Youths weighing military get nod of approval from Old-timer


April 17, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OLDER GENERATIONS tend to look upon younger ones with a certain amount of despair: "Why, back in my day I had to walk five miles to school through 3 feet of snow." That sort of thing.

Some grumble about the lack of voluntarism among baby boomers and those coming up behind them. Recent books, many of them seemingly written by Tom Brokaw, celebrate the sacrifices and service of seniors, extolling virtues that appear beyond the comprehension of younger people.

One Old-timer draws comfort with word that about 65 kids have lined up at South River High School to give serious consideration to serving in the military. They will be participating in a Military Career Fair Day on Wednesday in a program organized by Kathy Kurz, South River's career connections facilitator.

Most of the services will be there with all the equipment they can muster: Humvees, helicopters, historic uniforms and trailers loaded with electronic stuff.

Kurz wears at least two hats at South River. She's a business-ed teacher, and she works on this countywide career program.

Part of what she does is connect students with careers, "to try to target kids from all groups and backgrounds, to include those who may not be headed to college."

Last week, Kurz chaperoned 120 students to Anne Arundel Community College, where they examined facilities pertinent to careers in health.

"One student told me afterwards that she really didn't think a health career was for her," Kurz said. "That really is a positive part of this program -- finding out what you don't want to do is as valuable as finding out what you do want to do."

Also last week, she had Circuit Court Judge Pamela L. North come by South River to discuss careers in law enforcement, government and public service.

Kurz said she had no military in her family and was not necessarily motivated by patriotism. "Basically," she said, "we try to help students be exposed to as many jobs as possible."

Old-timer went to the Navy's Recruiting Station on Housley Road and asked Chief Haydee Vazquez what jobs are available for an 18-year-old. "You name it, we got it," she said and rattled off a list that included electronics, communications, nuclear engineering, linguistics and intelligence. "Everything except agriculture."

She listed an array of options, including payment of 75 percent of college tuition, depending on the program. Not chump change these days.

"Most kids today like to go into communications and computer electronics fields," she said.

To be honest, Old-timer only sauntered to the colors when the draft board came calling decades ago. The mud and noncommissioned officers and powder room facilities were almost certainly worse at Fort Jackson than those at Dix or Knox or any other basic-training fort. He remembers with revulsion his first meal at Jackson -- SOS, an acronym too military to be spelled out in these pages.

So much of that has changed. Several years ago he was a guest for three nights on the USS Annapolis, one of the fleet's newest attack submarines. Crew members were a well-mannered bunch, computer nerds, it seemed, with their heads planted in thick technical manuals.

Perhaps significantly, the food was beyond passable; it was very good, thoughtfully prepared, carefully presented. It was odd to relay compliments to the chef in a military setting.

It turned out that the cooks were preparing for some sort of inter-submarine cooking competition, a regular feature of today's Navy.

You might call their spread hors d'oeuvres de combat.

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