Generally, most servicemembers stay in the armed services -- Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps -- only for the length of the enlistment, while some opt to stay in for the maximum of 20 years, then retire. A term of service in the military offers many benefits and a few drawbacks for enlisted personnel. Thoroughly considering the positives and negatives prior to joining is essential for avoiding regret after the fact.
All servicemembers have a job and after graduating from boot camp, they attend advance training to prepare for that job. During this time, they receive quality training that rivals the top vocational schools in areas such as welding electronics repair and automotive mechanics. What's more, while civilian students pay thousands of dollars for vocational classes, the military pays soldiers to attend. Also, if servicemembers choose to pursue their military trades outside of the service, they won't be saddled with student debts as civilian students are.
Discipline and Direction
Some enlistees join to develop discipline or become part of a tradition. The military has rules that control everything from how soldiers dress to how they walk. To a lesser extent, the civilian world has rules as well; however, after a term in the military, civilian life will seem much freer by comparison. Also, civilian employers are always on the lookout for employees with discipline.
Benefits offered by the military can also play an important part in a potential enlistee's decision to join. Though military salaries are lower than their civilian equivalents, servicemembers have access to other valuable benefits such as low-cost health care, inexpensive base housing and cheap flights on military aircraft when space is available. The real jewel of the military's benefits package, however, is the GI Bill, which covers educational tuition for veterans and, in some cases, pays a monthly stipend for books and housing.
The most significant negative to serving in the military is that it can be very dangerous. Though all of the branches have more noncombat positions than combat positions, every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine must be prepared to engage enemy forces directly; hence, weapons training is required for every member of the armed forces. Even so-called rear positions -- supposedly far from the front lines -- can be attacked; no job is safe.
Loss of Freedom
Military supervisors hold far more power over personal freedom than any civilian employer. At a regular job, if you're absent or repeatedly late to work, then your boss could reprimand you or even fire you. In the military, tardiness and frequent absences are disciplinary issues, and superiors can deal with them through corrective discipline such as by having the servicemember work an extra duty, work without pay or even serve time in the stockade.
Time Away from Family
Finally, life in the military also involves long deployments, which are difficult not only for the servicemember but also for the servicemember's family back home. To help alleviate part of this stress, organizations such as the Army's Family Readiness Group and the Navy's Fleet and Family Support Program provide services to dependents back home such as financial management courses and couples counseling.
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