthew is deploying. We’d been expecting it for a few months but to get the final word that it’s really happening still left me in……shock. And in lots of tears.

Let’s be real. Dealing with deployment is stinkin’ hard and it is just about as difficult as you’d imagine it to be to hear that someone you love is going off to fight for your country. Matthew and I have been through quite a few transitions in this last year – Ranger School, Airborne School, his move to Fort Drum, starting his PL (Platoon Leader) time with his battalion – but deployment definitely takes the cake. Sometimes I have so many thoughts and feelings that I don’t know what to do with myself. Sometimes I find myself spontaneously crying a lot or wake up crying or fall asleep crying. In short, I’ve been a hot mess. But I adamantly believe that God allows all things to happen for a purpose and despite the mess, I am determined to figure out what God’s reason for this season of life is.

So here’s a few things I’ve learned about myself and about dealing with impending deployment over the last several weeks.

Knowing isn’t the same as experiencing

No matter how much I mentally prepared for this moment, actually hearing Matthew say the words “I am deploying” still hit me like a ton of bricks. For awhile, I felt so frustrated with myself because I was taking the news poorly. “Common Christine – you went into this relationship knowing this was the path he was going to take. You knew this was coming sooner than later.” There are even people I’ve shared about deployment with who have said to me, “Well what did you expect? Since you knew this was going to happen, you just need to suck it up and deal with it”. A lot of people have simply said (I believe with the best of intentions), “Just trust the Lord and give it over to Him”. Great, I totally agree but….practically, in this present struggle….how. do. I. do. that?????? There is a huge divide between knowing how to respond or knowing what you should do compared to how you actually live out that knowledge.

And you really just don’t know until you get there. There is no way to prepare yourself to go through something like deployment. There is no way to prepare yourself to mentally prepare yourself for any challenging situation until the Lord brings you to it. And then by His strength, He will bring you through it.

I am a human being with imperfect feelings.

It is quite impressive the range of feelings I’ve in such a short period of time. Sadness, despair, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, confusion – just to name a few. Sometimes all my emotions get me into trouble. I’ve really wrestled with how I should feel about this whole situation because knowing all the things I know about dating vs. marriage and emotional boundaries and all that jazz, I couldn’t figure out if it was a sin to care so much or be so sad over someone I am dating, but not married to. Is this wrong? Normal? Acceptable? I have felt uncomfortable being honest with people about how I’m really doing in fear that they’ll judge me for feeling the way I do or just feel sorry for me.

In times like these, I am really thankful for the sisters that God has put in my life. Again, having a sister tell me “It’s ok to be sad, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re trying your best to figure it out and I think God see that,” was all I really needed to hear to remember that God is so gracious to me even when I am not gracious to myself. God gave us feelings for a reason and they aren’t always going to be perfect feelings. I am not a robot. I am a human being and part of that is learning and growing as I make mistakes, work through my feelings, and figure out how I can master my emotions and take my thoughts captive so they ultimately all point back to Christ. But…..I am still getting there 🙂

It’s ok to not be ok. Sometimes.

It’s the strangest thing. I never realized how much I hated feeling or showing weakness until dealing with my feelings about deployment. People know me as Christine-the outgoing, extroverted, always busy, always has it together-Christine. And for some odd reason, even in a situation would understandably make anyone bonkers, I still feel the strong compulsion to convince everyone that I am ok. Even to convince myself that I am ok! But sometimes (and lately, more often than not), I am really really not ok. I am sad and scared of potentially losing someone I care about. I am frustrated that I don’t even know when or how often I will get to talk to my best friend. I am worried about what the next 9 months will hold and the new set of challenges our relationship will have to go through. I am, very honestly, frustrated that our relationship always seems so much more difficult than everyone else’s and I wish that we could just be a normal, boring couple. And sometimes, I am just sad and I can’t explain it and I just need a second to cry.

And that is ok. Until….

I stop trusting in the Lord. Until I let my sadness become a result of my lack of control over the situation. Until I let my anxiety undermine God’s sovereignty and good plan for me and for Matthew. Until I let sorrow or worry drown me in a sea of my own self-pity. I am slowly and painfully learning that yes – there is a time to grieve, but there is also a time to pick myself and speak truth to myself about God’s overwhelming love for me. He would never allow anything to happen outside of his plans, He would never give me more than I can handle, and He is always in control no matter how seemingly chaotic life is. I am learning that I must fight for joy daily instead of letting sadness or anxiety overcome me because I must remember that my ultimate joy and hope lies in the Lord.

