My Views on the Army

I know there are a lot of people out there wondering if the army is the right choice for them. Should you join the army? That is a question you should spend some time dwelling on. There are a number of benefits for sure, but there are a lot of drawbacks as well. I wanted to join to serve my country, it was something I've wanted to do for a long time but the right time just never came. It got to the point where I decided if I'm gonna do this, I have to do it now or never because I'm getting too old. Now that I've been in a while and I have a little wisdom, let me pass this on to you…

1. Do not join the army for a specific job (MOS) hoping to get experience doing that job. The recruiter will tell you that you can pick the exact MOS you want to do when you enlist. What he doesn't tell you is that there is a good chance that you will spend a lot of time not doing that particular MOS. I heard stories before I signed up about people not actually doing their job in the army, but I figured it was a low percentage. I mean why would the army spend so much money training soldiers for a particular job and then not have them do it? I was gravely mistaken. The army wastes money and makes stupid decisions on a constant basis. I joined as a 25B (Information Technology Specialist) and really have yet to do my job since joining the army. It's not because I'm stupid or don't have experience. I have 13 years as a systems administrator in the civilian world, I graduated at the very top of my AIT class, I have multiple certifications, and I have a higher GT score on my ASVAB than most people I've met. I was shocked that they would put me in various non-technical positions throughout my career in the army. I've done everything from being a garbage man to a chaplain's assistant. I hear the same thing from various people in a variety of MOSs "yeah I'm a (insert MOS here), but they have me doing (insert a totally random job here)". I've gone on numerous trips with people from all around the army and I hear this constantly.

2. Do join the army if you want to just serve your country and do not care what job you end up doing. This is my best advice I can give you. Join the army with no expectations of doing a particular job. Join the army because you want to be in "the army". With this attitude you can do whatever job comes up and work to excel at it. Everyone does a variety of different jobs and as you move up in rank and responsibility, your job becomes more of a manager and mentor than actually performing the specific job itself.

3. Do not wait until you are old to join…like me. The army offers a lot for a young person out of high school or college. There are a lot of rules in place geared towards the young adult. If you are older, you may find these rules a bit…how do I say this…retarded. As a grown man I didn't need to be escorted to the bathroom in AIT by a young 23 year old just because he was higher in rank than I. I don't need to have a baby sitter go over a car inspection or safety brief each weekend. I know what's right and what is wrong. The younger kids who do not have life experience may need this and there is nothing wrong with that. If you join at an older age, a lot of times you are grouped in with the young kids just because of your lower rank. If you can join right out of high school or college and decide to do 20 years, you will still have much of your life left to get another job and enjoy the retirement army paycheck…that is until our government decides to make some changes to the system.

4. Do take advantage of all the benefits. Go to school while you are in and let the army pay 100% of it. Get all the certifications and training you can while you are in. If you plan on making it a career, then try and go to all the military training you can as well. There is a lot of education (both military and civilian) that the army offers, but it's up to you to take advantage of it. Invest in the TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) - the army's version of the 401k. Do this early no matter how long you think you'll be staying in. You never know what the future holds and it's better to start early no matter what. Search out all the benefits available to you from discounts at civilian stores to home loans. Nobody is going to tell you everything, you have to investigate these yourself as much as possible.

5. Do not join the army to see the world. This is a real gamble. I've been fortunate enough to be stationed in Korea and then Germany and the experience has been awesome. I would not have been able to visit and experience these very diverse cultures if not for the army. I am very lucky though, I know a lot of people that have only seen crappy places…and then get deployed and see even crappier places. You have the opportunity to see paradise, but you also have the opportunity to see some of the worst places imaginable.

6. Do not join if you can't be away from your family. In fact I would say the army is best for those who are not even married. The army takes quite a bit of your time and any relationship is going to suffer because of it. Not counting the deployments or unaccompanied tours, even on a daily basis the army is not like a normal 9-5 job. You leave early and work late. You get called for unexpected details and duties that keep you away. If you climb up the ranks, you do a lot of extra paperwork and babysitting which takes additional time away from your family. The army has tried to make family more important, but a lot of it is only lip service. The needs of the army come first and that is final. Once you join, your life is theirs. It takes a very special spouse to understand all of this, so if you are going to join as a married person make sure your marriage is rock solid. Army wives are also stereotyped as sleeping around. The stereotype of course doesn't pertain to everyone, but it came about for a reason. On an army post with horny guys everywhere you look, an army wife is going to get hit on constantly. Some are stronger than others, but I've heard a never ending list of stories during my short time in the army...just another reason not to join if you're married. If you have kids…it's really not worth it at all, that is if you want to be an involved parent. I would not suggest joining if you have kids or if you even expect to have kids while in. You will miss out on so much of their childhood, time that you can never get back.