People join the military for many different reasons. Many join to serve their country, during war or peace. Others may join for the adventure and independence, while still others are interested in the education benefits. Even though the reasons to join are personal and different for everyone, once they’ve joined, soldiers live by the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
What Are My Options For Joining The Army?
The Army is made up of two major components: Active Duty and Army Reserve. Both comprise of enlisted soldiers and officers.
Active Duty is similar to working a full-time job. You will get specialized training and will fill a specific role within your unit. The length of service may range from two to six years.
On the other hand, Army Reserve enables you to pursue your civilian career or college education while you train near home and serve your community. You will spend one weekend per month in training and two weeks a year attending a Field Training Exercise (FTX). Soldiers in the Army Reserve may be called to Active Duty to provide their expertise. The duration of service ranges from three to six years.
Enlisted soldiers make up the bulk of Army personnel. They carry out orders and complete missions. As an enlisted soldier, your responsibilities will depend on your choice of career path or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). To become an enlisted soldier, you need to be a US citizen, between 17-35 years old, in good physical condition, have a clean legal record, and have a high school diploma or GED (HiSET, TASC).
Officers are the managers of the Army. They make important decisions in stressful situations to ensure the safety of the men and women under their command. Being an Army officer is particularly useful in your civilian career after your service. Army officers are often looked to as prime candidates for management roles and executive positions due to their discipline and leadership skills.
You can decide how to join the Army. For example, you can choose to be an enlisted Active Duty soldier or Army Reserve officer. Of course, as you might imagine, joining as an officer is not as easy. For example, having a bachelor’s degree is one of the requirements.
As a GED or college student who wants to join as an officer, you can either enroll in the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) or get a Bachelor’s degree first then go through the 12-week officer training school and then pass a board review to qualify. If you are planning to attend community college and transfer to a 4 year institution, you can still enroll in ROTC during community college. Some may have their own ROTC programs, while others have a joint program with another school.
The Army opens its doors to only a small number of GED holders, but GED holders with college credits (15 semester credits or 22 quarter credits) are considered the equivalent to those with high school diplomas.
Mr.Russell Vaucher, an Education Service Specialist at the US Army Recruiting Battalion at Seattle, said that deciding the best time to join the military is an individual question based on where you are in your personal development and what your goals and objectives are. For GED students who are considering joining the army, he recommends to do it as soon as they earn their GED and 15 college credits for the many educational benefits.
What Kind Of Benefits Does The Army Offer?
According to recent data, the average Active Duty service member receives a total compensation package worth about $99,000. Non-cash compensation is almost 60 percent of that package.
You will get a monthly pay (approximately $18,000 for first year active duty soldiers), allowances such as food, housing, and more, plus bonuses.
Education benefits include the GI Bill, which can be over $60,000 for Active Duty, and over $13,000 for Reserve. There are additional monthly scholarships available for Reserves, totaling up to $12,600. Other educational benefits in the post 9/11 GI Bill include the opportunity to attend Army junior colleges and a loan repayment program.
Other great benefits include healthcare and life insurance.
Can I Train For A Civilian Career While In The Army?
There are over 150 jobs in the Army in many different categories like:
- Intelligence & Combat Support
- Administrative Support
- Medical & Emergency
- Construction & Engineering
- Computers & Technology
- Legal & Law Enforcement
- Arts & Media
- Transportation & Aviation
A Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is a code used in the Army to identify a specific job. For example, the “Mechanics Field” has 26 MOSes including 94D (Air Traffic Control Equipment Repairer), 91D (Power Generation Equipment Repairer) and so on.
Unlike other branches of the military where you sign up for a broad occupational field, the Army guarantees your MOS on your contract. This is great because you know what job you will be performing and what training you will be receiving before joining.
The options you have mostly depend on how well you score on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). ASVAB is the military entrance test that is typically administered in a computerized format at Military Entrance Processing Stations, known as MEPS.
The ASVAB has 10 sections, but Math, Arithmetic, and the Verbal sections are the most important because only these three are used to calculate your Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score. The Army will give you a list of MOSs based on your AFQT. Your scores for other sections are used to determine your aptitude area.
Mr. Vaucher suggests using march2success.com, a free website by the Army, to study for the AFQT. Mr. Edward “Tom” Conning, the Public Affairs Chief at Seattle Army Recruiting Battalion, agreed and added “March to Success does more than just ASVAB prep. It is a free testing service for ACT and SAT. It also helps with state standardized tests.”
|General Science||Arithmetic Reasoning|
|Word Knowledge||Paragraph Comprehension|
|Mathematics Knowledge||Electronic Information|
|Automotive & Shop Information||Mechanical Comprehension|
|Assembling Objects||Verbal Expression|
Once you join, you will receive specific training for your MOS. The Army’s training is extensive and can last an entire year.
“Army soldiers get some of the best training in the world because of the funding available” Mr. Vaucher stressed. By the time you complete your service, you will have several years of job experience in the field, giving you a significant advantage in the job market.
How Will I Know The Army Is For Me?
Being a soldier is not for everybody and quitting the Army (absent without leave or desertion) is a major crime. Doing so will endanger one’s unit, sink morale, and cost the government tens of thousands of dollars.
How Do I Know If I Will Like My New Life As A Soldier?
Most Active Duty soldiers live on a post (army base) which is much like a small town. They have facilities such as gyms, stores, theaters, and restaurants. A typical day starts with physical training (PT) early in the morning followed by working from around 9 a.m. until the evening.
When you are done with the day’s work or training, you are free to do what you like, just like in civilian life. You also have 30 days of paid vacation time per year, but you are always on-call. The Army varies a lot based on your MOS, so make sure to look up the MOS you are interested in.
For both Active Duty and Army Reserve, there will always be the possibility of deployment. Every soldier is trained to the fullest of his or her abilities and equipped to handle the challenges of deployment.
How Do I Start?
Begin by contacting a recruiter. They are some of the most experienced soldiers in the Army and can help you decide whether military service is best for you. The recruiter will also guide you through the enlistment process and help you tailor your Army experience to fit your needs and goals.
www.goArmy.com : Official Army Website And Recruiter Locator
www.march2success.com : Free online study material for ASVAB provided by the US Army
usmilitary.about.com : In-depth information about Army related topics
forums.goArmy.com : Ask soldiers any question about the Army on this forum
www.reddit.com : Discussion board open to anyone for a fresh perspective