Expectations are the worst.

And boy, do I have a lot of them. First – I have a lot of expectations of myself (as you can probably tell from the rest of this post). I have expectations of how I should handle this news. I have expectations about how I should support Matthew. I have expectations of how I should be the most perfect girlfriend and sister in Christ at all times.

Then, I have a lot of expectations of Matthew. I expect him to respond to me and comfort me in a very specific way when I am feeling sad about deployment. I expect him to prioritize time with me over everything else since our time left together is short. I expect him to share all his feelings with me because I, as an external processor, share all my overflowing feelings all the time. I expect him to acknowledge all my feelings and tell me it will all be ok and cry with me like they do in the movies.

Lastly, I have a lot of expectations about our relationship. I expect us to deal with all our conflicts flawlessly and immediately. I expect us to hold our heads up high and brave through deployment without wavering. I expect us to acknowledge each other’s emotional state and always put the other person first. I expect us to read together and pray together every time we talk like the godly couples do. Or else it means that we are failing.

All these expectations lead to disappointment and more frustration when they aren’t upheld. Frustration leads to anger, anger leads to selfishness, selfishness leads to fighting, and fighting leads to sadness. All because of expectations I shouldn’t have had in the first place. Too often, I think of myself first and how Matthew should attend to my needs first (and even if I attend to his needs, I expect him to acknowledge me for being so wonderful!) instead of thinking about how much more challenging this all must be for him. I’ve become so inward focused and all of my expectations have become so, too, and that draws our attention away from thinking through how our relationship can glorify the Lord in our present circumstance.

His power is made perfect in our weakness.

It’s easy in the day to day to forget how desperately we need the Lord. One thing I am overwhelming thankful for through all of this is how much it has reminded me to cling to Christ with all I’ve got. I have become so self-sufficient and sinfully comfortable with life that God has become more like a bonus than the real prize. But in my weakest moments, when I am all cried out and I still feel like I don’t have a single thing figured out, God reminders me that He is enough and that I can do nothing by my own strength. And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

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From happier days when we got past Ranger School. Getting past deployment will be even happier!

Ok let me super clarify that I am still working through all of this and still need to process through this to remind myself of what God has taught me on a daily basis. But God’s mercies are new every morning and every morning is a new opportunity for him to teach me something new through my hardship. Praise God for his grace that covers me when I forget to trust in him. Praise God for his grace that restores me when I fail to respond in a way that glorifies him. And praise God for his grace and his love that heals me when I feel most broken.

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Rangers Lead the Way

So Matthew left for Ranger School yesterday and to be honest….I am a mess. I’ve cried so much the last few days that I think I’ve literally run out of tears. As much as we talked about it and I mentally prepared for this day to come, it’s still surreal that it’s all happening and that we will be spending the next 2 to 4 months in silence. But times like these continue to test the foundations of our relationship and ultimately our faith to see how our response is rooted in Christ.

Naturally, to deal with my copious amount of feelings, I have decided to channel them into a blog post about Matthew leaving for Ranger School. Bear with me…there are a lot of feelings to be felt! To make it easier for those reading, I’ve broken up this post into two parts: a general Ranger School outline and my personal thoughts/reflection leading up to this point. Both, I feel, are important pieces of this chapter of life God has given to us and I hope that both can be give you clarity on what it’s like to be an army relationship.

 

A Ranger School Breakdown

Ranger School is approximately a 2 month course where soldiers are pushed pass their limits and then some. Any soldier can get a slot at Ranger School but it’s pretty difficult unless you’re a part of the Ranger Battalion (basically means you are or are going to become a Ranger) or you’re in a heavy combat arms branch, like the Infantry. For Matthew, being an infantry officer with no Ranger tab pretty much means you get zero respect and we can’t have that now can we? So he’s gotta brave through this treacherous course and prove that he’s got what it takes to keep up with the toughest of the tough.

