NEW ORLEANS --
The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff returned home to New Orleans and the Military Entry Processing Station here today, retracing a route similar to the one he took when he enlisted in 1979.
The New Orleans MEPS is no longer in the same place as it was when Marine Corps Sgt. Major Bryan B. Battaglia first took the oath of enlistment. It was relocated to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in 2010, but the tour still “a walk down memory lane,” the sergeant major said.
After the tour, the sergeant major administered the oath of enlistment to 16 recruits who represented the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
“Earn the title,” he told them. It’s not enough to just meet the standard, he added. Most of their peers are ineligible for military service, he noted. “You’re the one percent.”
Being located on the base is a good opportunity for applicants to see a military installation, some for the first time, said Army Maj. Troy Alexander, the New Orleans MEPS commander.
More than 10,000 applicants a year come through the New Orleans MEPS, which serves 35 parishes in Louisiana and 4 counties in Mississippi, Alexander said.
Applicants undergo a series of aptitude exams and medical tests before speaking with a liaison from their chosen branch of service, Alexander said.
The final stop is the oath room, a wood-paneled space with flags lining one wall. Opposite the flags is a glass wall, so family members can watch as the oath of enlistment is administered.
The room is dedicated to John Besh, a New Orleans chef and philanthropist who served in the Marine Corps from 1986-1992.
Besh was chosen for the honor, said Army Capt. Jason Oradat, the New Orleans MEPS assistant operations officer, because “we wanted to showcase how the military is a stepping stone in life. Not everyone stays in for 20 years, and you don’t have to serve 20 years … [or] die in combat to be a hero.”
“The oath of enlistment is given every day on the hour as long as applicants are here,” Oradat said.
“When I took the oath, … many years ago, … I didn’t know what I was in store for,” the sergeant major told the recruits. He intended to serve only four years, he said, but “got addicted.”
“It took ahold of me,” Battaglia said. “If it does that to you, just let it … if it doesn’t, that’s okay.”
Battaglia said he was excited and honored to administer the oath of enlistment and help the recruits take the first step on their military journeys. Military service will help them attack life, he said.
“We want you to be proud of that, and represent your service,” he said.