So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

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So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by UVA2B » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:43 pm

Ok folks, it's time to kick this thread off with guides to alternate careers in the military. I'm starting off with the Navy, and will update linking to other guides as helpful contributions are made. Thanks for reading!

So You Want to Serve in the Navy?

Anchors aweigh! It's awesome you’re considering joining the United States Navy, and there is a ton that goes into that decision, but that’s why I’m here to help. Serving in the Navy can be a point of massive pride, a chance for growth and maturation, and an opportunity to serve the country and give back while gaining interesting and valuable work experience.

I want to establish, at the outset, that I am in no way connected with U.S. Navy recruiting, nor am I advocating for anyone in particular to join the U.S. Navy (or any other service). This is meant simply as a guide for someone who has already decided a career (or at least a single contract) may interest you. I am always available to answer questions that are within my experience or fields of knowledge, and I will try my best to not misrepresent any of the various communities or specialties within the Navy, but considering you’re reading this on a non-military focused website, I’ll assume most of your questions will be sufficiently introductory that basic information will be helpful. If you want more in-depth information about a specific career track outside my experience and knowledge, I recommend you reach out to people within that community or at minimum to recruiters who are entrusted with providing that sort of in-depth knowledge not meant here (important reminder about recruiters: they are interested in signing up eligible people, so while their information may or may not be completely accurate, they are motivated to get you to sign on the bottom line. That’s why you should always do your own research beyond what a recruiter provides).

Deciding to serve is an intensely personal decision. There are tremendous personal and professional benefits, but with those benefits come attendant personal sacrifices. It should neither persuade nor dissuade you from deciding to serve, but it’s a reality you need to be comfortable with in making this decision. I’ve outlined below some positives and drawbacks I’ve experienced in service plus things I’ve gathered from many friends and fellow service members who decided to serve and/or have decided to conclude their service. It will not be an exhaustive or conclusive list of all the pros and cons of service, and some may be completely unpersuasive to you. The list is as fair as one person can make it, knowing it is my own opinion and not some endorsed list of positives and drawbacks of service.

Who am I?

I have served in both an active duty and reserve capacity, although the majority of my experience is in the active component of the Navy. I was/am an officer with over a decade of experience across multiple specialty areas. In order to maintain some tiny amount of anonymity, I won’t go too much into my own personal experience and professional credentials, but in the event I can provide guidance specific to those interested in my career field, I will try to reach out individually to provide that kind of guidance.

Entrance Requirements

It probably comes as no surprise that there are entry requirements to service. The most likely bars to service in my experience are the following:

1. Failure to meet physical or medical requirements (found here: https://www.navy.com/navy-life/life-as- ... l-training)
2. Drug/alcohol screening failure (any drug or alcohol-related offenses will require a waiver for entry)
3. Character/moral determinations (in my experience, this is mostly related to criminal offenses, but also may include financial hardships and bad credit or other things that may compromise you as a service member with access to sensitive and classified information)

These general requirements can be found here: https://www.navy.com/joining/ways-to-jo ... commitment

As an officer, you must be a citizen of the United States with at minimum a bachelor’s degree (I will not go into Chief Warrant Officers or Limited Duty Officers who don’t require a bachelor’s degree, because that commissioning source happens through the enlisted ranks, and by the time you’re eligible for that service, you won’t need a guide on a legal forum to navigate that process. If that specific area interests you, here is a link that describes CWOs/LDOs: https://www.navy.com/joining/ways-to-jo ... icers.html). In order to get into more specific communities will come with additional requirements (vis a vis JAGs need a JD, doctors need an MD/DO, etc.). The selection process will vary in selectivity depending on the accession needs of that community, but it would be nearly impossible (plus I don’t want to try) for me to gather all of the specific requirements of every community that interests you. It will also require being eligible for at minimum a Secret security clearance, which has its own set of requirements not worth going into here, but if you’d like to ask about your personal eligibility, we can discuss it privately (keeping in mind I am not an authority on this and am in no way going to tell whether or not you would be eligible for a Secret or Top Secret clearance).

