March 9, 2015 – Choosing to join the military is among the most honorable means of volunteering to serve your country. Your sacrifice is appropriately revered by all and the level of personal pride you feel is certainly worthy. Though you have chosen to step forward to defend and protect you can and should do so in ways that will make the most of your enlistment for yourself and your family. These are the 3 most important ways you can navigate your way from recruitment through service to make the most of your enlistment.
Choose Your Path Wisely
Your military career will revolve around your choices before enlisting. Options that are available to you prior to enlistment include your occupation, your duty station assignment, the term of your initial enlistment, and any bonuses and educational opportunities available to you. Figure out what you hope to gain from your enlistment and tailor your choices to best meet those goals. You may find that the branch of service you planned to join does not offer you a better chance than an adjacent branch, so be ready to critically evaluate each branch and select what’s best.
Once you have chosen the branch of service best for you, choose the military occupational specialty that will offer the most fulfillment during your enlistment as well as the best chance for transitioning to the civilian world after your service is complete.
Bonuses and other opportunities for furthering your education are widely available. Some of the benefits require that you first meet certain standards to qualify while others may require you to make specific levels of commitment. Judge for yourself which options are available and whether or not augmenting your enlistment parameters (specific occupation, length of service, etc.) are worth the extra benefits.
Be Prepared for Training
Your military career starts when you arrive at your recruit training depot. Whether you plan to train in the mud of Fort Benning, the sand of Parris Island, or the shores of Great Lakes, you will need to be fully prepared for the rigors of basic training to embark upon your military career productively.
Being prepared means being physically fit and mentally aware of the requirements of training. You cannot possibly imagine on your own how basic training will test your mind and body, so draw upon every resource at your disposal to prepare adequately.
Serve With Honor
After you have chosen your path, received the training for your field, and entered full enlisted service, it is up to you to serve with the highest honor. Unfortunately, there are those who have enlisted in the armed services and squandered their opportunities by failing to live up to the standards of military service. Understand that you will be held to high standards and be required to maintain discipline at all times. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences but by living up to what you’ve been trained to do can open a world of opportunities for the rest of your life.
Upon release from active duty you will be discharged by one of several possible distinctions from honorable down to dishonorable. An honorable discharge will mean that you served honorably and will stand as a badge for you to take with you wherever your career takes you. A dishonorable discharge or any one of the other possible less than honorable discharge distinctions can hinder your ability to receive military benefits or cause you to forfeit those benefits altogether and/or serve as an impediment to you securing employment as a civilian.
This article was written by Sergeant Michael Volkin, lead instructor at Basic Training University, an online learning school for those preparing for basic training.