Ranger School is essentially divided up into 3 phases: Benning, Mountain, and Florida (Swamp). During Benning Phase, the first week is called RAP week (Ranger Assessment Phase) and it is where 30% of people fail. Why is RAP week so hard? Very simple – they try hard to smoke you out. Within these short 5 days, soldiers are expected to complete the following: a RPFT (Ranger Physical Fitness Test) consisting of push ups, sit ups, and a 5 mile run; a 5 hour land navigation course, the Malvesti course (just imagine the hardest obstacle course conceivable); a 12 mile ruck; and unending missions practice. And if that’s not enough, they only get 3-4 hours of sleep a night with just enough food to keep them functioning. If you fail RAP week, you get kicked out and have to wait until there’s an opening in the next class of soldiers going to Ranger School.

Once you’ve passed RAP week, you only have to repeat each individual phase if you don’t pass. This is called “recycling”. You can only recycle each phase twice before you get kicked out of Ranger School. This is why it can take up to 6 months to pass Ranger School – very few people make it through Ranger School in one-go because most repeat or recycle each phase at least once. Some other ways you can leave Ranger School is for medical reasons or if you get peered out (or voted out by your fellow soldiers).

The nice thing (army girlfriends and families, you will be overjoyed to know this) is that they actually have an 8 hour pass in between each phase (if they pass) where they are able to leave the training grounds if someone picks them up and takes the home. While this means a sweet reunion for loved ones, for our soldiers it means getting laundry done, supplies replenished, and as much sleep as possible on an actual bed. But it’s definitely better than nothing and offers a little bit of hope to get you through to the end. Soldiers can also receive mail & care packages throughout Ranger School, but they don’t always get them until the very end and it’s pretty hard for them to write back. BUT you should absolutely write to them, encouraging them to push through and reminding them of how much they are loved. You have no idea how much a simple letter can mean.

[If you would like to send Matthew mail or a care package during Ranger School, please reach out to me and I will get you his mailing address.]

As you can tell, Ranger School is pretty hard core. The one piece of advice Matthew got over and over from soldiers who have already been through the course is to bulk up as much as possible before you go because apparently, guys can lose up to 30 pounds during their time there. It ain’t pretty. This isn’t completely accurate anymore but if you wanna see a small glimpse of Ranger School, check out this clip from the show, Surviving the Cut. You can find the full episode here.

Oh and I forgot to mention – Ranger School only has a 48% graduation rate which you better believe Matthew will be a part of. Rangers Lead the Way!

 

The Girlfriend’s Perspective 

Before Matthew and I even started dating, I knew that our relationship would not be an easy one and that difficult seasons like this would be inevitable. Yet I made the decision that this fine fellow was one worth taking the risk, trusting in the fact that our sovereign God knew what he was doing. There were times when we would sit down to talk about the reality of what’s to come and I would freak out because seriously – what girl wants to be told that their boyfriend and potential husband will have to spend months at a time away, could very possibly be absent at milestone events in your relationship, and might go to war but not come back? No girl, that’s who! But a wise sister in the faith reminded me that God gives us sufficient strength for the day and when the time comes, he will give us sufficient strength to overcome whatever He gives to us. And so over the past year or so as we prepared for what was ahead, God taught me how to continually cast my burdens on him, to give my fears over to him daily, and to trust in his sovereign plan for me and for my relationship with Matthew. Now, I need to remember that more than ever.

As the day drew closer, the reality of what we are about to endure through started to get the best of me and it became nearly impossible for me to hide how I was feeling to Matthew. It was like a waterworks show every night for the past week -_- I can’t even imagine what Matthew must be going through as he prepares to leave for Ranger School but in our last conversation before he left, he said to me, “We’re going to be ok. We’re gonna make it through this together. Remember the joy you have in Christ who will never leave your side.” SERIOUSLY? He’s comforting me and reminding me to persevere and to cling to the truth as he is about to leave for possibly the hardest course of his life. I am a lucky lady to have such a loving lad.

But he’s completely right. The way my response to this difficult time differs from others is a huge testimony to how as a Christian, my hope is found in Christ. To remember that there is a great joy to be had in the face of struggle because Christ is greater than these passing days and his unwavering love compels me to seek out a greater purpose through it all. Yes, this I know. And this, I hope one day very soon I will be able to share with you that are truths I can personally attest to. But in this present moment, I am quite frankly having a very hard time. Please pray for me to know with my heart and not just with my mind the hope that I have in my sweet savior Jesus who always provides a joy unmatched by anything on earth.