For enlistment, you will need either a high school degree or GED, be a U.S. Citizen or a non-citizen in a permanent resident status, and between the ages of 17-34. Beyond these basics, your physical and intellectual capabilities will define what ratings are available to you. In order to determine this, you’ll need to complete a physical fitness assessment (PFA) and complete the ASVAB. These will be offered by recruiters, and the ASVAB is offered through alternative testing centers in some places. If needing to take the PFA or ASVAB, you should visit a recruiter in your area. Additionally, depending on your rating, you may also need to qualify for a Secret or Top Secret Clearance.

Picking a designator/rating

As previously touched on, serving in the Navy can be across a wide swath of specialties and professional career tracks. If enlisting, you will be choosing a specific rating you want to serve in, which is the specific training and career path you’ll enter into based on the core competencies and areas of technical and professional expertise. The recruiter will be helpful in helping figure out how your interests fit into a particular rating, but never forget that recruiters are trying to fill some specific ratings more than others, so you’ll want to do some of your own research on this. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of enlisted ratings currently available to new accessions: https://www.thebalance.com/navy-enliste ... ns-3345844

Considering this is a legal forum, you’ll probably want to check out the Legalman (LN) and Yeoman (YN) ratings, but certainly don’t confine yourself to just those ratings. You can do some cool stuff as an enlisted member of the Navy.

Officers will follow a somewhat similar career decision from the outset, but the decisions are slightly more or less nuanced, depending on how you look at it. Officers fall into four basic categories: Unrestricted Line (URL), Restricted Line (RL), Staff Corps, and Limited Duty Officers (which includes CWOs already mentioned). Within each of those categories come a bunch of different specialties (known as designators), so it’s most important you understand where your particular interest fits into this scheme, and also importantly, how that will affect your career progression. These differences are important, because each type of officer has slightly different entrance requirements, and equally importantly, follow very specialized training pipelines that result in the ultimate fairly rigid career progression. Picking the wrong community for you can have lasting impact, because your service comes with a commission appointed by the President, which can severely limit your ability to move into other specialties. Lateral opportunities to other communities are possible, but you’re under much more control by your current community than you would ideally like. Just because you start as a pilot, for instance, doesn’t mean down the line you can just decide to go to law school and automatically re-designate to become a JAG. It happens, and it’s certainly doable, but it’s not automatic, and it may require actually getting out of the service in order to get back into your desired career path. Further, different specialties have differing lengths of contracts because of the cost of training you in that specialty, so you’ll want to know what the required contract is prior to applying for entry into that designator community. This is why it is essential you consider very closely what community is the right fit for you (particularly if you’re thinking this will be more than just an initial contract).
https://www.thebalance.com/navy-commiss ... ns-3356599

Service Commitments

Most enlistments/commissions will come with a 4-6 year commitment. Shorter enlistments can be possible, but are fairly individualized based on the rating, and I have never actually heard of a shorter officer commitment than four years (I could be wrong on this, but I’m just going off of what I know and what I’ve ever seen). There are certain ratings and officer communities that have specific contract lengths (for instance, a pilot will sign an 8-year contract due to the length of the training pipeline in my experience).

Service commitments are typically pretty ironclad without removal (officer) or administrative separation (enlisted). These types of shortened commitments are usually involuntary based on some various reasons not worth going into now, and you should assume that you will serve the length of the contract you sign. There are certain programs that come and go in the Navy that will allow early separation for school, or early separation due to overmanning in a specific rating, etc. but these programs are limited, usually come with other foregone benefits, and are controlled by the rating detailers (those who control the personnel health of the rating at all ranks). For officers, the amount of administrative headache that goes into removing an officer is typically high enough that any sort of removal or early separation will be due to poor performance (known as a for cause removal) and lack of need in other communities, or medical disqualification. Without going into too much detail on the removal process, I’ll just leave it at this: expect you’ll serve your whole commitment. If you’re successful in your commitment, I can almost guarantee you will.

If you decide to serve beyond your initial enlistment contract, you will have the opportunity to reenlist and sign new contracts at the conclusion of each contract. In order to be eligible for retirement (discussed more below), you will need to serve 20 years on active duty or accomplish 20 years of “good years” of service in the reserves. The nature of your career (active vs. reserve) and time served will directly impact the amount of retirement you receive in terms of monetary compensation. It can also affect when that retirement is drawn. For active duty, retirement is drawn from the moment of retirement. For reservists, monetary compensation cannot be drawn until reaching the age of 60. Generally speaking, active duty retirees will earn more compensation than reservists, both in total amount and as a percentage of base pay. (Side note: with the advent of blended retirement systems that use TSP matching instead of legacy retirement, the entire calculus will be different. This isn’t something for you to worry about now, but I would be remiss to not note that military retirement is subject to some change presently).

