Military Enlistment Questions (Help Military types)

Anyone out there who feels like answering some or all of these questions… I’ve got a whirlpool of them running through my head.

I took a Pre-Asvab test at a recruiting office last week. I was hanging out at the mall with some friends, and an army recruiter came up and started talking to us… lo and behold, none of us had taken the ASVAB.

We go in and take the 20-odd minute pretest, in which my friends score a 95 and 84, and I score an 80 (damn arithmetic!) The recruiter said that any of us could take the real-asvab, and assuming we scored as well or better, would be able to pick almost any job we want.

The recruiters were ecstatic to have us take the test, score well, and none of us have criminal records.

I began to think about it, and I believe I’d like to join a branch of the military, possibly for a long term career.

Here’s where the questions come in:

  1. Which service would be the best choice. As stated above, I got an 80 on the asvab. I have no interest in riding around on a ship, but my dream would be to live in Germany or Italy for some time. I’m personally drawn to the Army due to its size and the wide range of opportunities and variety of jobs. My girlfriend says the Army would be a waste for someone with any college under their belt, and I should go for the Air Force.

  2. What would be the differences in pay/benefits/accomodations between the services.

  3. I am currently a college student in my sophomore year, paying out of pocket. Would it be more worth my while to enlist now, or to join an ROTC program and go in as an officer in 4 years.

  4. If I didn’t join the ROTC, how difficult is it to become a commisioned officer, and how long on average would that take.

  5. How do the programs in which you earn a college degree while in the service work? Would they have long-distance courses to take via mail, or would it be a “get stationed near a school” kind of situation.

  6. Once I signed up for a specific MOS, and recieved the training for that specific job, how common is it to be transferred involuntary to a very different field.

  7. From your own and friends/acquaintances experience, is it most beneficial to enlist, join an ROTC program, or join the Reserves to recieve college money, then go to active duty after graduation.

Please, no debating. I’m just looking for others opinions who have been down this road before me. If you must debate, take it to GD or the Pit.

Big decision.

  1. The army has a few bases in Germany, and I think the AF does too. As far as which service is the best (we all know it’s the USMC) it depends on what you want to do. Some services offer jobs that others do not, so give some thought to what you actually want to be doing for a living for a few years, then the choice can be made a little easier.

  2. The pay is the same for all ranks across the board. An E-1 or O-1 gets paid the same regardless of uniform. Same with the benefits. As far as accomodations, the AF has the best in general.

  3. My opinion only here. The best officers are mustangs, the ones who used to be enlisted. I always thought that it should be a prerequisite for officers to be enlisted for at least 4 years.

  4. Depends on when you get your degree and the programs available for enlisted commissioning at the time. I’m not current with the programs these days though. A few years ago, a guy with no college could get into the programs and become an officer in about 4 years.

  5. Most bases have arrangements with local schools and have annexes on or near base. And several distance courses are available as well. As you suspect, it will depend on where you are stationed.

  6. Not common at all. Usually only happens during reenlistment if your field is full and then, generally you are given a choice of MOS’s to lateral move to. In fact, most cases, it’s difficult to leave an MOS that you hold. The more technical the job, the more difficult it is to leave. Choose your job carefully.

  7. Different for all, but see number 3. Being enlisted gives an officer a different perspective and a way of thinking that an Academy cannot provide. Again, my opinion only and that may not work for you.
    The most important thing, IMO, is to decide what you want to do and then decide which branch will give you the best options to pursue it. If you want to learn nuclear engineering, you aren’t going to do it in the AF. If you want to work on planes, the Army isn’t going to allow you much. If you want to get into medicine, forget the Marine Corps. And so it goes. Same philosophy as going to college. If you want to be an engineer, there are better schools than Georgetown. If you want to be a Lawyer, Georgetown works better than say USC. Good luck in your decision:)

  1. Air Force. More civilized and there are air bases in Italy and Germany.

  2. Pay and benefits are the same but accommodations better in the Air Force.

  3. ROTC. No question.

  4. In general, if you are going to be an officer, you start out as an officer, not as an enlisted man. If you don’t go to a service academy or do ROTC, you would need to go through officer candidate school which isn’t very long. Check the services’ web sites for details.

  5. Many bases are near colleges or universities but just about all bases have “correspondence” courses.

  6. I don’t know.

  7. ROTC

  1. I had a bachelor’s degree when I joined the Army. I met quite a few other soldiers who had them, and a few who joined already having master’s degrees. Why your girlfriend thinks the AF would be better than the Army is unfathomable. It was most definitely not a waste of time for me.

