Whenever I speak to someone who is thinking about joining the military, one of the first things I hear them say is “My dad did….” or “My Uncle said…” While this shows that you have done a little bit of research, asking friends and family can often cause you to draw conclusions that are not entirely accurate.
It is important to remember one simple, important fact: everyone’s experience is different. This is not to say you will not endure the same challenges as your mentors, but rather that you will experience them from your own perspective. You might approach these challenges with an eagerness or attitude that differs from others, which completely changes how you will perceive the struggle.
I once heard a young man say, “My dad was an Army infantryman and he really hated it. I think I’ll join the Navy instead.” Perhaps the Navy would have been a better fit for the father, but that is not necessarily the case for the son. As individuals, we all have a different set of strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams. If we limit ourselves based on the experiences and opinions of others, we may never realize our true potential.
Additionally, the military is constantly evolving. The experiences of your siblings, parents, and grandparents are likely to be totally outdated in today’s military. The US military is constantly improving technology, tactics, troop usage, and overall effectiveness. While the experiences of mentors are no doubt interesting, it cannot be assumed that their experiences reflect the modern military culture.
While the recruiter is somewhat of a villainized creature in military history, recruiters are perhaps the only source available to the public where young men and women can get accurate information about joining the military. Any other source you may use (such as the advice of friends and family, or internet postings) runs the risk of being obsolete or completely inaccurate.
With that being said, pick up the phone, and make an appointment with recruiters from all the military branches. Even if you think you know what branch you want to join, make an appointment with them all. You will probably be surprised about what kinds of jobs and opportunities exist in each branch. I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every person I met who thought that the Marine Corps only had infantry jobs. This, of course, is not true, but an appointment with a Marine Corps recruiter would help you better understand what exactly the Marine Corps does.
During these appointments, you may find that you are qualified for one service and not the others. Maybe one service can’t send you to training until next year, but another can send you next month. This is the kind of information that only a recruiter can give you in a one-on-one appointment. Only after you have acquired all the up-to-date facts and standards straight from the horse’s mouth can you make a truly informed decision. Bring in your friends and family at this point to offer input and advice as you evaluate how to proceed. Recruiters are the most knowledgeable resource available to you, and should be the first step in your journey to military enlistment.