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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Are the armed forces a good place for my 20-year-old son to start a career?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (33235points) January 4th, 2011

Since graduating from high school two years ago, my son has been rudderless. He’s been in minor trouble with the law. He’s worked on a farm selling coconuts to tourists, done some long-term house-sitting, and washed dishes at a restaurant.

I’ve always respected the armed forces and been very supportive of others I’ve known who’ve joined. Yet when it’s my own son saying he wants to join, I dread the idea. I can’t help but picture him becoming cannon fodder.

I recognize that he has to live his own life. I can’t choose for him.

Specifically, he’s looking at the army and is planning on taking the ASVAB placement test right after basic training hoping to get into the Army Corp of Engineers. He did well in high school in both math and science.

What’s your experience with the armed forces personally or peripherally? Is it a good job?

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23 Answers

Seelix's avatar

If nothing else, it’ll definitely teach him some self-discipline and to respect authority.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If he goes in with the right mind set it will do him a world of good.

I would suggest he take the ASVAB before he goes to basic. It will be easier for him to get what he wants if he can get it preapproved before he enlists.

Seaofclouds's avatar

He should ask his recruiter about setting up a chance for him to take the ASVAB before he enlists. Then he can see what jobs he qualifies for before making a commitment to the military.

marinelife's avatar

It sounds like an excellent choice. It is bound to give him more discipline and maturity.

Blueroses's avatar

It can open a world of opportunities,not the least of which is the GI bill for his further education.

I would suggest that he talks with recruiters for all branches before deciding on the Army, for sure. There might be another choice that would suit him even better. Maybe there isn’t but if he’s going to commit 4–8 years of his life, his choice should be well-informed.

YARNLADY's avatar

Since he says he wants to join, the answer is yes. If someone had to be coerced, the answer would be no.

Follow the advice above. @Blueroses is correct.

Blueroses's avatar

Also remind him that recruiters are sales people and don’t take their words as unvarnished truth. Any rating that interests him, he should Google for discussion groups where he can talk to people who actually do the jobs.

Some ratings involve 4–5 weeks of skill training at A-school (after basic) and others a more intensive 6–18 month school (cryptology/translation is one). In one of the latter, he is essentially paid to obtain an Associate’s Degree.

Definitely take the ASVAB before enlisting as @Seaofclouds said. If he scores high in his areas of interest, he’ll have more options for negotiating his contract.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Also, have him get everything in writing. Recruiters will say a lot of things in order to get someone to sign up. None of it really matters if it’s not in his contract.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Thank you, @Seaofclouds

Thank you, all. This information really helps.

jerv's avatar

First off, I also say that he should take the ASVAB before signing anything. Going into the military without a guaranteed school is very unwise, and places your fate in the hands of others in a way that really sucks. The ASVAB may open some doors that will be cllosed if you are already in. Thanks to good ASVAB scores, I got a guaranteed school, went to boot camp as an E-3, and made E-4 in six months; you can’t get that sort of advancement if you go in undesignated.

Personally, I am rather biased against the Army though. I’ve always seen it as someplace for people who didn’t have the brains for the Navy or Air Farce, or the balls to become a Marine. Then again, I am ex-Navy, so I am going to rip on all of the other branches anyways, but one thing that all three agree on is that the Army is a last resort for those that want to join but can’t get into another branch.

The military in general is truly what you make of it. Some people love it and make it a life-long thing. Others hate it and do what they can to get out once they realize that it wasn’t what they thought it was. And then there are those like me who are rather neutral about it, treat it as just a job, and don’t bother to re-enlist when our contract runs out. Don’t get me wrong, I matured quite a bit, and had a lot of good times, but it also sucked in ways that you can’t believe sometimes too.

Whether it is good or bad depends on your son.

SuperMouse's avatar

Two of my brothers served in the military in the late 80’s early 90’s. Neither of them saw any combat duty and aside from some cash toward college all they came out with were drinking problems. They spent six years each (one in the Air Force one the Army) and neither one ended up using their training in the careers they eventually settled on.

On the flip side my uncle and cousin (father and son) both entered the Marine Corps after graduating college. My uncle retired a Major and his son is an active duty Colonel. They both saw combat duty (Viet Nam and Iraq) and flourished in the military.

I have a nephew who is currently serving in the Marines. He did not join as an officer, has served a tour in Iraq and just got back from Afghanistan. When he signed up with two wars going on I was terrified for him, but he is home safe now so that is a very good thing. He too loves being in the military and it seems to be serving him quite well. Now he is hoping to be accepted into OCS.

ETpro's avatar

@hawaii_jake I totally sympathize with your conflicted feelings about your son joining the Army. My son is deployed in Afghanistan right now and will be there for most of this year. I served in the Navy and have great respect for our Military and what they do, but I also know the possibility of a chance encounter with an IED is always looming. So far, my son’s doing fine.

I strongly agree with @WestRiverrat & @Seaofclouds that if he wants to sign up, he should talk to a recruiter and arrange to take the ASVAB and lock in a MOS before enlisting and going to basic. He is in a much stronger bargaining position before signing than he will ever enjoy again once enlisted.

If your son is interested in construction and can get into the Corps of Engineers, he should learn skills, discipline and work ethic that will serve him well in civilian life later on. Here’s wishing you wisdom in making a very tough decision.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Another thought, the navy and air force both have units similar to the Corps of Engineers. Like someone else mentioned, look at all the branches and pick the one that offers the most.

It won’t hurt to let the recruiters know your son is looking at the other services too.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I stayed in the US Army ( in one form or another ) for over 34 years. I dropped out of Law School to join. The military training did more for me than virtually anything else in my entire life. I strongly recommend it for anyone needing discipline and direction.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Again, thank you, all of you. Your words have helped me feel better.

And @CaptainHarley, thank you, sir, for speaking up.

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley The military ain’t what it used to be. In some ways, it’s a little too “kinder and gentler”.

The entire time I was in, I had a problem with respecting a collar device or a set of stripes; if the man wearing them was a schmuck then there was no way I would respect him, and only a 50/50 chance that I would even fake it well enough to avoid disciplinary action.

It may work for many people, but it isn’t universally successful. Look at me :D

CaptainHarley's avatar

LOL @jerv

I have learned to take what you say with a very large dose of salt, dude! : D

iamthemob's avatar

I would check to see if there are any good resources/forums of discussion that are relatively independent for people who entered and left the military thereafter, willingly or through discharge, and see if he can talk to/read about their experiences.

There are people for whom it’s a mistake to enter the military. Those are the people you want to get information from to figure out if it would be a mistake for you to enter if you’re thinking about it.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Perhaps surprisingly enough, I agree. The military is defintely not for everyone.

iamthemob's avatar


We agree on certain general points more than you might like to think. Our disagreements tend to stem not from whether we agree on a point, but whether you seem to be refusing to apply the actual standards you’re claiming to or apply those standards equally to yourself and your group as well as your outgroups. ;-)

CaptainHarley's avatar

LOL! Nooo comment! : P

Blueroses's avatar

You might check this forum

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Thanks, @Blueroses : I passed the link on to my son.

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