Being in the military service is tough, even more than most people realize.
Here, soldiers reveal things they wish they had known before enlisting.
1. It’s always there, in the back of your mind.
If you see combat, especially real combat, not a day of your life will go by from there on where you don’t think about it. It will go away when you’re busy or preoccupied, but when you’re just sitting there, lost in your own thoughts, your mind will be back on the battlefield.
2. That’s a scary thought.
Know that when you join your life is owned by the government. It’s fairly obvious but when you actually experience it, it can be pretty surreal. Doesn’t matter what you want all that matters is what the government wants from you. My old man was terminally ill and trying to get home was a nightmare, if I had been a civilian I could have just quit….I have had a good career with the military, I’m releasing in the next few months because this has started to really bother me.
3. Serving in the army truly ages you.
Former Marine here.
You will be treated like whoever the lowest common denominator in your unit is. If that person is an idiot that gets arrested every other weekend or something, get ready to waste literally hours of time attending “Don’t be an idiot” training mandated by higher. Also, enjoy your tobacco addiction, especially if you’re in a victor unit.
You feel so damn old and weathered going back to college with your GI Bill after an enlistment. This is legitimately what it feels like, and you’re only a couple years older than them.
4. Only thing close to being in the army is… prison?
I’ve never been to prison… but crap, I have to imagine that deployments are damn near close to it.
Bored out of your mind, getting fit at the makeshift, outside gym, counting down the days, surrounded by dudes, and every now and then, some jerk tries to kill you.
5. “Would probably still do it again.”
That after getting out of service I would feel left in the dust compared to all my friends and peers who went to college right after high school. Everyone tells me that I’ve accomplished so much within my lifetime but I just don’t see it as I’m sitting in class next to a bunch of 22 year old “kids” working on my master’s degree at 30.
That yes, messed up crap can happen (story continued on the next page…).
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Just because I was lucky, smart, and athletic doesn’t mean I can dodge a concussion or the psychological trauma of witnessing death and mayhem.
That I will never be able to make close friends so quickly again after my service. I don’t know what it is, it’s just impossible to connect with people now – even other veterans.
That I would experience an overwhelming sense of guilt after participating in the war in Iraq after coming home and digesting my experience. The emotion experienced from this is so bad it often dwarfs my PTSD and causes suicidal ideations.
5/10, would probably still do it again.
6. “I wish I had…”
I wish I had joined the Air Force… The Army sleeps under the stars. The Navy navigates by the stars. The Air Force chooses their hotel by the stars.
7. That is just ridiculous.
The craziest thing was when I was threatened with an article 15 for destruction of government property… when I got sun burn. Granted, it was a pretty bad burn, fell asleep for hours in the sun but I was shocked.
Still don’t know if it was just a threat.
8. “Your knees will feel like a 50 year olds by the time you are 25.”
1) Volunteer for nothing. Especially if they are looking for volunteers for a course that on the surface sounds amazing, but when you look around you are the only one with your hand up and suddenly you are cleaning some shit for someone else.
2) Recruiters lie. Its a numbers game to them.
3) Iraq was about oil.
4) If you are a skinny 140lb 18 year old expected up to carry 100lbs of kit, your knees will feel like a 50 year olds by the time you are 25.
9. How it that even legal?
That you may be experimented on and threatened with jail time if you don’t comply.
See: Mandatory experimental anthrax vaccine soldiers at the beginning of Operation Iraqi freedom had to receive which caused all kinds of ill health effects no one is talking about.
10. They make good points.
First, save every scrap of paper that you receive. Make a binder that includes copies of all your orders, certificates, important documents, evaluation reports, medical information, etc. Have copies of everything. It seems like overkill, but paperwork goes missing all the time.
Second, if you are sick, go to… (story continued on the next page…).
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Second, if you are sick, go to… (story continued on the next page…). sick call. If you get paperwork from the doctor, keep a copy in your binder. If you get hurt, go to sick call. If it is severe, make sure you get Line of Duty paperwork. Each small injury might not seem like a big deal, but after a few years, they add up. You don’t want to be 30 years old with the joints of a 60 year old and no paperwork to back up your history.
Third, if you need mental health treatment, go to mental health. Stop caring about what other people say. If you need help, go get it.
