On election day in 2016, I signed my paperwork to join the United States Army. I was scared as hell in the MEPS building because I had no idea if I’d be signing up for war or if this was going to be a big mistake.
When you’re an 18-year-old kid who hasn’t figured out what you want to do with your life, the thing you do is join the military. I knew that I wanted to carry on my family’s tradition of serving, but I didn’t know if it was for me.
According to Council on Foreign Relations, there are about 1.3 million active-duty personnel, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population. The army is the largest U.S. military service, followed by the navy, air force, marine corps, and coast guard.
There’s so much that I wish I knew prior to joining, but finding out naturally ended up working in my favor. If someone tells you everything to expect, it could scare you away from taking action.
Without scaring you away from joining, here are three things to consider before joining the military.
1. You Need to Always be on Your Toes
Every single day in the military is different. Some days, you’ll have a normal work-pace and then others you’ll be called upon to travel to a completely different country to serve for a year.
You are serving your country and doing whatever is asked of you. When signing the dotted line, you’re giving your life to the military and uncertainties. I never let my fear of deployment stop me from joining.
In 2019, I was called upon to serve in the Middle-East. I’m lucky to have come back safely, and I’m so grateful for all of the cultural experiences and spontaneous lessons I learned away from home.
It could be three in the morning, and an emergency mission comes up. You don’t have any say in rolling over and sleeping in. When it’s time to go, you go. People rely on you for your knowledge and your commitment to the military.
It’s the most intensely bonded team in the world that utilizes everyone in order to achieve one goal —to protect our country.
Keep in Mind
If you easily get overwhelmed and don’t like spontaneous events coming up, the military could cause you a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of “frago’s” and unexpected things that come up.
There have been times where I expected to attend family events, but I had to serve. I missed my sister’s wedding, the passing of my childhood dog, and so much more, but that’s the sacrifice that comes with serving.
If you’re extroverted and love the “adventure” and are in it for the thrill, you’ll be just fine. An enthusiastic spirit thrives in the military because there’s always something to do, so many people to meet, and a ton of once in a lifetime experiences.
2. You Aren’t The One in Charge
Time and time again, I see soldiers who join the Army and think that they know it all. It’s one thing to speak up for something that isn’t right, but it’s another to be flat-out rude to someone who’s ordered to have the soldier complete a task.
Apparently, people who have served for longer than I have said that the “new army” is soft. There are a lot more bickering and insubordinate soldiers who don’t follow the rules. It takes a lot of discipline to be a high-quality soldier.
In your current situation, you may be used to making all of the rules, calling in sick when you feel like it, and doing your own thing. The military allows some flexibility, but not a lot. You have to recognize that you’re joining the most powerful team in the world, and it requires all hands on deck.
There is no room to have lackluster service members in the military because every one serves a purpose and is working towards the same goal — our nation and the world's safety.
Keep in Mind
If you enjoy your freedom and independence to call your own shots, joining the military might be a rude awakening for you. It’s not like being a prisoner or anything crazy like that, but you will have to do things when you don’t feel like it and will have to “embrace the suck.”
Some people don’t like to be in charge, and that’s where the military is a great opportunity. There will always be orders coming down from higher-ups, and you will always be busy. If you’re not into making your own schedule and sticking to it, the military is a great way to attain structure in your life.
3. You’re Going to Be Looked at Differently
When it comes to joining the armed forces, serving as a police officer, or any figure in power, people are going to judge you. It’s your duty always to be respectful and a positive influence when in uniform.
There are people who thank you for your service and make you feel proud to serve. Several times, generous civilians have offered to pay for my food, and little kids have given me salutes. It makes me proud to serve and be looked highly on.
You’re going to have to maintain high standards for yourself in order to maintain a good relationship with people in your life, your unit, and beyond. Instead of walking around in civilian clothes, you’re going to be that person who stands out from the rest.
So many people admire those who serve. It’s a great feeling to be recognized and praised for answering the call and stepping up.
Keep in Mind
If you’re someone who likes to maintain a low-profile and not stand out, then you might be uncomfortable committing to such a unique team.
On the flip side, if you don’t mind the extra attention in public and having your friends look at you as different from everyone else, then the military is a perfect fit for you.
Serving in the military is something many kids contemplate growing up, and if you feel lost in life, just join. There is so much knowledge and experience to gain from serving that it’s a no-brainer to join.
Please take my advice with a grain of salt because, like I said in the beginning, you have to experience things for yourself in order to be present and live in the moment.
As long as you are doing something that helps you grow into the person you strive to be, you’re going to accomplish great things.