5 of the Worst Misconceptions to Have When Joining the Military

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Joining the military is a great opportunity for many young adults. There are countless benefits for those serve, ranging from financial security, means for obtaining a higher education, developing skills desired by future employers, and, most importantly, a way for someone to participate in something bigger than themselves.

If you want to sign your name on the dotted line in hopes of making a better life for yourself — you’re making an excellent decision.

If your sole purpose in enlisting is to collect fat paychecks… just know that literally everyone under the rank of general is still waiting for get-that-check-engine-light-looked-at kind of money. That being said, enlisting for cash is just scratching the surface of dumb, preconceived notions that troops come in with.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant to stop anyone from joining the military — after all, Uncle Sam needs that butt in OD Green. Just know that if you’re dead set on some of the following, it’s going to be painfully hilarious to everyone around you when the truth sets in.

Marine bicycle
The military also provides enough options to help you float until pay day, if you’d like. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Victor Mincy)

The pay is great

As mentioned above, troops don’t get paid all that well — especially when first entering the service. It’s been long joked within the military that you don’t actually break minimum wage until you reach E-3 (which usually takes a year without waiver) when you factor in work call at 0500 for PT and close out formation at 1700 — a 12-hour work day.

This number obviously doesn’t include overtime pay, 24-hour duties, weekend and holiday pay, or the fact that being in the military is a 24/7 job. If you do look at it like a 24-hour job, you’re looking more towards E-7 (at over 8 years time in service) or O-3 just to break minimum wage.

On the bright side, you’ll get two weeks of paid vacation if you use your leave days correctly!

To be honest, unless you become a drill instructor/drill sergeant, you’re not going to do much yelling for the sake of yelling. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

You’ll get to boss others around

If you thought that joining the military was the pathway to position where you can just yell at people and order them around, you’re absolutely wrong and would be a craptastic leader.

The only way for you to actually “yell at and boss people around” without getting some wall-to-wall counselling from your peers is to be in a position over someone — which won’t be simply handed to you. Even then, no one will respect you — your superiors, peers, and subordinates alike — if you don’t offer them that same respect.

infantry
Everyone wants to talk about the awesome moments of being in the infantry but never acknowledges all of the suck that comes with it. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

By joining the military, you’ll be killing bad guys all the time

There’s always that one kid who played too much Call of Duty or watched too many war films and came away with the wrong idea about the military. The fact is, killing bad guys accounts for (maybe) the tiniest fraction of your time spent — even if go infantry.

Let’s overlook, just for a moment, the serious mental issue at play here and say that when this doofus says he wants to “kill all the bad guys,” he means he wants to be a grunt. First, they’d need to be part of the 20% of the military considered combat arms. Then, they’d need to be a part of the 60% of troops that actually deploy at least once. Then, they’ll have to be one of the 10% of troops who actually see combat — and this is skewed because it includes every troop that’s seen combat even just a single time, not the sustained badassery that most of these would-be killers expect. That number is astronomically low.

Marine Corps retirement
Then you’ll run into the old, “you’ve already got 10 years in, you might as well stay until retirement!” …And we do… (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yasmin D. Perez)

You can simply collect the benefits and bounce

If you think you’ll just come in for the three years and get your full ride of the GI Bill, I won’t stop you. Good luck with that — the military has a way of keeping troops in.

It’s not really clear why it works so well, but the one of the most repeated lines by senior NCOs when retention numbers are low is, “you won’t find a job out there in the real world except Walmart greeter!” That one phrase has done more to keep troop numbers up than any motivational recruitment ad.

Navy builder
You’ll be so acquainted with the world’s deserts that you can tell exactly where someone is in the world just by the color of the dirt and sand around them… (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Garas)

By joining the military, you’ll travel the world

Oh, you’ll travel the world alright. There’s no denying that. It’s just that none of the locations on your bucket list match up with anywhere Uncle Sam wants to send you.

Sure, there’s a possibility that you’ll get stationed in Hawaii, Europe, or East Asia. But chances are far better that you’ll get sent to the exotic Fort Sill, Oklahoma, or tropical Minot AFB, North Dakota, before going to Trashcanistan.


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The top 6 reasons people decide to join the infantry

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