Fourth, speak up for yourself. Be your own advocate. Not everyone has your best interest in mind. If you don’t think something is right, voice your opinion (professionally).
Fifth, don’t be afraid to volunteer for cool missions and opportunities. Being able to control some aspects of your career feels pretty awesome. Search around, go on forums, check opportunities, network, etc.
Sixth, go to school. Actual school. Don’t let the military convince you that University of Phoenix is your end goal. Do whatever you want to do so you have skills when you leave the service. Use your GI Bill.
11. A woman can serve and die for her country, but be denied decent heath care?
All military people will back this one up:
See civilian dentists.
Fellow women military people will back this up:
See civilian gynaecologist.
I’ve been shamed and dismissed when I went in for simple shit, like a yeast infection. Even birth control (when I was trying to get on Paragard because the pill was ruining my life) was denied with a lecture on how unusual it is for a young woman to not want children. Screw them – go to a civilian.
12. Here are a few things…
It’s the navy and air force that get to see the world. In the army we just get to clean it.
There’s plenty of time to join. I didn’t really need to join at 18. I could have gone to uni, travelled, had positive experiences and THEN joined to become bitter, twisted, jaded and disgruntled at the state of humanity.
You matter to your friends and family. To your platoon and company. Maybe to your battalion. But to the wider military you are a number. A tool to be used and discarded. The mission comes first and your piddly problems come second.
You become different. Your entire viewpoint on everything from sex to politics to morality to notions of comfort change drastically. You will come to despise certain character traits and types of people.
13. Always report is right away.
If you get sexually harassed, DOCUMENT AND REPORT IT RIGHT AWAY. Don’t get bullied into not reporting it.
14. Seems horrible.
Most of sniper school involves a lot of math.
There’s nothing glamorous about being B-4, most of the time you’re waiting around in the heat. It’s nothing like the movies.
All the people in books that say they can remember the faces of everyone they’ve shot are full of crap.
The big one: not only can you not smoke, you can’t use tobacco in any form. Good luck if you’re another nicotine addict.
15. Don’t try and tough it out.
If you’re sick, you notify your fire team leader or squad leader. If you don’t, not only do you get in trouble, you get… (story continued on the same page…).
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You get them in trouble, which in turn, will get you in MORE trouble. In addition, save every bit of info you’re given, because it may one day save you butt. It could be a signature for an order, acknowledging you’re sick in quarters (SIQ), anything that would you might get questioned for doing something or not being somewhere.
16. There are other ways to serve your country.
Should have done Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and finished up college instead of enlisting.
17. You are going to get hurt.
How very, very likely you are to get irrevocably hurt doing the things you do every day. That’s how most people get hurt, in fact.
For me it was Physical Training (PT). I’ve had a knee repair, a shoulder repair, stress fractures, a hideous staph infection… the list goes on.
18. Being in the army is hard on relationships.
That if you deploy there’s a good chance you’re marriage will fail and your SO will leave you.
19. It’s hard to get back into daily life after being in the military.
How civilian life feels after. Don’t get me wrong, civilian is a ton easier than what I ever had to go through in the army. But no one ever taught me how to go back to how everyone else is.
When you’re in the army, you become mentally adjusted to a way of life, and while that way of life might be very challenging, you almost always know what it brings, or you are trained how to meet any eventualities. No one ever trains you how to meet life, no one can do that. The army manages to put a very structured personality into you, and then when you get out a few years after, no one else follows that structure.
I still remember a day 7 years ago at Business School, during a group 72 hour exam where we’d all agreed on stuff to do during the night. Now it was 2am, and we were to meet at 7am, but when we met again at 7.16 (I was really pissed at by 16 minute delay), I really couldn’t understand the guy when he told me that he was too tired to do it, and just wanted to cuddle with his girlfriend. He might as well have said those words in another language. I literally didn’t understand the guy. My mind had been so adjusted to that everyone around always would do what they were told, or they would tell me that it would not be possible before that. I had gotten so used to every person not working the same may as me, that I forgot it, that if they would be tired, they would tell me immediately, not tell me embarrassed later.
20. It’s still a job. The more information you have going in, the better.
First, the bigger the military base you’re at, the lower your standards just got (story continued on the next page…).
