Even More Hurry Up and Wait!
The third blog in the series, on the eve of my departure to Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) in Texas! Iím driving from Virginia. Hooray, road trip!December and the holidays flew by, and it was suddenly the first part of January. The next step in my Army career centered around when I'd hear from the branch manager who would determine my first duty station, as well as when I'd go to the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. I already knew from my wonderful, informative people on the allnurses Government/Military forum that the next BOLC dates were late March, then mid-July. Texas in July? Really?! That sounded like a very bad idea. However, the thought of leaving in March was nearly giving me palpitations. I had several things to do before leaving -- recertifying PALS, recertifying my NREMT-P (paramedic), trying to sell the house, getting in one more cert (I wanted to do the CTRN exam), taking a vacation ... there was just no way I'd be ready by March! Thinking about a March departure made me start to understand what a panic attack might feel like. I told myself that if I could survive Texas in July, I could do anything. I thought surely there was no way the machinery would grind quickly enough to get me to BOLC in March.
In mid-January, I called and spoke with a program manager, who said breezily, "Oh, I think you'll be going to the March BOLC." Apparently it was not going to be "hurry up and wait" as far as my BOLC departure date was concerned. Okay, breathe ... breathe ... I can do this. My mental prioritization skills kicked into overdrive, and I began to figure out what I needed to do to get everything done, and what could potentially slip.
Also some exciting developments: my first duty station! I emailed the (overworked!) branch manager who is in charge of the 8A and M5 assignments, and asked if she had any idea where I might potentially be stationed. She wrote me back with four choices that she could offer me, which I wasn't expecting! I immediately called my husband to discuss our options, and I ended up choosing Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Its proximity to Savannah and the coast, not to mention my family in Jacksonville, FL, made it the best choice for me. Exciting development!
During the last week of January, I went to Ft. Myer Clothing and Sales with my awesome recruiter to buy my uniforms and other assorted items. Even trying on a uniform for the first time was a great feeling. I remember one day a few months earlier I read something on my recruiter's Facebook status: "I am really proud to be wearing this uniform." It stuck in my head, and hoped someday I'd have the opportunity to say the same thing.
We got the whole thing assembled, and my recruiter said, "You look like a soldier!" Then it was time to put on the dress blues and get them pinned for tailoring. She said, "Now you look like an officer." I was thankful that they stocked plenty of small sizes, because it turns out that most of my Army Combat Uniform (ACU) pieces are "extra small, extra short." I bought the regulation beret, and was told by my recruiter that it would have to be shaved and shaped. (This is why I am sitting here with a freshly shaved, wet beret on my head as I write this. No, really. I am.) I also bought boots (yay!) as well as dress shoes for the dress uniform. I bought PT uniforms, socks, t-shirts, ribbons, patches ... you name it. The outlay? About $1000. No kidding. Yes, officers buy their own uniforms; however, we are reimbursed $600 at a later date.
The last hurdle: my orders. I wouldn't know anything for sure -- March BOLC, Ft. Stewart -- until I had it in writing, in my orders. After all, the needs of the Army come first, and until I had orders, I took nothing for granted! Usually the Army likes to give people their orders 30 to 45 days from the report date. I thought, okay ... orders should be here in mid-February at the latest. No sweat.
Mid-February came and went, with no orders. I had originally planned to take a couple of weeks off at the beginning of March for pre-BOLC preparation, meaning my last ER shift would be March 3. I wanted to give at least two weeks' notice to my employers, meaning February 18 at the latest. YIKES. Do I give notice? Do I risk it? Do I take myself off the schedule?? Yes, I'm sure if something had happened and I had ended up being around until July, my employer would have put me back on the schedule. I decided to risk it. I turned in my resignation on February 18. The wheels were in motion!
End of February, no orders. End of last shift, no orders. By the evening of my farewell party on March 4, no orders. I was a stress case! I endured lots of fun comments from friends, who thought it was pretty funny that I had resigned without orders. I was doing my level best to not go out of my mind or pester the branch manager, who I know had put in my Request For Orders (RFO) -- indeed, she'd sent me a copy. I felt a little better seeing my RFO document, but I wanted those orders! As it turns out, the whole funding-the-government issue directly affected the speed at which our orders were processed. Apparently our seats at BOLC had to be funded before orders could be cut, and the funding was delayed. I was given verbal and email reassurance that I would indeed get my orders before my report date. I had visions of showing up at Ft. Sam, order-less. (Disordered?! Ha.)
On the afternoon of March 9, while shopping at Walmart, my wonderful little smartphone alerted me to a new item in my inbox ... I was thrilled to see an email from my always-fabulous recruiter with my orders attached! I jumped up and down (which probably didn't look all that weird at Walmart, all things considered), and downloaded and viewed the PDF just to be sure of the dates. There it was, in black-and-white, digitally speaking: March BOLC, and Ft. Stewart! Oh, I was elated. I immediately texted a few poor souls who had been suffering with me as I stressed about not having orders; I think they might have been as relieved as I was that I finally had them!
Tomorrow morning I'll hit the road toward Texas, and my future Army career. It's definitely going to be an adventure!Last edit by Pixie.RN on Mar 19, '11
About Pixie.RN, BSN, RN, EMT-P
LunahRN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, a volunteer Paramedic, ER RN, new 2LT/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her smartphone.
Pixie.RN has 'NREMT-P: 11, RN: 6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ED/Trauma, 66HM5 (Army)'. From 'everywhere and nowhere - global nomad'; 42 Years Old; Joined Aug '05; Posts: 12,619; Likes: 7,225.1Mar 20, '11 by New1LTWhenever I read your stuff I feel like we're in a parallel universe!!! Can't wait to hear how your BOLC experience!!! Just one request, be nice to the reservists!!! You can learn a lot from them. Spoke with MAJ V and MAJ R and it seems that Ft Stewart may be in my near future as well...but as you know, waiting for the black and white proof!!! Glad you made it to TN safely!!0Mar 20, '12 by Courbsh17Hey Lunah, I've been reading your blogs and it sounds like such a great experience. I was wondering if you can give me some tips. I am 21 years old and have worked on a medical surgical floor for about a year. I would love to be an ER nurse in the military. I have talked to an army healthcare recruiter once and know it's what I want to do. What made you pick army over air force (besides the tattoo qualifications)? I can't seem to decide. Is it possible to go in the army as a medical surgical nurse and come out as an ER nurse? Thanks for you input and your advice, keep up the posts their great!0Mar 21, '12 by Pixie.RN, BSN, RN, EMT-P Senior ModeratorI'm pretty sure that you still need 2 years of experience if you want to come in as a direct commission, but speak to a healthcare recruiter first to verify that. Air Force was not an option for me at all, but I think in the long run, I would have picked the Army anyway -- family tradition. I don't love the Army every day, but I am happy with my choice.
The Army is downsizing, and a lot! Your best bet to come in as an ER nurse is to get ER experience and come in as a nurse with some ER time under your belt.