On Feb. 20, 1970, a presidential commission moved the United States to all-volunteer armed forces. Recruitment efforts presented the military as a career path, an income, and a way to higher education. In the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001, Army Sergeant Cheri Depenbrock was amazed as people walked in her recruitment office with one purpose. “It was all about the patriotism,” she recalls, “They didn’t care about anything else. Money had nothing do with it…I think half those kids would have joined if we hadn’t paid them.”
In 2010, it wasn’t the money or benefits that led Specialist (Spc) Jeremy Shivick, a native of El Cajon, to a recruiter. He was attending San Diego State University as a math major and felt a sudden urge to join the Army. Despite a lack of family support, he remembers, “I felt like I could serve my country more by being a soldier than I could going to school.”
Infantry is what Shivick went after from the get-go, saying that was the job that fit him best. “The first thing everyone goes through is basic training,” he says, “That’s where you transition from being a civilian to being a solider.” Basic teaches physical and mental preparedness in a highly intense and challenging task environment, including combat life-saving certification. Compared to school finals, the Army gave Jeremy new meaning to performing and functioning under stress.
Shivick had to zero an M-4 series weapon, a soldier’s small arms companion. (The term “zero” means the point at which the path of the bullet intersects with the shooter’s line of sight). This requires mastering aim, positioning, breathing, trigger squeeze — even outfoxing the weather.
Shivick went to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to become a specialist in his Infantry job. “There I learned a lot of tactics and how to deal with combat situations and how to interact with multicultural civilian populaces in different regions.” Upon leaving AIT, Shivick says they get a little more hands-on training with the squad automatic weapon (SAW), an M240 machine gun, a .50 caliber rifle, and the Mark (MK-19) grenade launcher —although some of these weapons are specialized to companies that deal with heavier equipment.
Not everyone can get in Airborne School, but Shivick had it written in his enlistment contract. He replays the first time he jumped out of an aircraft, “I was nervous for a little while. You have to rig up [a parachute and rucksack] and do pre-jump exercises to get in a state of mind to exit the aircraft. Lots of friends I knew from Infantry were there – we were moral support for one another. Once I jumped, my military chute opened and everything went great. I got to see this incredible view – the tops of trees I’ve never seen before.”
While assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Shivick jumps all the time. “Part of our task list is to practice becoming a presence on air fields and going from there to conduct ground operations.” In combat, the view through tree tops could be rocket fire, bullets and shrapnel. Still Shivick thrives on the thrill of being attached to the 82nd. “I really enjoy my unit. They’ve taught me a lot and instilled so much discipline.” He’s aware that staying is not up to him, “If orders take me somewhere else, I have to go — that’s the lifestyle.” It’s a lifestyle wrapped in duty.