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10,000 extra dudes means a girl you used to date is now out of your league. That one night stand is now girlfriend material and you don’t want to know how far down you’ll have to go for a one-night now.
Next research the job. I recommend calling a private recruiter who specializes in placing ex-military in civilian jobs. They’ll know the best jobs to go for. I’m an engineer but my brother makes more than me based on his navy nuke experience with no degree. The only pro skill I learned in the army guard is how to really really kill people with rockets.
21. Yeah, it’s pretty important.
I wish I had known how important my hearing was.
22. “Laundry Specialist” is an interesting title for someone in the army…
Don’t trust to everything your recruiter tells you. Look up info on your own and bounce questions off of them. I did and got stuck as a laundry specialist for 4 years. Oh, and color vision can affect the jobs you can get in the military.
23. These people are putting their lives on the line, the least they could do is provide them with decent heath care.
I grew up poor without healthcare. Every dentist I ever went to said that I badly needed braces. Every single Army dentist/orthodontist said that my teeth were fine and didn’t need braces. Military medicine is not as good or comprehensive as civilian medicine. You get the minimum.
I am glad I joined and served overall though.
24. There are more positive parts to being in the military.
The military is unrivalled at creating and fostering leadership. Unfortunately, most of the best leaders can do some basic math, realize how valuable they are in the civilian world, and high-tail it out as soon as they can.
On a more positive note, it still blows my mind that I am entrusted with the beating heart of a billion-dollar warship. And that “drive the thing like you stole it” is the normally encouraged mindset to have while doing so.
I highly doubt that I will ever do something this cool once I get out.
25. “The cure doesn’t happen all at once.”
You can learn to live with PTSD, much of the time- but – no one can help you forgive yourself for who you’ve been, or what you’ve done, except yourself. When you’re out, you can get help, but you have got to be the one that takes the opportunity. Help doesn’t come in 12oz bottles or pint glasses. Remember, it normally doesn’t build up all at once – the cure doesn’t happen all at once.
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26. Watch how you spend your money.
Save. Your. Goddamn. Money. DO NOT go out and buy a new car. DO NOT DO IT. You’re not special. The Car Salesman is going to screw you over just like everyone before you. Save your first couple pay checks, get a beater, and save the shit out of your money. I’ve seen guys save for 4 years and have enough to buy their dream car in cash. Watched an E5 buy the new Corvette Stingray as soon as it hit the market, with cash. He told us all that he had been saving for the past 5 years. It’s not about cars though. It’s about your future. Eventually you wont be Army anymore. You gonna be like some of us dumbies and be in debt looking for whatever job you can get just to make ends meet?
27. Do your research!
I wish I had looked up the postings for my AFSC. I would have learned before I came in that programmers all went to shit assignments like Goodfellow, Altus, Minot, Maxwell. I wouldn’t have bothered putting things like Antarctica, England or Japan on my dream sheet.
28. What a waste.
That I would go to Iraq three times, then 10 years later we see ISIS is in charge. What a waste of money and peoples lives.
29. Should be harder to get in.
I don’t think this would have changed my decision much on joining, but I wish I knew how EASY it is to get into the military. I am Air Force, so of course boot camp easier. What I mean is the part of taking the ASVAB, choosing a job, and in some cases gaining rank. I might be wrong, but it seems to be easier to join Army or Marines. Yes, I know the boot camp it harder, but I’m sure everyone from any branch can support me on how certain people can make it through. This is what concerns me. But imagine talking to someone higher ranking than you and trying to convince them that they are wrong, and they literally are, and they won’t budge. Not from being an asshole, or having a huge ego, but from really thinking they are right because they have simply been in a certain time or made rank fast. There are people who seem, to me, that are borderline retarded, and are in charge of things. Others have absolutely no people skills, and refuse to help you when that is what their job entails. I hope you all can understand what I’m trying to say, I’m not to good at putting it in writing. I fix F-16s and in the air force, maintenance is what people usually get into as enlisted.
I am considered the friendly guy everywhere I go, I don’t use my rank as an NCO the way the military wants me to do it. I ask people to do things, not tell them……It’s not supposed to be that way and I fully agree with doing what you are told. I also believe in keeping your mouth shut, hard work is hard work. I respect the rank, but that can only go so far when the actual individual is a moron. I treat people like adults whether they are new or my boss.