What to Expect When You First Join the Military

what happens after basic training

After raising your right hand and taking the oath of enlistment or oath of officers, worry begins to sink in about what will happen next. Of course, joining the military is a life-changing, yet exciting experience, but fear of the unknown is overwhelming.

We’ll share exactly what you’re stepping into when you first join the military.

Today, we’ll discuss the following:

  • Basic training
  • Job training
  • Your first duty station and making it your home

Training After Joining the Military

Your first introduction to life as a Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Marine, or Coast Guardsman begins with training, usually within days of taking the oath.

The types of military training you may encounter include:

  • Basic Training
  • Boot Camp
  • Officer Candidate School (OCS)
  • Officer Training School (OTS)

The length of these training programs ranges from 8 to 17 weeks. They are held in various locations across the country as we’ll discuss later.

Each form of training is uniquely designed to challenge you mentally and physically. During training, you can expect to receive:

  • Forms to complete
  • Uniforms, gear, and equipment
  • Medical examinations
  • A haircut, if needed

Military training serves as an orientation to your chosen branch of service. This is where you’ll develop skills like teamwork, discipline, land navigation, combat and tactics.

Additionally, you’ll learn all the traditions and customs needed to be successful during your military career.

Basic Training or Boot Camp

what happens after basic training

Enlisted service members will go through basic training or boot camp depending on the branch of the military.

Coast Guard training is held at Cape May, NJ. Air Force Basic Training is held in San Antonio, TX at Lackland AFB. Navy Boot Camp is held at the Naval Station Great Lakes, in Great Lakes, IL, near Chicago. 

Army basic training is held at four locations — Fort Benning, GA, Fort Jackson, SC, Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and Fort Sill, OK.

Marines basic training takes place in either Parris Island, SC or San Diego, CA.

For detailed information on the training, visit the links below:

Basic training and boot camp is intense.

Here, you will meet a drill instructor or commander. This person serves as a guide whose job is to get you squared away or up to speed with training and physical fitness.

Basically, the instructor’s responsibility is to educate you and prepare you to be a productive and contributing member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Basic training may be an unpleasant experience, just like you see in military movies. The drill instructor may yell at you. This is done to measure how you handle stress and determine how you react under pressure.

You will move to the sound of verbal commands to test your ability to follow instructions. At basic training, you will probably do things you’ve never done before like foot drill, marching, using a gas mask while going through a gas chamber, and learning to use a firearm.

Officer Candidate School (OCS) or Officer Training School (OTS)

what happens after basic training

Officers in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard will attend OCS, while Air Force officers will attend OTS.

Each training school prepares officers for challenges, from managing people to understanding military culture and laws.

Just like basic training, officer school is held in different locations throughout the country.  A list of the officer schools by service is below:

Officer school occurs in phases to teach leadership skills, field training and combat skills. Officers also taught to apply what they’ve learned to help them transition into the every day life of being an officer.

Once you graduate from basic training or officer school, you are ready to serve in your respective branch of the military. Graduation is an accomplishment that you and your family will be proud to see you achieve.

For the remainder of your life, you will be well-trained to perform at the highest level, in any situation.

Job Training

Training does not end after graduation. In fact, your military career filled will be filled with different types of schooling and training.

Once you’re trained to military standards, it’s time to turn your focus on learning how to do your job.

Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or Tech School

what happens after basic training

After basic training, the military provides more training. For example:

  • The Army sends new Soldiers to Advanced Individual Training (AIT)
  • If you’re in the Air Force, you’ll go to Tech School
  • Navy Sailors attend Naval Accession Training, also known as “A School”
  • Coastguard members also attend “A School”
  • If you’re a Marine, you’ll receive 10 days of leave and then head off to School of Infantry (SOI)

This is where you learn the skills to perform your job. You’ll be able to focus on the tasks and work ethic needed to excel in your military field.  

Training and tech school includes hands-on training and field instruction specific to your chosen career field. You’ll be able to take what you learn anywhere, even life as a civilian once its time to transition out of the military.

For officers, after OCS or OTS, you may progress to additional forms of training depending on your job specialty. For example, if you’re becoming a pilot in the Air Force, you’ll need to attend flight training.

For the elite Navy SEAL, you’ll need many more months or years of training, starting with the Basic Underwater Demolition/Seals training program and more.

Afterward you’ve gained the required training and can perform your duties successfully, you will move on to your duty location.

First Duty Station After Joining the Military

what happens after basic training

During technical training schools, you may select a few locations where you’d like to start your military career.

While the military will consider your location preferences, locations are based on the needs of the military and where you are needed the most.

You may receive your first duty assignment orders before completing training. The orders will tell you where you’re going and what date you need to report on the installation.

The first place you’ll stop is the service center with a copy of your orders in hand to begin what’s called in-processing.

Quick tip: Always make extra copies of your military orders. You’ll need them for in-processing.  As you move forward in your career, you’ll learn that your military orders are invaluable.


In-processing includes a series of appointments, meetings, classes, or briefings to help you adjust to life on the base. Completing and filling out paperwork will also be a part of your first days of military life.

You may be assigned a sponsor or guide to help you get settled in. He or she will possibly be the one to give you a tour of the base. The sponsor is also the person who should be kept informed of any changes in your status.

In-processing can take a few days, but some last weeks. During this time, you’ll learn about your new home, the amenities at your disposal, and you’ll meet key officers and enlisted personnel who you’ll work with.

You’ll also find out where you’ll live on base and get equipment.

In-processing is like orientation for your installation. Basically, you’ll discover the do’s and don’ts of living on base. You’ll even get integrated into your job and unit.

Making Your First Duty Station Your Home

what happens after basic training

According to Military One Source, below are some tips for making the most of your life at your first duty station:

  1. Become familiar with your installation.

Take time to see what your base and surrounding community has to offer.

  1. Make friends and socialize.

It’s possible that you’ll live and work with the same people until you change locations or leave the military. Many of them will become close friends and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialize.

  1. Beware of the “off-limits” list.

Base commanders typically declare certain places to be “off limits.” These are usually known as trouble spots in the area surrounding the base. Places such as shady bars are common.

Be sure to pay attention and read the list. The off-limits list will help you avoid payday loan sharks and people looking to target or scam you while off post.

  1. Locate military discounts on and off base.

You’ll enjoy tax free shopping at the commissary (grocery store) and exchange store (shopping mall) on base. Your military ID also affords you discounts to sporting events, concerts, and more while shopping off post.

  1. Visit the family readiness center and groups.

No matter whether you’re single or married, the family readiness center can help you become acquainted with life on post. The center is helpful with understanding housing options, buying a car, getting assistance with personal finance and more.

You may not need to go far for support as many military units have their own family readiness group (FRG). The FRG is a support group that helps you and your family navigate life in the military. They offer fun activities to boost morale, get to know one another, and will even keep your spouse informed and supported during your deployment.

Key Information for New Military Members After Joining The Military

what happens after basic training

Empire Resume’s military-to-civilian blog has a ton of information to help you be successful in the military. Below are some helpful articles:

We wish you the best of luck on your journey as a new member of the U.S. military. Empire Resume Career Services will always be here to answer any questions you have about planning for your career after the military.

When you or a fellow veteran you know needs a military resume, LinkedIn profile, or cover letter help land the job of their dreams, contact the at Empire Resume’s certified resume writing professionals at 801-690-4085 or info@empireresume.com. Our military-to-civilian resume writing services deliver results, guaranteed!

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.

Related Articles:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.