Photo by Hannah Skelly on Unsplash

Read This Before Going to a Military Recruiter

A Great Career!

There are a lot of great opportunities in the military and I am not here to tell anyone not to join the military because it is actually a great opportunity. There are unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I was able to live in Japan and visit other countries all while doing my job and going to school. I was able to meet great people and make lifelong friends. I stayed on an island for five days and got paid to do so. Sure, you will get pushed around and have to constantly adapt to new situations and lifestyles, but the rewards are there. You become part of something much bigger than yourself.

What Do You Want to Do?

I will use myself as an example because from talking with many other of my service members, I came to the conclusion that many people joined under the same mindset as myself. I was in the Marine Corps, but before I had shipped off to boot camp there was only one goal and that was to become a Marine. This sounds gung-ho and it gets my patriotic blood boiling, but what one chooses to do in the military will affect your career in many ways. For example, I was assigned as a “Fixed-Wing Aircraft Mechanic” which then got me working on the C-130J as an engine mechanic. I also worked on propellers and I even had to work inside of giant fuel tanks which sit inside of the wings. This sounds cool, but many days were not. I laugh at the memories of working in the rain and thinking about how blinded I was with simply becoming a Marine.

I did not think about how much I would have to learn about an aircraft, maintenance, people management and qualifications. I remember being cool with the title of aircraft mechanic, but I had never really done any serious maintenance before in my life. Now I was in charge of mission essential aircraft and people’s lives seemed to be in my hands! So you can imagine the stress, lack of sleep and on top of that, I had to be fit and present myself as a competent and sharp Marine. So think about what you want to do in the military. Would you want to do the same thing when you get out of the military?

Everyone Starts Off at the Bottom

Being in the military is a great opportunity to grow and take on different roles throughout your career. Again, from my own experience, I went from pushing brooms to collateral duty inspector within four years of actually working in a maintenance department. This meant I had to learn a lot, fail a ton and get out of my comfort zone. If you do decide to join, remember you will be tested and pushed until you’re halfway to the nut house. You cannot go through the military without becoming a leader which means taking on tough billets and positions. Working in aviation means you could end up being a maintenance controller or even part of quality assurance. These require excellent communication skills and the ability to multitask extremely well. None of these things I would have imagined would fall under the description of “fixed-wing engine mechanic” and most military contracts are like this. You are not in charge of what job you will specifically be doing, but you are in charge of your attitude and your ability to work hard.

The Recruiter Does Not Tell You Everything!

Note: MOS is military occupational specialty which is just another way of saying job.

Recruiters come in all shapes and sizes and also have different MOS backgrounds. I have worked with previous recruiters and had some helpful recruiters when I was joining the military. Looking back at my own experience, I remember how smoothly my recruitment process had been. I had no criminal record and I also did not have any tattoos that would disqualify me. (Avoid getting tattoos if you are planning to join the military!!) My mind was completely focused on being the best recruit the world had ever seen. Fit, sharp and ready to take off on a moment’s notice. I remember, however, that I did not ask enough questions. I also remember asking the wrong kinds of questions. I did not ask for bonuses, I did not ask for what kinds of jobs there were and I did not ask what the jobs actually entailed. There are many different pamphlets, videos and posters that will show you how amazing the military is, but they do not tell you what you will be doing exactly.

My recruiter told me just what I needed to know and did not care to share the negatives of joining. Who would tell you all the bad things about a car they are trying to sell you, right? Here’s this awesome car, but the engine stalls and the A/C goes out every once and a while. Will that be cash or credit? I cannot blame any recruiter for not telling me everything, but I can blame it on my lack of life experience. If you have a wife or girlfriend, think about how much time you’re willing to sacrifice between you two because there will be lots of sacrifice. Some jobs are easier and so you need decide.

Some questions I wish I had asked:

  1. ) Ask for the job you would like outside of the military.
  2. ) If the MOS you want isn’t available then ask to see if you can wait for it to open up.
  3. ) Ask the recruiter for some insight on the MOS? What do people do in the MOS? You should not fear your recruiter! They are there for you!
  4. ) Ask the recruiter what MOS they wish they could have had.
  5. ) Are there any bonuses?
  6. ) What MOS’s have the lowest retention rates? This usually means people are choosing to leave the MOS because of how difficult it is. This could mean a better chance for your own career, but you will have a much harder time.

Do Your Homework

I understand most people joining the military are young and do not have enough life experience to understand what will be sacrificed and what will be demanded from them. You might feel really confident about joining and I am glad you are ready to take the oath and serve your country, but think about what you will be doing after boot camp, and even after you get out. What kind of career do you want? Then research it. There will be no one to tell you the best choice for you, but you can do your own part and choose the best option for yourself.

There are great forums and websites out there for you if you are curious about some of the jobs which are available to you. Some of these jobs have really cool and technical names but are far from it. The best thing to do would be to talk with people who recently served or are currently serving. It is the same as getting a civilian job. You ask for opinions and facts from the people who already work at the company. Everyone has different feelings about the military so you want to get more facts than opinions. Whatever you decide to do in the military, remember that you signed the contract. You have taken an oath of doing your part and fulfilling whatever role you end up in.

The Military Never Gets Easier!

After you have chosen your MOS, you are ready to be a radio operator or a hygienist or whatever, remember that you will probably end up doing things you didn’t think you would do. This could be good or bad news for you, but it’s not the end of the world. One of the best things about the military is that the job never gets any easier. This sounds confusing, but over the first few months of doing my actual job, I realized that the amount of work never changed. Planes were always needing to get fixed, people were losing their minds, and people were leaving all the time. There is no way to stop the machine from coming down on you, so what do you do?

Do you imagine a Marine shying away from responsibility and work? Well sadly, lots of people do their best to escape responsibility and work. Do any of these people actually become good leaders in the end? No! They are probably the worst and sadly its up to others to pick up the slack. If you want to be a good and respected leader, you need to get to work as soon as you get there. The military is a competition. You are competing for re-enlistment spots and for promotions. The more you move up in the ladder, the more people you will be responsible for, but you want to keep moving.

The Military is Actually Fun

The military is definitely stressful and many people do leave the service, but it is also a lot of fun. If you get the right MOS, then you could end up seeing many new places, and the best feeling is knowing you are getting paid to travel. You will meet many new people and make new friends. You will get a lot closer to people than ever before and is why you will meet your new best friend. The military also forces you out of your shell so you will become a lot more social than before. I still prefer staying at home and reading a good book than partying, but I am glad to have had the experience.

I hope you will take the time to really think about your career and even if you are just going to serve four years, that you will use the military to help you. You want to make the most out of your time and opportunity because the military is going to take as much as possible from you.

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Coming back from a small hiatus. Writing about relationships, mental health, literature, and fitness. Proud United States Marine Corps Veteran.

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Jose Guzman

Jose Guzman

Coming back from a small hiatus. Writing about relationships, mental health, literature, and fitness. Proud United States Marine Corps Veteran.

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