Author Topic: Should I Join The US Military?  (Read 4387 times)

Wayward

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Should I Join The US Military?
« on: April 03, 2018, 09:12:25 PM »
Since I was in my early 20s Iíve been interested in joining the military, but for various reasons (mainly relationships, analysis paralysis, and fear) ended up going to college instead.  I have a BS in Environmental Science and work in the public sector as an Environmental Specialist.  Now Iím 33 (34 in August) and have been increasingly dissatisfied with my job; I feel I have been stagnating personally, professionally, and financially.  I have been looking for other jobs for a few months, but have consistently run into issues with transitioning from the public sector to private sector (since I have no experience sampling and doing Phase I & II site assessments).  Ideally, I want to relocate and switch careers to a more GIS Analyst type position, but even that search has not been going well.

Today I learned that there are various sign on bonuses to join the military and it really has me thinking, why not?   Iím female, single, childfree, and want to make a difference and travel the world.  I still have $37,000 in student loans and the bonuses would really help pay them down faster so I could start maxing out my retirement accounts.  My goal is to FIRE as soon as possible so Iím not looking to stay in the military for 20 years to retire. 

I have played it safe for too long and want a challenge; I want to step outside my comfort zone and push my limits.  Even if I join active duty for 4 years, it would provide valuable training and experience that Iím lacking plus many other benefits. Am I crazy for even considering this?

I will speak to a recruiter also, but wanted some firsthand knowledge from the forum thatís more geared towards FIRE. 

Specific questions:
  • Would it be optimal to join as active duty then go reserve/civilian in the future?
  • Which branch should I consider for Computer Science/Geospatial Intelligence/GIS type positions?
  • Pros and Cons to each branch?
  • Will gluten intolerance/dietary restrictions be an issue?
  • How does matching on the TSP work for new recruits? (I see opposing information online)
  • How does the housing situation work if you are living on base (especially with dietary restrictions)?
  • Are housing/food allowances available for single people with no dependents?
  • Since I have a degree, any suggestions for becoming an Officer or Warrant Officer?
  • What are some negatives people have had?
  • Any advice on the ASVAB?  Basic training?  Officer training?
  • Anything else to consider or any suggestions?

Holyoak

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2018, 10:02:19 PM »
I'm a former Army Infantry officer, who has been out of the Army for far too long to give any competent advice, but I admire your desire to "Go Army", and challenge yourself.  I can however give you an interesting story, that I think will resonate.  I had a very "old" E-4 soldier in a combat platoon I commanded, who I remember asking one day why are you in the infantry?  Mind you this man was a German immigrant to the USA, with an mathematics degree from MIT, pulling down about $900/mo with Uncle Sam.  He simply said he always wanted to be a soldier, and figured if not now, he never would. 

Just that simple, and the way he told it, feels very much along the lines of what you have written...  He wanted to serve at something that was bigger than himself, serve a nation he was grateful to be a member of and loved, see the world, and live a life outside of his comfort zone, that was challenging and rewarding.  Wish I could help you, and it will be interesting to read the replies of folks who have a more current/better knowledge of what you seek.  Best of luck.

P.S.  I just thought of something; You can never be too physically fit.  Great physical fitness can really help you stand out, and move ahead.  It gives you a proper military bearing, and will help you gain respect of your peers and superiors early on.  Make sure before you go to any training, that you can do very well/max the PT test.  This will start you off very early as a person who shows dedication, and discipline, and will make all other training easier.

P.P.S.  Be very careful around recruiters, especially what is told to you, over what is written...  Remember, the needs of the army come first, and even what was in writing can change if the need arises.  Lastly, I received my Officers commission via ROTC, through a scholarship; perhaps you could look into OCS (Officer Candidate School), if you wish to peruse being a Commissioned Officer.

gutts

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2018, 11:15:35 PM »
3 years ago when I arrived to the country I was considering joining the Army. I was 23 y.o. back then, a fresh immigrant with a Green Card and shitty English. Well, my English is still awful. I was qualified to start as an E-4 since I had a diploma from Russia. I didn't have enough money to afford a long term job search and I thought it was a better option than doing general labor jobs. Even though my English was rusty I was lucky enough to land a decent paying job in my field (DevOPS) pretty quickly, so I didn't join. I started it next month after my arrival. However, I had done the ASVAB (the test was very easy) and medical examination by that moment. As I said, I was 23 and I felt like a very old man. Everyone around at MEPS was a 17-18 y.o. fresh high school graduate. There was another guy of my age but he was going to do the ROTC. I was also surprised by how bad physical condition of the most kids was (obesity).

TLDR: the OP is 33 probably it is too late to jump that train. Ofc, you can still do it but be ready to be surrounded by fresh high school grads and be treated accordingly since you will be of the same rank. Also, you are not married, so you'll have to live in barracks.
Have you thought about joining the police? Yeah, the opportunities to travel are close to none but the paygrade is higher, so you can set aside some money to travel when on vacation.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2018, 11:23:20 PM »
I'm not sure about the information you just got from gutts. If you have a degree, you would be an officer. Things are different for officers as far as recruitment, boot camp, and the barracks go.

I'm not in the military and never have been, but I live in a place with a military bases from all branches, and have thus gotten to know (and date) quite a few military folks over the years. Paging @Nords -- he's the preeminent military financial guy around these parts.

gutts

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2018, 11:26:07 PM »
I'm not sure about the information you just got from gutts. If you have a degree, you would be an officer. Things are different for officers as far as recruitment, boot camp, and the barracks go.

I'm not in the military and never have been, but I live in a place with a military bases from all branches, and have thus gotten to know (and date) quite a few military folks over the years. Paging @Nords -- he's the preeminent military financial guy around these parts.

Ah yes, sorry I should have mentioned that, I didn't have a US citizenship, so I couldn't do the OTC. The above described experience is strictly related to the enlisted path only.
However even with the citizenship, having a degree does not automatically qualify you for the OTC school.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2018, 11:27:38 PM by gutts »

Villanelle

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2018, 12:53:14 AM »
I'm not sure about the information you just got from gutts. If you have a degree, you would be an officer. Things are different for officers as far as recruitment, boot camp, and the barracks go.

