Joining the military is an honorable way to serve your country. If you are interested in joining the military, there is a set process to follow. While there may be small differences when each person enlists, the overall process is the same for each person.
Speak to the Recruiter
Your first step to join the military is to speak to the recruiter for the military branch you are interested in joining. If you are unsure about the branch, speak to the recruiter for each branch as well as those who serve in each to find out about the day to day lifestyle and career opportunities that are available. Speaking to those who are already in the military can be an excellent way to get a first-hand look at what your military life will entail if you choose to join.
The recruiter is available to answer all of your questions about joining. Ask specific questions rather than broad ones. For instance, if you ask if vacation time is available in the military, the answer will be yes. However, if you ask how much vacation time is earned and when it can be taken, you will receive a much more realistic answer with more detail. For the record, the answer is 2.5 days per month. Taking leave time is dependent upon the unit commander’s approval but most units have block leave times where everyone takes leave together.
If you do not have a recruiting office close to your home, you can speak to a recruiter online through your branch of service recruiting website. This can help to answer initial questions and you can set up an appointment to speak to a recruiter in person.
Questions to Ask the Recruiter
- What is the initial training process?
Branches have a basic training phase as well as a phase to learn your specific job. Depending on your job choice, there may be additional training before you are assigned to your first duty station such as airborne or jump school.
- What types of jobs are available?
It helps tremendously if you can narrow down your interests before speaking to the recruiter. There are more than 100 jobs available and it would be difficult to explain each one in its entirety due to time constraints. Narrow down your choice to a specific field such as medical or mechanical. The recruiter can then explain the options available in that category.
- What is the enlistment period?
Most branches have a minimum enlistment of three years. Depending on the job choice, a longer enlistment may be required.
- How much will I earn?
Military pay scales are the same across all branches. Military pay is based on rank and time in service. Depending on your educational background, you may be able to enter the service at a higher rank and therefore receive higher pay. Ask the recruiter about your specific situation. Some branches also offer the opportunity to earn rank before you leave for boot camp through referrals of others who enlist.
- What are the benefits?
The military offers numerous benefits from allowances for housing, food and clothing to health and life insurance. These benefits can differ based on if you have dependents. The recruiter can provide information specific to your family situation.
When you meet with the recruiter, ask any questions you have about the military from what daily life is like to what you can expect during training. It is helpful to write down a list of questions before you meet with the recruiter to ensure all of your questions are answered.
In addition to asking the recruiter questions, your recruiter will want to know about your background as well including anything that could prevent you from being able to join such as past criminal activities or a physical ailment. He will also ensure you meet height and weight standards and are able to pass a basic physical fitness test that includes a run, sit-ups and push-ups. The number and time limits are based upon your age and gender.
Take the ASVAB
After you have spoken with the recruiter, you will take the ASVAB or Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery. This is a test that determines if you are eligible to join the military as well as which occupational specialties you are best suited for. The recruiter may give you a practice exam before taking the actual exam. It is important to note that there is not a pass/fail score for this test. Some jobs in the military may require a higher score in order to pursue that particular career field.
The ASVAB is a timed test with ten sections. In addition to testing certain aptitudes such as mechanical ability, it also tests basic math skills and reading comprehension. There are numerous study guides available online to help you prepare for the test. Your recruiter will also have resources available for you.
MEPS is the Military Entrance Processing Station. After you have taken the ASVAB and committed through your recruiter, you will be taken to MEPS to complete your enlistment. This is typically an all day process that includes a physical examination, choosing your MOS, signing your contract and swearing into the military.
If the physical exam reveals any cause for concern, the physician and your recruiter will speak to you about it. With many physical ailments, it is possible to obtain a waiver so you will still be able to join. It is important to be completely honest about your medical background as lying about it could result in consequences down the road if it is discovered.
When you sign your contract at MEPS, it will include a ship date for your branch of service’s basic training program. For some, the ship date is almost immediate, whereas for others, it may be several months away. If you have additional time before leaving, you must keep in touch with your recruiter and inform them of any changes that could affect your enlistment including speeding tickets. It is also a great time to ensure you are in top physical shape and will be able to pass the basic physical fitness tests you will endure during training.
Joining the military is an important decision and one that must not be made lightly. There are many factors to consider when you are investigating committing the next several years of your life to serving your country. Remember that your contract is a binding agreement and once it is signed, you are committed to following through with your service. Read the contract well before signing. It should include your specific training, your ship date and any bonus information that has been discussed. If it isn’t in your contract, it doesn’t exist.
Ready to learn more? Check out our handy guide How To Join The Army in 7 Easy Steps.