For several years, I was a soldier-medic in the U.S. Army. I saw countless military and family members. Now I am a veteran looking back.
The Army rocks!
If you're thinking about joining the Army, your recruiter will tell you just about anything to get you to sign the dotted line. Still, there are some goodies he'll never tell you about.
This article will focus on these amazing things as well as the reasons he won't tell you. If you're thinking about joining the Army or know someone who is, this is a must-read that will help make the right decision.
Also, this article will focus on the Army because it's the only branch I served in. Other military branches may have similar pluses, but you'll have to ask someone else about that.
Finally, I will refer to the soldier as "he," only to simplify its language. Don't forget that there are many female soldiers and veterans who serve this country proudly.
7. The Army has the perfect exercise program
When people think of Basic Training--officially known as Basic Combat Training or BCT--they assume exercise and sweating. There's no reason to be disappointed because there is plenty of both.
Not only is training intense during BCT, but also maintaining a certain level of fitness throughout your military career is key in being an effective soldier. Sadly, many gifted and experienced soldiers are discharged each year because they cannot meet weight or fitness standards.
Exercise is difficult and demanding but it is good for you. Weeks before I shipped off, I started training harder--simply to lessen the punishment of BCT. By the time BCT finally came, I was feeling more energetic, thinking more clearly, and all-around happier. I was excited about the Army and the Army didn't let me down.
A lot of recruiters aren't always in a hurry to talk about exercise because it might turn off a potential trainee. It's the recruit who brings it up and then the recruiter gets vague and tells him that he'll be fine. This is true but there's no reason not to discuss the benefits of exercise and how simply being in the Army will almost guarantee them.
6. The Army is funny!
One thing that keeps us all sane in the Army is the humor. The Army is funny. Really funny. Put a bunch of people in a tedious detail (small task) or bored out of their minds and you'll see some pretty creative stuff. And if you don't have a sense of humor? You will develop one immediately and it will last forever.
The comedy is what keeps you awake. It relieves stress like nothing else. It isn't bitter because everyone can relate. The timing is always perfect because there's plenty of practice.
The reason that the Army is so funny is the same reason your recruiter will never tell you about it. The Army can be stressful, tedious, boring--it can be everything that a private-sector job can be, but you can't just "quit." Leaving the post you are assigned to without permission is a crime. It's much easier to laugh it off. Laugh about the pay, about the food, about anything and your friends will laugh with you.
5. It is all about diversity
I had to see this one to believe it. I didn't see this one coming but seeing so many people from all over the country was a shock. The only thing more shocking was seeing them at their best. Everyone seemed smarter than me, stronger than me, faster than me--all around better soldiers than me in every way, every day. It was impressive. Every tasteless stereotype about everybody quickly evaporated. I am proud to have served with them.
Race and gender issues in America are delicate topics, which is why your recruiter won't tell you about this. Or maybe he sees all this as a social problem instead of an individual problem. Therefore, it won't make sense for him to say, "Hey join the Army! It cures prejudice!" Nobody will admit being prejudice but some generalizations sneak in once in a while. They're hard to shake off. The Army does its best to hammer it out.
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4. The Army is successful communism (sort of)
I am goofing off here (look at #6 again) so hang on.
When I think of communism, I think of a lot of sad, poor people standing in long lines. Join the Army and if you see anything other than that write an article about it.
If you hear someone say communism doesn't work, you tell them to join the Army. Yes, I know the Army is not a nation but a government entity with an unlimited budget. But take a closer look and you'll see an economic system unlike any other.
Imagine you are a junior enlisted soldier. There is another one right next to you. Talk a little and you find out his take-home pay is much greater than yours. You both nod and agree that although you are the same rank at the same time in service, you both get what you deserve. Your girlfriend scratches her head and you explain that...
- He speaks a high-demand foreign language fluently, say Arabic or Farsi.
- He went to jump school so now he is Airborne (he is a paratrooper).
- He is currently deployed in Afghanistan.
- He has a wife and three children who live off post.
All these factors and plenty more affect a soldier's pay. It's "fair." OK, now imagine that another buddy joins your conversation. He has the same job as you and other factors are similar to yours. Therefore his pay is the same. However...
- He spends most of his day on his iPhone because his platoon is overstaffed.
- He is overweight and weak.
- He is often late for work.
- He recently got a DUI.
This is "unfair" but this is how it works. The three of you get the same amount of food and the same medical benefits, although it's not likely you'll all get promoted at the same time. It works better for the last guy, I guess, but none of you are in it for the money. You're in it to save America.