I'm not in the military and never have been, but I live in a place with a military bases from all branches, and have thus gotten to know (and date) quite a few military folks over the years. Paging @Nords -- he's the preeminent military financial guy around these parts.

Nope.  Plenty of enlisted personnel have college degrees.  It is *required* of an officer (with a few exceptions), but just because you have a degree doesn't mean you become an officer.  In some senses, you just apply for a job, an that job is either an O job, or an E job.  So you either enlist or commission. 

If you want to be an officer, talk to an officer recruiter.  (This person may be an enlisted person him or her self, but his/her job description will be "officer recruiter", or something similar.)  Do not get talked out of this. O recruiter for O jobs. 

O jobs pay more, but you need to figure out what type of job it is you want to do, and then figure out whether that is O or E.

However, you are too old for most jobs (at least in the Navy, and I suspect all services).  There may be some exceptions though.  It can't hurt to go to to a recruiter, but I wouldn't get your heart to see on this path before doing that, or at least spending some time on google. 

For some of your other questions...
Would it be optimal to join as active duty then go reserve/civilian in the future?  It's very tough, in most cases, to not go active first, though for some jobs it is common.  Those jobs generally require a lot of relevant civilian experience.  This is a generality, with exceptions.

Pros and Cons to each branch?  Your best bet is going to be to figure out what you want to do and then figure out which branch offers that (and doesn't think you are too old to do it).

How does matching on the TSP work for new recruits? (I see opposing information online)
You'd be under the new system, which does have TSP.  Search "blended retirement system" for details.

How does the housing situation work if you are living on base (especially with dietary restrictions)?
 Dietary restrictions don't have much to do with living on base.  (Also, depending on rank, location, and other factors, you may not be required to live on base and often it can be a better deal financially not to because you can pocket some of the housing allowance.)  If you live on base, you still eat and shop and cook like any other person.

Are housing/food allowances available for single people with no dependents?
 Maybe.  Food, yes.  Housing, yes if you are authorized to live off base, which depends on location, rank, and other factors. 

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2018, 02:33:51 AM »
I think your ship has sailed, but Iím sure there are other ways you can accomplish your goals without going in the army. For example, I know a mother who, at a later age, became a correctional officer. What about police force or FBI?

MommyCake

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2018, 06:07:20 AM »
You can still join (I believe), Army, Air Force, or Navy at your age.  Unfortunately, you have passed the maximum age to attend (for the army anyway) OCS - Officer Candidate School.  I had just turned 30 when I started basic training in the Army.  It is harder as an "old" person and especially an old female but definitely not impossible.  I joined for reasons similar to those you discussed.  I should have applied for OCS but just joined as enlisted.  They started me as an E-4/Specialist since I had a degree.  If you join make sure you negotiate for this. 

Would it be optimal to join as active duty then go reserve/civilian in the future?
Yes.  You will be considered a veteran eligible for benefits much faster.  You would need 3 months active duty or 6 years reserves to be eligible for vet benefits.

How does matching on the TSP work for new recruits? (I see opposing information online)
When I was in, there was no match.  The only contributions were the ones you elect to make.  This may have changed, I don't know.

How does the housing situation work if you are living on base (especially with dietary restrictions)?
Are housing/food allowances available for single people with no dependents?
In the Army, if you're single, you have to live in the barracks and you receive a meal card to eat in the army dining facilities. 

What are some negatives people have had?
You should not have this problem if you have a computer tech type job.  However, don't be police, medic, or cook if you want any time off.  Generally you will do physical training every morning and then work roughly 9-4 or 5 with a 1.5 hour lunch.  You will get a four day weekend every month.  However, if you have one of those round-the-clock jobs, you will get virtually zero time off. 

The Army has helped me immensely in every aspect of my life.  I hated life while I was in, mostly because I was SO tired from never getting a day off, so I only did 4 years active.  Somehow my unit never deployed.  Many senior soldiers would tell me I should hope for deployment, because it would mean we would all get a break and get to lounge around all day like everyone else.  That never happened.  I came home and did one year of national guard, before getting a medical discharge.  I was eager to get out and regain control of my life.  But I would never, never trade my time in for anything, because I am a much different, stronger, more capable person now.  I often look back and miss those days.  It's a hard decision, and it's not for everyone.  I wish you luck in whatever direction you go.

Just Joe

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2018, 08:32:03 AM »
The Army has helped me immensely in every aspect of my life.  I hated life while I was in, mostly because I was SO tired from never getting a day off, so I only did 4 years active.  Somehow my unit never deployed.  Many senior soldiers would tell me I should hope for deployment, because it would mean we would all get a break and get to lounge around all day like everyone else.  That never happened.  I came home and did one year of national guard, before getting a medical discharge.  I was eager to get out and regain control of my life.  But I would never, never trade my time in for anything, because I am a much different, stronger, more capable person now.  I often look back and miss those days.  It's a hard decision, and it's not for everyone.  I wish you luck in whatever direction you go.

I'll also brag on the Navy. I did six years enlisted. Was eager to get out and then a few years later I was missing it terribly. I felt life back home was passing me by. Also, I was an awkward introverted 20-something and didn't seem like I ever got enough time to "mentally recharge".

I was very young and dumb. I got a little wiser after my enlistment.

If doing it all again I would definitely give re-enlistment more thought. Am hoping our eldest child takes does at least one enlistment.

Clearly going in as an officer is a better long term plan. More freedom, more money, better living conditions. Not as much (any?) menial tasks. More interesting work it seemed from afar.

eljefe-speaks

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2018, 08:36:04 AM »
Donald Trump calling the shots on matters of life and death for you. That sounds to me like a laughably horrible idea.

