Thinking of Joining the Military?
If you are thinking of joining the US military, think deeply and gather as much information as possible before making a commitment. You, your family, and your friends will be better off if you make well-informed decisions.
There are incredible advantages to joining. The education, training, and benefits are unmatched. Your pay growth can be massive in certain career paths. You will probably have heavier responsibilities in your first four years of service than most civilians do in their entire lives. There are many opportunities for travel. Your job is very secure. Respect for the US military is at an all-time high. Whether you serve for 5 years or 30, you will always be able to say that you are a veteran of your former service. Even a brief period of military service opens incredible career opportunities.
Such benefits and prestige exist because life in the US military demands huge sacrifices. Your schedule is most often beyond your control. You may spend long deployments and training periods away from home. Even when you are home, you may be too short on time and energy to enjoy the world. Work can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Under these circumstances, you will see both the best and worst in people. You will make friends for life, and enemies whom you will never forget.
It will be hard for outsiders to understand how you grew and changed from your experiences, and for that reason, you will find incredible support from fellow veterans.
No one will ask you to commit to 20 years of service when you first join. Most people plan their careers in four to five-year increments. When they are nearing the end of their contract, they look back on their latest experiences and decide whether they and their family want to keep going. There is no shame to pursuing a civilian career after even the shortest of commitments.
Initial commitment is typically four years of Active Duty, but can be more depending on the length and cost of training a servicemember receives. Pilots and Doctors can incur nearly ten years of commitment because their training is many years long, and very expensive.
If you think you are ready for such life-changing experiences, then your first step is to evaluate among the military's branches and professions. It is critical that you understand the differences between Enlisting and Commissioning. Enlisted Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are technicians, operators, mechanics, and are in a very general sense the "blue collar" work force of the military. Commissioned Officers are key decision makers, and managers of Enlisted personnel. A Commission requires a college degree while an Enlistment only requires a high school diploma. Pilots are Officers, while the Aviation Maintenance Crew is composed of mostly Enlisted personnel, managed by another Officer or senior Enlisted person.In contrast, Special Forces communities make a much lesser distinction between Officers and Enlisted, as they endure nearly identical training and share the same duties in the field.
If you desire to become an Officer but college is out of the question for you, the military offers an array of competitive scholarships. If you already have a degree, be highly wary of recruiters convincing you to Enlist. It is far more difficult to earn a Commission after Enlisting, than just Commissioning in the first place. Nothing is guaranteed unless it's on a signed contract.
If you are a Doctor, Lawyer, or other advanced professional interested in earning a Direct Commission, then you may have your whole college tuition reimbursed in exchange for several years of service. Your primary duty is in your professional role, and you will not have the obligation to be a direct warfighter.
If you already have a career that you don't want to interrupt, then consider joining the Reserves or National Guard. These components offer part-time training in exchange for part-time work. They minimally require one weekend a month and two full weeks a year of duty, but most units are very flexible. The pay and benefits are roughly proportioned to what full-time Active Duty servicemembers receive, but the overall benefits are not as robust. The Reserves and National Guard are a very popular choice for people after they leave Active Duty before retirement.
There are an extraordinary number of factors to consider before joining the military. Your best source of information is other servicemembers, followed by recruiters, then online forums run by subject matter experts.
- What are the differences among the branches of the armed forces?
- How the Military Views Itself
- Origin of the Insignia in the US Military
- Joint Forces
- What does the military do for our country?