I worked with all four services my entire time in the Army and my personal choice would be 1. Army 2. Navy 3. Marines 4. Air Force.

  1. (skipping questions here) You only need an AA degree to qualify for Officer Candidate school. Don’t even think about joining ROTC and then trying to get out of your service commitment later. I went to basic with two people who tried this and they were very sorry.

  2. Make sure you get your MOS guaranteed in your contract. Any promises your recruiter makes to you, get them in writing or they are worthless.

Otherwise my experiences don’t really answer the rest of your questions.

It’s a little late, and I’m tired, so I’m not up to posting a long answer. Look for a post from me tomorrow morning on the subject.

I can add little to what has been stated above. The AF has the best food as well as the best living accomodations.

When I was in the Corps it was common knowledge that the other services received a larger allowance for uniforms, care & replacement of. Getting a couple sets of fatigues cleaned, starched & pressed every week costs more than just peanuts.

Did you the USMC dress blue uniform is an optional purchase? They are NOT issued free of charge.

So I am a little biased. OOH RAH.

Overall, I guess I have to agree with Yeah. When I was on a stopover in Korea we were stunned at the Air Force guys’ barracks. It seemed positively luxurious compared to what we had. But I can say that I was a Devil Dog! :stuck_out_tongue:

ROTC is one thing, attending college while you are already in is another. As someone pointed out on another thread, the military has unrealistic expectations about how long it should take you to finish. Not fun.

Read Turbo Dog’s last paragraph. Here is the Webpage that helps West Point Cadets figure out what branch they want to go into.

Another AF guy checking in. Take into account that I’m biased. And my answers will apply to the AF unless otherwise stated.

  1. There may be more jobs in the Army, but some of those jobs you just don’t want. The Army is bigger, however, so you might be right about the breadth of choices in a given career field.

  2. Enlisted people in lower ranks get promoted faster in the Army than in the AF, which a slight advantage in their paycheck. Accomodations, and generally quality of life, is much better in the AF.

  3. I’d definitely recommend ROTC for the scholarship and as a commissioning path. And I’d recommend getting a commision over enlisting.

  4. If you finish college on your own, you would be commisioned through Officer Training School. I don’t think that you can get into AF OTS with an AA degree - check with an AF recruiter. If you don’t finish OTS you aren’t obligated to join as an enlisted person, although you could. I talked a lot (too much) about OTS in this thread. Long story short, I didn’t enjoy it. :slight_smile:

  5. Anything that gets you college credit will get you closer to a degree, and then you can apply to OTS. But college can be difficult depending on where you’re stationed and which class you need, especially as you get into upper-level courses. Duty schedules can be a problem too. Commisioning programs are competitive and you shouldn’t make plans that count on getting into one.

  6. If you’re in an overmanned career field, it’s easy to cross-train into an undermanned field. Vice-versa is damn near impossible.

  7. I’d recommend ROTC for someone who’s currently in college.

Don’t make a snap decision. Do some research into the career fields that you’re interested in. The military requires commitment and it can be very satisfying.

Good luck.

I’m probably gonna be a little biased too (to the Air Force) but I will try to be subjective.

  1. As has been said, the AF has several bases in Germany and Italy (and England and the Azores). Yes there is more choices in the Army (probably), but a lot of those choices are Land Mine layer or Land Mine Picker Upper etc. Get a job that has an equivilant on the outside. AT&T dont hire to many former Artilery experts.

  2. Either or really. Probably better (more money and it looks better on the outside)to go ROTC but your commitment to them is longer.

  3. Everywhere I was stationed at in the Air Force there was PLENTY of oppurtunity to go to college. It really depends on your squadron and flight as to how availible they will be to you though. CLEP’s and DANTES’s are free to all branches I believe.

  4. I’d say ROTC.

Isn’t it funny I only answered the odd questions? mmmmmmmm


First, my qualifications: I spent four years in the Air Force. I lived at Fort Myer, VA (and Army post) and worked in a joint-service assignment under the command of an Army General.

The Air Force is widely considered to have the widest range of career-fields that carry over into the civilian world. The Air Force has a large base in Germany (Rammstein) and a fairly large base in Italy (Aviano).

As already mentioned, they’re pretty identical.

These two go hand in hand. If you enlist, there are a number of programs available to help you move from enlisted to officer. However, they’ll be competing for time with your regular duty. It’s really a trade off. Right now you have time, but it’s costing you. You can minimize the $$ cost, but you’ll lose free time.

