Thinking about joining the armed services or about serving your country? Here is a 19-year-old with quite some experience grappling with becoming a new member of the military, adapting to this lifestyle, and sticking with it even when the odds were stacked against me. “Is this something you really want to do? Are you ready for this commitment?” These questions should ring in your head throughout the process, for you to make a decision that will impact your life significantly.
Many don’t expect an 18-year-old to know what he or she will do for the rest of their life, just as many don’t believe the decisions made by said 18-year-olds or others in their teens as “good” or “well thought out.” Yet, I decided to enlist to get away from home, yet a single year removed from leaving home officially, I miss it more than ever. It’s not easy for a teen to just uproot him/herself and survive off of high school knowledge. No, it takes a lot of intuitiveness and quick decisions to know what to do and how to handle yourself when parents, guardians, other relatives or friends aren’t around to help you.
None of this is meant to scare anyone considering, rather, it’s a “here’s what to somewhat expect” from your experience starting in the military. There’s a lot of getting used to rules and regulations that as a civilian, were either not really cared about, or simply ignored for the sake of it being unimportant in your daily lives. While it may have been acceptable to smoke marijuana and drink underage, if that was your situation, the military doesn’t stand for it. Standards like these may be killer for someone who really wants the consistent paychecks, but is unwilling to give up old habits. You are required to conform, and they’re willing to sincerely help anyone who really wants to make a difference and better themselves.
What should I really consider?
- Daily habits. If doing drugs or heavy drinking of alcohol are involved in your life, are you willing to be completely sober for a stable and consistent life in the military? If you’re 21+, you won’t have to stay away from alcohol for long (after basic training, usually).
- Influences. Family, social influences, and economic influences should all be considered. Any negative influences especially, you want to leave behind.
- Commitment. Once you sign a contract, it is going to be honored unless you are injured severely on the job or you get into some deep trouble. Is this something you're willing to do for the length of your contract, no matter what may jump at you? Have you considered other options to get into school and possibly go in at a higher rank?
- Family. (Again) I can’t stress this enough. You want to keep family in your mind throughout this whole process, start to finish. Whoever you call family, be it mom and dad/siblings, or close friends or anyone you really consider family, they should be thoroughly considered. Are they able to cope with you being gone? Are they situated at home, safe and happy? Will they come with you to your permanent duty station when you are assigned? Family counts, and to be your best you, you need their support.
- Personal Feelings. No, this isn’t a joke, nor an attempt to say that the military bans you from having feelings. This is simply putting in perspective. Are you willing to be understanding of the military’s point of view on things? To stay level headed if an issue you are passionate about may be something that the military has not fully investigated or been given the chance to research and develop their conclusion?
- Depending on the reaction to this, I’ll address some other common things to consider prior to joining, or if you’re new to the military, what can or cannot be done. If you’re reading, thanks for taking the time to listen to me over explain one aspect of joining.