What it’s Really Like to be in the Military

life in the military

If you’re a high school senior looking for something different in life and you’re constantly asking yourself, “Should I go into the military,” this article is for you.

We’ll discuss the realities and expectations when it comes to being in the military and answer those burning questions you may have about what it’s really like to be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Reality: The Military Is A Lifestyle and a Mindset

Depending on the branch of military and the military occupational specialty or job, a service member can move every 3 to 5 years and even deploy overseas for several months at a time.

This leads to stress among the individual and his or her family members. However, military families grow accustomed to saying hello and goodbye. It’s not always easy but it becomes the norm.

Through all the stressful situations, military members and their families are survivors and thrivers with strong service mentalities.

They continue to make strides when life seem impossible. They keep their eyes on the mission at hand. They are goal seekers and getters. They may compete with their fellow service men and women to make it to the next promotion level or rank, but as a unit the military and its members functions as one.

Reality: The Military Is A World of Its Own

life in the military

On the outside looking in, the military provides a sense of stability and quality of life due to the housing benefits, steady paycheck and free healthcare. But the military is its own world with its own set of challenges and standards.

It lives, breathes, walks, and talks its own language, codes, and creeds. Every branch of the military has its own mission statement and values.

What may work for the civilian world, may not work in the military world. For instance, the military has it’s own code of rules, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

According to Military.com, the UCMJ defines the military justice system and lists criminal offenses under military law.

Reality: The Military is a Career Choice Made by the Individual

The military is a career choice. And the lifestyle follows the individual wherever he or she goes whether in or out of uniform.

Below are some reasons people join the military:

  • Being a part of something bigger than themselves
  • The benefits (healthcare, GI Bill, retirement, and pension)
  • Stable environment
  • Veteran benefits (housing loans, VA benefits, small business resources, etc.)

Although there are several realities of being a member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, the problem lies when people don’t manage their expectations of the military, which we’ll address next.

Expectation: Being Fixed

The expectation that the military will fix a person is a myth.  

While the military teaches discipline and leadership, it does not fix anyone. It requires discipline on a physical and mental level, but the military is not a fixer.

One thing we do know is the military can help to create better citizens by holding individuals accountable and making them responsible for their actions.

Expectation: Going in Due to Lack of Options

life in the military

A common reason people enter the military is because they feel they do not have any other options at the time they pursue this lifestyle.

For example, an 18-year-old sees the military as a way to make money or as a way to learn a new skill or trade. So, he or she enters the military and takes everything as it comes their way without planning or knowing what they truly want out of the deal.

Usually what happens is the person enters into an agreement with the government, and raises his or her right hand to take the oath when there’s no true commitment to the path that’s being provided.

Years later, frustration arises and this person eventually wants more than what the military offers. As a result, they get leave because the grass is greener on the other side.

What’s the moral to the story here? Start early in life creating options. Yes, in high school there are plenty of opportunities to create options such as volunteering, being involved and active in groups and clubs in school, and working as a high school student.

Take time to figure out what career you want to pursue. If the military has that job and you truly want to serve your country, go for it. But never feel that you don’t have options.

As a high school student in 2020, you have more options than someone did 20 years ago, and many more options than someone who did 40 years ago.

Take advantage of the technology and the virtual concepts of life today to start creating the life you want now. The military will always be an option. Just don’t limit yourself and put yourself up against a wall when there’s no reason to do so.

Expectation: “I Can Stay in Forever”

life in the military

The expectation that one can stay in the military forever is a false one. Many people feel once service members are in the military they are in for life and cannot get out.

Every service obligation is unique. Some people do four years and they are done. Others do 20+ years to retire. At some point, everyone separates from the military.

As life progresses, dreams change, desires change and physical capabilities change. There are several reasons why people do not or cannot stay in the military forever, including:

  • Medical conditions can lead to early retirement
  • Military force shaping
  • Voluntary separation when service obligation is complete

As long as the service member leaves on good terms with an honorable discharge, he or she may be eligible to use those healthcare benefits are separation, which is a huge advantage veterans have from serving the country.

Whatever Path You Decide, Empire Resume is Here to Help

We hope you’ve enjoyed these realities verses expectations of what it’s really like to be in the military.

At Empire Resume, we write military to civilian resumes along with creating LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, and post interview follow up letters.

Be sure to add Empire Resume’s Job Search Resources to your list of favorite bookmarks for more articles and unique tips and on interviewing, resume writing, and the latest in employment and career.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force 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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