The hardest part, I think, of being an army girlfriend is the complete uncertainty of what to expect. Sure, ultimately everyone is uncertain of how their relationship will play out in the future and to a certain extent, we can only plan so much. But in an army [and really, any military] relationship, you have so little control over what or when things will happen that it gets hard to plan even practical decisions in a relationship. During IBOLC, we didn’t know if Matthew would have to go to Ranger School right away or if he would have a break to come back and rest. As we prepared for Ranger School, we had to plan with no idea if he would actually pass each phase or how many times he may have to recycle. Even now as I am mentally trying to prepare, I have no idea if I have to wait patiently for 2…3…4 months…or longer until he finishes. And after that, we don’t know how many speciality training schools he will be placed in before he goes to his station. I literally don’t have any answer for anything but as mind-numbingly frustrating it is, I know that this is exactly how God is answering my prayer to trust him more. To entrust him with all that I have and to not rely on my own strength or plans. To live one day at a time, not worrying about tomorrow but being diligent with what God has given to me today. The pruning hurts, but the fruit will hopefully be much greater.

 

Now the countdown begins. Only 68 more days until I can see my best friend again. But for now, I remember and am thankful for the happier times we’ve had and I look forward to a joyful reunion ahead.

And if anyone wants to be a friend and eat away all my feelings with me, holla.

 

Over and Out,

Juang

[Dang Yang] An IBOLC Graduate!

The last 16 weeks have been the most insane roller coaster of events but praise the Lord for His faithfulness because Matthew has graduated from IBOLC! 

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Seriously, what a stud. I lucked out. 

IBOLC, or Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, is the first step in a long line of schools that any aspiring Infantry Officer must complete in order to officially become a part of this elite group. The 16 week course is designed to train these soon-to-be infantry officers every thing there is to know about effectively leading their men and also preparing them for what lies ahead at Ranger School. Matthew has had to endure everything from early morning physical training to practicing Operations Orders to long 12 mile rucks in the middle of the night. He has gotten used to having bugs and creepy crawlers as bedtime friends, 5 miles runs as a warm up, and 90F weather with 100% humidity as a “nice day”. IBOLC has indeed pushed Matthew past what he thought his limits were and has proven that it is not for the faint of heart.

There were quite a lot of officers at this graduation and I have never seen so many military men in uniform in one place! Without a doubt, the most organized graduation I’ve ever seen and after hearing so much about different people in IBOLC, it was nuts to see the whole company together. What’s a company, you say?? A company consists of everyone in Matt’s class, which is about 120 guys, and then each company is broken up into 3 platoons. This is a picture of Matt with his platoon!

 

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It should be pretty easy to find him but in case you’re having a hard time, he’s the only Asian one in this photo. In the middle. Yup, right there.

Then, each platoon is broken up into 4 squads, which consist of about 10 guys, and that is the group you spend most of your time with, whether it’s conducting missions, working on projects, or just waiting around for hours on end. Matthew was able to get really close with some of the guys in his squad and had opportunities to share the Gospel with them as well as bring them out to church.

It has by no means been a straight line to the finish but because of all the insanity and uncertainties, God receives all the more glory. There were times where we’d be on the phone with no clue how he was going to make it through the week or how he was going to be able to physically accomplish a task that proved too daunting but God remained faithful to Matthew. When he was able to finally get through it, we both knew that it wasn’t because of his own strength but only by the strength of the Lord.

In fact, here’s a snazzy little video to give you a sneak peak at what it was like to be in IBOLC! Matthew had to go through all that and much more so you can imagine how tough it is. Look out for Matthew right around 2:55…..

One of the coolest things, I think, is how God has been able to use Matthew to be a good light and witness to his fellow officers as they brave through difficulties together. As I’ve shared before, Matt’s entire purpose of going into the military is to be a missionary in a field that is very hard to reach. Sharing his faith with people who have never even heard the Gospel and quite frankly, don’t want to hear it has allowed him to see the reality and gravity of salvation. It has forced him to ask himself – Is it really necessary for me to share this Gospel with these guys? – and God has continually reminded him YES. Nothing matters more. It has been a constant encouragement for me to view the environment that God has put me in (although much more calm and far less intense) as a missions field and a battleground of spiritual warfare where opportunities to share of God’s love are endless.

