So is it actually bad if people join the military for the bennies?

Inspired by this trainwreck (and please, I’d rather we discuss the actual question than the OP of that thread). Though this might do better in IMHO since it’s both a debate and a request for personal experiences.

There was a semi-serious question in there: is it a bad thing if military enlistment is primarily a career move rather than a calling? I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t think it’s really an issue either way. But there’s a sort of idealized picture of soldiers, seamen and airmen as rosy-cheeked Nebraska farmboys who sign up to defend Truth, Justice and the American Way. Like Superman, but without the laser vision.

Maybe that’s just something that comes from recruiting materials (the Marines had a TV campaign a while back where big muscly guys climbed mountains, fought off a monster with a sword, and then is magically zapped into a dress uniform with a shiny saber).

But recruiting materials also tout the more… mercenary benefits of service. College tuition, the opportunity to develop experience that will be valuable in civilian employment, etc. Navy recruiting materials seem to be particularly big on that (perhaps because being stuck on a boat for months at a time isn’t as “romantic” as ground combat or flying fighter planes).

I have no idea what the actual numbers are, though ISTM hearing roughly equal numbers of people saying they joined to pay for college versus people saying they joined because of 9/11 or other ideological reasons.

I was in CCF when I was in the UK, and my dad was actually in the services. In the British Army (at least the officer corps) there was much less of a sense of “defending freedom” or whatever. They tended to view themselves as “professionals,” with the detachment that implies, and were sometimes even disdainful of ideologically driven people.

If you served, why did you serve? Did it ever matter to you why your cohorts served? Did it make a noticeable difference in the quality of their work/marksmanship/leadership ability/whatever? I think it’s fair to say I’m not going to get a fully balanced picture (since even military personnel on the SDMB tend to liberalism) so feel free to explain if you feel your views are typical.

No, it’s not bad. Why someone joins has very little to do with what kind of soldier/sailor/airman/marine/officer they turn out to be. In my time in the Navy, someone who joined for the GI Bill and education was just as likely to be a good sailor as someone who joined because they wanted to serve their country.

And few join for a single reason – most join for a combination, including service, adventure, travel, education, benefits, career, and more.

I joined for all these reasons, as well as just not having a good idea of what else to do. And, odd as it sounds, Star Trek was a motivator for me – I wanted to be part of the crew of a ship.

Good point. I am not suggesting that most people will make a major choice like this based on just one factor.

Was the primary reason for joining a factor in retention? I have a vague idea that people who joined as something other than a career move would be more likely to get disillusions and leave after their initial enlistment/commission/whatever was up.

Of course not. Most of us work because of the money. Why not serve in the armed forces for the benefits, particularly the training? For a lot of people, it’s a good path to a post-service career and if it works for them, great.

In my experience, by the time we’re making a decision about whether to make it a career or not, ‘why we joined’ matters very little. What matters is whether I like the job and lifestyle; whether I like the career path ahead of me (including the next few jobs I’m likely to have); whether it suits the type of life (and family life) I have/want to have; whether I make (and will make) enough money; and similar.

That’s what I thought about when I decided to get out after my 5 year commitment.

I’d ask it this way:

Imagine you are living in a small village or town in South America or The Middle East. The United Sates Military comes in and blows up half the town, kills half your family and destroys the water supply and roads. They do this by “accidentally” dropping a bomb on your house. They ransack what is left of your house and generally terrify everyone in town with their armed presence.

Do you really think you would say that was OK if they did it because they got awesome benefits?

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Reported.

I doubt the fact that a soldier liked their job would impress them much.

My dad enlisted because he was about to get drafted. I think that’s a fine reason to join. Other fine reasons: Job training, education, pay, benefits, love of a military lifestyle, love of nation. I guess I never realized that there were people judging others for WHY they enlisted.

Ok fine then, consider that the end of my comments. I disagree with you of course but if you don’t want such talk in your thread I will leave.

You know, threadshitting is usually a difficult thing to moderate. But not this time. This post is completely off topic and intentionally inflammatory.

Warning issued.

Lest there be any confusion. I am not judging anyone’s reasons. I ain’t going, and I am grateful to those who do no matter what their motivations (except possibly “killing people.”)

I joined for ideological reasons. I served alongside guys who joined for the sake of having a paying job. They were good soldiers. The guys I could have done without were the guys who joined as an alternative to doing prison time. It is a good thing that the military will no longer accept such “recruits.”

I remember when there was a draft and lottery. Very ugly!

I am happy an effort was made to make military service attractive with benefits.

And delighted that people enlist (regardless of their motivations) and there is no draft.

That was one of the biggest fallacies I saw n the other thread based on my time in boots. It’s usually a mix of multiple factors like most decisions we make in life.

As a Company Commander in the National Guard I had a lot of play in the retention arena. It was a required comment on my evalutation. :stuck_out_tongue: People changed and grew along the way. Ones who joined for reasons that weren’t heavily focused on financial tended to change less noticeably.

I spent about 25 1/2 years in the Guard and Reserve (just over 27 years in uniform including ROTC) with about 6 years mobilized. I spent a good chunk of time in mixed Active/Reserve component units. The financial is less of a motivation for the RC folks. I had Soldiers with higher paying civilian employment that directly lost money because of their service… Most long service RC troops feel the pull between conflicting careers that indirectly costs money in opportunity costs as well. AC troops, with only one boss and more access to some of the benefits, IME tended to be more aware of the financial aspects in decision making.Admittedly my experience with AC troops was almost entirely Officers and NCOs so that skews things.

Why did I walk in to the ROTC building 28 years ago this month? I didn’t do it for money. I didn’t get a scholarship and the stipend barely covered the extra cost of the classes I didn’t need to graduate. I didn’t do it because of some overwhelming sense of patriotism. I didn’t do it for specific job skills; there’s not a lot of direct call in the job market for someone who’s expert at leading combined arms teams.

I wanted to lead Soldiers. Before the Cold War ended my intent was to seek active duty after commissioning. That changed with cuts but I stayed anyway, because I loved it. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” My time in boots was far and away the best prize that my life has offered. It was time to retire when I hung up my spurs last year…past time. There’s aspects I’m glad to have in the rear view mirror. I miss leading Soldiers though. I suspect I always will.

Military service has historically been a way for certain classes to improve their lot in life. Just consider that there were soldiers who looked positively on their WWI experience, and that was the worst war to be a soldier in. Someone like Hitler went from being a vagabond to being part of an organization that fed him regularly and gave him a purpose.

I joined after High School, mainly for the adventure and a way to see the world, intending to do my four years and get out. I was lucky to actually see the world, living in lots of great places (Italy, Spain, Japan, Turkey, Philippines) and visiting more than I could probably name. After about 10 years, I thought about getting out or staying in for retirement at the twenty-year point and it actually was the great medical benefits that helped make up my mind.
The benefits had very little to do with my joining. I had seen Gomer Pyle, MAS*H and Stripes, and read Beetle Bailey, and, for all I knew that’s what my life would be like (it really wasn’t.) So for me, benefits had more to do with retention than joining.
I would assume that pay, benefits and retirement plans would play a factor in anyone’s decision to stay in their current profession.

People are really arguing over patriotic purity or which mentality makes more effective soldiers? The more obvious issue, which I thought the OP would be about given the title, is whether it’s good for society that risking life and limb for the state is one of the few avenues for escaping poverty.

If someone joins the Air Force, would it be for the bennies and the jets?


Bennies had a completely different connotation for me upon reading the thread title.