To Enlist or Not Enlist? Why Join the Military?

The article pic was me reenlisting for the last time. Putting me at 26 years of service.

My oldest son graduated high school in May 2018. When fall began to approach he decided to “take the year off”. I told him that was cool and he said he just really didn’t want to go to college. No biggie, it’s not for everyone. I never attended college and I’ve done quite well in life. I did tell him, however, that when his buddies began to head off for school that he needed to find a place to live. “Are you kicking me out”? “Nope! I’m pushing you out”. So he found an apartment and I helped him as a co-signer. Time to be a grown up, son.

I told my boy that the only options you have after high school are three paths. Four if your folks have a business they plan to hand down to you. I told him you either go to tech school, college or join the military. This whole “gap year” thing is pretty much a waste of life unless it’s used to travel the world or something else that will enhance character and add to one’s life story. He was working a job and making ends meet, barely. The school of Hard Knocks was in session. He had told me for years that he really didn’t want to join the military because that’s what I did and he wanted to do something different. Right on, no biggie. I finally talked him into at least taking his ASVAB to see what would be available to him in the event he needed a fall-back plan. He took it and scored really well. I was kinda surprised but not. He asked me what sort of jobs the military offered and I told him pretty much everything that civilian life offered. While we were discussing this I reverted back to my whole “vision casting” thing and told him since he liked the beach and water that he should look at the Navy. I was an Army guy for 26 years and wouldn’t change anything. Well, maybe one. So I showed him the video of the Navy SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman). I told him they pretty much shoot cool guns and blow stuff up from the water. He was all in. Sold!

I broke it down to him like this, and this is the whole point of this article. Here’s why the military is the best route for kids coming out of high school.

Reasons to Join the Military

  1. For the most part, it’s easy. You’re told what to do, where to go, what to wear, how to do it, you get PAID to LEARN how to do it. Kids in college or tech school pay the school to learn what the military can pay YOU to learn. Plus, you get OJT. On the job training leads to a whole lot of experience. Many employers nowadays would rather hire someone with experience than have to train them how to do something. A degree is a nice piece of paper that says you can endure the years of academia but unless you plan to be an attorney, doctor, etc., it’s a crap shoot.
  2. They give you clothes to wear and a place to live. If you’re single you live in the barracks. It may not be the most luxurious living but hey, you’re not really there that much. Nowadays, living in single soldier housing is much better than it used to be. My first duty station there were three of us crammed into a 2-man room. That sucked. Oh, and eating at the chow hall for free is a nice perk, too. It may not be the tastiest of meals but it can save thousands of dollars each year.
  3. Back to the paid for training bit. Yeah, I was trained to shoot cannons my first 5 years and I’m not really gonna get a job in the civilian world doing that. When my next enlistment rolled around I changed my job to be a helicopter crew chief. That school lasted 4 months. That was a strategy move for me to learn a skill for the civilian world. Aviation mechanics get paid quite well. I was also in charge of over 2 million dollars worth of weapons and other high dollar items when I was the unit armorer. Aside from those few jobs I also worked in transportation, logistics, became an instructor, received medical training (that has helped saved a few people’s lives) and more. I was paid to learn all that stuff. I never paid a penny for any of my training.
  4. There are some pretty killer jobs in the military. No matter what flavor you like when it comes to a job and profession, the military has something for everyone. I’ve always liked action so shooting guns, blowing stuff up, hunting, pushing stuff out of planes, jumping from planes, building stuff, etc., was always fun to me. If someone wants to learn how to be a cook, roger that!! Wanna learn construction, medical stuff, SCUBA stuff, aviation, trucks and heavy equipment, mechanics? The military has it all.
  5. If you do what you’re told and learn how to work the system, being in the military is easy. Yes, the military likes people who are independent and reliable. You can also just be a good trooper and cruise in robot mode and do what you’re told. The skills learned in leadership, team building, constructive thinking, reading, writing, etc., are priceless. Again, more skills learned for free.
  6. You’ll also learn how to take criticism. Getting your butt chewed on is actually a character builder. You learn to be a duck and let the simple stuff roll off your back like water. Learning to work under pressure and seeing the beauty in chaos and to be a conductor of productivity is something college kids never learn. Bottom line? You grow up and learn to be responsible, gaining wisdom of some sort.
  7. The brotherhood is what most veterans talk about. It’s a lifelong fraternity. I just bought a part for my son’s truck yesterday. The guy was retired Navy. Once we got through the typical hazing one another about Army vs Navy, we got along really well. Military people GET each other. We get the jokes and we understand adversity. We could be complete strangers and family at the same time. It’s a family and brotherhood into a sacred fraternity that is earned through the “flames of agony and laughter”.
  8. The income is not amazing. As a matter of fact, it kinda sucks. If you learn to budget your income, they have free classes for that on post, you can do alright. As a newly enlisted soldier the only bills they have is their phone, car, insurance. That’s about it. All the rest is income that could be used to make more or simply play. That comes with maturity. Once you start a family, that’s when the pay squeeze kicks in.
  9. I once read that one of life’s best investments was world travel and I have to agree. In the military you’ll get all-expenses paid trips around the world. Some places are good and some really suck. Back to that whole learn to be a duck thing. Regardless, being connected to the military allows for deals on travel. Especially flying “Space-A” while on active duty. There is also the great possibility of getting stationed somewhere overseas, allowing the opportunity for even more world travel. Another cool thing, and kind of off the travel subject, is the chance to change jobs every few years. That’s one thing I always told a young “Joe”. Every time your enlistment is up and it’s time to reenlist or get out, reenlist for a different job. Learn a new skill and go to a new duty station. You can literally do this just about every 3-5 years.
  10. Lastly, all the free stuff. Free medical, dental, etc. is a HUGE plus. Especially in today’s day and age with insurance premiums costing so much. Two of my kids were born while I was on active duty. I never paid a penny. They were also born in Germany. Even after I left active duty and joined the Army Reserves, Tricare paid for my other 2 kids to be born. Not a bad deal. There are also discounts at Lowe’s and MANY other places that veterans can take advantage of. Knowing that you’ll get a retirement check every month for the rest of your life is kinda nice, too. No, it’s not a lot (unless you are an officer with 20 years or more) but it’ll make a house payment for you. Plus, being able to retire at 38 years old is pretty sweet. Then you can either relax, because you were smart with your paychecks and made wise investments, or you can begin another career giving you another retirement at 58 years old.

All-in-all, I think the military is an excellent option for young kids with no really plan after high school. Quite honestly? I think all kids should serve a 2 year enlistment, but that’s just the old salt in me speaking. I hope this cleared up some things on why young Thundercats should consider the military. They literally have something for everyone and kids these days could use a tall glass of grow the heck up!

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