How I Joined the Military. I

Life Goals, Pilot, Kid Pilot, Dreams, Ambitions.

After ages away from this pages, I am back with some fairly good stuff. The blog will take a major shift & become a profile of sorts. The stories pending completion will be uploaded in due course. Don’t worry.
So, here we are and 90% of friends & family have a wrong idea of what I “really” do. To some extent it will clear the air, and to another extent it will leave you confused the more.
My dream since the year 2000 has been to do stuff in the aviation industry. Thus my path had curved efficiently & perfectly in that direction until we hit snag one of several when after high school, there was ‘a bit’ of stoppage to get to the next level. I did aviation to the last level of high school education. So in my mind plan A was to go to a flying school or an Aeronautical College after the same. It didn’t happen. So I switched to plan B. Plan B seemed very easy but it took some sacrifice. This was to join the Air force. My high school aviation teacher was from the Air force. I never had a military mind. I knew nothing at all about the services. Surprising enough, my class was full of sons of what I know as the decision makers in the military. Information which I came to learn much later coz I never cared about it before.
So here I was & I had only two weeks to put plan B into action. At that time I was “Hustling” around Eastlands. An advert popped in the newspapers asking willing candidates to apply for positions in the forces. The much I knew about it was that there are three arms, the Army, Navy & the Air force. My dream was still to fly & I aimed for the Air force. Academic performance was not an issue. The tricky part was passing the physical tests. These two weeks towards the day of the recruitment exercise, I was up & down using up all my savings to get fit & several dental procedures to make sure I was fit for the position. I had not taken my certificate & I also took my time to go get it.
The reason I chose to tell this story is probably coz my life revolves around mystery. I believe in omens. This came even way before I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. In these two weeks to the recruitment a lot took place. I graduated high school in the year 2006. This was the year 2008 & I hadn’t got my certificate yet. This was due to financial issues & other personal issues. So here I was with a plan B that was yet to be furnished. I also had several dental anomalies that needed magic to get me past those strict military doctors. So the challenges that were at hand were dental, didn’t have credentials, & I was underweight. I had stayed in Nairobi for several months & this time it was about one meal a day and several snack like things when the days were good. It wasn’t such a bad life but it was tight to the extent of needing me to stay on my toes. That is to remain focused to my goal which was a million shillings worth.  So I had to gain weight in two weeks, gain healthily so that I would be able to run & pass the other physical fitness tests. I also had to find a way to pay the small fee balance that was remaining so that I could secure my high school education certificate. Then the dental part, I had two cavities the size of a maize grain. That needed a miracle to get through. I couldn’t afford the procedures needed to fill both of them, temporarily or permanently.
So miracle one came through when the church I was going to at Kasarani organized a free dental clinic.  I just needed a 100/- to register & get a clinic card. I went & I got one tooth sorted coz I couldn’t get two critical dental procedures performed on me at the same time. I saved several thousands. I thanked God & requested him to open another door.  Meanwhile I was hustling for the remaining cash needed for the various processes with the help of my parents.
I returned to Kerugoya – Kirinyaga central & it was in the cold season. Here my sole purpose was to get fat & fit. So every morning while still dark & drizzling, I woke up and went for a 2 hour training session which involved running , stretches, & some other weird – weird exercises. This I had the support of two friends Edward & Dominic. Among the great players in the roles of modeling me. After that run I used to eat on my way home. In shagz we have hotels that cook food early in the morning.  It was pocket friendly and nutritious, it was balanced and it was costing me around 50/- every day. By this time my height was okay. That was sorted either by my age/ stage, or by my theory – whichever counts, I don’t argue much about that. (Read how I think influenced my growth) I would then head home, take a shower and take a nap.  I would then wake up again at around 10 and have breakfast. I would relax & start fantasizing about this life I know nothing about & how it would “change” my life. I would eat again at lunch, at 4pm and again supper. This didn’t include the in between intakes of fruits that were not a problem in my dad’s ‘orchard’. It was a career of eating.
Miracle two came through when I afforded cash for my second dental procedure. It cost me much, but I had to. I now had two filled teeth which were ready to face the fate of the military doctors in a week’s time.
Miracle three came through, when we managed to raise the remaining amount to clear my fees. I travelled to my former school to get my papers. After I was done clearing, I started back home. As I was walking to the gate, I noticed military personnel – Army camping in the school compound. With the excitement and all, I approached one of them & got all inquisitive. He went ahead to discourage me and say with my dental issues, I couldn’t make it through to half time. “Those fillings will take you nowhere”.  That time I was still green in handling discouragement. So I never got talking much with him coz again I had to get home & I didn’t want his words to get to me. I however noted the assortment of “big” phones which were charging at the gatekeepers post. “Good life… Hmmm” I thought to myself. I came to learn later that those were “China Phones” – Ile ya Haki!!!! So I travelled back home & got back to my training regime.
The Sunday to recruitment day a series of ‘events’ occurred. In a way they were runway lights to my ‘curve’. They were mysterious small – small things that I count as “Signs” or “Omens”. After my Sunday school session, I don’t know what clicked in the minds of the jovial boys in my class to salute their teacher on the way out… It felt nice to some extent. The much it meant was a sign to something bigger or nothing at all. Later that evening, a friend of mine happened to introduce me to another soldier – young in the service like – 2 years, who was a neighbor & a former primary school mate. Nobody knew my intentions, to join the military, but by this time, the lifestyle was starting to get to me – he was already driving. (Driving was still a big deal to me back then) I was already seeing myself there.  