The Army knows this so they'll give you a medal whenever you deserve a raise. You'll accept it and wear it proudly because medals are cool. The only way you'll get more cold, hard cash is if you're more like your first buddy or actually get promoted.
This is all a plus because when a person joins the Army, he is "serving" his country. He is putting his country before himself. He is putting his team before himself. It is not about the money. It never was. It is all about the "greater good."
3. The Army is your other family
In the Army, everyone has his place. Enlisted or officer, the higher rank assumes more responsibility so he is given more authority. This responsibility involves completing the mission as well as maintaining an effective fighting force.
This means that everyone—your bosses, buddies, and those who serve under you—is responsible for each others' well-being and morale. If someone seems sad, irritable, or in danger, every soldier who sees it will step up and do everything he can to help. Sound familiar? It's like a family.
The examples are countless. If you are drunk in the middle of the night, call your boss and he will pick you up. If he can't he will send someone who can—even if you're three hours from post. This will save your career and you life and it won't cost you a dime.
A fellow soldier will give you a ride to the airport if you don't want to park there. Soldiers lend or give each other things without a second thought. All this inspires you to do the same. Everyone hooks everyone else up. It's fascinating to see and it happens all the time.
This one almost knocked me off my feet. Although I outranked several soldiers, therefore making more money than them, they often offered me food and drink without hesitation. I soon did the same.
But sometimes things get more complicated than food and drink. If a soldier has a serious problem, he can go to his boss. His boss has heard it all before and can direct this soldier to countless programs and facilities on post. If this soldier was a civilian with that same problem, he'd lose his job.
Maybe your recruiter did tell you this. It's pretty cool after all. If he didn't, it's probably because he takes it for granted. You can't blame him because this is easy to do. Counting on such a dependable family becomes second nature.
2. The Army expects more out of you, and you will deliver
I mentioned how this can be a negative in my other article. However, this is actually a positive, especially if you're still in the service. As a soldier, you will feel different from civilians. They'll treat you differently and you'll treat them differently. This is a good feeling and it lasts forever. Some people call it "bleeding green" because it runs deep inside you and green is an Army color, I guess.
Then, when you're with your team another side wakes up. Everything else is left behind and you're doing your best to accomplish the mission. The mission might be tough but it won't last forever. Then look back, and you'll see that you did some amazing things. Maybe you saved someone's life. Maybe you saved hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars by telling the mechanic that those tires don't belong on that tank. Maybe you cracked a funny joke that everyone will remember for years.
Check out the video below. This soldier saw more action in two minutes than I've seen in thirty years. He's a superhero. Your friends will see you at your finest. They'll pat you on the back. If you're not at your best, they'll help you. If you are in the Army you are "bleeding green."
1. The Army is completely voluntary
The greatest thing about today's Army is that it's completely voluntary. Soldiers in the Army want to be there. The reasons vary but the commitment and dedication are strong. This loyalty is contagious and brings out the best in us all.
Other countries pretty much pull people off the street, put them in a uniform, and put a rifle in their hands. This is understandable when facing crises or immediate threats. but other times it can lead to political unrest.
In the United States, a civilian's greatest freedom is to remain a civilian. This is as likely to continue as long as democracy does. Pushing towards military conscription is political suicide. Would you vote for a politician who will force you or your children into military service? This country counts on its people to serve when they feel the country is threatened.
This choice is why politicians—doves and chicken hawks alike—surround themselves with veterans in uniform as often as possible when making a speech. This choice is what makes those who step up to serve our heroes.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: You said in your Article that the Army is all family, well a family can lose touch at a point after you & all of your Army brothers (From all over the U.S. State to State, City to City etc) get discharged how do you all stay in touch?
Answer: There are plenty of ways to stay in touch. Even if you lose touch, it's easy to find veterans and service members still doing their time. Go to your favorite search engine and type "how to find veterans" (no need to include the quotation marks). There are lots of government and NGO resources. Also some units have reunions, look online to see when your unit's next reunion is. This is more hit-and-miss because not everyone goes and not all units do this.
Question: So you said that the Army is like a family. So if you're openly gay or such, will you still be accepted? Because that's what I fear in joining the Army, that I'm going to get jumped or something.
Answer: For information about the Army's LGBQT policies, your best bet is to talk to your local recruiter. Express your concerns and take it from there.
That said, I have NEVER met a service member who feared for his personal safety for ANY reason (aside from combat). I have NEVER met a service member who got "jumped or something."