Benefits

Compensation: while not a biglaw starting salary, a commissioned officer will earn competitive wages with regular increases in base pay and other allocations (housing allowance, subsistence allowance, bonuses). You’ll never really be “rich” as a military officer, but the compensation can outpace civilian careers depending on the comp of that civilian career, and come with more job security. Additionally, the retirement that will be otherwise received from the day of retirement can supplement a second career, should you choose to pursue one following retirement.

Here is a useful calculator to compare civilian comp. vs. military comp, to account for untaxed allowances, etc: https://www.federalpay.org/military/cal ... rvice=Navy

Medical coverage: TRICARE isn’t the greatest health care on earth, and is subject to some restrictions, but considering the price of it, the medical benefits from TRICARE are nearly unmatched. You and/or your dependents will be covered for medical, dental, and vision for the entirety of your service, and if you suffer any injuries or conditions while in the service, you will forever be covered for those injuries and conditions through the VA. When considered as part of overall compensation, it must be included as a tax-free benefit.

Education: Assuming you are enlisted or commissioned through a non-ROTC or service academy source, you will begin accruing Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits after 90 days of service (or within 30 days if you suffer a medical condition that causes your enlistment/commission to be finished. In this case, you’ll be entitled to 100% GI Bill education benefits, and in any case, it’s a fairly rare case). From that point, your coverage will be as follows for in-state tuition in public colleges or universities:

90-179 days: 40% coverage
6 months: 50% coverage
12 months: 60% coverage
18 months: 70% coverage
24 months: 80% coverage
30 months: 90% coverage
36 months: 100% coverage

See: https://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsh ... l_info.pdf

On top of these public school benefits, you can also become eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, wherein a private university agrees to cover the difference in cost between what the VA provides and the cost of tuition (the school will determine the extent of their involvement in this program. You can refer to the Veteran Thread on how schools handle GI Bill+YRP). Post 9/11 GI Bill also comes with housing allowance while in school and expenses up to $1000 for books and testing. Post 9/11 GI Bill allows eligibility for 36 months of education benefits, which aligns with a 4-year bachelors degree program (4 years x 9 mos. in a school year. It doesn’t cover summers, which must be understood). It can be used for any level of undergraduate, graduate, professional, or technical education. Again, see the link above regarding Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

But that’s not the extent of education benefits while in the service. The Navy provides opportunities to complete courses through the Navy, such as completing College Level Equivalent programs while in a deployed status, as well as using a program known as Tuition Assistance to complete a degree concurrently to your service. Tuition Assistance comes with additional service prerequisites, so it should only be used if you meet those prerequisites, but it nonetheless allows service members to complete education while in the service. I personally used TA for a portion of a Master’s degree, and it really helped defray costs at no additional service commitments from me. It’s a good deal if you qualify for it.

Finally, since this is a legal profession forum, the final program worth noting here for those who decide to serve in a non-JAG outcome is the Law Education Program (LEP), which can alternatively be referred to as a Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP). This deal is just about the best deal out there for someone wanting to be a JAG, but it’s also intensely competitive and I’ve heard rumblings that they are considering discontinuing it for reasons that don’t need to be discussed here (it’s a bit of inside baseball, and it’s only rumblings right now to the best of my knowledge, which means it very likely could never happen). The program itself is phenomenal, if selected. You’re eligible for the program between 2-6 years of commissioned service, and must be under the age of 35 when you start the program. The Navy typically selects between 2-6 LEP candidates in a year, but most typical I’ve seen is 2-4. The reason it’s such an amazing opportunity is because your education will obviously be fully funded, and it guarantees you a position in the JAG Corp. provided you graduate and pass the bar, and guarantees 6 years of service in the JAG Corp. before you have to consider whether to sign a new contract. Additionally, you will be paid active duty pay and benefits for the entirety of your time in law school, while accruing years toward active duty retirement, with summer employment substantially worked out for you through the JAG Corp (while having some say in where that employment happens). When I applied for it, I conservatively estimated the total value in strict monetary dollars at well north of $500k just in tuition savings and compensation while in law school, which says nothing of the retirement and medical benefits that come with all military service and the guaranteed job as a JAG. Seriously, it’s a great deal if you want to be a Navy JAG. That's why it's so competitive to get.

