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What are the pros and cons to joining the military?

Alright guys I need some help on this one. I recently graduated from university and was emailed by an Army recruiter to join and in turn they’ll help repay my loans (god so many loans), pay up to 250k for graduate level education (become a physical therapist, nurse, dentist, etc), give me housing, insurance, and a monthly stipend.

This seems too good to be true and yet I have been seriously contemplating this, but what are the downsides, if any, to joining the military for these reasons?

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47 Comments

  1. Pros- training in your field. Traveling. Free medical, dental and housing.

    Cons- pay sucks. The field sucks. Maintaining relationships with the constant threat of deployment.

    Was in the navy, went aircrew. I loved it, but it ain’t for everybody.

  2. Make sure you get that in writing. The phase “but my recruiter said” is a joke. Go into the medical corps. That is a different side of the military. Being physicians assistant is in my opinion one of the best jobs in the Army. They ran the aid stations I worked in. The hours will be long. Many times did I end up working from 3 am to midnight multiple days in a row. You have the degree and can become an officer and you will get higher pay, better housing, etc

  3. Sounds like you’ve got the pros all listed out. I never joined but one of my friends joined the navy in September. This is the stuff I’ve heard him bitch about.

    His entire barracks caught covid, the navy didn’t seem to give a shit.

    Boot camp sucks balls.

    It’s easy to be tricked into a position that you didn’t want to go into, and you’re stuck in it for years. (By far his biggest gripe, he got talked into working aboard submarines thinking he could do something specific. Nope, he’s the dude that loads torpedoes. Not really a transferable skill and he’s going to be doing it for 6 years)

    Shipped off around the world and never getting to see friends/family for months to a year at a time.

    Taking orders from absolute morons.

    Once you join there is no backing out.

    Potentially dying.

    Overall he said he’s regretting his decision and is just trying to make the best of it. He’s kind of a moron though, if you join be sure to sign up for exactly what you want to be doing and for exactly how long you want to do it.

  4. Former Navy here.

    So, first, depending on your student loans, they may be able to repay them. If the loans are from private sources, they may not be able to. There are also laws that cap interest rates on loans for active duty military.

    Depending on what program they were mentioning, the may be able to pay for your school. Usually it’s tied to officer programs. So you’ll have a several year commitment of service once you graduate. While attending the school, depending on the program you are in, they’ll give you the food and housing allowances, and pay you. Basically you’re in the military, but your job is to go to school. There’s other requirements to it too that I can’t remember.

    I would recommend also talking with the Air Force or Navy about things. The programs exist pretty much across the board.

    While you’re in, the free health care is definitely a bonus. For you and your dependents. Dental insurance for you is free, and dirt cheap for dependents.

    While you’re in, there’s also Tuition Assistance, and after you get out, the GI Bill for school.

  5. You can get quite a bit out of it. For myself, I 100% turned myself around from barely passing high school to completing a
    graduate degree. I would not be where I am without the discipline and tenacity I learned in the Army. Not to mention the post-9/11 GI Bill. On the flip, I still have the occasional nightmare and it has taken me years to get past the incredible anger I felt after returning from my last tour.

    Overall, you do get out what you put in and it can certainly be a vehicle of social mobility (the moral debate on the military as a socio-economic vehicle is another discussion). Part of that is being put into uncomfortable positions. Some will help you grow as a person and some will prove detrimental to your physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual health. You will meet people, and love them as brothers/sisters, that you never would have otherwise met. You will also meet people that will make your life hell or endanger it because of incompetence, personal ambition, or simply because they are human.

    Overall, it is a job. One that if you choose carefully and work hard can help you grow and gain resources to move forward. It can also fundamentally break you simply because of the carelessness in decision making this country enjoys when employing the military.

  6. Back when I was in JROTC, my commander told me this: Don’t go into the forces as a career. There is no career, and family life sucks ass. Don’t go into the forces for your own personal benefit; the forces will work you over instead. Go into the forces if you want to put the country on your back with pride.

