Choose a Branch of Military Service

Edited by Sobi, Grimm, Doug Collins, Inukshuk and 2 others

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Joining the military is a major decision. You will be signing a contract agreeing to fulfill a commitment to the U.S. Government for a specified period of time. Deciding which branch of service best suits your goals requires you to do your own research on each branch to see which will assist you in obtaining whatever those goals may be.   There are many questions for you to ask yourself. Why do you want to join the military? Is it to get an education? Or job skills? Or perhaps job security? What are your interests? There are many more questions to ask, and this is not a commitment you should take lightly.

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While the main role of the military is security of our country, there are over 800 different job opportunities offered. The majority of the work force is enlisted, at almost 85%. They perform duties such as combat, support services, mechanical, transportation, computers, technical, law enforcement and office jobs. Officers hold the remaining 15% jobs, such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, pilots, managers, ministry and engineers.

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The Five Branches of US Military Service

All branches offer opportunities for advancement.  

  1. 1
    The Army is the oldest and largest branch of the military and the ground force of the military.
    The army has planes, boats, helicopters, tanks, etc.  There are two army reserve components - the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard.
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  2. 2
    The Navy was established during the American Revolution and is considered to be the defender of the seas.
    Some serving in the Navy do operate on land, but the majority of their mission is at sea. They have their own air planes. Deployments can be 6 months to 9 months or longer. The Navy has a reserve component associated with it.
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  3. 3
    The Air Force is the newest of the branches, which separated from the army after WWII.
     Its purpose is to support security through air and space, with air support of ground forces.  They have two reserve components - the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves.
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  4. 4
    The Marines were first established during the American Revolution as an infantry force capable of fighting on land and sea.
    The marines also have a Reserves unit. 
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  5. 5
    The Coast Guard was established in the late 1790s.
    The Coast Guard has many roles, some of them are Maritime Homeland Security, law  enforcement, search and rescue, and environmental protection. The Coast Guard also has a reserves unit.
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Researching Your Branch of Service Options


  1. 1
    Research all the branches to see if they offer what you are looking for.  Keep a list of each branch with pros and cons. This will allow you to compare the branches more easily and eliminate those which don't interest you. After you have eliminated a few, go back and further research the ones you still are interested in. Talk to active duty personnel if possible, ask the recruiter if you can visit a base, if one is close by. Sometimes visualization of real military life helps to make better choices.
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  2. 2
    Make a separate list with your interests and goals. Compare this list with the research list and try to determine which branch will help you reach those goals. Be sure to make notations of the positive and negative aspects of each branch, and whether they meet your goals and interests.
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  3. 3
    The armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a timed test that aids in determining what your abilities are in various subjects. This is a requirement of joining the military. The timed test has four parts; arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension and mathematics knowledge. This test determines what jobs you may or may not qualify for. The higher you score the more job choices you have, the lower you score the least amount of choices you have. It is vital you study for this test. You can search the internet for free ASVAB tests here.
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  4. 4
    The GI Bill is not free, what it does is help with school costs. The military GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill pay for most of your college if you choose to pursue it. To qualify for the Montgomery Bill you must pay $100 per month during your first year of enlistment. This is non-refundable. To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you must fulfill specific time in service requirements. If you are active duty, the Tuition Assistance program pays 100% of tuition fees.
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  5. 5
    Be aware that when you sign the contract for military service, even if you expect to only serve 3,4 or 6 years, the contract is for a full 8 years. After your 3,4 or 6 years of active duty is up, you are placed on inactive status and can be called back into active service at any time.
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Tips and Suggestions for Joining the Military

  • Get it in writing: If it's not in writing, it can be difficult to prove. When you enlist, be sure to read and understand your entire enlistment contract. Do not sign it if you don't understand or it isn't exactly what you discussed with your recruiter. You are responsible for making sure it is correct. Sgt. Abe has some great additional tips.
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  • Change in Duty Stations: Be prepared to move in the military. You may move every three years. Many bases are not in the most desirable places, learn to adjust and plan accordingly.
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  • Use your GI Bill: It is to your benefit to advance your education. In some of the branches, furthering your education also helps you to make advancements in your rank.
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  • Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.C.M.J.): While serving, you fall under the jurisdiction of the U.C.M.J.  Be mindful that while under the U.C.M.J.  Your rights are not quite the same as a civilian. You do not have freedom of speech, press or assembly in the military. There are rules you must follow to speak, and the military uses their own personnel for press conferences. Such things as being late for work, not showing up for work or cheating on your spouse are considered crimes under the U.C.M.J.
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  • Follow orders: In the military, if given an order, you must follow it.  You are required to follow all lawful orders for your superiors. Depending on the circumstances, if you fail to follow orders, you may get yourself or others harmed or killed.
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  • Plan and Research: With good planning and research, you should be able to decide if military life is right for you. If it is, you may also look into long term commitment and retirement benefits.
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  • You can find additional information on what the different branches offer and their requirements by visiting Today's Military.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Categories : Military

Recent edits by: vc, Inukshuk, Doug Collins

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