Retirement. As mentioned earlier, a service member who completes 20 years of active duty service, 20 “good years” of reserve service, or is medically retired for injuries or conditions sustained while in service will be eligible for retirement. This means a percentage of your base pay calculated by your rank and years of service at the time of retirement (active duty retirement) or as a percentage of base pay calculated based on the number of retirement points you accrue and the rank and years of service (reserve duty retirement). An important difference is mentioned above, in that active duty retirees collect at the time of retirement, whereas a reservist cannot draw on retirement until the age of 60. Additional benefits include TRICARE medical coverage for life for you and your dependents (which, FWIW, is easily the best benefit you receive as a retiree) and lifetime access to military services such as commissaries, exchanges, and base services. The latter benefits apply regardless of the type of retiree you are.

I am going to paint with an extremely broad brush in reserve retirement point system, but I want there to be at least minimal clarity on this. In order to get a retirement point, you’ll have to do your “one weekend a month, two weeks per year” service. The more time and training you do as a reservist, the more points you’ll collect. In order to get the previously mentioned “good year,” you’ll need 50 points per annum. This is pretty easily achievable while in a Selected Reserve (SELRES) status, because each “weekend” should be worth 4 points, the “two weeks” will be worth at least 12 points, 15 points are automatically granted to those in a SELRES status, and BOOM! You’ve hit 75 points. There are additional requirements not worth mentioning here in figuring out whether you had a “good year,” but once you meet those requirements, you’ll complete a “good year.” Do that 20 times as a reservist, and you’ll be eligible for reserve retirement. If you’re particularly interested in the reserves as a form of service, you should reach out to me separately and I’m happy to discuss it more in-depth.

JAG careers

I’m going to keep this brief by just stating that I am not a JAG, and if you have JAG specific questions about the Navy JAG program, your questions are better directed to the Military thread (found here: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=511&hilit=Military) as well as speaking to recruiters about the career. You may also reference the thread available on TLS, where there is truly a wealth of information available on the Navy JAG program. That thread is found here: http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... 3&t=242114). I’m sorry I can’t be more informative, but I haven’t served in the JAG Corp, so the only information I can provide is from knowing JAGs, speaking to some JAGs, and reading enough about the career path and what it would mean for my particular career goals. Because I don’t want to mislead anyone, I shouldn’t really speak with any amount of authority on this issue.

Positives

I’m going to try to keep this brief, because a lot of the benefits have been more or less outlined above, but here are a few finite ways I think service/a career in the navy can be a big positive in your life personally and professionally:

1. Service to the country (if this one isn’t really important to you, you should probably reconsider, given the drawbacks below. You have to want to do this, not just doing it strictly for the benefits)
2. Benefits are competitive and the career is very secure (see above)
3. Friendships/camaraderie are pretty much unmatched from anywhere else I’ve experienced
4. Resume bump for when other careers are considered. Both inside and outside the federal government, the veteran bump is very real for many reasons, but number 1 and 3 above actually play a big part, because you run into fellow veterans in your life who respect you for what you’ve done because they’ve done it too
5. Personal growth. This must be understood that it comes attendant with some of the drawbacks below, but you will learn lessons about yourself that you never knew you needed to learn. This includes, but isn’t limited to, maturity, sense of selflessness, pride, work ethic, sense of duty, time management, both peer and superior/subordinate leadership, life compartmentalization (this was the best term I could come up with to describe your ability to cabin segments of your life into their own experiences without negatively impacting the others, but it’s also almost a sense of stoicism. I have a really hard time putting my finger on this exactly, but it’s a huge skill IMO), and ultimately self-respect and respect for those around you as you trust those you serve alongside intrinsically because that trust is necessary. I could probably keep going on this list, but hopefully this captures the ethos of the point I’m trying to make
6. Misc. There are countless other benefits I’m not explicitly outlining here that come as benefits in serving in the Navy (like the clichcd “see the world” stuff), but that’s because they are somewhat ancillary to what you should really get out of service, so just assume that some of what I would call more superficial benefits belong in this category