 

 So What’s Next?

Lovely question. As always, we think of this more as a “If Life Went The Way We Dreamed” answer, but the general gist is 2 months of Ranger School, 1-1.5 months of specialty training, and then off to Fort Drum, New York! The reality of it though could be more like 3 or 4 months of Ranger School with some breaks in between but we really won’t know until it happens.

For now, Matthew is scheduled to leave for Ranger School on September 7th and unfortunately, that’s about all the concrete details I can give you.

I’ll post another blog soon detailing what Ranger School actually looks like as well as major prayer requests for Matthew so be on the look out for that! In the mean time, Matt still has about a week until he leaves so please call him, text him, email him, and pray for him!

 

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Congrats again, Mr. Second Lieutenant Yang! You deserve it and I couldn’t be more proud of you 🙂

 

Over and Out,

Juang

[Dang Yang] The First Eight Weeks

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It has officially been eight weeks since Matthew left for military training. Longest eight weeks of my life. But praise the Lord, who uses all things to his glory and our benefit. While it has not been easy God has been growing us both in our dependence on Him as well as really testing Matthew in his faith!

Many of you have been asking about how Matthew is doing, what he’s been doing, and how you can pray for him. So here I am, the trusty girlfriend with an update probably more detailed than you’re expecting. But I can’t help it – I’m just get real excited about all the stuff he’s being doing! So I hope this give y’all a bit of insight into the life of Second Lieutenant Matthew Yang.

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The training Matthew is currently at is called iBOLC – Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course. It’s about a 17 week course where future officers learn all the ins and outs of how to be a quality leader! There are about 150 people in his company (or his class), which is broken up into 3 platoons, which is broken up into 4 squads. He spends most of the time with his squad consisting of about 10 other officers. The structure is pretty similar to a typical school schedule – day starting around 5:30AM for physical training (PT) and ending around 4 or 5PM. Depending on the week, the day either consists of classroom time learning or on the field training. Sometimes the on-field training can be up to 4 days where he is continuously out there with no contact. Evenings and weekends he has to himself so he can spend it freely! Usually since the day is pretty packed and intense, he rests earlier in the night or studies for tests/evaluations that he has coming up.

Physical training in the morning is more intense than my hardest workout days. It switches up every day but every other week, they have to do a ruck which increases by 2 miles each time. A ruck is a run-walk at a 15 minute/mile pace while carrying anywhere from 50-80 pounds on your back. So far he’s done 4 miles and 6 miles (doing very well at both) and will eventually work up to 16 miles by the end of the course.

This is all the stuff that each soldier gets assigned and he carries the majority of it on his back the days he’s out on the field. Intense huh?

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Field training has been pretty stinkin’ awesome though. I mean it’s definitely intense and difficult physically, but Matthew has gotten to do some crazy cool stuff that I’ve only ever seen in the movies!

He’s always shooting different kinds of cool guns.

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Everyone gets to blow stuff up together.

 

And Matthew even got to use a ROCKET LAUNCHER.

So sweet.

Anywhoooo!

One huge answered prayer is that Matthew got plugged into a church super quickly. And get this. His church out in Georgia is called Berean Covenant Church, aka BCC. God sure is funny sometimes….Berean is very focused on importance of the Word and sharing that Word with those who have not yet heard it. Unlike the Berean here in California though, it is a smaller church (around 50-70 people) and is predominantly an older, Caucasian crowd. So Matthew brings a whole lot of diversity to the mix!  They have welcomed Matthew with open arms and in great Matthew-like fashion, he has also immediately integrated himself with Berean. It’s been a huge source of encouragement and avenue of growth for him during this very trying season.

Overall, it has been quite the journey the past several weeks and it is only going to get more intense and grueling as the weeks continue – both physically and spiritually. As God puts us through challenging circumstances, he refines and purifies us, which is exactly what God is doing with Matthew as well as our relationship. Praise the Lord for his good and sovereign plans to make us into his image and to use us for his kingdom work!!

 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1) How often do you and Matthew get to talk?

 It’s not as terrible as most people think it is. We get to talk pretty much every day, unless he’s out on the field for multiple days at a time. Usually just on the phone but a lot of the times when we webcam, we’ll watch our fav TV shows together and stuff. Nothing beats being together in the same place though so we’re still adjusting to making long distance work! 

