NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - When Pvt. Jeffrey P. Kant tried to enlist in the military two years ago at an Orange County, Calif. recruiting station, recruiters laughed at the tattoo laden, high school dropout and told him to move along. But that didn’t dissuade Kant from trying again.
Kant had a large scorpion and three other tattoos that reached from the back of his ears to both collar bones. The Army bans enlistment of recruits with tattoos on the face or sides of the neck. Kant then began what would be six painful and expensive laser treatments to remove the tattoos.
Kant went back to the recruiting station and showed his blistering progress. He was now ready to take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery test to see if he could qualify to enlist. Kant scored a 16 on the ASVAB but needed at least a 31 to join the military. He was devastated. He knew math was his greatest weakness so he worked weekly with a tutor to help him increase his scores. Six months later, Kant retested and made a 33.
Kant applied for a tattoo waiver and it was denied. He scrounged more money together and continued laser treatments. The recruiters sent him to the Military Entrance Processing Station for a physical and he passed. But discouraging news would come with his results as he was told the minimum ASVAB score to enter the military had been increased to 50.
Distressed, Kant talked to a friend of his who told him about a program in the Army National Guard called GED Plus which allows applicants to join with a 31 ASVAB score as long as they pass the GED examination. He gave him a number for Staff Sgt. Rhiannon Carlucci, a recruiting and retention specialist for the California Army National Guard in Riverside, Calif. She processed a tattoo waiver this time and 72 hours later had an approval from MEPS. Kant was sworn in and kissed his family goodbye before shipping out to the GED Plus Program.
Kant said he has begun to lean on his faith more since he’s stepped out into a world unknown to him. As he touched down at the Little Rock Airport, Kant received a gift from a stranger. “The day I left to come here, there was a guy standing outside the door and gave me a bible," said Kant. "I hadn’t read a bible since I was ten years old. I took it and placed it in my left (chest) pocket. I keep it right there with a picture that my two year old daughter drew me. That’s been my motivation every day. It’s not easy to be here and to be away from your family.”
Kant failed on his first attempt at taking the GED examination at GED Plus. He and others who failed were brought in, told the results and counseled on areas they needed improvement.
“I was looking around and everyone was crying,” Kant said. “I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t upset. This program gives you three chances to pass. I looked at my test results and said ‘Holy Moly!’” Kant pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. “I got a 390 in math and that was the only subject I failed. I only needed a 410 to pass and a 450 average overall. I was so proud of myself! I blew everything else out of the water, except for math. Never in my life would I have thought I would be able to do that. That motivated me.”
Kant took remedial math classes with GED Plus Instructor Dwain Prosser. “That man is a genius,” Kant said. He listened intently, asked questions and worked out equations. Prosser, a retired veteran with 24 years active duty with the Army National Guard, has worked as an instructor with the GED Plus program for the last three years. He holds an MBA from Columbia Southern University.
“He was very eager to learn mathematical concepts and his motivation level was up there,” said Prosser. “His drive and motivation was easy to steer. I just took those qualities and channeled them to help him grasp concepts and improve his learning process. He took it and ran with it.”
After the second day in Prosser’s class, Kant’s score improved by approximately 80 points on the first exam. Students must pass two exams in the section they failed before being eligible to take the GED exam again. Five days later, Kant scored a 470 enabling him to take the GED examination.
Kant went in motivated and positive that he would do well on the exam. The results were back and he and his battle buddy were told that they passed. “I said, ‘thank the Lord!’” said Kant. “I looked at him and we both started crying. I was blown away.”
“We were going through our graduation ceremony and I was trying to hold it in. I had tears coming down my eyes, but I didn’t care. This is my moment. I worked my tush off for this! They called my name and instantly I started crying. The minute the company commander put the diploma in my hand---it meant the world. I’ve never graduated from anything in my life. I’ve never succeeded in anything in my life--ever. I’m still in shock! I did it!”
Kant reported Sunday to Ft. Jackson, S.C. for Army basic training and will attend the U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Basic Petroleum Logistics Division at Ft. Lee, Va. to learn his job as a Petroleum Supply Specialist.
“I feel amazing right now,” Kant said. “I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
Kant is married to Amy Kant and they have one son, Devon, and two daughters, Bella and Becca. They reside in Temecula, Calif.