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military enlistment
Old 11-09-2009, 01:10 PM   #1
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military enlistment

Hey folks,
So many of you know that my step son has had struggles with various aspects of school and growing up.

Without going into all the details, it looks like military may be a very good option for him

Since there are many veterans on this board - what should a kid/family know before they sign on the dotted line? Also of course we're concerned because of the active conflict. I do have a cousin who enlisted a few years ago, did service in afghanistan and is now tucked away in s.korea. I will likely see him over thanksgiving so will ask him questions.

But would love your perspective on the good, bad, ugly.

This kid just seems like he needs a LOT of direction that we cannot provide him and really needs to gain some training that will make him employable. In this economy it is really hard for him to find any entry level job as everyone else seems to have more experience/skills than him.

We would never make this decision for him, but have posed it as a very real option he should look into.

Your wisdom is appreciated.
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Old 11-09-2009, 01:34 PM   #2
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1. GET IT IN WRITING. Recruiters have been known to say things that push the envelope of truth.
2. Pick a job field that has a civilian equilivent.
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Old 11-09-2009, 01:50 PM   #3
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- There is a significant difference in what life is like depending on the individual's specialty and the unit to which the individual is assigned. "I'm in the Army" tells you almost nothing what a guy's daily life is really like. This sounds obvious, but it's amazing the number of young people who sign up and don't have a clear idea of what their future likely holds based on their MOS/AFSC/rate. There are definitely "tracks" for each specialty. Also, some of the specialties have names that may not be very descriptive to those unfamiliar with the lingo of the trade.

- He'll get structure imposed on him, but nobody can impose motivation (for long). Like anywhere else, he'll need to work to get ahead. But he won't need to figure out exactly what he needs to do--it will be clear (excel at daily responsibilities, look for opportunities to advance the goals of the unit, study for the next promotion test).

- I'm not sure how much help the recruiters will be in "convincing" him to give this a try. All the services met their recruiting goals (quantity and quality) last year. I know the USAF had a waiting list several months long. Maybe the Army is different, but right now many of the recruiters are not having to work hard to get folks through the door.

- If he's interested in joining, he might do well to practice the ASVAB test before taking it for real. Buy a test prep book for a few bucks. Doing well on the test might allow him to qualify for a specialties in which he might be interested.

- Yes, hopefully he'll try to go into a field with a close civilian counterpart.
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Old 11-09-2009, 02:06 PM   #4
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Thanks fellas.

Yeah, mostly he needs to buy some time to grow up, but also be able to gain some training and experience that will give him some sense of what he wants to do.

The doing it on his own with some parental guidance (take or leave as he pleases) is not really working out well.

He's really bad at tests, so it seems like a good idea if he truly is considering it to see the test beforehand.
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Old 11-09-2009, 02:21 PM   #5
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If a recruiter was trying to sell your son a lottery ticket, he would be more likely to tell him many people have won millions of dollars buying lottery tickets (true) than to say you have a better chance of being hit by lightening than winning millions in the lottery. (also true)

Listen and phrase questions carefully. Example: If I enlist could I become an astronaut... Answer yes. But what does it take to become an astronaut. How likely is it? ETC.

As retired USAF, I'd recommend considering the air force for any number of reasons. While living in tents, playing in the mud, and regular deployments away from significant others might have some appeal for some younger folks, I notice the attraction tends to fade with time. In 25yrs, I never spent a night of duty in a tent or ate a MRE. But I did stay in many Hiltons/Marriots/Sheritans/Doubletree/etc. receiving full gov't per diem for food. ymmv

There are many jobs available, try to find one that interests him and that he likes. There is some kind of civilian equivalent for most jobs, especially as more outsourcing has been done. Much easier to get to retirement doing something you like than something you hate... Good luck to him...
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Old 11-09-2009, 02:32 PM   #6
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But, nothing is guaranteed. There was a time in the late 1990s when more USAF personnel than Army personnel were deployed in foeld conditions (i.e. tent, T-Rats, and MREs). And, there were lots of USAF and USN folks assisting with high-risk convoy duty in Iraq. I did all my time in the USAF, and spent many months in tents and eating MREs.

