There are many factors to consider when joining the military. Should you enlist? Join through an officer training program? Should you go Reserves, National Guard, or Active Duty? Which branch is your best fit?
An informed decision is sometimes difficult to make because there is a lot of ‘noise’ to filter out. A recruiter can be a good source of information. However, it is important to have more than one source of information.
A recruiter has quotas and is going to sell the benefits of military life. A good rule to follow in considering any career, military notwithstanding, is to talk to a few people who are doing the same job. Ask the recruiter for some contact info of new enlisted service members.
They may or may not be able to give you this information. If for privacy reasons you have to make your own contacts this can be accomplished through some networking. Talk with your high school or college guidance departments. Find out who recently joined the military then ask if you can contact them. You may have to go through their parents at first to find their current contact information.
A little digging and a little effort will be needed but it will pay huge dividends in terms of information.
The information gleamed from someone actually doing a job is almost always more accurate than someone recruiting you for the position. The military is a huge organization with members whose experience encompasses the entire spectrum of job satisfaction spectrum.
There are unlikely ‘fits’ regarding people who you would never guess would thrive in a structured environment. Those who are perpetually in trouble, barely get honorably discharged, but somehow grow up and do extremely well in their civilian lives once they leave.
The tricky part is deciding or predicting how the experience will affect you. Will it make you better? Will it scar you? Will it be a little of both?
It may be that everyone changes, at least a little, over a period of four years, but the military certainly offers chances to magnify the probability of change.
It is part “hurry up and wait” and “I can’t believe I’m being paid to do this” at the same time.
A recruiter can balance the peer perspective with someone who has moved up the chain of command and can offer what the payoff is for reenlisting.
There are obviously some key things to consider. Will the branch offer you a job you are interested in? In the Navy there is an expression, ‘choose your rate, choose your fate.’ This means there can be huge differences in the level of job satisfaction among sailors on the same ship depending on their job. This is known as a ‘rating’ or truncated to ‘rate’.
For example, a rescue swimmer, part of a helicopter air crew generally has a higher level of job satisfaction than someone stuck chipping paint every day.
Some people join for the job, they want to be in the military, for other people it is a stepping stone, a way to eventually pay for college or to save for a down payment. The Army Times outlines several recruiting incentives:
“Top-end payments of $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000 will go to recruits who enlist for four, five or six years in several priority career fields, including communications and electronics, military intelligence and explosive ordnance disposal.
The service also is offering other incentives, such as quick-ship seasonal bonuses, college loan repayments, bonuses for applicants with college credits, and Army College Fund benefits that, in some cases, can be combined with a regular enlistment bonus. Army policy caps bonus payments at $20,000 for a three-year enlistment.”
To join for money alone is not a good idea. It is an honorable profession, and no amount of money can really compensate someone for risking their life in battle. .