Kierun

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2018, 11:08:12 AM »
A bit of background on me, I enlisted in the Army Reserve with a BS, worked as a contractor for the Air Force, worked as a civilian for the Navy, in the Air Force National Guard and working as a civilian for the Coast Guard.  So, I've experienced the various branches, minus the Marines.

Specific questions:
Would it be optimal to join as active duty then go reserve/civilian in the future?
If you're unsure and don't know much about the intimate details of serving in the military then reserve/guard might be a good option as you're not stuck in the military lifestyle 24/7 unless mobilized.  And if you do like it and enjoy the life then you can try to get on long term orders through the reserves/guard.  I know plenty of reserve/guard members who have been on continuous orders for years.

Which branch should I consider for Computer Science/Geospatial Intelligence/GIS type positions?
I'm pretty sure all the branches have those types of positions, I know for sure the AF and Army, it just depends on the type of lifestyle you want as each branch offers a different slice of the military life.

Pros and Cons to each branch?
Subjective, so I'll leave this alone.

How does matching on the TSP work for new recruits? (I see opposing information online)
You'll be under the Blended Retirement System, see attachment.

How does the housing situation work if you are living on base (especially with dietary restrictions)?
If you're active duty they should have something setup for you, might be similar to dorm living.

Are housing/food allowances available for single people with no dependents?
The allowances are that they provide it for you.

Since I have a degree, any suggestions for becoming an Officer or Warrant Officer?
Officers are managers/supervisors so if you want to do the actual work then enlisted would be the way to go, otherwise most of your time would be delegating, administration, etc.

What are some negatives people have had?
War

Any advice on the ASVAB?  Basic training?  Officer training?
No advice, I've heard things have changed since I went in so probably outdated.

mm1970

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2018, 11:17:36 AM »
I googled.

Looks like Navy officer (via OCS) age limit is 35.  So you still have time.

I enjoyed my time as a Naval Officer (entered through ROTC), but I've been out a long time.  Never stuck with reserves either, though some of my friends have.

Wayward

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2018, 01:09:27 PM »
Thank you all for the thoughtful responses!

@Holyoak that story definitely resonated with me!  I agree being in top physical shape is a must, while Iím pretty fit I will start training harder - walked stairs and around my building today with a coworker and will do some sprinting and push-ups/sit-ups at home.  I also did some practice ASVAB questions and did well.

@gutts if these young kids are that out of shape I can definitely be better lol

@Villanelle It appears the jobs Iím interested in (for the Army) are either Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst (35G) or Intelligence Analyst (35F); both are only enlisted, which I would be eligible (age limit is 35)!  It appears I could become a Warrant Officer with a couple years training (until age 46).

@spartana I will definitely double check with a recruiter about tuition reimbursement and bonuses.  Also, expected working hours, deployments, etc.

@MommyCake It is great to hear you can start as an E-4 with a degree, I will certainly fight for that if I do decide to join.  Thank you for sharing your story, it means a lot to me, Iím glad that it worked out for you and made you a stronger person.

@eljefe-speaks I agree that Trump is a big negative, still since I donít have huge salary potential in my current field thereís many benefits of joining the military to FIRE quickly.

@Kierun I will do more research into joining as a reserve, it seems like the best of both worlds.  Thank you for the Blended Retirement System info, I would be very happy to get matching.  Need to ask a recruiter if matching is only on basic pay though (without housing/food allowances)?  http://militarypay.defense.gov/Calculators/RMC-Calculator/

Specifically regarding the food though, some of what I researched shows people having kitchens in barracks/apartments/townhouses (after basic training of course).  This is rather important since I have gluten intolerance so my diet is rather strict.

@mm1970 Itís great I still make some cutoffs, itís kinda now or never it seems.  Would you say being a Naval Officer provided training/experience to transition to a great career after? 

Villanelle

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2018, 08:58:55 PM »
I googled.

Looks like Navy officer (via OCS) age limit is 35.  So you still have time.

I enjoyed my time as a Naval Officer (entered through ROTC), but I've been out a long time.  Never stuck with reserves either, though some of my friends have.

This is pretty misleading though, as there are individual age limits for various jobs.  Pilot (for example) requires you to commission (*complete* OCS) by the time you are 27, if you have no prior service.  SWO (Surface Warfare Officer i.e. ship driver) is 29.  However, it seems like OP has clarified and s/he's looking at enlisted billets and s/he meets the age limit.

NorCal

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2018, 11:22:53 PM »
I was also an Infantry Officer in the Army many years ago.  Holyoak has some good advice.  My additions:

-Active duty vs. Reserves:  Both can be good choices depending on what you want to get out of it.  The reserves give you training, but only a part time schedule and part time income.  Yet they can still yank you halfway around the world on a moments notice.  I had a lot of fun in the reserves, but it does require flexibility for life in general.

-If any branch will get you OCS, take it.  Being an officer will give you better future career options.  The rest of my responses assume enlisted.

-Branch/Jobs:  Honestly, nothing technical you learn in the military will translate well to the civilian world.  The equipment is different, processes are different, and day-to-day is different.  The exceptions are jobs like truck drivers and cooks.  Do whatever interests you, but have a cynical view of job descriptions.  Recruiters are really good at making stupid jobs sounds interesting.  I had some friends that had some bad experiences with the Intelligence jobs, just because they don't have much of a mission in garrison.  They spent most of their time maintaining trucks and managing security clearance paperwork.  Personally, I enjoyed jumping out of airplanes and blowing stuff up.  That can be a good choice. 

If I were to join in your situation, I would at least take a look at some of the jobs below.  I might be totally off the mark with your interests, but these jobs either have real-world responsibilities in-garrison, or have actual transferable skills.  This makes a big difference for what you actually do on a daily basis:
-Aircraft mechanic jobs:  You get to fix aircraft.  It's a transferable skill.
-Engineer jobs:  You either get to build stuff or blow stuff up.
-Chemical Corps:  This would relate directly to your current work, and would actually come with transferable skills.  There's a lot of work here related to safe handling and transportation of highly toxic materials.  This includes lots of safety certifications employers can value.