2) How much longer is Matthew’s training?

 IBOLC will go until the later half of August and then afterwards, he’ll have a short break until he’s off again for Ranger School. That’ll be about 2-3 months of no contact training until he finishes and then goes off to additional specialty training! Then he finally makes his way over to Fort Drum, New York. 

3) Can he communicate with other people? When is a good time for me to talk to him?

 YES! Like I said, he has his evenings and weekends free so he can talk to people anytime then. Even though he’s all the way across the country, I know it always means a lot to him to hear from people back home. So definitely give him a call, shoot him and email, send him a text! It’s a 3 hour time difference so when he finishes training over there, it’s about 1 or 2PM in California and he usually sleeps by about 6 or 7PM in California (which is about 9 or 10PM over there). 

4) When are you planning to get married and how is he going to propose if he’s all the way over there?!

Beats me. 

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PRAYER REQUESTS

  • For Matthew’s continued spiritual growth and strength. It’s been hard, especially as the weeks get harder and more tiring for him to be on top of spiritual disciplines and maintaining a cross-centered focus. Pray that he would continue to put Christ first in all things and rely on the strength of the Lord to get through each day.
  • For Matthew’s physical strength. Needless to say, military training is no walk in the park. It’s not even a sprint through the park. And this section training is only the beginning of a long road ahead of him. Please pray that God would sustain him physically – especially as some minor concerns are surfacing that we don’t want to turn into bigger concerns – so that he can perform excellently. Not for his own sake, but so that he can show his officers all the more who his God is.
  • For more opportunities to Matthew’s main purpose in joining the military in the first place is to share the Gospel with his fellow soldiers and he really sees the army as his mission’s field. He’s already taken a lot of opportunities to share, be intentional, and bring fellow officers out to church with him. There’s a lot of people he’s already praying for but pray that God would continue to give him boldness in his faith and an even greater desire to proclaim the good news!
  • For him to fit in better with the other guys in his squad/platoon/company. It’s not always easy, especially since a lot of the things the other guys talk about are not exactly uh…appropriate conversation. As a Christian, he sticks out a bit in a way that makes it harder to build relationships with them in order to share the Gospel. “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
  • For long distance not to be so gosh darn awful. Just kidding! But also kinda serious haha please pray that Christ would continue to reign supreme in our relationship. Any one who has been through it knows that everything is more difficult with long distance so pray that we would be all the more patient, all the more considerate, and all the more reliant on the Lord in order that He would shine clearly through us.

 

Matthew and I thank you for tuning in and for your prayers 🙂

Over and Out,

Juang

Army 101

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If you had told me two years ago that I would be dating someone in the military, I would have been like Homegirl, please. I never would have even imagined considering a life in the military but thankfully God in his perfect sovereignty gave me Matthew so here I am, learning the ins and outs of everything military!

First thing I realized when I got myself into all this is that I know absolutely nothing about the military and neither does the vast majority of the public [even those with some connection to the military]. In this post, I will break down the various parts of the military, different terms and definitions, as well as a very general process/timeline to make things a little easier to understand! Many friends ask with good intentions about Matthew’s plans without really understanding what they’re asking but genuinely wanting to know what he’s up to so with each section, I will also explain how it pertains to Matthew.

So here is a year and a half’s worth of hard conversations, clarified confusions, and learned knowledge about the many military paths one can take. Hope it helps and clears the clouds a little on what it means to be in the military!

[Note] My explanation detailing aspects of the military is VERY general and officer oriented. Things can always be different and there are always exceptions but this is just to help you get an overall idea of what it’s like. 

What Does It Mean To Be In The Military?

There are five main divisions of military, each with very distinct roles and attributes.

  1. Army – This is usually what people think of when it comes to being a soldier.
  2. Air Force – They play a large role in controlling the skies and provide air support to troops in need during war. Even though most people think of pilots when they think of Air Force, only 1% of soldiers actually fly the planes, while the remainder support the men in the air.
  3. Marine Corps – They are  similar to Army but branched out of the Navy. Mostly, they’re responsible to provide rapid combined-arms forces whenever there is a national situation.
  4. Navy – The Navy deals with anything related to the waters. They provide support for troops from the sea and encounter the potential threats in the deep blue sea.
  5. Coast Guard – They guard the coasts! Crazy huh? Haha but seriously, they are very important because they make sure that no foreigners trespass our coasts and keep our waters safe.