In all, I agree with JustNTime. Life tends to be very differnt in the various services. But the specialty is important: A USAF combat control team member has a life similar to many Army combat arms guys.
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Old 11-09-2009, 03:38 PM   #7
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But, nothing is guaranteed. There was a time in the late 1990s when more USAF personnel than Army personnel were deployed in foeld conditions (i.e. tent, T-Rats, and MREs). And, there were lots of USAF and USN folks assisting with high-risk convoy duty in Iraq. I did all my time in the USAF, and spent many months in tents and eating MREs.

In all, I agree with JustNTime. Life tends to be very differnt in the various services. But the specialty is important: A USAF combat control team member has a life similar to many Army combat arms guys.
Obviously, you and I were in very different 'Air Forces' - Sam. -- I don't think I even met anyone in your specialty. I was in Comm-Computers and I guess some of our combat comm guys got into some squirrelly areas, but ops tempo is very different in different services as well as different specialties. Those are some mighty good questions to ask when considering a job and which you prefer. I like to read about the things Sam mentions more than I really enjoy doing them. Snake eaters, etc. are very colorful and their stories make good movies, TV series, or books, but I prefer all my snake encounters to be virtual. I did spend some time in Turkish military helicopters once upon a time doing surveys led by a German Army Officer over areas Turkish helicopter pilots would normally have avoided. NO Hilton's on that trip, but a lot of 'local color' -- Convincing my Italian General that all my people were doing things more important than supporting this survey effort had an unfortunate downside. Lesson Learned. Closest I ever got to being shot at, although given the vintage of the helicopters, I'm sure a couple well aimed rocks could have had similar effect. Just going up tightened the old pucker factor and doing that terrain following practice stuff was an experience I would have preferred virtually on IMAX or HD.
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Old 11-09-2009, 07:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bright eyed View Post
Without going into all the details, it looks like military may be a very good option for him
Has he learned nothing from reading the veterans' posts on this board?!?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bright eyed View Post
I do have a cousin who enlisted a few years ago, did service in afghanistan and is now tucked away in s.korea. I will likely see him over thanksgiving so will ask him questions.
We would never make this decision for him, but have posed it as a very real option he should look into.
Your wisdom is appreciated.
Why should you be asking the questions of your cousin? Where's your step son's personal interest in this path? I think you could back far, far away from this decision and arrange for him to spend the time with the cousin. Let him decide if that's how he wants to see the world.

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This kid just seems like he needs a LOT of direction that we cannot provide him and really needs to gain some training that will make him employable. In this economy it is really hard for him to find any entry level job as everyone else seems to have more experience/skills than him.
We would never make this decision for him, but have posed it as a very real option he should look into.
Your wisdom is appreciated.
If you would never make the decision for him then let him find the choices-- let him figure it out for himself. You've done your parental duty and for whatever reason he may not seem to be responding to it, but you can't force them to think for themselves. Tell him you'll help with figuring out where to look and who to talk to, but he has to choose the goal/destination.

Some kids figure it all out in 9th grade and some 30-year-olds are still trying to decide whether or not to grow up. I don't have a freakin' clue what separates one type from the other (besides being lucky with the parental lottery), but the sooner they start making their own choices then the sooner they can get past all those stupid-choice mistakes.

They have to make an informed decision for themselves so that when they wake up on day #3 of whatever path they've chosen, they can rest assured in the comforting knowledge that it's all their own damn fault. If they're nudged toward the military by you, and decide later that they hate it (and they surely will), then it's going to be all your fault-- not theirs.

There are plenty of other non-military job-skills programs. He could try apprenticing for a trade like plumbing or electrician. (Our local trade unions are picking off the high-school sophomores to let them shadow apprentice jobs over summers. How'd your step son like to drive a bulldozer?) He could try entering the state/federal civil service over a "stay-in-school-and-graduate" type of program that will eventually point him toward subsidized college. He could apply to a work-study college or even one of the non-traditional "free" colleges. He could join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. He could go on an Outward Bound experience. He could go to civilian dive school and start slugging slop on an oil rig.

We've spent most of the last five years trying to talk our kid out of joining the military. She hasn't been paying attention to my sea stories, either... she just keeps getting all envious over the cool Navy gear, the travel, and our ER lifestyle. It's pretty much how I got sucked into joining the military, too. So we'll let her go NROTC or USNA and figure it out for herself.