-Pros/Con's of each branch:
-Navy: You live in a tin can with a bunch of weirdo's that also like being in a tin can.  There are just a lot of odd people in the navy. 
-Marines: The Navy's ugly stepchild.  Take the weirdo's from the Navy and make them say OOORah a bunch.  That's the extent of their intellectual development.
-Air Force:  They have good food, but calling them "military" is a bit of a stretch.  It's like being a civilian, but with uniforms.
-Army: Not a bad choice.  This sort of sums it up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ab5ugpwPQ

-Dietary restrictions may be an issue.  Talk to a recruiter and do independent research on this.  From my memory (and many years ago) dietary restrictions for health reasons would fully disqualify you from service.  This may have changed, or my memory could be off.

-Junior enlisted live in the barracks and mostly eat in the mess hall unless they're married.

-Don't worry about the ASVAB.  It might weed out a few people that can't graduate high school, but it's designed to be passed.  A recruiter can give you a practice version.  I scored something like a 98% with no studying, and I was far from academically inclined when I joined.  I will echo the sentiments to get in as good shape as possible before you go.



jlcnuke

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2018, 07:03:27 AM »
Look very carefully at your current financial compensation compared to the pay for the military positions you're considering. At 33, with a college degree, it's highly unlikely that any enlisted career you would be eligible for would pay you as much as your current salary (for example, if you came into a highly desired job you could quickly advance to E-4, but an E-4's base pay is still only ~$28k/year, though if you live off-base you could get BAH/BAS as well, but it's still not "good pay").

Quote from: NorCal
-Branch/Jobs:  Honestly, nothing technical you learn in the military will translate well to the civilian world.

I'm going to go ahead and massively disagree with this statement. There are many technical jobs in the military that translate very well into the civilian world. I was in one of those jobs (Navy nuclear mechanic/supervisor) and my technical skills from the military got me a 6-figure position when I left. That's only one of the many positions that translates great into civilian careers, and there are tons of others (from electronics technicians to aircraft mechanics etc).  There are many that don't directly translate to a civilian career (infantry for instance), but even those tend to provide the service members with desirable skills/abilities that employers want to see.


mm1970

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2018, 02:21:47 PM »
Look very carefully at your current financial compensation compared to the pay for the military positions you're considering. At 33, with a college degree, it's highly unlikely that any enlisted career you would be eligible for would pay you as much as your current salary (for example, if you came into a highly desired job you could quickly advance to E-4, but an E-4's base pay is still only ~$28k/year, though if you live off-base you could get BAH/BAS as well, but it's still not "good pay").

Quote from: NorCal
-Branch/Jobs:  Honestly, nothing technical you learn in the military will translate well to the civilian world.

I'm going to go ahead and massively disagree with this statement. There are many technical jobs in the military that translate very well into the civilian world. I was in one of those jobs (Navy nuclear mechanic/supervisor) and my technical skills from the military got me a 6-figure position when I left. That's only one of the many positions that translates great into civilian careers, and there are tons of others (from electronics technicians to aircraft mechanics etc).  There are many that don't directly translate to a civilian career (infantry for instance), but even those tend to provide the service members with desirable skills/abilities that employers want to see.

Yes, this.  Very highly in demand.

Quote
@mm1970 Itís great I still make some cutoffs, itís kinda now or never it seems.  Would you say being a Naval Officer provided training/experience to transition to a great career after? 

Yes I think it did, though my Navy career was very atypical.  I mostly worked in an office and drove a desk - but after I got out I was certainly better able to learn and get things done efficiently.  And, as one of my supervisors put it "we knew you'd pass the entrance exam".  I said "what?"  "The piss test."  Ah yes.

Many of my fellow Naval officers transitioned well to the civilian world after 4-10 years.  Some stayed in. For those that stayed in, they are making a bunch more than me!  Last time I checked, the O-5/ O-6 pay scales were higher than my income.  But then again, I get to sleep in my own bed every night.

Basenji

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2018, 04:01:07 PM »
I've been sitting on an answer to this because I'm torn.

Background: I had a Navy ROTC scholarship and was an officer in the Navy for 4 years. Then I got out. I never seriously considered I'd do the full career for a host of reasons, but I certainly feel that the U.S. Government and I made a more-than-fair trade of they paid for college and gave me my first real job out of college and I gave them my body and (most of) my mind for 4 years. I met my DH while I was in and when I got out I followed him about the world for the next 16 years. Then he retired. His military retirement and healthcare are mainly why we are FI now.

So, to your question. My answer isn't going to be based on finances because I don't see that as an issue. It could be good for you financially, but only because you would, as an intelligent individual, choose to make good use of the military opportunities and benefits.

If what follows is not useful to you or you've already considered it, I apologize. The reason Iím torn is I think you need to be realistic about the culture of the military and coming into it an an ďolderĒ person (older compared with the average age of the new recruit/officer). I enjoyed my 4 years in the Navy. As an officer you live well, even if your salary isn't necessarily high. The housing allowance and COLA for expensive places supplement your salary. But I came in at the same age as everyone in my cohort. There was easy bonding because you are all mostly at the same stage in your life. Letís say you showed up at my command as a new O-1 and the rest of the O-1s are 22. Sure, professionally all would be fine and you might even have advantages over the rest of us being more mature and having got your ya-yas out. But you might also feel a bit separate from the ďgang.Ē And in the military you arenít supposed to hang out in your private life with whoever you choose. So, there you are, 34 years old, and the people you relate to are not the people in your same rank but maybe your superiors who are your same current age. Well, if they are your boss or your bossís boss, they have to be careful about hanging out with you. And your cohort O-1s are all acting like they are still in college. Woo!

Same if you are enlisted. At a lower rank, one isn't supposed to hang out with the senior enlisted folk that would be your current age. And you wouldn't generally hang out with officers. [Others may say Iím being too ďby the bookĒ perhaps and in reality friendships cross ranks, but the official rules, at least, are very clear about this. I'm probably making too much of this age thing, but I can only speak from my own experience. At least consider that one reason the military has age restrictions is partly due to this age-cohort bonding issue.]

