There are a lot of big decisions in life: marriage, finances, buying a house, and others. Right up there is the decision to join the military. In today’s COVID-19 world and economy, many people are considering if the military might, or might not, be the correct choice for them. It is vitally important that before a young person rushes off to find a military recruiter that they understand and reflect on a decision towards military service.
Below are 10 considerations to provide guidance, support, understanding and just a bit of wisdom to help others decide of a military career is right for them.
1. Listen to A Young Person’s Goals in Their Words. Before even starting to describe the benefits of military service, what does a young person want to accomplish? Do they want to travel, live somewhere else, have new experiences, or just get out and see the world? These can be reasons to join the service, but they can also be gateways to other career decisions to personal travel, higher education, working in a new location, serving others in a different profession, or waiting for a decision to become more apparent.
2. Military Service Means Serving Others. When someone joins the military their time, their effort, and most of their day-to-day decisions no longer belong to themselves. The military decides your schedule, what you do with your day, and where you live. In an era of widespread personal freedom, this important aspect of military service still needs to be openly discussed. Service to others initially seems like a loss of personal freedom when acting in the service of others truly gives you freedom.
3. Talk About Other Forms of Public Service. Military service is only one form of service. Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Medical Technicians, Community Activists, Emergency Personnel, and Civil Servants are other vital forms of public service that matter as much as military service. These other forms of service need to also be discussed as viable, rewarding, and vital forms of public service. The military is only one way to serve the community.
4. The Military Has Unique Standards That Must Be Met to Serve. The military has exacting standards of fitness, intelligence, pre-existing body art (tattoos), prior drug use, and prior criminal activity just to name a few of the tests military recruits must pass. If someone wants to join the military and they do not meet the various standards, then they cannot join. A young person that wants to join the military needs to be in shape, not obese, pass the military mental aptitude test, not violate the military’s tattoo policy, not have an extreme criminal record, and not use illegal drugs.
5. Understand Possible Military Occupations for Each Military Service. The military recruiting websites plus social media channels (especially YouTube) give a great deal of information about possible military occupations. Understanding the full range of occupations is an effective way to get excited (or not) about military service. Potential military members need to understand that if you chose the Army or the Marines, you will do your computer programming job pouring sweat in a tent (maybe) with a weapon by your side. Or, if you like to fix generators in the Navy, you will fix a generator on a pitching deck of a ship.
6. Discuss the National Guard and Reserve. For some young people, joining the military full time can be too much of an initial commitment. For those young people, the National Guard and the Reserve may be a perfect fit. The attraction of the National Guard and Reserve: staying local, serving the military, learning new skills, and the potential for Active Duty can be a great option.
7. Discuss the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is America’s “forgotten” military service that offers great options. Many young people are compelled by more altruistic goals of public service, helping others, and being on the “front lines” daily instead of just when they are deployed. In this case, the Coast Guard offers a poignant answer. The Coast Guard fills law enforcement roles combined with public service with a primary focus on rescuing others in need.
8. Military Recruiters Are a Salesperson & An Information Source. Websites are great for one-way information. Talking to a live military recruiter offers excellent options. A young person should have a trusted adult in the room when they talk to a military recruiter to help them ask questions and not be intimidated by the authority of the uniform and other “unknown” words. Meet with recruiters from multiple military branches and see what they have to offer and what sounds interesting to the young person.
9. Talk About the Four D’s: Disability, Death, Divorce, and Deployments. The four D’s of Disability, Death, Divorce and Deployments are where the “rubber meets the road” of military service. Every day in the military is and will be difficult. Military members are in arduous conditions, deployed for months away from loved ones, in physical danger, and you often cannot call even for a family member’s birthday. Disability, Death Divorce, and Deployments are the hard set of subjects that must be talked about because they will be the constant companions throughout military service.
10. Understand the Full Range of Benefits for Military. Looking and understanding the full range of pay, education, medical, and housing benefits is the last step in considering military service. Too often, interested young people jump to the “what do I get” before fully considering “why do I want to serve.” Military benefits are great if you want to serve. But, if you do not want to serve, then military benefits do nothing to build the desire to serve.
There is no correct answer for military service. The goal of young people should be to serve their community with military service being an equal of many forms of potential public service. Young people that want to help others but want to remain in their communities can be nurses, public officials, emergency responders, community activists, teachers, and other service-oriented professions that makes the entire community better.
It is service to the public that matters, not which form of service. Listening to a young person’s goals and ambitions is the best way to discuss the potential of military service. Listen more than you talk, discuss the joys and sorrows of military service, and make a relaxed, informed, and confident decision if the military sounds like a good option.
Chad Storlie is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.
The author of two books, and has been published in over 250 publications. Chad has 15 years university level teaching experience as an adjunct professor of marketing. Chad has taught at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business; Creighton University; and Flagler College.
In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Union Pacific. He has been published in over 210 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, logistics, business, data, decision making, military and technology topics.