So, recruitment day came. And I woke up early. Due to the tension I wasn’t quite sure what I would do. Especially in terms of feeding. I took breakfast though. Sweet potatoes and milk with an overdose of glucose. My idea of ‘doping’. I needed the energy. I was at the field around 20 minutes to time. By the way, only my mother, Ed, Dominic & 2 relatives knew what I was up to. Not even my dad knew what was happening all this time. I know by now we smiling or sulking to the thought of another mothers boy… it still counts, life is just life. It happens – that’s the story of another day. 
We were at the field. The military convoy entered the gates to Kerugoya Stadium at exactly 6.00am. In a few minutes they had already set up tents & closed the gates to late comers. We lined up in divisions and they briefed us on what they expected of us. We were then asked to sit in line and strip to shorts. I was in a track suit and it just needed adjusting to the required length above the knees. The process started by further dividing the divisions into the services. Those who wanted the army to queue in one line, another for the Air force and another one for the Navy. Here the academic restrictions started eliminating people. The Air force was recruiting the highest performing individuals, followed by the Navy, then the Army. They confirmed the Identification cards and those who didn’t have them were eliminated, then the certificates came. Those without were sent home. Those with fake documents were arrested at the spot & bundled up in an awaiting police vehicle. Then came the performance, I fell for the category that was asked to stay at the side since the grades were fit for university. According to them, the “job” was for those who had no hopes for university so we ought to be considerate and let them seek the job. I tried telling them I wasn’t looking for a job, I had also “lacked” the opportunity to join university. I was praying nonstop by the way in some quiet chant just under my breath. Luckily, not many “wanted” the Air force, so they couldn’t over – eliminate. We were taken back in.
Time came for the physical examination. This was a series of tests starting with visual inspection for scars. Here those who had scars were eliminated. In another article I will explain why the military has to be this strict on the physical examinations. I passed the ‘No scar’ check. I passed the height. I failed the weight by 0.5 or less of a kg. I swear my toes refused to press it enough, and my bouncing didn’t help either. I was convinced these people had recalibrated the weighing machine to “Elimination Standards” coz just the previous day I had confirmed my weight to a kg .5 above the required weight. I couldn’t have lost 1.5kgs in a night.
So there I was still deep in my novena. I was put on the standby list rather group, just in case they eliminated everybody in the later stages. Luckily my moment of glory was just within minutes. Another officer came to our position and checked me out. According to him I was displaced because of scars. He scrutinized me and said “Huyu ako sawa, wacha apite” (This one is alright, let him through). He didn’t know why I was there. The one who had taken my weight was almost to say something all I heard was “Afande huyu ako na…” (Sir, this one has…) Yipeee!!! The next stage was the flat foot examination.  I passed. By now many had been eliminated and a huge crowd had built up around the stadium to see the exercise. I was still deep in prayer, somehow I wasn’t aware of what was happening around me, but somehow in my mind I knew this was one big test taking place…
After the primary physical tests, came the time to run… this was the tricky bit and hardest of all. I wasn’t sure I was going to hack it. I did have the faith but here… this was for those who were really lucky. Somewhere out of the blues breakfast wanted to get off my system. I had to pee. I was afraid to ask for permission but before I could even raise my hand, the one in charge of running said “I know you are acting all brave here, but I know some of you are almost peeing on yourselves here, 1 minute to the loos and get back here!” Excited, afraid, energetic and all the other confused feelings were flowing within. On returning we were led to the main entrance to the stadium. We were given the basic instructions which were quite simple. “Run to the top of the hill,(not as steep but it was quite some distance) get the second paper from the land rover and the officers standing there, then come back, pick another paper from the officer at the gate, then proceed to the finishing line.”
I had some bit of general knowledge for running long distances… the much I knew was; I shouldn’t shock my body into action lest I get wasted and collapse midway or something. With that in mind, after the starting signal was given I started off on a low pace, & I followed the others slowly… Definitely, I was among the last and finally left behind within the first two minutes. My body was not yet ready – at least that’s what I consoled myself with. So pant – pant up the hill I went, about 5 minutes into the run, I started picking up speed, though it seemed as if I was not the only one picking up speed. Everyone else seemed to be with me on this one. I was shocked. Hope signal one, came through when the guys in front of me detoured to a stream nearby to quench their thirst… I knew I couldn’t be last. Some few friends of mine who were living in the nearby estate were surprised to see me in the race. They were pretty lose with their tongues & were quick to say the top ten is on its way back and I couldn’t make it. Fishing that out of my system was not a hard task since the agony of the run was enough to keep me preoccupied. I kept on moving. Most devastating was the number one guy, he was coming from my heading in full speed. The guy was an animal! How could he?!!!!….. I wasn’t even within sight of the said Land Rover! I passed a few more guys on the way up. I overtook a few more guys near the Land rover as I ran for the numbered piece of manila. Little did I know that the piece of paper was to ensure nobody turned back mid-way. Quitting was not an option for me then.

Running downhill was quite easy, unfortunately I had a double stitch and I had to brave it all the way down. I let my body go and as I passed near the estate, my “friends” were still there. They didn’t talk but I was quick to notice some expression of pity on their faces… I kept on moving and praying. The prayer kind of distracted me from the stitch and the sun that was already blistering. When the gate of the stadium was around 400 meters away, I now pulled all energy and will I had left in me. I decided, I would rather faint at the finishing line than get eliminated & miss this opportunity of a lifetime. 

To be continued…
Chapter 2

How I Joined the Military. I

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