Hawaii has many stories about the local college-prep program: working a summer in a pineapple field. It's about the only job a high-school dropout can get because nobody, hardly even illegal immigrants, wants to do it. After a summer of tending & picking they're highly motivated to do anything to get out of that pineapple field... a GED and a college education seem easy by comparison.

Same thing with the Navy. Many of the troops I served with lacked motivation when they were in high school. They drifted into the military as something cool, something with a steady paycheck, and plenty of hot chicks. (Three strikes on that lifestyle choice!) By the time they'd accumulated a couple of years (on a 4-6 year enlistment) they were highly motivated to go to college so that they could get the hell out of their enlistments.

My nephew also lacked motivation out of high school and was afraid of college. He joined the Army and volunteered for Ranger training because they paid him a big $5000 bonus. He "celebrated" his 20th birthday on a C-5 to Kabul. After his second Afghanistan tour and a bonus pregame tour behind the lines in Iraq, he decided that college wasn't so scary after all. Combat has a way of putting life's choices in a new perspective... for the survivors, anyway.

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If he's interested in joining, he might do well to practice the ASVAB test before taking it for real. Buy a test prep book for a few bucks. Doing well on the test might allow him to qualify for a specialties in which he might be interested.
If it has to be the military, then aceing the ASVAB is absolutely essential. So many people get locked out of so many specialties just because they took the test to get out of a high-school math class and didn't realize that it could be used against them for another 10 years.
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Old 11-09-2009, 07:23 PM   #9
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This is a difficult question to answer. It depends on the kid. My son enlisted in the Marines. He did not care what he did, he wanted to be a Marine. He joined the reserves, finished his degree, and is now an officer flying helicopters. On the other hand, if your step son wants something specific, get it in writing, shop all five services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. If he wants to stay out of a combat zone, don't join the service. I really mean that. The Mission of the Air Force is to Fly and to Fight, and don't forget it. That is printed on the walls of most squadrons. I know lots of people join to get benefits, but they should be prepared to be shipped off to a combat zone. It is the nature of the beast.

I personal recommendation would be the Marines. I think he will get more structure there than any of the other services, Army next, Navy, then Air Force. I don't know enough about the Coast Guard to make a comment. You may wonder why I put the Air Force last. I think it is the least structured of the services. It may also be the hardest to get in. In Vietnam, it was said that an Air Force enlisted was just about the safest job you could get. Major dangers were downtown bars.

By the way, JustnTime may have been in the 'Real Air Force' where the 'Regular Crew Chief' works. However, in my 20 years I spent time in a tent, ate C-rations, K-rations, set sideways on a C-130 for 10 hours at a wack, and played with lots of guns, big and small. However, he is still right, if your step son wants to live a civilized life, the Air Force is the way to go.
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Old 11-09-2009, 07:25 PM   #10
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Yes, definitely appreciate your perspective Nords.

We've been doing this awkward dance of letting him make decisions and then seeing what the fall out is.

Lately however, his decisions have had far more serious consequences that do force us to step in lest there be any more damage and have forced some urgency on him earning a living etc...

In terms of the military specifically, that will definitely be his decision, I couldn't bear it if anything happened to him and I felt like I pushed him in that direction. I wanted to ask my cousin some questions, and do think the two of them can talk, but you know how conversations can go between two boys in the late teens/early twenties...

We were really great at dealing with a jr high and high school kid's antics, we apparently suck at dealing w/ a near twenties adult situations...

Hindsight - would definitely have pushed harder to have him work younger and get his feet wet. His dad had a hard upbringing, worked very young and wanted to shelter him a bit longer...not going to make that mistake with the little ones...