    The recruiter’s job is to recruit people. Plain and simple. They’ll sell you on anything, but don’t oversee what actually happens when you join. Like others have said, if it’s not in writing and the set plan isn’t put before you, it ain’t what you’ll be getting.

    Consider this: If you go into service, how many years would you be in? Then take those years and consider the same number of years working and paying off the loans yourself in the same stripped-down conditions. Sometimes stuff like this is the difference between “Buy one, get one free” where you go, Oh free things!, when really you’re buying two things at 50% off. Same deal, different wording.

  7. Other people have done a good job of going over the pros and cons of service. One thing I want to point out is, when people consider going in, they often over look the Coast Guard.

    The Coast Guard is a best of both worlds option for some people. You will spend time on a boat, but there cruise time is shorter then the Navy, and unless something really bad happens, you won’t be deployed/stationed somewhere overseas. They provide a valuable service.

    It may not be right for you, I don’t want to over sell, I just want to make sure you consider all your options.

  8. You know how you’ll see a flashy deal for a business like “up to 80% off!”, then you’ll actually look through their stuff for the things you want but find out that all the shit they are trying to get rid of is the 80% off stuff but what you wanted is only 15% off? That’s what it can feel like for so many

  9. I’m not American but I am serving for over 2 years now in my country’s army.

    Here its mandatory so you don’t really have any pros besides not going to jail.

    The cons are shitty pay, shitty medicine, shitty everything to be honest.

    But in my country its different than in the U.S and everyone is super judgmental about your service.

    For example if you’re a guy and you aren’t a combatant? Plenty of girls would reject you just for that. For serving the same time, staying off home for the same time you get paid less and less benefits after getting released.

  10. Counselor with experience treating vets:

    Pros – feeling of comradery and purpose toward your fellow soldiers. Can help with sense of overall purpose. Good benefits. Travel. If you are able to get school paid for it’s pretty cool, but see below.

    Cons – After losing people in your life to war and getting traumatic stress or seeing very difficult things or having difficulty coming back into civilian life – The realization that war is just rich people with chips on their shoulders throwing their underclasses at each other for posterity. It is a grave moral injury once you realize that almost every war has not been about freedom or safety or democracy or protecting citizens – but instead about control, greed and hatred. This is a very very very difficult thing for people and when it is added to traumatic stress is when you get people coming back who cannot integrate back into society very well.

    Feeling alienated. Once you are home from combat your experiences can feel so different from others that you cannot trust them to let them in, you feel alien to them, and you shut down.

    Lack of community once out – when you’re in you have very very close bonds with those around you, becasue your life depends on each other.

    Cons – You get PTSD or some sort of major mental health condition – you can be discharged without getting all those benefits they are promising you. Plus lots of people get conned out of their money for school or the gov doesn’t come through. I’ve had people put their all in, get diagnosed with some major depression or shit, discharged and then get no funding for school.

    Get everythign they promise you in writing, on letterhead and signed. Recruiters can be like shoddy car salesman. So don’t get all signed up and then find out that most of that they promised you is not real.

  11. Pros: you get to do cool shit

    Cons: it’s only 10% of the time

    Pros: that 10% makes the 90% of the shittyness worth it

    Just remember that your experiences can vary wildly between units, jobs, and location. Expectation management is key to surviving in the military. Some days are gonna suck, and some days are gonna be good.

  12. The Coast Guard wasn’t too bad! I was enlisted and only did 4 years.

    Pros: well taken care of, patrols (if you’re on a cutter or patrol boat) aren’t too long, you don’t get shot at, and it’s a small branch so you’ll be surprised how many people you run into again.

    Cons: you’re away from home half the time, equipment is sometimes really old (the cutters I was on were from the 60s), depending on the rate you want the wait for school can be long, standard hurry up and wait experience, and then of course people don’t know what you do or that you’re in a branch of the military lol.

    I didn’t do land units, so I can’t tell you much about those. Seemed like they were closer to living a 9-5 job with duty days.

  13. So my Dad told me… the recruiter will LIE… get everything in writing. I went to MEPS and sure enough they told me the program I signed up for was full… despite a 99 on ASVAB they wanted me to be a mechanic and promised they would bump me to my chosen program if spots became available… I walked. GET IT IN WRITING… nothing they tell you is real.

