The most frequent question we get from younger patriots relates to advice for joining and service requirements for the military. Whether you're about to join, or know someone who is, good insight can set you on the best path.
Is the military the right choice?
Inherently, the military is not for everyone. That's part of what makes it such a coveted fraternity. Most Americans never serve, but still love their country just the same. It's very important to ask yourself if you have the fortitude and discipline to serve. The military is not joining you, you are joining it. Screening out those not meant for service will save time, money, and frustration for the individual and the military alike. There are many ways to serve your country and community. Emergency medicine, first responders, and even translators are vital. For that reason, we recommend those types of professions to those who are disqualified from service.
Choose a branch of service and a job
Each branch has endless jobs, known as "rates" in the Navy. They are called Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) in the Army and Marine Corps. Last, jobs are called Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) in the Air Force. Infantry in the Army is different from infantry in the Marines. Testing to see what jobs you qualify for is the first step. Second, seeing what enlistment or education incentives are available will help your choice. Furthermore, seeing what bases your desired job could be stationed at may help guide your choice. Also, look at requirements for annual training, such as physical fitness and rifle score. Consequently, these will vary per branch, and even by job.
Enlisted or Officer?
Not everyone can afford college, and many use the military as a means to pay for it. However, don't forget to ask about Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships. If you already have a degree, or college credits, you may be able to commission or go in as a higher rank. Be sure to ask what is available to you.
Active Duty or Reserve service?
This will mainly depend on your living situation. If you want to move out and be independent, then active duty might be the best route. You will be a full-time service member. You will receive steady pay and 30 days of paid vacation (known as leave), annually. Reserve units do not perform military actions daily, unless they are activated or deployed. They typically only spend one weekend a month with their unit training. Additionally, they may perform 2-4 weeks training annually, typically in the summer. This could be appealing for full-time students, or those needing additional benefits to their current job. Many other differences separate the two options. These include differences in pay, health care, and retirement benefits.In conclusion, this may be one of the biggest decisions of someone's life. Research and cross-referencing details is incredibly important. Overzealous individuals may miss or omit certain details. As a result, self reliance to determine informational accuracy is paramount. Ask Veterans questions about anything you may be unclear about. Fact check anything anyone tells you and remember to square away personal affairs before joining. Also remember- words are hollow. Do not sign anything unless you read it and are happy with everything in it. Best of luck and drop your advice in the comments!