The needs of the military always come first. You’ll be stationed where you’re stationed. At that point, it’s up to you to decide how and when (around your regular duty schedule, of course) you go to school. There will be an education office that can help you find additional information for your specific region, interest, etc. But generally programs such as the Montgomery GI bill only provide for money. It’s up to you to make the rest happen. There are some programs that will send you to school full time with the idea that you’ll get a degree and become an officer.

I never saw it happen once in the Air Force, and I never heard of it happening with my Army buddies. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but I’d guess it’s fairly rare.

I enlisted immediately after high school, scored well on the ASVAP, and got a garaunteed job of “Communications Computer Systems Programming” person (AFSC 3C0x2). I found that I got the same training I would get from going to school (for the most part), as well as four years actual experience (which looks good on the ole résumé). In short, enlisting directly worked for me. As you said you may want to stay in for 20, my way not be right for you. Officers have a lot more politcal crap they have to put up with as they get up in the ranks, and it demands a lot of their time, besides simply coming to work. Except for the pay, I’d rather be an enlisted guy any day.

I guess this more of an IMHO answer than anything, but I hope it helps.

Good luck!

A while back I heard that about 80% of the jobs in the AF are not in combat. (Of course the base could get bombed so technically everything is a combat job.) I would think the Army would be much more into combat related jobs.

If you are an officer you outrank over 80% of the people in the AF so that is a plus.

Of course if you flunk out of the school for the MOS which you enlisted for, they will do as they like with you.

I was in the Army, and I had an excellent career there. “Air Traffic Control Systems, Subsystems, and Equipment Repair” MOS 93D (which has now been reclassed to 36D or 26D or something else).

There are great jobs in the Army, and for the most part, I loved what I did.

BUT, I’d recommend the Air Force. Yup; gotta do it. There’s no such thing as a real “standard of living” in the Army, especially if you’re single, and especially if you’re state-side. That’s why I ultimately left – martial discrimination. You see, if you’re married, you get paid money to buy groceries and eat good food. If you’re single, you get to eat nasty Army food. If you’re married, you get to live in any houe or apartment you feel you can afford, or even purchase a house. If you’re single, you get stuck into a 14x14 foot room, with up to two other guys. If you’re married, you can technically have your house inspected (but it doesn’t happen), keep your firearms, and pretty much live free. If you’re single, you live in the barracks, have stupid restrictions, and pretty much live as a child under the thumb of a vandalous Sergeant Major (vandalous in my case). If you’re married, you have bathroom privacy. If you’re single, you may or may not have to share the bathrooms with everybody else in your company.

Yeah, you have to be married in the Air Force to get the extra money for food (BAS) and mortgage payments (BAQ), but if you’re single, the “barracks life” is defintely not as bad. Really, in my MOS, we were always interfacing with the Air Force, and we knew how they lived. They had excellent food every single time I would go to an AF dining facility. Their barracks were apartments, and even if somewhat small, there were never more than 2 people to a room (and usually just one person). They had some cleaning standards, but for the most part, the barracks were treated as apartments and you could do with them as you wanted. Many of the air force barracks had community kitchens!

Despite the laughable income, I’d probably still be in the Service if I’d (1) been in the Air Force instead of the Army or (2) gotten just a little bit of respect for my right to live equally to the married soldiers.

  1. Air Force - The quality of living is the highest. Basic training is the easiest (324TRS)

  2. See question one for part of this answer. All services pay the same.

  3. If you can afford to wait be an officer. Being an officer is a long journey. I am enlisted. I would like to be an officer. First I must accomplish a degree.

  4. Not my forte

  5. Not my forte

  6. No officer friends. The officers look happy.

Most of this is a matter of opinion, so I’ll move the thread to IMHO.

Whatever you choose, best of luck!

Army reserve component infantry (and armor for a while, but back home to the infantry now) officer checking in.

I was commissioned as an ROTC scholarship student as a reserve component infantry officer. Loved ROTC–it was the best thing in the world for me at that age. I’d highly reccommend it for any reasonably in-shape student considering a military career. You only have to contract in your junior year, or if you take a scholarship, so it’s a good way to get a sneak-preview of life in the field and military leadership to see if you’d enjoy it before committing. I found I enjoyed it, and did very well.