Drawbacks
1. Personal sacrifice. Anyone who tells you service doesn’t have to come with personal sacrifice will be lying to you (or just don’t get it). This point is intentionally very broad, because it captures not only the sacrifices you’ll have to make with your time, your hobbies, your vacations, your life plans, so on, so forth, but it will also directly impact those you love and care about. Relationships will be affected, important days will be missed, and countless other things will be squashed by your service. There are no two ways around this point. You have to be ready for a trying work environment that is constantly changing depends on the needs of the Navy at that time. If you want more in-depth discussion on this, I’m happy to write a lengthy screed, but considering this is already a lengthy screed, I’m going to confine it to what this point is.
2. Your freedom of career. Somewhat similar to point 1, but your personal career decisions will always come secondary to the needs of the Navy. That means possibly missing out on certain career opportunities you want to pursue or getting the duty station assignment you most wanted or even being denied the opportunity to pursue something else such as a different community. The Navy will let you have a say in how your enlistment and career progresses, but your voice will sometimes be heard well after the bigger voices coming from your chain of command speak first. Be ready to be disappointed in getting what you want professionally, because it more than likely will happen.
3. Compensation early on. Depending if you’re enlisted or officer somewhat, but as a baseline matter, the compensation is a bit rough in the early years of service. You’re not going to starve or find yourself homeless (unless you screw up very badly and don’t tell anyone in your chain of command about it), but realistically the compensation for a young, inexperienced enlisted is pretty meagre, and a young, inexperienced officer isn’t demonstrably better. This is not meant to say that compensation in itself is a drawback, but depending where you’re coming from or what background you come from, you may have to live modestly for a few years before you advance in rank and get paid more. But a couple years of more modest pay does level out once you advance, which you should do if you follow your respective career progression.
4. It’s not a civilian career. You’re in the military (duh!), and that means a rigidity of work and the expectations placed on you that you won’t experience anywhere else. That comes with the sense of camaraderie mentioned above, but in the Navy you’re going to work hard, there will be some long hours, and there will be times where what’s being asked of you will feel like it’s outpacing what you’re capable of doing. And sometimes, honestly, it will be. But working in this taxing environment will build the character I mentioned in the pros above, and you will get through it because you’re able to rely on the people working right alongside you.

Questions?

This guide is by no means exhaustive, and nor could any guide written for a legal profession website on a topic not relating to legal careers, but hopefully some of the information is informative for anyone considering service in the Navy, whether it be before UG, after UG and before law school, or even considering going JAG and want to know more about the Navy life from a more general perspective.

Please feel free to ask any questions about anything I wrote, and please feel free to shoot me a PM if you have specific questions you would like answered privately. I’m happy to help in any small way I can, because paying it forward is what this website is really all about.

Links to other Contributions:
Army (enlisted): viewtopic.php?f=21&t=232#p38931
Last edited by UVA2B on Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:44 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:44 pm

Reserved (let me know if you want to take the lead on the Navy/Air Force/Marines/Officer/other section.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:44 pm

Reserved (let me know if you want to take the lead on the Navy/Air Force/Marines/Officer/other section.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:45 pm

Reserved (let me know if you want to take the lead on the Navy/Air Force/Marines/Officer/other section.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:45 pm

Reserved (let me know if you want to take the lead on the Navy/Air Force/Marines/Officer/other section.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by UVA2B » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:49 pm

Happy to contribute.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:57 pm

UVA2B wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:49 pm
Happy to contribute.
Cool, feel free to ask a mod to take over any of these including OP. Plan was to eventually get around to filling out the first post as an Army specific one but it won’t be for a while.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...)

Post by haus » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:17 pm

Glad to participate, but I will readily admit that I am far enough removed that my experiences may not be as relevant to those thinking of going down the path as those who served more recently ( I went to boot camp when the first President Bush was in office ).

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by Cow » Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:43 am

I can contribute if folks have any questions on applying to be an Air Force JAG. I'm currently a 3L, so I don't have any experience on the active duty side of things yet but I'll keep checking in post-graduation as well.

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Re: So you want to be a Soldier (Marine, Sailor, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:18 am

Cow wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:43 am
I can contribute if folks have any questions on applying to be an Air Force JAG. I'm currently a 3L, so I don't have any experience on the active duty side of things yet but I'll keep checking in post-graduation as well.
Thanks! But you should also start a military law thread since jag isn’t really an alternative career (though it kind of is and definitely isn’t the norm).

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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by UVA2B » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:37 pm

Updated the OP and still hoping we can add some additional info for the other services!