  14. The Pros and Cons are going to depend on your job. If you get stuck with a crap job, the Pros are going to be outweighed by the Cons. Vice versa if you stick with a slick job that has applicability to the Civilian World. What do you want to do in the military?

    In general though,

    Pros: Healthcare, Housing, and School are all covered to varying degrees. If you’re married and have kids, you can be raking in a solid amount of spending cash after all your bills are paid.

    Opportunity to train and gain experience for a civilian job, depending on what your occupation in the military is, and the opportunity to travel the world.

    Cons: Sometimes the military is going to tell you do something and you’re going to hate it, but guess what, you’re gonna have to do it anyway.

    I’d look into the other branches outside of the Army, especially Air Force if you want a higher quality of living. Also, like others have said, look into becoming an Officer. If you’re an officer working in medical, you’re basically working a civilian job with military and federal benefits.

  15. The benefits are legit just make sure you get it in writing. I considered it, but ultimately chose not to because you are committed to that career track for x number of years and I just wasnt ready to do that immediately after finishing college. But I work in the defense industry now and if the US was ever facing a major conflict, I would sign up.

  16. Pros- you get to travel, you get to bond with people, discount in most stores, and you have some stories to tell.

    Cons- possible PTSD, early death, away from family, and sometimes regret.

  17. Consider other services too. They have a better work life balance. Army is a rough physical life. Good benefits and great if you’re in debt. I think what you’re missing in the too good to be true realm is the use of the word “can”. Stating you can do something doesn’t mean you’ll be selected. You could join the Army and not get many, many of those benefits.

    The Army doesn’t publish selection percentages, but I bet many of them are well below 5%.

    Just ask them what benefits are guaranteed. They even have a trick where the benefit is guaranteed, and guess what? They still don’t care. After you get one benefit you’ll be stuck paying it off, or they’ll let you leave and send you back home. But, the Army could care less about you. Assuming you become an Officer, some of this calculus would be different.

    There are many pros to joining the military, not so many in the Army. I would strongly suggest you get an MOS (job)with a civilian equivalent or at least a higher than Secret security clearance. The Army has to offer great benefits to get people, but if you are focused it could be a great decision.

  18. Pro: It is payed well and puts you in situation where you have to develope discipline, respect for higher ups and a certain degree of cooperative thinking.

    Cons: You can get heavily injured, you can die, you might face what anywhere else would be thought of as abuse (I say this without judgement), work can be far away from home and while programs for pensions and later life care exist there is a strong case to be made that these are either insufficient or inaccessable to many, when I look at the number of veterans without a home or with untreated illnesses resulting from their job; and if you will – a nominal pension usually won’t be fully adjusted for inflation, so the amount you get payed/are entiteld to might lose so much purchasing power that you still have to work to make ends meet. Also: You have no right to decide when you participate in an operation or not and you will be jugded by your association with the military.

    My personal opinion is that it is not better or worse than most other jobs. The list of possible cons is mainly compensated via better payment.

    I’d say you really have to think through whether you are the type who would thrive in that environment more than in another.

  19. Specifically speaking towards my experience in a very small trade.

    Pro – Learn a specialty trade, and thus should be employable after you leave the military.

    Con – Too few people in the trade, causing all your relationships to be extremely political, and if you make the wrong decisions, you have zero room for promotion.

    Was in the Canadian Military with only 250 members country wide in my trade, only 20 Sgts, 13 WO’s, and 3 MWO’s. I pissed off all three MWO’s and half the WO’s by being someone that doesn’t just shut up and follow stupid orders that could get people in trouble, or worse. This left me watching people who I was more skilled than, and more productive than, being promoted while they searched for ways to set me up for failures that would result in charges. (co-workers overheard supervisors talking about how to charge me, and there were multiple write ups for doings things they told me to do, that all of a sudden they supposedly never told me)

  20. Several of my childhood friends went, most of them deployed. A few never made it home, a few survived but suffered severe physical injuries. All of them were affected by their experiences.

