Deciding what branch in the Military

I am a 19 year old female and am thinking about joining the Military. I’ve been doing a ton of research and am curious to know why and what helped a decision in choosing what branch?! Air Force, Marines, Army, Navy?

Navy or Air Force. They have hot showers, hot meals and don’t have to crawl in the mud.

One of my best friends in high school used the Navy to get her MD. They paid for all of her medical school, she did her internship and residency in San Diego, never having all the hassles regular doctors go through, and left after a couple of hitches debt-free and with lots of training.

The girl I roomed with a MEPS chose the Navy, because she thought she looked better in blue than green. I’m serious. But she also got up early to put on make-up before entrance processing.

My husband and I were both in the Army, and liked in on the whole, although neither of us chose it as a career. My step-father was a career Navy pilot, and liked it enough to put in 30 years.

What do you want to do? From what I understand, medical careers are the best in the Army, piloting is the best in the Navy, although if you just want the training, then want to be a commercial pilot, the Air Force might give you more opportunities to fly large planes similar to commercial planes. If you join the Navy, you will be deployed on a ship at some point.

Marines on the whole are a lot of bluster about their toughness, but their basic training is tough. It’s longer, and has a little more of a hazing quality. Every Marine I know is very gung-ho about, specifically, the marines, though, and not the military in general.

Another thing to look into is advancement. I don’t know about the other branches, but the warrant officers in the Army are high-ranking people who don’t command but still practice whatever job they were trained for, and have advanced degrees.

The ROTC is something to consider as well. You might lok at schools, and see which schools you like have good programs for the various branches.

Also, unless you are looking at a 20 year career, look at where you want to live when you finish active duty, and what reserve units are nearby, because you will probably be doing a couple of years in the reserve.

You might look up sexual harassment stats, and see which branch treats women the best right now. Used to be the Army, but I can’t say that this is still true.

The big questions is “what do you want to do”? Then you can decide where to do it.

I wanted to be an aircraft mechanic, so I joined the US Air Force. Of course the Navy has a lot of aircraft and if you added helicopters to the equation, the Army actually had more aircraft in 1972. But the USAF seemed more logical to me. I stayed in for 24 years.

It really depends on what you want to do.

What are you interested in? Medical careers (e.g. doctor or nurse), leadership opportunities, a chance to see the world, a chance to run around shooting people, social prestige/cachet (e.g. Captain of an aircraft carrier), humanitarian work, training for future civilian law enforcement (e.g. MP/SP), what?

Also, are you planning to go in as enlisted or are you looking at an officer track? E.g. you could try to get an appointment to one of the Academies or do college ROTC. This often matters if you have a specific career in mind. E.g. fighter pilots are almost always commissioned officers, helicopter pilots not necessarily.

I was a submarine officer in the Navy in the 00s, and I’d happy to answer any questions about life in the Navy, submarines, or anything else I can help with.

If I had to sum it up into a short sentence, here it is: “I’m very glad I served in the Navy, and I’m very glad my service is now complete.”

You looking at enlisted, officer, or either? All branches, I believe, require a 4-year degree to be commissioned as an officer (along with other requirements).

I was Air Force enlisted for 20 years, but it was a different time. My advice is to really look at what you want to do (have a few options in mind) as a career after the military, then try to get the closest fit you can with your military job. Recruiters are like salesman in some regards (no disrespect to them, but it’s an ill-kept secret that they have quotas to fill across the entire spectrum of jobs), and will likely try to steer you towards filling another slot they need filled, which may or may not be anything close to what you wanted. I don’t know if it’s a sellers’ market or a buyers’ market, as far as recruiting goes; decide what you want and stick firmly to that.

Second piece of advice: take advantage of the education benefits while active duty. I didn’t, and bitterly regret it to this day. If you’re enlisted, go for that bachelor’s degree. If you’re an officer, work on that Master’s. My memory’s a little fuzzy, and I’m sure the amount of benefits has decreased, but I seem to recall in my day that I would have had 75% of my tuition paid for by the USAF (maybe books, too) if I took classes while on active duty. It can be a grind, working a full-time job that sometimes requires overtime with little or no notice, not to mention deployments, and taking 1, maybe 2 evening classes per semester means you’re progressing towards that degree much slower than normal. Get all the details you can about the current GI Bill and how it will work for you after discharge.

Summing up: insist on a job close to what you think you want to do (if such a job is available within the branch you decide to enter), and grind as much as you can stand to take advantage of educational benefits while active duty.

Post-script: while it’s gotten better, know going in that you, as a woman, may well be enmired in sexual harassment situations, or worse, sooner or later. The best advice I can give you there is to be aware of your level of intoxication and your surroundings (you drinking in a dorm room with 5 buddies that you work with is not an invitation from you for sex, but the possibility of such happening to you is heightened). These are anectodal “facts” from me, but better safe than sorry. I hear the situation is changing, but it may take a couple of generations to get where it needs to be.

whew A bit long-winded there. Sorry. :o

The Marine Corps is the only military. The rest are support.

What do you want to do? There’s tremendous potential to learn serious real-world job skills; I’ve got a friend who spent one hitch in the Marines, was trained to do GIS mapping, and is now making a fortune in the private sector. On the other hand, I know of lots of people spend two decades in the Service as a cook and wind up knowing nothing but how to make giant, bland meals. Serving in the infantry, for instance, might teach you the proper care and feeding of an M16, but I don’t think that has a lot of use outside of the military (and a couple of sketchy mercenary outfits). If you don’t plan to go career, pick a mission of service that will give you real-world job skills. And whatever the recruiter promises you, get it in writing.

I cannot second this strongly enough.

