Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Life Changing Experience: The U.S. Navy

Robert Sheetz, originally from Aurora, Colorado, joined the U.S. Navy immediately after graduating high school. Sheetz felt that he had not taken life seriously enough throughout his high school career and was skeptical about getting accepted into any colleges. Knowing he needed a push in the right direction, Sheetz joined the military to find structure he needed to succeed.

The very first day was extremely nerve-racking. After spending several hours in the processing center, where Sheetz was able to able to relax and talk to other people that were in his same position, they all got on the bus that would bring them to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. The ride started off pretty “low key,” he described. “Then we were told that everyone had 20 seconds to get off the bus.” With instructors screaming directions at him, Sheetz said he was only concentrating on not getting in trouble. Everything that had happened prior to that seemed irrelevant, and he could only focus on doing exactly what he was told in that moment. “It seemed like their way of saying ‘welcome to boot camp.’” His experience there was similar to this moment, where he was at the very bottom rank, with people around him demonstrating their power and authority.

After boot camp, Sheetz went to Virginia Beach and was stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station where he stayed while he was not on the ship. Here, his job was to work on wiring and computers. He also spent time on corrosion prevention, and a year and a half painting.

While he was on tour in the Persian Gulf, Sheetz remembers it being difficult to keep in touch with family. This was something that he had a hard time getting used to. The internet was unreliable and usually e-mails didn’t get received for 3-4 days after they were sent. The phones on the ship also had a delay.

To keep busy, Sheetz and his friends played basketball in the gym that was on the bottom floor of the ship. They also played video games, attended ice cream socials and were able to watch movies, or the few cable TV channels they got.

Throughout his 5 years on active duty, Sheetz spent a lot of time with the same group of people every day. He came out of the experience with a few very close friends. “These are the people I can relate to about situations that others don’t understand.” After having been through similar struggles and triumphs, the bonds he’s made with some of his fellow soldiers will last a lifetime.

When Sheetz left to go home, his father picked him up and they made the long drive back to Colorado together. “The experience affects me every day in the way I think and act. I know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel and I’ve worked for five years to make my way up.” He has set goals and will not let anything get in the way of accomplishing them. At 24 Sheetz is an honor student majoring in Anthropology at the University of Wyoming and feels he has made a huge turnaround from his adolescent years.

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