12 Myths of the Military, Busted!

myths about the military

If you’re like most Americans, then your knowledge of military life comes from military movies and television. Although entertaining, these depictions of military life are often far from reality.

Unfortunately, that means you may believe many of the myths and stereotypes about military life that are floating around out there.

We’re here to set the record straight and dispel some of the most common myths people have about serving in the military.

Myth #1: It’s hard to find a job after separating from the military

Of course, finding a job is generally never easy for anyone, but being a veteran doesn’t make it any more challenging. The truth is, you’ll have the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills in the military that are valuable to civilian employers.

You’ll also have a leg up by applying for jobs at military friendly employers who have programs specifically designed to attract and retain veteran talent. There are also organizations such as Hiring our Heroes, that are dedicated to helping connect veterans to job opportunities.

If you’re a veteran who’s ready to find employment in the civilian workforce, then contact Empire Resume for a military to civilian resume written by an expert who’s also an Air Force veteran.

Myth #2: Boot camp is designed to break the spirits of recruits 

The movie Full Metal Jacket depicts Marine Corps recruits being driven to the brink of madness as they endure physical and mental abuse from a sadistic drill instructor during boot camp.

But that’s not really what boot camp is like.

Make no mistake, boot camp (a.k.a. basic training) isn’t a cake walk, but its purpose is to prepare new recruits for success in the military, not punish them.

Each branch of the service has their own version of basic training that gives recruits skills and knowledge that they’ll rely on for their entire military career. Boot camp includes weapons training, hand-to-hand combat, physical conditioning, navigation skills, and more.

Approximately 90% of new military recruits graduate from basic training and go on to serve honorably.

Myth #3: All military jobs are dangerous

myths about the military

To be clear, joining the military does carry some level of danger because all servicemembers may be required to fight in military conflicts if called upon. That’s why all recruits go through basic training.

However, after basic training, recruits can pursue any number of military careers, some of which are dangerous and some of which are safe.

Some of the safer roles may include human resources specialist, paralegal, administrative specialists, public affair officers, electrician, water treatment specialist, HVAC technician, and the list goes on.

You can even train to be a chef or a musician!

We’ve got a series of articles that describe the wide variety of careers you can pursue in each branch of the military. Check out each article to learn about the best jobs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force.

Myth #4: There’s no place for women in the military 

Women have played an essential role in the U.S. military since the country was founded. Although not permitted to officially join the military until 1948, women have served as medics, spies, and saboteurs during the American Revolution, The War of 1812, the Civil War, and other conflicts.

Today, women are fully integrated into the military as pilots, mechanics, officers, gunners, infantry, and more. Currently, 16% of the entire military is women, which is the highest it’s ever been. While that’s a step in the right direction, the Department of Defense remains focused on continuing to increase the number of women in the military.

Myth #5: You can avoid jail by joining the military 

This is a popular cliché we see in movies and television. The main character gets in trouble with the law and joins the military to escape justice.

In reality, if you’re in trouble with the law then one way to guarantee you’ll get caught is to try and join the military. Every branch of the military runs FBI background checks on all prospective recruits. If the military learns that there’s a warrant for your arrest, then you’ll be turned in.

Keep in mind, however, that having a criminal record doesn’t automatically exclude you from military service. If you’ve committed a crime and you’ve served your sentence, Commanders can authorize waivers on a case-by-case basis.

If you have a legal issue in your past and want to join the military, it’s best to talk to a military recruiter to see what your options are.

Myth #6: You cannot join the military if you have children 

You can join the military if you are a parent, but the rules can be a bit tricky. In general, the Department of Defense doesn’t allow anyone who has custody of more than two children under the age of 18 to enlist in the military. In addition, single parents with custody of their children can’t enlist under any circumstances.

However, each branch of service has their own policies on children, which overrides the policies set forth by the Department of Defense.

For example, the Air Force allows married recruits with up to two children to enlist. The Coast Guard allows married recruits with up to three children to enlist. Single parents are ineligible to join the Army, whereas other branches allow single parents to enlist.

The Marines have the strictest rules around parents joining their ranks. Recruits who are married with children will only be allowed to join the Marine Reserves. Single parents with custody of their children are not eligible to join the Marines or the Reserves.

If you’re a parent and you want to join the military, then talk to a recruiter to ensure you know exactly what the rules are.

Myth #7: Dating is not permitted while in the military

myths about the military

The truth is, dating in the military is much like dating as a civilian. You are free to continue romantic relationships you had before you enlisted.

It’s also possible for servicemembers to date one another, and even get married. In fact, 7% of active-duty servicemembers are in so-called “mil-to-mil” marriages.

But regardless of whether or not you’re dating another civilian or a fellow servicemember, there are rules that must be followed. For example, officers cannot date subordinates. And, above all else, your dating life cannot interfere with your military duties.

Myth #8: You cannot express your personal style in the military 

The military continuously reviews and updates its style guidelines to ensure they are meeting the expectations of modern recruits. After all, if the guidelines are too strict, then the military would be limiting their pool of potential recruits.  

For example, the military recognizes the increasing popularity of tattoos and has loosened their regulations around what tattoos are acceptable. Tattoos of up to two inches are allowed on the back of the neck. One-inch tattoos are allowed on each hand and behind the ears.

Today’s female recruits are allowed to wear makeup, stud earrings, and nail polish. They can also keep their hair in a ponytail or braids if they choose.

In addition, all enlisted men and women are allowed to decorate their barracks as they wish.

Myth #9: Members of the LGBTQ community are not welcome in today’s military 

Since 2011, openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women have been allowed to serve in the United States’ military. The ban on transgender individuals serving in the military was lifted in 2021. Today, there are 1 million veterans in the United States who identify as gay or lesbian.

The Department of Defense recognizes the value of a diverse military that represents society at large. While the U.S. military continues to take steps to open up the ranks of the military to all who choose to serve, they also recognize there is more work to be done, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community.

Myth #10: There’s no work-life balance in the military

myths about the military

It may take a bit more work for servicemembers to find a balance between their military duties and their home life, but it’s not impossible.

In fact, the Department of Defense recognizes that military morality depends on enlisted men and women having lives, hobbies, and passions outside of the military. Servicemembers need time to see friends and family, take vacations, attend religious services, and generally decompress from the stress of being a member of the Armed Forces.

In addition, many military bases often provide a variety of entertainment and recreation opportunities for servicemembers to take advantage of, such as camping trips, art classes, live music and comedy, movie screenings, ski excursions, and more.

Myth #11: Going to the military after high school means you’ll never go to college 

Serving in the military after high school may even increase your chances of going to college because of the GI Bill. The GI Bill is hands-down one of the best benefits offered to Veterans.

There are a few different versions of the GI Bill available to veterans, with the Post 9/11-GI Bill being the most popular among today’s veterans. The GI Bill provided more than $12 billion in educational benefits since it went into effect in 2009.

And if you choose not to go to college, you can still use the GI Bill to pay for vocational training, flight training, professional certifications, and more.

Myth #12: You’ll never live in the same place for very long

Although military officers usually change permanent locations every three or four years, many enlisted military members can remain in the same location for many years. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an enlisted member to stay in the same location for a decade or more and only be deployed overseas if necessary, depending on their career field.

Ready for a Civilian Job? 

When you’re ready to transition out of the military and begin your civilian career search, be sure to contact Empire Resume. We can help you create a winning resume and prepare for civilian job interviews.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance. 

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