Don't think he'd be particularly skilled at maneuvering large vehicles on land, sea or air...he's having trouble passing his standard driver's license...among the list of troubles...
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Old 11-09-2009, 07:53 PM   #11
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By the way, JustnTime may have been in the 'Real Air Force' where the 'Regular Crew Chief' works. However, in my 20 years I spent time in a tent, ate C-rations, K-rations, set sideways on a C-130 for 10 hours at a wack, and played with lots of guns, big and small. However, he is still right, if your step son wants to live a civilized life, the Air Force is the way to go.
Rusty: I never did find the 'real' Air Force or a regular crew chief. Heard rumors of them, but never found them.
I've been on those C-130 web seats and so has my family. Only 10 hours on the C-130, I think we had an approach for landing that was longer than that... I've even been on a P-3 with the family.
Used a 38 to qualify expert one day and a few years later qualed with a 9 mil on another day to go overseas. The only 2days I even touched a firearm in 25yrs.
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Old 11-09-2009, 08:49 PM   #12
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I was sure I was going to get a copy of the "big picture" when I retired, but they were out! Maybe Rewahoo has a copy. And, I agree with you, generally the AF is the more cultured service, when it comes to creature comforts.
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Old 11-09-2009, 08:50 PM   #13
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However [I] . . . set sideways on a C-130 for 10 hours at a wack
I like it best after going through the deployment line and getting a golf-ball sized lump off gamma globulin in my butt. Verrry nice.

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Old 11-09-2009, 09:09 PM   #14
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I was sure I was going to get a copy of the "big picture" when I retired, but they were out! Maybe Rewahoo has a copy.
I was given a copy in my discharge packet, or so I was told. Never able to locate it.
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:10 PM   #15
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I second Nords' advice about ensuring that it is truly your son's choice to join. When I was at USNA, I knew a number of midshipmen who were the progeny of the naval aristocracy -- granddad went to USNA, dad went to USNA, and they had been raised with the expectation that they would, in turn, go to USNA. Many of them were quite miserable. The military is often a very difficult world, even when you want to be there. Given the opportunity after a particularly grueling day in boot camp to blame someone else for your predicament, many will.

I also agree with Justntime and bimmerbill that, if your son does join the military, he choose something that interests him and has a civilian equivalent. The truth is that most people who join will not spend an entire career in the military, and even if they do, most will need to work after they "retire". Getting training and experience that will be useful after the military is crucial. There are certain specialties that are useful only in the military. For example, while I respect and admire boatswain's mates and torpedomen, those skills will generally not be of much help when you get out and need to find a job. In my family, my dad was an interior communications electrician in the Navy, which he parlayed into a decent job when he retired from the Navy after 20 years. My brother was an electronic technician in the Navy and used that to get a good job when he left after 4 years. The Navy taught me to run a nuclear reactor, and that is what I did when I first got out. (my experience is with the USN, but I'd bet that there are similar stories for all the services).

On a side note -- it takes an entire team of people to "drive" a Navy ship, most of whom are limited to doing precisely what they are told -- no particular driving skill is required.

Oh, and if you want the country club life, definitely join the Air Force.
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:13 PM   #16
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Oh, and if you want the country club life, definitely join the Air Force.
Absolutely. Be sure he brings his clubs when he shows up for basic training.
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:25 PM   #17
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I was sure I was going to get a copy of the "big picture" when I retired, but they were out! Maybe Rewahoo has a copy. And, I agree with you, generally the AF is the more cultured service, when it comes to creature comforts.
I used to have to give the 'big picture' briefings, but I'm afraid all my clearances have lapsed... Are you sure you were even cleared for the 'big picture'? You realize you have to be read in first and sign all the nondisclosures - Right?
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:35 PM   #18
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Oh, and if you want the country club life, definitely join the Air Force.
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Absolutely. Be sure he brings his clubs when he shows up for basic training.
He just might qualify for the all air force team.
My recruiter did say they would get us in shape in a country club setting at Lackland-Medina... Still makes me smile...
No, a recruiter wouldn't ever color the truth...
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Old 11-09-2009, 10:18 PM   #19
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Ah, the Air Force. Surely the most civilian of the services. I was in it and in some ways it was disappointing. Depends what you want I guess. Probably was a good fit for me. I will never regret the four years I spent in it. Very worthwhile. Helped me grow up in ways that nothing else could have.
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Old 11-09-2009, 11:12 PM   #20
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"Oh, and if you want the country club life, definitely join the Air Force."

I was asigned one afternoon to control a simulated airstrike with A-10's for some Army grunts that had been in the field training for several days. I think they were a little shell shocked when I arrived and worked the flight out of my new Corvette.
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