The decision to join the military marks a significant turning point. For many prospective recruits on the verge of enlistment, excitement, and apprehension exist about how military service will transform their lives. This monumental transition swiftly builds character in ways few other experiences can parallel.
From the outset of training to arriving at your first duty station and beyond, the path ahead will shape you physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It will challenge your perspectives and test your mettle. Along the journey, you’ll experience triumphs, tribulations, and undeniably – change.
While rewards exist for those able to thrive in military culture, signing up is not a choice to make lightly. To help set proper expectations before joining, here’s what you need to know about how the military will transform nearly every aspect of your life.
Choosing Your Job
Regardless of why you join the military, taking the ASVAB, going to MEPS, and choosing your job is the most crucial step in your military career. It will determine the type of people you work with, where you go for basic training, and what your day-to-day life will be like. You could become a dental assistant and work relatively regular hours, or a cook working long intense shifts – yet get paid the same. MEPS is tedious for everyone. Make sure you address any concerns before signing up. For some, the military will be the best decision they ever make. For others, it may be a waste of time. Decide before you go further, as leaving gets more challenging the further you go.
Basic Training/Boot Camp
After MEPS, you’ll go to basic training or boot camp. It will suck for a reason – to see if you can handle stress and work as a team. You’ll likely be bald and nervous, wondering what you got yourself into when you visit the intimidating drill sergeants. It will feel surreal. The annoying parts will be dealing with immature trainees, getting everyone in trouble. But it flies by, so make memories and bond with your future brothers/sisters. Graduation and family day will be a fantastic proud moment when it’s over.
AIT (Advanced Individual Training)
After basic, you go to AIT to learn your Army job. With more privileges than essential, don’t slack off or get in trouble – learn your specialty so you don’t fail and get stuck in a crappy new job. Stay focused, ask for help, and use your free time wisely. You’ll likely be in the best shape after basic/AIT training.
Going Home After Training
After AIT, you’ll finally go home to see family and friends. You’ll realize you have changed more than anything back home. Don’t let this discourage you from your military path – you left for a reason. The military will change you, whether you like it or not.
Your First Duty Station
You’ll arrive at your first duty station excited to serve but quickly realize military life differs from training. Your expectations may or may not be met. You might experience lousy leadership, monotonous duties unrelated to your MOS, and rules/culture you don’t understand yet. Find a mentor to show you the ropes. Give it time, keep an open mind, and try at least one more duty station before giving up.
Life in the Military
In many ways, military life is like an adult version of high school. You have opportunities to better yourself, but you have to take personal responsibility. You’ll deal with good and bad leaders, go on “field trips” (deployments), and make friends that come and go with each duty station. It teaches discipline but allows independence, too. It can be lonely at times – take advantage of activities and reach out if you need help.
The military causes changes quickly. You’ll pick up habits like swearing, waking up early, and knowing military jargon civilians don’t get. You’ll be tired often and fall asleep anywhere. Alcohol use is every day during off hours. You’ll stay fit whether you want to or not. Overall, you’ll figure yourself out more than you would have otherwise at a young age. For many, despite flaws, the military provides structure, purpose, and opportunities.
The military is a challenging adjustment but teaches life lessons fast. With hard work, it can open doors that change lives for the better. Keep all of this in mind before signing up!
Jessica’s Journey: A Military Life Case Study
Jessica is an 18-year-old high school graduate considering joining the Army. She feels unsure about what she wants to do after high school and thinks the military might provide direction and purpose. However, she is concerned about how military service could change her life.
Choosing a Military Occupational Specialty
Jessica scored well on the ASVAB, giving her many options for an Army job. With her interest in healthcare, she chooses to become a medic. This will shape her training location and day-to-day duties. The hands-on role excites her, though the high stress could be challenging. She hopes her unit will provide opportunities to use her skills fully.
Adapting to Bootcamp
Jessica struggles initially with the demanding drill sergeants and regimented lifestyle at boot camp. She misses her family and starts questioning her choice. But she bonds with her unit and becomes more disciplined. She finds confidence she never had before, graduating with new muscles and skills – plus a strong sense of accomplishment.
Gaining Specialized Training
Medic training pushes Jessica outside her comfort zone. She failed a test the first time and thought about quitting. But with extra study sessions and determination, she passes. She’s now ready to save lives in the real Army. She feels gratitude for the opportunity to learn this valued skill.
Returning Home Before Duty
When Jessica visits her family after training, she sees how much she’s matured. Her former party friends seem immature now. She knows she must leave home to grow and make a difference. This motivates her to active duty.
Adjusting to Military Culture
Jessica’s first unit seems disorganized. Paperwork takes priority over real training. She struggles with her tough sergeant’s leadership style. A mentor helps her learn the ropes and cope. She is determined to make the best of it and leads by example.
Gaining Confidence and Skills
Over time, Jessica excels at her job and grows as a leader. She learns how to deal with different personalities and handle stressful situations. She values the structure, benefits, and chance to serve. Life-long friendships and activities on base offset occasional loneliness.
Continuing Personal Growth
Now a respected non-commissioned officer, Jessica re-enlists. She takes college classes using the GI Bill, preparing for a future career. Staying fit, organized, and determined – habits formed in the Army – will aid her transition to civilian life someday. She’s grateful for the maturity, direction, and purpose the military gave her.
Jessica’s story shows how an open mind, grit, and a desire to improve can allow someone to thrive in military service. She overcame challenges through mentorship and personal growth. Her life was transformed through this demanding yet enriching journey.
- Carefully consider your military occupational specialty – it shapes your entire experience.
- Boot camp and training transform you physically and mentally – be prepared
- Returning home highlights how you’ve changed – stay focused
- Military culture takes adjusting to – finding mentors and being patient
- Take advantage of opportunities for self-improvement
- You rapidly mature and gain discipline – grow from the challenges
Joining the military marks a monumental transition that swiftly builds character. With an open mindset, hard work, and willingness to learn, the demanding yet rewarding nature of military life forges improved virtues. Despite difficulties, if approached correctly, it develops valued skills and relationships that make the sacrifice worthwhile. Weigh options carefully, but once committed, embrace personal growth. In doing so, the military can provide purpose and springboard brighter futures.