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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by m052310 » Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:35 pm

Looks like UVA has Navy pretty well covered. If anyone has naval aviation / navy pilot specific stuff, I'm happy to answer what I can.

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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by ajordan » Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:50 pm

So You Want to Enlist in the US Army

The Army is the largest component of the US armed forces with somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 Soldiers serving on active duty at the time of posting. It sometimes gets the reputation of being the default choice for service because the standards are usually lower and the benefits seem more appealing at the time of enlistment (see: bonuses.) I'm here to help you understand the ins and outs of serving as an enlisted Soldier and why/why not you should/should not join.

I also have no horse in this race. I'd much rather you read this and stay out of the Army than read it and decide to join. Do not take my word as final word.

Who Are You?

I'm in the middle of year 14 in my Army career having enlisted in the National Guard in December of 2003. I switched to active duty about two years later and have been serving in that capacity since. I work in a job that most people are surprised exists and one I'm not going to share as it creates unrealistic expectations. Suffice it to say that if you don't know my job exists already you almost certainly do not qualify as the competition is fierce and most of your competitors have an advanced degree. I have one combat deployment to Afghanistan and two Korean rotations on my resume. Altogether almost eight of my 11+ years of active duty have been spent outside the US. I am an NCO (some sort of sergeant) of some variety and at times oversee between 10 (usually) and 25 (on a rough day) people in some capacity. I am not, nor have I ever been, an officer. I'll leave the various details of that path to someone else.

Why Should Someone Join the Army

Read UVA2B's post. I co-sign all of it. This is an immensely personal decision and should only be taken with your eyes wide open. The education benefits are largely the same in the enlisted Army. I will add a few other Army-specific things.

*If we are drawing law school analogies the Air Force is Yale. The Navy is Michigan. The Army is Georgetown. (The Marine Corps is Cooley? I kid, I kid.) The Army needs bodies. As such you should be using this to your advantage. Seek out a recruiter until you find one that's willing to go the extra mile for you. Someone inevitably will want you to pad their numbers. You don't get that kind of help/benefit, almost assuredly, for the other two services.

*After completing the ASVAB, most individuals who have read this post can sign up for just about any specific job they want. People in the processing station might lie to you and say, "oh shucks, paralegal specialist/linguist/interrogator is all full but I can get you fueler!" All you have to do is turn around and walk to another office. If you're patient and can wait six months you can have just about any job for which you meet the requirements. Most people do not walk in the recruiter office with that kind of patience. Use their weakness to your advantage.

*The Army usually allows enlistees to sign 3 year contracts which, for GI Bill mercenaries, beats the minimum four years that you'll run into in most of the other services. Last year the Army was actually offering two year enlistments. See your recruiter for specific info as this changes constantly.

Things About You That Should Make You Question Your Decision to Join the Army

*You can't stop smoking weed. Pretty self-explanatory. I get drug tested anywhere from three to eight times per year. There's just no room for drug use in a successful enlistment.

*You're excessively tall. This one isn't that obvious but there are MANY drawbacks to being tall in the Army. The primary concern is that, over time, your knees and back will go in the Army. Rare is the Soldier who does more than one enlistment who doesn't deal with at least minor musculoskeletal problems. If you get over ten years and you're over say, 6'2" you're going to feel it. Your rank advancement also depends on how well you do push-ups. Any boob who's done first year physics can tell you that the two equations 'W=fd' and 'f=ma' are a tall man's natural enemy on the push-up.

*You can't behave. The Army places great weight on "The Army Values" and most Soldiers believe in their relevance to day to day life. I'm not saying there are no crooks/thieves/rapists in the Army, just that most of the folks in the Army would be happy to string those folks out and let them rot. This job comes with high responsibility. Getting separated for anything other than an honorable discharge is going to cause you severe problems for the rest of your life. It's not worth the risk.

*You aren't in at least decent physical condition. If you cannot do 20 push-ups followed by 40 sit-ups followed by running a mile in 8 minutes you should train to get to that level before enlisting. It's not sufficient to a successful career but it will save you a ton of worry and pain later on if you get decent at those three exercises before you join the Army.

*You don't like being told what to do. This should be self-explanatory but you will be surprised at the people who can't. Your response to being told what to do in the Army should be to do it without question and, if possible, cheerfully.