In any case, the big cultural difference between the military and civilian life is the military has rules about how you conduct your private life. Sure, there are some rules like this in the civilian world, but the military tells you where to live, they tell you who you should hang out with, they can and will interfere if you do something wrong on your off time. You belong to the military and represent it always, even if you aren't wearing the uniform at the moment.

As to branches, well, you will get a different answer from people depending on what branch they served in. They are kind of like fraternities/sororities that way. So, as a Navy person I think the Marines are awesome. Marine officers that I knew/know are some of the most upstanding, amazing folks Iíve ever met. Sure there are some lunkheads, but mostly great. Navy officers: there are some real shits and some outstanding intellects (Nukes/Sub guys). Most seemed fairly sane and fun to me. A good chunk of Air Force officers are evangelical Christians (not just a feeling I have, there are studies that show this is an actual trend). That may be a plus or minus for you. Air Force culture is alien to the other services, seen as kinda cushy, but that may also be a plus for you. Army culture is seen as a bit more ďtightĒ (rulebound) than the Navy.

Iíll give you an example of how the ďculturesĒ of the services can feel different. We were at a post-grad military school for a year. It was on an Air Force base, but there were officers from all branches there. Once DH was assigned to his class of 20 or so people, we immediately hosted a small get-to-know-you party for the other officers and their families. This is very much an expected thing in the Navy. The Air Force officers told us how radical an idea it was (remember: these are fellow Americans!). The Army guys said something similar. In the Navy and Marines thereís a sort-of work hard, party-hard mentality that I think was inherited from the British Navy. Anyhoo, the Air Force officers told us they were more used to "mandatory fun."  Dunno. One of those, "in my experience..." stories. YMMV.

You wrote you want to want to ďmake a difference and travel the world.Ē Thereís no guarantee youíll travel the world in the fun sense. I donít know about the jobs that you might have, but boy are they looking for more bodies in Afghanistan. Seriously.

Making a difference: well, I do happen to think serving in the military is a noble thing, but you can make a difference in a lot of other fields.

I applaud you for wanting to join the military, but my personal feeling is it may be a bit too late. As a woman, youíre already paddling hard beneath the surface to be part of the group. Iíd love to say, Go for it! It will be awesome! But I donít know. If you do join I hope it works out for you. I suggest you keep talking to people, especially people actually still in and, if you can, people doing jobs in the military that you are interested in. Not sure how you can reach them, precisely. Maybe there's a military forum somewhere. Or maybe @Nords or another person currently in the military could suggest an online place to discuss.

ETA: Discussed with DH. He suggests you look at the Army Corps of Engineers or Navy Civil Engineering Corps.
ETA 2: But those reccs are probably in the "Well duh" category.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2018, 05:36:55 PM by Basenji »

Sailor Sam

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2018, 05:19:25 PM »
First, wanting to serve your country is a great calling, and if you feel the tug I absolutely thing you should follow it. I've been an Officer in the USCG for 13 years, and it's been an amazing, adventure filled, and very fulfilling career.

However, I agree with a lot of what Basenji said. You should consider the cohort you'd be joining very carefully, and decided if you're willing to spend upwards of 20 hours per day with them, for possibly weeks on end.

To add to @Basenji's points, also consider the rank structure, particularly on the enlisted side, when it comes to receiving orders. As a junior enlisted you'd receive orders from Chiefs/Sergeants. Thanks to the up-or-out promotion system folks at the Chief/Sergeant level know their shit and are seasoned leaders. As a senior enlisted, which you could reach quickly thanks to your BA, you'll begin taking orders from junior officers. Those folks are generally quite young, and are still learning good management, good leadership, good tactics, and good job acumen. Lots of times they learn all those things, and become awesome. Sometimes they founder, and flail, suck really huge donkey balls. The kicker is that you have no choice but to follow their donkey balling orders because they still outrank you even at 24 years old. Consider if you're willing to be the living, breathing, water filled meatsack those JOs chew through while gaining experience.

Second, consider your stance towards bureaucracy. The government, it haz bureaucracy. The military, it also haz bureaucracy. In many cases these two bureaucracies interact in a constructive, not destructive wave pattern. Creating rogue waves of paperwork that are like unto drown you. I fucking kid you not - a recent training I attended on The Simplified Acquisition Process began with a 72 page handout. On the front of the handout? A Dilbert cartoon. Sometimes you have to laugh, to keep from crying. If bureaucracy will kill your soul, don't join.

Finally, I'd expand on Basenji's point that the military is still very much a male domain. Things will not be fair. You will be judged more harshly, then told that's simply the standard. You will experience a low, but constant level of what the civilian world could consider harassment. You may watch a good friend endure a terrible miscarriage of justice in relation to a sexual assault case. Then watch your friend experience retaliation from their Command for reporting. Then watch your friend be forced to continue working, or taking orders, from whoever initiated the assault. Or, a friend might watch that happen to you.

Despite the darkness of that last point, I think the military is a great opportunity and I've never regretted signing on the dotted line. Semper-fucking-Paratus, motherfuckers. However, if you ultimately decided the military isn't for you, perhaps you could consider taking the Civil Service Exam. You don't necessarily have to wear a uniform to serve your country.

ETA: have you looked into the NOAA Corps? They snap up anyone with a Computer Science/GIS background, and I believe the cutoff age is 42. The Powers That Be sure as shit don't give those scientists any guns, because scientists. But TBTB do make those scientists officers, send them on amazing sea deployments, and give them 20 year retirement packages. So, hey. Worse places to be.

Basenji

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2018, 05:55:01 PM »
What @Sailor Sam said x gazillion
And I'm sorry I left the Coast Guard out of my answer. Sloppy work on my part.