Being in the military doesn’t actually mean that you’ll see combat or even war. There are actually plenty of roles within the military that are not in the line of fire but are equally as important. I’ll talk more about these a little later.

[Matthew is part of the Army. From this point on, I will be speak more directly from this division.]

How Do You Get Into The Army?

There are two ways to get into the Army, as well as two defined roles in the Army.

  • Officer – Going the officer route usually is a fairly long process that involves more training and evaluation prior to attaining officer status. Many people choose to do this through the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program, a military academy like Westpoint, or OCS (Officer Candidate School) which is a condensed, 10 week version of ROTC. Aspiring officers need to perform well in order to be competitive enough to attain their component, branch, and station.
  • Enlisted –  Going the enlisted route can be done by visiting your local recruiting office and signing up. After taking ASVAB (military mulitiple choice test), you’re placed into your field/line of work and then go through Basic training. Once you’re done, you go into specific areas depending on your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).

[Matthew decided to go the officer route through the UC Irvine ROTC program.]

What Is The Service Obligation To the Army?

There are several ways to answer this question. First is the daily commitment – Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard.

  • Active Duty pretty much means that being in the Army is your full-time job, but not that you are deployed. You work from about 6am-5pm with physical training in the morning during regular work week days (for the most part) and the rest of the time is yours to spend as you wish! It’s kinda like…if you primarily spent time working on projects in your corporate office and then flew out on a business trip for a few weeks to meet with clients.
  • Reserves is when you are in the Army part-time and come in to train one or two weekends out of the month. Many soldiers who are in reserve hold a full-time civilian job. There are no combat arms in Reserve, they only provide support. It’s also easier to move around since  you’re not held down to a specific State.
  • National Guard is similar to Reserve in the sense that you meet one weekend a month to train. The difference is that there are combat arms in the National Guard and you respond to emergencies within the state you are stationed.

That’s more of your daily commitment I guess you could say. The overall commitment is the numbers of years you are committed to serving the Army, called MSO (Military Service Obligation), which is listed in your military contract. Generally, if you go the ROTC route, you’re obligated to 3-4 years and can stay as long as retirement, which is about 20 years. Some soldiers will be on Active Duty for part of their MSO and then switch over to the Reserves/National Guard. However, you can be deployed at any time during your service. This is relevant for both officers and enlisted soldiers.

*  *  * This is a good time to clarify what it means to be DEPLOYED. A scary word indeed. Deployment happens if and only if the US needs troops to go somewhere to complete a task or mission.  Being in the military does NOT automatically mean that you are deployed or that the only time you are involved in military affairs is when you are deployed. In fact some soldiers never see deployment although the chances are unlikely. *  *  *

[Matthew is going Active Duty and is contracted to serve for 7 years. He won’t know when he is going to be deployed until the Army needs him once he begins his service.]

What Do You Do In The Army?

There are actually a lot of different roles in the Army and not all of them are combat oriented. Your Branch is what role or specialization you have in the Army, such as:

  • Infantry
  • Armor
  • Aviation
  • Engineers
  • Finance
  • Military Police
  • Medical Service
  • Adjutant General
  • Transportation
  • Quartermaster

(There are a total of seventeen in the Army.)

I like to think of this almost like….your major in college! Just like how you can choose between a variety of majors in college to specialize in, you can also choose a branch to specialize in. Officers tend to have more general training regarding their branch (since they are overseeing a group of men) whereas enlisted soldiers tend to have much more specialized training in certain aspects of their branch (in order to carry out those job specific tasks).

Obviously there are a lot of daily tasks and specific training per each branch, which I am not as familiar with so this is a much more general answer.

[Matthew has branched Infantry, which is a HUGE answered prayer as it was his first choice branch ever since he could remember and is one of the more competitive branches! We even threw him a big ole’ party cuz we were so proud!]

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Where Do You Live When You’re In The Army?

Your Station/Post/Base  is where you live if you are on Active Duty in the Army. If you love traveling, then you’re in luck! There are US military stations all across the county and even the world! Hawaii, Germany, Georgia, California, and Korea are all up for grabs.  Many times, you will stay up to 2-4 years or as little as one year  before the Army moves you to a different station (based on demand and need). There is housing (usually barracks) on the actual Army base that you have the option to live in OR you can take advantage of off-post housing and live in the neighboring city.

