There's no such thing as a "category IIIB" job in the Army. Category IIIB isn't a type of job -- it's the range of scores just above failing on parts of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, the test that tells the Army what you're good for. Getting a score in category IIIB doesn't mean you're dumber than dirt or that you can't qualify specific specialties. It means you passed.
The ASVAB is a series of nine tests that measure your reading and word comprehension, your understanding of science and how mechanically inclined you are. It also measures how well you can fit things together and your knowledge of electronics. One section measures your ability to reason using math and another, arithmetic reasoning -- basically, word problems. The Army uses your scores to understand where your abilities probably lie and whether you're likely to possess abilities they require.
Four parts of the ASVAB, paragraph comprehension, word knowledge, arithmetic reasoning and mathematics knowledge form the Armed Forces Qualifying Test. The AFQT is the Army's entrance exam. This is where the label, "category IIIB" comes from. If you score better than 31 percent, but worse than 50 percent of population between 18 and 23 years old on those four parts of the ASVAB that make up the AFQT, your score falls into category IIIB. You can enlist, but your enlistment options may appear limited at first.
When you leave the Military Entrance Processing Station, having raised your hand and sworn to protect and defend the U.S., you're in the Army. When you arrive at basic training, the Army will give you another battery of tests to find out where your strengths lie. These examinations test for specific skills and abilities. Some skills require you have a certain ASVAB score -- if so, you can take the ASVAB again after one month. If necessary, you can retest again after another month. If your scores still aren't up to snuff, you can re-retest again in six months.
The elements of the ASVAB that aren't part of your Armed Forces Qualifying Test make a difference in your job choices. If your AFQT scores are 39, you're 9 points higher than the lowest acceptable score. The key to your job lies in the way that the scores on the five parts of the ASVAB not part of the AFQT -- general science, math, electronics, automotive knowledge and the ability to assemble objects -- combine. If the scores on the five sections that didn't brand you as a category IIIB are high enough, you can get any job in the Army.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.