Kierun

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2018, 12:50:21 AM »
Look very carefully at your current financial compensation compared to the pay for the military positions you're considering. At 33, with a college degree, it's highly unlikely that any enlisted career you would be eligible for would pay you as much as your current salary (for example, if you came into a highly desired job you could quickly advance to E-4, but an E-4's base pay is still only ~$28k/year, though if you live off-base you could get BAH/BAS as well, but it's still not "good pay").

Quote from: NorCal
-Branch/Jobs:  Honestly, nothing technical you learn in the military will translate well to the civilian world.

I'm going to go ahead and massively disagree with this statement. There are many technical jobs in the military that translate very well into the civilian world. I was in one of those jobs (Navy nuclear mechanic/supervisor) and my technical skills from the military got me a 6-figure position when I left. That's only one of the many positions that translates great into civilian careers, and there are tons of others (from electronics technicians to aircraft mechanics etc).  There are many that don't directly translate to a civilian career (infantry for instance), but even those tend to provide the service members with desirable skills/abilities that employers want to see.
I also have to disagree as I know more people who have successfully transitioned to the civilian world from the military than not.  Many of whom transitioned to GS-9+ positions or high-paying contractor positions.  Especially in intel/IT fields. 

As to branches, well, you will get a different answer from people depending on what branch they served in. They are kind of like fraternities/sororities that way. So, as a Navy person I think the Marines are awesome. Marine officers that I knew/know are some of the most upstanding, amazing folks Iíve ever met. Sure there are some lunkheads, but mostly great. Navy officers: there are some real shits and some outstanding intellects (Nukes/Sub guys). Most seemed fairly sane and fun to me. A good chunk of Air Force officers are evangelical Christians (not just a feeling I have, there are studies that show this is an actual trend). That may be a plus or minus for you. Air Force culture is alien to the other services, seen as kinda cushy, but that may also be a plus for you. Army culture is seen as a bit more ďtightĒ (rulebound) than the Navy.

You wrote you want to want to ďmake a difference and travel the world.Ē Thereís no guarantee youíll travel the world in the fun sense. I donít know about the jobs that you might have, but boy are they looking for more bodies in Afghanistan. Seriously.
My experiences and thoughts regarding the branches is pretty similar to Basenji.

And the only places I traveled to with the Army was Iraq/Kuwait.  It's not all the glamorous places people talk about.

davisgang90

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2018, 05:35:56 AM »
As usual for this group, lots of great responses so far.

Congrats on your desire to serve your country in the military.

I'm too old to give you much advice.  I'm at the 28 year point in my career as a Navy officer.  It has been a great ride and I've seen much of the world on Uncle Sugar's dime.  I got to fly helicopters off of really small flight decks on really small Navy ships.

I will echo what others have said about the age difference between you and your peers/bosses.  Your peers will jokingly call you Gramma or some other age-ism fueled call sign.

If you have dietary restrictions, it would be very difficult for you to deploy in any traditional sense.  On a ship or deployed to the desert, there will be plenty of food, but not the kind of food options it sounds like you need.

I'd love to recommend the military to you, but I think you are 5-10 years too late and would end up regretting your decision.  More so than most fields, the military really is a young person's game.

Edit: Grammar

« Last Edit: April 07, 2018, 04:52:49 AM by davisgang90 »

BlueMR2

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2018, 08:12:26 AM »
I was in a similar position at your age.  Unfortunately as others have mentioned, I quickly found that I was too old for it to be a good change for me.  Have you thought about continuing your current non-military job search and perhaps joining a military auxiliary (Coast Guard has one that's historically pretty active, Air Force has the Civil Air Patrol which varies widely depending on where you live)?  Depending on the service they have varied requirement / opportunities.

mm1970

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #23 on: April 06, 2018, 01:44:42 PM »
First, wanting to serve your country is a great calling, and if you feel the tug I absolutely thing you should follow it. I've been an Officer in the USCG for 13 years, and it's been an amazing, adventure filled, and very fulfilling career.

However, I agree with a lot of what Basenji said. You should consider the cohort you'd be joining very carefully, and decided if you're willing to spend upwards of 20 hours per day with them, for possibly weeks on end.

To add to @Basenji's points, also consider the rank structure, particularly on the enlisted side, when it comes to receiving orders. As a junior enlisted you'd receive orders from Chiefs/Sergeants. Thanks to the up-or-out promotion system folks at the Chief/Sergeant level know their shit and are seasoned leaders. As a senior enlisted, which you could reach quickly thanks to your BA, you'll begin taking orders from junior officers. Those folks are generally quite young, and are still learning good management, good leadership, good tactics, and good job acumen. Lots of times they learn all those things, and become awesome. Sometimes they founder, and flail, suck really huge donkey balls. The kicker is that you have no choice but to follow their donkey balling orders because they still outrank you even at 24 years old. Consider if you're willing to be the living, breathing, water filled meatsack those JOs chew through while gaining experience.

Second, consider your stance towards bureaucracy. The government, it haz bureaucracy. The military, it also haz bureaucracy. In many cases these two bureaucracies interact in a constructive, not destructive wave pattern. Creating rogue waves of paperwork that are like unto drown you. I fucking kid you not - a recent training I attended on The Simplified Acquisition Process began with a 72 page handout. On the front of the handout? A Dilbert cartoon. Sometimes you have to laugh, to keep from crying. If bureaucracy will kill your soul, don't join.

Finally, I'd expand on Basenji's point that the military is still very much a male domain. Things will not be fair. You will be judged more harshly, then told that's simply the standard. You will experience a low, but constant level of what the civilian world could consider harassment. You may watch a good friend endure a terrible miscarriage of justice in relation to a sexual assault case. Then watch your friend experience retaliation from their Command for reporting. Then watch your friend be forced to continue working, or taking orders, from whoever initiated the assault. Or, a friend might watch that happen to you.

Despite the darkness of that last point, I think the military is a great opportunity and I've never regretted signing on the dotted line. Semper-fucking-Paratus, motherfuckers. However, if you ultimately decided the military isn't for you, perhaps you could consider taking the Civil Service Exam. You don't necessarily have to wear a uniform to serve your country.