Negatives of an Army Enlistment

*You learn what "sucky living" really is. You will spend nights in rooms with multiple other humans snoring and farting. Sometimes you'll be so cold you worry about your extremities. You will wait, my God will you wait, for people to show up to do something that seems completely irrelevant to anything productive. You'll probably get yelled at while you're doing all of it. You will rarely work for someone you feel like is smarter/more capable than you are.

*Locations - You will be assigned to one of the worst military installations in America. The Army doesn't get San Diego and Pensacola. Google Fort Irwin, Fort Polk, Fort Drum, Fort Bragg. These are the types of locations the Army works. These are not good places. You will not like them.

*Deployments - You stand a real chance of hearing the business end of a mortar or a rocket during your enlistment. Riding in a vehicle around Iraq and Afghanistan is not safe. It's also something you should probably expect to happen at some point.

*Family life - Army life is HARD on families. The hours are long, the moves are frequent, the facilities are lousy, and as such marriages splinter and kids get taken. If you're married this needs to be a dual decision and you should be making sure that your spouse is as involved as possible since you're going to be uprooting that individual into a completely new life

Positives of an Army Enlistment

*We promote more and faster than the other services. If you're a hard charger you could legitimately be a First Sergeant in ten years. That's not realistic in the other branches.

*Cultural Sensitivity- Say good-bye to your bubble. You will work with rednecks, white bread, gang bangers, city slickers, Latinos, African and Asian immigrants and, yes, even people from Texas. This, if you keep your eyes, ears, mind, and heart open, will teach you more than anything else in the Army.

*The people in the Army are some of the best people I've ever known. They know what it means to sacrifice and they usually will help you as long as you have taken a few steps to help yourself first.

*You will gain perspective in the Army beyond what you think you have. After a few years of being yelled at and cleaning toilets while working 12 hour days you will see "the negatives of biglaw" threads in a more realistic light. It's tough to know if you can handle that type of environment if you've never experienced it. If you enlist in the Army you will experience it.

Final Word

If you don't REALLY want to be in the Army you probably shouldn't join. If you can qualify for the Air Force you probably shouldn't join the Army. For everyone else, it's an incredibly rewarding career that will help you in immense ways. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But I wouldn't advise anyone to do it without first doing a considerable amount of preparatory work. Any questions? PM me.
Last edited by ajordan on Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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UVA2B
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by UVA2B » Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:04 pm

That’s great ajordan, thank you so much for contributing!

ajordan
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by ajordan » Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:03 am

No problem. Happy to help. I feel a bit protective of the Army, probably too much so, but I'm willing to answer standard questions. Just understand that I'm not a recruiter and for specific questions I will likely send you to the recruiter's office.

People are scared of seeing recruiters. Don't be. They may try to leverage that fear into forcing you through the process but you don't need to be intimidated. Until you sign a contract at MEPS you are under no obligation to the service. You can always go see a different recruiter if you don't like the one that's currently helping you. If you think something that a recruiter says is BS feel free to bring it back here and run it by us. Between the 10 or so regular vets we'll probably be able to parse it out. I also have two friends that are full time recruiters currently so I can check if anything stumps us.

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Patrick Bateman
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by Patrick Bateman » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:34 pm

Hats off to UVA2B and ajordan - outstanding, and I mean really outstanding, posts. I'm hoping we can find some USAF and USMC folks from the line and enlisted side to add their perspective.

Head
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by Head » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:18 am

Any thoughts/comments/outlines of Army OCS? Competitiveness of applicants/OCS ranking for branch selection/running training etc.?

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dannyinsd
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by dannyinsd » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:21 pm

Navy JAGs get the best duty stations.

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haus
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by haus » Sat May 08, 2021 12:00 am

It has been nearly three decades since I was at MCRD San Diego. I am glad to see this news.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/07/us/marin ... index.html

Story
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by Story » Sat May 08, 2021 6:47 pm

Any prior enlisted Coasties with experience/advice to share?

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200MPHTape
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Re: So you want to be a Sailor (Marine, Soldier, Airman, etc...) (AMA)

Post by 200MPHTape » Mon May 10, 2021 7:47 pm

haus wrote:
Sat May 08, 2021 12:00 am
It has been nearly three decades since I was at MCRD San Diego. I am glad to see this news.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/07/us/marin ... index.html
21 years here. It's about time.

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