The downside of ROTC was this: when I graduated it was 1992 and the army was being cut in half. I desperately wanted to go on active duty. But although I was #2 in my class, I didn’t have a choice–you go where the Army sends you, and the army simply didn’t need officers that year. THey were firing them left and right. So the Army told me to take my degree in literature and go find a job. (8 years later I finally found one. <g>)

I’ve had a very enjoyable and successful career in the National Guard, though, and wouldn’t trade that for all the tea in China.

If I were to do it over again, I would have enlisted right out of high school, done 4 years enlisted, and then gone to college on the GI Bill, and then done ROTC from there. Some guys got guaranteed active duty or guaranteed reserve duty on their contracts–I didn’t know you could do that, though. Ask.

Mustangs (prior enlisted officers–actually, I’ve heard the term used mostly to apply to officers who are former NCOs) on the whole tend to do better in the early months of their commissioned service. They’re a few years older, for one thing, and there’s no substitute for that experience. The first year as a 2nd Lieutenant is pretty tough–you’re going to make some mistakes, and take some ribbing from the troops. The mustangs’ extra experience is invaluable and really gives them a leg up in the early months.

But the younger, hard-working officers who apply themselves, and genuinely care for their soldiers quickly catch up, and often excel. Once you’ve gone through that breaking-in period and gotten your bonehead new lieutenant mistakes out of the way, and if you’re smart (which, being a doper, you are), I believe that the commissioning source doesn’t matter a lick. It’s the man, not the diploma, that counts.

If you’re reasonably athletic, and you want to be in the field with troops, go Army or Marine Corps. (If you aren’t athletic, or if your body is fragile and prone to knee and ankle injuries, it sucks to be you. You’ll have trouble keeping up.) If your strengths are more technical, then lean toward the Navy or Air Force.

No matter where you go, as an officer, you will quickly learn to accept responsibility, take the blame and share the credit (if you’re any good), plan carefully, use time wisely, and gain supervisory and management experience and people skills that will serve you well in any civilian career field there is, should you choose to leave the service.

If an officer in the Army or Marine Corps, or if you enlist but want to stay in, go for the combat arms–infantry, armor, artillery, etc. first. There is no substitute. Be a warrior first. Then seek to broaden your experience by learning signal, logistics, etc. Forget about creature comforts–they are few and far between. The Marine Corps is especially spartan–which is one of their strengths, really.

If in the Navy, I like the nuke programs, either as an officer or enlisted. THey’re tough to get in, but extremely challenging and civilians will throw money at you when you get out. Not that you’ll neccessarily want to get out, but it’s nice to have a choice.

Air Force I don’t know much about. Their golf courses and living arrangements are MUCH much better, though.

Is one service “better than” the next? Nah. All four (plus the Coast Guard) are excellent organizations full of dedicated, devoted professionals who love their country and who possess a keen sense of duty. We need all kinds of talents, and we need good men and women in all of them, in both enlisted and officer billets.

Congratulations on your interest in serving this great country. Military service will be an experience you won’t forget, and your comrades will be the best friends you’ll ever have, excepting ( I hope ) your wife (husband?)

Good luck in your career as a warrior.

My only advice, since the other Dopers have done such a good juob already, is: sign up into the Reserves. Not ROTC, not active duty*.

In the Reserves, you can declare yourself independant of your parents and instantly become eligable for loans and grants. You’ll get money from te GI Bill (206, IIRC) that should cover your rent every month and the little bit you get from your monthly drill will help, too.

The benifit of going straight Reserve is that you can continue to focus on your studies without the day-to-day BS of ROTC crap or, if you’re Active, your actual job. You can treat college as your job, but you shouldn’t have to work (except for the once-a-month thing) to pay for it.

Good luck.

[sub]*: Unless you were planning on going career military, your college training will be worth a lot more than the military training. Another thing, having even just the Reserves on your resume gets employers attention and certainly is a benifit.[/sub]

Gotta chime in with agreement here, and not just because I was a mustang. Far too many butter-bars seem to think they’re God’s gift to their organization and they haven’t a clue what their subordinates have to do and put up with. Spend a little time scrubbing heads/latrines/toilets/cans. It ain’t glamourous, but it’s necessary, and you’re not likely to forget it when you cross over to the Dark Side…

As for me, getting a commission was a mistake. I was much happier as a technician - I couldn’t deal with the politics of the wardroom. I was drawn by the money, and I regretted it almost immediately. YMMV, of course. Best of luck to ya! I was Naval Aviation - still am as a civilian. Wouldn’t have changed that for anything!