ETA: have you looked into the NOAA Corps? They snap up anyone with a Computer Science/GIS background, and I believe the cutoff age is 42. The Powers That Be sure as shit don't give those scientists any guns, because scientists. But TBTB do make those scientists officers, send them on amazing sea deployments, and give them 20 year retirement packages. So, hey. Worse places to be.

The "male domain" thing is a really good point.  As my military service was decades ago (and right after Tailhook), I don't have the faintest clue if it's any better now than it was then.  And again, my job was different - I drove a desk with a bunch of engineers in DC - didn't see the world, and engineers weren't known to be harassers.  Oh, there were a few, but mostly a few guys got mean when they hit on me and I told them to eff off.  (There were 10 women and about 300 men.)

As an engineer, I'm used to the male domain thing...I pretty much have my own private bathroom because I'm the only woman in the building.  But there is less harassing bullshit with a bunch of PhDs.

side question - are Ensigns from the Naval Academy still jerks?

jayball

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2018, 04:07:36 PM »


@Villanelle It appears the jobs Iím interested in (for the Army) are either Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst (35G) or Intelligence Analyst (35F); both are only enlisted, which I would be eligible (age limit is 35)!  It appears I could become a Warrant Officer with a couple years training (until age 46).

You do not want to be a fox, that is the most boring MI job in the Army, and half of the assignments seem to be them stuck in S2 processing clearance paperwork.  GEOINT (35G) is a more interesting job with more outside work possible if you decide to get out and chase it on the civ. government side and you will work with GIS.  I was a 35T (33W) So did not do the analysis but I knew all of them and fixed their systems when they broke (more often when they were broken, often in fun and interesting ways, by said operators) and integrated the systems into the larger intel networks.

Two downsides I want to point out:
1. The physical requirements will beat you down at this age, not like if you joined combat arms but be sure your body is ready. 
2. The other is that you will be the odd person out due to being 15-17 years older than your peers.  There are hard social separations between the jr. enlisted, NCO's, senior NCO's, and officers.  The military is serious about fraternization so the difference in grade will create a fairly narrow social circle. 

Villanelle

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2018, 11:33:45 PM »
Since you've narrowed it to enlisted jobs, I'd encourage you to look at the pay charts.  Obviously pay is not the only consideration, but you need to go in to this eyes wide open to the financial picture. 
Starting pay for an E-3 in 2018 is $1931/mo, and an E-4 is $2139.  (That's for both ranks with > 2 years of service total.)  Military compensation is tricky as there are lots of components, some of which can be tax-free, so it's hard to come up with an apples to apples comparison.  Right off the bat, you can basically add rent and utilities to that.  As a junior enlisted person, you'd most likely be provided those things.  (If not, you'd get an allowance an as long as you choose a place with rent and utilities under that amount, the effect is more or less the same.)  There is also a small subsidies allowance.  Then there may be special pays or allowances for your specific job.  But it is not a lot of money, not matter how you look at it, so if FIRE is a priority for you, you can probably do better in a civilian gig. 

https://militarybenefits.info/2018-military-pay-charts/

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2018, 03:29:32 AM »
Donald Trump calling the shots on matters of life and death for you. That sounds to me like a laughably horrible idea.
Could have been worse lol

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Nords

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2018, 09:38:46 AM »
Thanks for the tags, ETA & Basenji!

I have played it safe for too long and want a challenge; I want to step outside my comfort zone and push my limits.  Even if I join active duty for 4 years, it would provide valuable training and experience that Iím lacking plus many other benefits. Am I crazy for even considering this?
I get the ďCrazy?Ē question a lot.  The best answer is ďYou have to answer your ĎWhat if?íĒ  If youíll spend the rest of your life wondering (and possibly regretting) then you have to at least explore the possibility.

I agree that job stagnation merits a career change, but does it have to be this drastic?  (Only you can decide.)  Iíll also suggest that the problems which most people feel in their lives are simply brought with them into the military.  (You might start with a clean record but youíll still carry your baggage.)  The military wonít necessarily solve your life questions, but itíll give you a sense of purpose.  Itíll keep you way too busy for excessive introspection.  Itíll give you new skills in resilience and persistence.  It could give you a renewed sense of purpose, or it could be a horrible mistake with a pile of stupid rules and a bunch of jerks yelling at you.

I will speak to a recruiter also, but wanted some firsthand knowledge from the forum thatís more geared towards FIRE. 
Thatís always good.  Keep in mind that the recruiters have the latest info (< days old) which is not usually available to the servicemembers, let alone the public.  Bring all of your rumors with you and (when the recruiter gives a different answer) ask to see a reference or a message.  If you donít like the answer then ask about waivers.

For example youíre being told about all sorts of age limits, but every service (and every community) is perpetually changing those age limits to match their retention.  There are also waivers for people who show up at the right day of the month (especially if the recruiter needs the quota) or with the right skills.  You might also be told that particular skills arenít hiring that month (or even that year) and youíd want to check back later.

High school graduation is coming.  This is the worst time of the year to join the military.  If you want more options then itís better to try in August-November, after the tsunami of recruits has been vacuumed into the pipeline and some vacancies open up again.

Would it be optimal to join as active duty then go reserve/civilian in the future?
Always.  Take your career one obligation at a time.  Stay on active duty as long as youíre feeling challenged & fulfilled, but when the fun stops then itís time to move to the Reserves or National Guard.

Which branch should I consider for Computer Science/Geospatial Intelligence/GIS type positions?
ďYes.Ē  All of the services have a general need for those areas.  However certain skills may be overmanned or short of people, so itís tough to recommend a single branch. 

In general it could also translate to civil engineering, meteorology, and other STEM skills.

See my NOAA comment below... they have the closest match to the geospatial/GIS field and to environmental science.  They might also be overmanned and Iím almost positive that theyíre underfunded.

Pros and Cons to each branch?
Thatís a very long list.  Iíll stick to oversimplified generalizations.
The Army tends to be massive, corporate, and perhaps less nimble.