    That said, I think it made them better men. They were taking care of themselves physically, and they had more drive to achieve their goals once they got out.

    Ultimately the only one who can decide for you is you, I would do some research and talk to any veterans you know before you sign the contract. The recruiters job is to say whatever they think you want to hear to get you to sign – and once you’re in, sometimes those promises disappear. Good luck.

  21. I’d say the main con is that the US military does very few actually useful things these days such as fighting piracy or making sure China can’t take over international waters. Most resources are spent on fighting ugly never ending wars against struggling nations, with zero benefit for Americans or anyone else really. If you can ignore that, go ahead and join.

  22. Pros: 3 hots and a cot, almost no expenses but discretionary, early retirement if you make 20 years, training, experience, a security clearance, travel, medical benefits, educational opportunities,

    Cons: You __WILL__ get fucked if you don’t get everything in writing in your contract and scrutinize it intensely before signing, if you don’t like something that’s just too fucking bad, pay isn’t very much, romance is fucking difficult and Jody is out there eyeing up your slice already, you must pick a worthwhile MOS with civillian applications to be employed later, military law and regulations are merciless if you should cross them so get rid of any bad habits like overreating or doing any kind of drugs right now before they fuck your career.

    I would tell you to go for it. At least you’ll have the experience under your belt and you won’t be tormented by the question of what could have been.

  23. My opinion? The US military is a problem. Joining it makes that problem worse. The military makes you property of the government and it’s politicians. We’ve seen the military used for such things as the Iraq War. You will not be defending the Constitution, you will be defending the interests of the 1%.

    If you’re okay with that, then maybe you’ll be okay. Just remember that you are joining a meat grinder that gives no shits about you other than what it can take from you. You’ll be given some perks in return and they clearly are not worth the time investment, but some people like them.

    Ask yourself if you NEED to join the military. If you apply yourself outside of the military, how much better or worse might you do than what you will do when you are out of the military? Do you need that military experience to do what you want to do?

    I didn’t.

  24. I was 22, aimless, fighting and drinking, Marines took an undisciplined boy and made him a man, one who can drink and fight a lot more efficiently. Both the best and worst experience of my life. Would do it again.

  25. Active duty Air Force deployed in the desert right now. Here’s the way I see things. My job is as an aircraft electrical and environmental systems technician on CV-22 Ospreys.

    I’m stationed in Florida, married, live in base housing. Make more money than I ever did as a civilian (like, by a lot). I work with my hands, the environment can suck, but you get out of it what you put in. If I get out at 20 years I get a pension (not an option anymore unfortunately), but if I get out before then I’ve been setting my retirement up separately so I have some flexibility there.

    If anyone complains about the training, my experience may have been different. It was summer camp. Same with deployment (though deployments are summer camp with chances to get mortared…. results may vary). All in all, you get out what you put in. If you’re negative and/or bitching the whole time, you’ll be miserable your whole contract and come to Reddit to tell other prospective recruits that the military sucks, alternatively, you can be positive and use the resources the military makes available and set yourself up for success in the civilian world if it doesn’t end up being a career.

  26. The deployments can be rough on marriage. Many women do not adjust well to the life, tend to wear their husband’s rank as if they earned it, and forget they are married when husband deploys for six months or more. So be aware, choose wisely.

  27. 12 years active duty army on the enlisted side. Tons of pros and cons have been mentioned, so feel free to shoot me a pm with any unanswered questions you have. If i cant answer them, ill find someone with an answer. Also, post this in r/army. You will get some solid answers there.

  28. Pro, you might not live to regret it.

    Con, we have made it normal to kill any and every foreign national that threatens our price of oil since 1975, so your basically everything you would have fought against if you stayed home.

  29. Before you get in, have a plan on how you are going to get out. Use you time in as a path to your goal.

    My biggest regret is not using what was available more. I went through the motions, loved my job and commited to it 100 percent. No anti armour or heavy weapons roles in the outside world so I didn’t really get anything out of it. Can dig big holes with a small shovel which came in handy at one point.

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