In general, the Services require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency (i.e., a green card if a noncitizen), a high school diploma or equivalent (in some cases), good health and minimum scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
Each Service has its own requirements for weight, height and maximum age, although you must be at least 18 (17 with parental permission) to join. Some job specialties have additional standards, and some qualifications may be waived on a case-by-case basis. To see if you’re eligible, discuss these details with a recruiter.
Each of the Services has its own character and spirit. Before choosing, it’s best to talk to people who have had firsthand exposure to the Military. One of the best ways to determine which Service would be the best fit for you is to find friends or relatives who have been in the Military and ask them about their Service’s values, missions and opportunities. If you do not know anyone who has served recently, you may want to look up each branch online.
You should also visit local recruiters, who can help you match your abilities and interests to current active-duty openings in their Service. It’s fine to schedule an appointment just to learn more; visiting a recruiter does not obligate you in any way. Don’t forget to ask about opportunities in the Reserve and National Guard if you’re more interested in serving part-time close to home.
Once you’ve done your research and have a sense of which Service and opportunities are right for you, it’s time to talk to a recruiter. Above all, recruiters are there to answer your questions. They will be positive, but honest; so don’t be afraid to ask anything and everything. You can bring a friend, parent or guardian along with you if that makes you more comfortable. Remember, more than one visit is entirely okay.
Most first-term enlistments are four years of Active Duty, followed by four years in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). In the IRR, you don’t train, and you live at home maintaining a regular job, but you may be called to duty, if necessary, until your term expires. Service commitment really depends upon the Service and the career to which you’re applying. Be sure to ask about enlistment bonuses – some Services offer them. A local recruiter has all the details you’ll need about terms of service.
Replacing the Montgomery GI Bill on Aug. 1, 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most comprehensive education-benefits package since the original GI Bill was signed into law back in 1944. Veterans who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, and all new active-duty servicemembers are eligible for the enhanced package. The new bill also gives Reserve and Guard members who have been activated for more than 90 days since 9/11 the same benefits.
Different factors play into how much each servicemember receives from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These factors include:
The actual benefit amount varies based on a servicemember’s total length of service. However, these benefits are payable for up to 15 years following a member’s honorable discharge or retirement from service. So you can use them right away, or save them for later – it’s your choice.
In addition, for the first time in history the Department of Defense is offering the option of sharing these benefits with family members. A servicemember can now choose to transfer all or part of his or her earned benefits to a wife, husband or child (including stepchildren).
From financial help to facilitating credit transfers, there are several higher-education support programs in the Military. Military education programs include Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), Tuition Assistance, Testing Programs and Military School Credits.
The U.S. Military trains servicemembers in their specific fields during Advanced Individual Training (AIT). A network of skill training schools serves as a resource to train servicemembers for the many positions the Services need to fill. Training is available in many fields including IT, health care and security, to name a few.
The Military will make every effort to match your interests and aptitudes with its needs. However, job assignments are ultimately made based on Service needs, as well as individual skills and test scores. Talk with a recruiter for more details.
Military compensation is a combination of base pay, allowances (for housing, food, etc.) and special pays (for certain job details). Base pay can be considered your core salary to which everything else is added. Your total financial package also includes the value of housing assistance and meal costs. And remember, you have to take into account military perks like low-cost life insurance, everyday shopping discounts and more.
In addition, pay raises generally come faster and more reliably than in civilian life. In the Military, you receive pay raises based on your rank and how long you have served. For most enlisted and officer personnel, the first few promotions come easily.
There are many opportunities to travel the world in the Military. Your first step after Basic Training will most likely be your job training school, followed by travel to your first duty assignment. You can even volunteer for overseas duty if you want to see more of the world. The Military has bases in Hawaii, Japan, Germany, England, Italy, Spain and other unique locations. And no matter where they are based, servicemembers have a lot of opportunity to travel throughout the world, depending on their current assignment.
If you’re looking to travel on your own, many commercial airlines offer discounted fares for servicemembers. In addition, you can often take a free “hop” on a government airplane when extra seats are available. The Military also operates low-cost R & R (that’s rest and relaxation) lodges and hotels in Hawaii, Germany – even Disney World – and other popular destinations.