The Navy does a little of everything.  If you want Army stuff, the Marines have a big overlap.  If you want to fly things, the Navy has an aviation wing.  The Coast Guard also has ships and a bunch of missions that the Navy doesnít want to touch (unless they happen to get a lot of money).  If you want to drive ships or submarines or do a lot of ocean then the other services have limited options for those choices.

The Air Force is widely recognized to have the best quality of life, and every other service is jealous.  We mercilessly mock the Air Force even when (by accident) we happen to have a better quality of life.

The Marines... it would never occur to you to join any other part of the military.  If youíre even asking about pros & cons of the various branches then youíre not a Marine. 

The Coast Guard also does a little of everything, mostly domestically.  The Navy is very jealous of that quality of life too. 

NOAA-- you need to talk to a recruiter.  These guys do a lot of GIS and charts.  Environmental science is big.  This might turn out to be your widest range of choices for your background.  NOAA and the U.S. Public Health Service are technically known as ďuniformed servicesĒ but are not considered to be military.

Will gluten intolerance/dietary restrictions be an issue?
Yes.  If you mention this on your entrance physical exam (and the question will probably be a general one about food allergies, so youíll have to mention it) then youíll get all sorts of the wrong kind of attention.  You may even be declined.

The services try to serve healthy food, especially in large dining facilities.  However the services canít cater to allergies or sensitivities, and your career options might be too restrictive to merit having you in uniform. 

For example all of the military services (particularly the Army) are struggling to implement a SECDEF mandate to discharge anyone who canít deploy.  Many of my readers are terrified that their waivers will be vacated or that they wonít recover in time for the next deployment.

How does matching on the TSP work for new recruits? (I see opposing information online)
Short answer:  5% match.  The TSP is pretty much like a 401(k). 

Longer answer:  The TSP also has a Roth 401(k) version.  Youíll be automatically enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System and the TSP with a 3% default contribution to the L2050 fund, and eventually youíll have to raise your TSP contribution to 5% (or more) to maximize the match.  You donít have to do anything with the TSP for at least 60 days.

The pension calculation is complicated (and the Reserve/Guard system is even more complex).  Donít worry about the pension until you have at least 10 years of service.

Donít get bogged down in the financial details until after you finish recruit training, and then ask me if you still have questions.

How does the housing situation work if you are living on base (especially with dietary restrictions)?
Enlisted:  barracks.  After recruit training tís more like a Motel 6 with roommates than a WWII open-bay bunkroom.
Officer:  space-available bachelor officer quarters or a housing allowance for living off base.

Are housing/food allowances available for single people with no dependents?
Enlisted:  food yes (depending on the availability of the dining facility) but not housing until youíre more senior-- at least E-3 and probably E-4.
Officer:  Yes. 

Military pay is taxable, but military allowances are not taxed.  Youíre always supposed to get paid, but you do not always rate an allowance if the equivalent benefit is already at hand.

Since I have a degree, any suggestions for becoming an Officer or Warrant Officer?
It all depends on whether the military needs your degree.  Once youíre in the enlisted ranks then you also have opportunities to apply for a commissioning program (officer or warrant) but these tend to be fiercely competitive.

What are some negatives people have had?
Youíre joining a large professional bureaucracy.  It has a lot of pride & tradition, and it commits to servant leadership, but it has a lot of rules.  ďNeeds of the militaryĒ takes precedence over you and your goals.

Any advice on the ASVAB?  Basic training?  Officer training?
Use the ASVAB study guides.  (The recruiters can tell you the latest/best options, both hardcopy and online.) 

Get into excellent aerobic shape, and make sure youíre flexible enough to avoid repetitive stress injuries like pulled muscles, shin splints, or tendonitis/bursitis.  Almost everyone can handle military physical training, but the issues arise when you twist an ankle or tweak a muscle yet have to keep training.

Wayward

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2018, 08:45:28 AM »
Thank you all again for the responses, I've done a lot of hard thinking and wanted to give an update!

I took the ASVAB last week and scored a 95 overall, qualifying for any job I want!  I have an appointment for fingerprinting and the physical next week.  At first I was leaning more toward reserves, but now I will most likely join Active Duty to start as suggested by Nords.  I've been running and doing push ups/sit ups regularly and will make sure I'm in the best physical shape possible. 

The main MOS's I'm interested in now are 35G and 12Y (thank you to jayball for letting me know not to be a fox!).  If anyone has experience with these jobs please let me know, my ultimate goal is to become a Warrant Officer 125D or 350G so I need the right feeder MOS.  35G would have higher top secret clearance, which I meet the requirements for and two WO options, not just the one for 12Y that seems more competitive.  The 12Y MOS though seems to be more "Engineer" (GIS) instead of straight MI, and I want lots of GIS experience. http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/WOgeninfo_mos.shtml 


Nords

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2018, 10:30:00 AM »
Thanks for the update!

If you happen to talk to NOAA, let me know what they offer.  I get that question from readers once in a while but I only know the financial side of their pay & benefits.

Sailor Sam

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2018, 10:35:27 AM »
Thanks for the update! It's always great when someone closes the loop. Careful about what recruiters say, though.


@Nords, if you have NOAA questions you can PM me. I work with those fuckers.

Nords

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #31 on: May 01, 2018, 11:05:42 AM »
@Nords, if you have NOAA questions you can PM me.
Thanks, Sam!  Maybe our advice could help future NOAAs get the right start.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2018, 11:11:48 AM by Nords »

mm1970

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #32 on: May 01, 2018, 12:42:00 PM »
Only thing I know about NOAA is that I have a biologist friend who works on whales and dolphins, and she interacts with them a lot.

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Re: Should I Join The US Military?
« Reply #33 on: May 01, 2018, 06:38:35 PM »
Since you mentioned Intel analyst and others have mentioned NOAA, I'll mention another area that might be of interest.  The FBI, DSS and other federal law enforcement/intel community.  Age cut off for all Law enforcement is 37 but support staff has none.