My son picked Navy because his grandfather was Navy and his great grandfather was Navy. His step grandfather was Air Force, but he was never really interested in that. Plus his eyes were too bad.

Do what you honestly want to do with your life.

Don’t do what other people want to do. Don’t do what would make other people happy. DON’T take a STAR MOS just because you want a paycheck or an enlistment bonus, or anything else. If you do what makes you genuinely happy, even if that is eating cold MREs in the middle of the DMZ at winter, then you will enjoy and be proud of your military service. Pursue any other job for any other motive, and you will be miserable.

So, basically, its just like everything else in life.

Navy and Air Force have the best bases in terms of amenities, infrastructure, and quality of life. Army bases are dumps in comparison. (Not sure about Marines.) Air Force is often derided as the “Chair Force” by other branches, but if a desk job appeals to you, that may be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you really want to be out there doing the grunt work (and some people really do), Army or Marines might be the way to go.

Navy has bases in the coolest places. Florida, San Diego, Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan… Air Force has some cool places, but they also seem to have lots of out of the way places like North Dakota and other rural locales.

With their cool places and better quality of life, Navy is what I would personally choose. YMMV.

I had a friend join the navy during Vietnam for this very reason. He figured he would be on an aircraft carrier loading bombs. Nope, he got assigned to river patrol boats and told me he had Viet Cong jumping from trees onto his machine gun on a regular basis. Even had to chop one off of it with a machete one time.

Join the US Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard was in Vietnam, too.

I’m going to echo - it really comes down to trade. What do you want to do? One of the best parts of joining the military is the training you get - so what do you want to do? Keep in mind you can always re-badge to another trade, but that can be complicated is that if your trade is really lacking people, it can be tough to get out (since they really want you to stay).

I know I would advise someone to really look into how long it will take to get qualified - some trades have an extremely long wait time until you are good to go, and some are unexpectedly so (cook, for example) because the courses don’t run consecutively. I would also look at where you are likely to be posted based on that trade. That may not be an issue, or it may be.

Some trades are element-specific, some are not. I am in a “purple” trade, so it doesn’t matter what uniform I wear, I can end up working in Army, Air Force, Navy or Special Forces - they all have a spot for my occupation.

Speaking as a ex-Navy guy, I’ve heard great things about the Coast Guard. In fact, if I could do it all over again (not counting meeting my wife, etc), I’d choose the Coast Guard – as an officer, I’d have had a great chance of getting command of a small cutter within just a few years of getting commissioned.

Plus, most of the Coasties I’ve talked to have been very happy with their jobs.

I was once told by an ex-Navy guy that you get more cross-training and incidental training in the Navy. The idea being that once you’re out on a ship you can’t just put in a call for someone to come fix something. The fix has to come out of the folks already onboard. He believed that this resulted in folks coming out of the Navy with a wider range of salable skills.

I have never been in the military. My dad was an officer in the Navy, and my SO was a warrant officer in the Army. I worked at Edwards AFB for four years. Dad always said, ‘The Army does the work, the Navy gets the pay, and the Marines get the credit.’

Without having personal knowledge, I agree with silenus. I’d want a head and a bed, not a canvas hut and a rut. The SO faced sex discrimination when she was in. (She was a Black Hawk pilot in Iraq in the Gulf War.) ‘You will never make it in the Army because you’re a girl!’ ‘What makes you think women can fly helicopters?’ Presumably, it’s gotten better since then; but I have no knowledge of that. She mentioned recently that Air Force basic training is tougher than what she went through. As for the Navy, dad always said, ‘I miss the Navy. I enjoy missing the Navy!’ He went in as enlisted after a stint in the Army, and retired as an O3 (Navy lieutenant/other branches captain) after 20 years. (My uncle, a retired Chief Petty Officer, called the OCS 'knife and fork school. :stuck_out_tongue: He decided he liked being a CPO.) He seemed to have liked it.

I worked in flight test for a contractor at Edwards, and came into contact with Air Force personnel, mostly enlisted. The ones who were in flight test seemed very sharp and very happy with their decision. I went to work for another contractor in L.A., whose president was an ex-Air Force general. I got the impression that the Air Force is an excellent branch if you want to pursue scientific-type work when you get out. I have come into contact with few ex-Naval officers. The ones I have, have been pilots. I worked with ex-Navy enlisted people, and an ex-Coastie, and they got some good training in the trades (electrical and welding). Ex-Marines I’ve worked with have been the security director of the L.A. contractor, and two others (one male, one female) who worked in the data library (as did a former Air Police – USAF – at another facility for the same company). A friend who has since moved away was a sergeant in a Stryker battalion in the Army. It seems that what he took from his time in the Army is familiarity with weapons. He’s using his GI benefits to go to film school.

If I were 20 years old again (and uninjured – which is what killed my plans in the first place) I’d stay in school and get a four-year degree. For all of my childhood I intended to follow dad’s example and join the Navy. I’d be a fighter pilot. Nowadays, I think I’d prefer helicopters. (They’re fun!) But in retrospect, I think the Air Force would be a better place to pursue a career in aerospace. Everyone I’ve talked to says that if you want to fly, go Army. It’s harder to be a pilot in the other branches. I don’t have the temperament for the Army, though. Marines? I respect them. Wouldn’t want to be one. If you can’t afford a four-year college, I’d strongly suggest a two-year degree. Then take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the branch you choose to complete a four-year degree. It will help you if you stay in, and it will help you when you get out.

My thinking in high school (the last time I considered joining a branch of the military) was that, everything else being equal, the chances of having to kill someone in hand-to-hand combat seem a lot smaller in the Air Force.

Granted, the chances of falling 5 or 6 miles to your death seem a lot higher.