Stations can be very competitive to get depending on your branch.  Just like how your branch is your major in college, this is much like which college you decide to go to. In the same way that certain colleges are better for certain majors, certain stations specialize in and are better suited for certain branches.

[We don’t know just yet where Matthew will be stationed, but hopefully we’ll have an update in the next week or so!]

From Civilian to Officer

Matthew went through an extremely long process to finally becoming an officer and he’s still workin’ hard! By God’s grace, he has brought Matthew through all of this and is continuing to be his strength as he enters into this last stretch. So what exactly did this guy have to go through?! This process is what most hopeful officers have to go through when in the ROTC program (with some variation of course).

  1. UC Irvine ROTC – This consists of meeting every morning (at 5AM mind you…) to learn, train, and prepare for some of the larger evaluations that come up throughout the year. Meetings consist of PT (physical training), labs (hands-on training), classes, and performance evaluations.
  2. FTX (Field Training Exercise) – There are a couple that take place each year and cadets are evaluated on their performance based on the knowledge learned at the respective campus programs. The two largest parts of FTX are Day Land Nav and Night Land Nav where cadets have to be able to find a certain number of points spread out on a 5 mile radius with nothing more than a map, compass, and protractor. Other key areas of evaluation are STX (Squad Tactical Excercise) and Patrolling, which are simulated missions where you must brief and lead either a squad (STX) or a platoon (patrolling). Your score during FTX will factor into your overall campus score that will determine how competitive you are during assessions.
  3. Contracting – Usually in the middle of their second year, cadets must decide if they are going to take a military career seriously by “contracting” or if they just want to remain in the program for kicks. When they sign their contract, they commit to serving in the army for a certain number of years.
  4. LDAC – This is the mother of all ROTC evaluations and is not to be taken lightly. It’s a one month evaluation in the summer prior to your senior year where cadets are tested on everything in the book. Day land nav, night land nav, physical fitness test, completing missions, briefings, you name it. Performing well means boosting your competitive score and also making an impression in the amongst your peers and evaluators. Cadets that maintain the highest possible range of scores for each event receive Recondo and can receive awards at the end of the camp for their achievements. [BTW, Matthew received Recondo after completing LDAC and finished in the top 10% of his platoon. HOLLA!]
  5. Accessions – After LDAC, at the beginning of your senior year, cadets have all of their evaluations and various components over the past years collected to assess into their component, branch, and post.
  6. Commissioning – This is when you finally graduate and become attain officer status! There’s a great big ceremony filled with lots important military personnel 🙂
  7. BOLC (Basic Officer Leadership Course) – Every officer goes through this training, which lasts for about 4 months where officers learn the ins and outs of being an exceptional leader! While there is some classroom time, a lot of the learning is done out on the field. Makes sense since the Army’s motto is “Train like you fight and fight like you train.” It is quite like holding a regular job – you’re off around 5 and weekends are yours to spend as you wish (with some exceptions for certain weeks).
  8. Ranger School – This is as close to death as you’ll get. 2 months of non stop physical training, multiple phases to evaluate your skill sets, and only 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Sound hard? Well, if you don’t pass a phase, you have to do it all over again until you do. And the only way you can get out is if you pass, you quit, or you get kicked out. If you DO pass, you get the treasured Ranger Tab and bragging rights for life. [Matthew will need extra prayer when he goes through this….]
  9. Additional Training – There is the opportunities to take additional training after Ranger School if you’d like to in order to receive more specialized training in a particular area. To my understanding, most people can get around two or three schools and each one can last from a couple weeks to a couple months.
  10. And It Begins…. – Once you finish all your training and you are officially stationed, you begin your contract and start living your life as an Army Officer!

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Well, there it is! Whew. I am definitely not an expert yet and thankful, Matthew is patient enough to explain everything to me 🙂 Even all this is very general information but I really hope that it helps and gives you a little glimpse of what it’s like on the road to the military!

Peace out

~ Juang

[Did I miss something? Please be gracious, I am still learning, too! Please let me know if you have nuggets of knowledge to add or any adjustments by commenting below!]