General Question

Scarlett's avatar

What are the Pros and Cons of joining the Military?

Asked by Scarlett (915points) July 26th, 2010


Would like to know what you guys think are the pros and cons of joining todays military ?

Is it different for men and women ?

Would the Air Force be the best option for a girl ?



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41 Answers

Jay484's avatar

i would think that theres one big cons of joining the military today is the chance of getting killed by an IED
The reason im joining when im older is to do something for my country because i feel that sitting at home and doing nouthing while there are wars going on i feel like im wasting my life

Blackberry's avatar

Just join the Air force or Navy. Pros: You will travel, %100 Tuition. Cons: The amount of money you will make is disheartening in the beginning but gets better after awhile, leaving family, possibility of going to a war-zone.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Which branch is best depends on what training you want.

It will pay for college, and you could get VA benefits. It also gives you preference points on civil service and postal exams. It will help you mature and teach you discipline.

Cons – The government owns you for 6 years, more in some jobs. You could get killed or wounded. You will probably spend some time in the cesspools of the world.

tadpole's avatar

you will waste less of your youth watching tv and listening to pop music…

on the other hand you will get a short back and sides and get told what to do a lot….

gorillapaws's avatar

One MAJORY con that nobody has mentioned is that you may be put in a situation where you need to take the life of either an innocent, or a child soldier. I think that would be harder than being killed/wounded myself.

josie's avatar

There is no con.
You will never, ever regret the pride that you can justifiably claim by voluntarily serving in the armed forces. Which branch depends on what duty might interest you. Air Force is nice, male or female, because there is no infantry. If you do not fancy yourself as a killer, Air Force is a great choice (unless you fly of course). Plus, there are educational opportunities, and if you stay in for a while you will meet a lot of very motivated and focused people who will influence you in a very positive way. I recommend it very highly.

whitenoise's avatar

Second that @gorillapaws.

The military isn’t suited for all.

One may contract serious mental injuries, not in the least from possibly being exposed to and exposing others to extreme levels of violence that degrade the very essence of “valuing human life”.

For some, however, the military do offer a great basis for growth and physical and mental strength.

Think deeply, however, there is a great difference between supporting your troops and being one of them. You may have to injure or harm enemy personnel, and these are – on an individual level – in general people that differ little from you or me.

laureth's avatar

Con: we are in a war. This greatly increases the chances of you coming home in a bag.

josie's avatar

@laureth. So sorry. I stupidly figured OP already factored in the obvious risk in signing up. The don’t call it the military and imply that you will spend your time picking up litter by the highway. But thanks for clearing that up.

jerv's avatar

@laureth Only for “groundpounders”. Somehow, I doubt that Al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents can match us on the seas, and the Air Farce generally operates from either far away or far above, so there is little risk there.

@whitenoise PTSD isn’t just for combat vets. Personally, I can’t face going into a classroom environment after Nuke School; too much info too fast, and spending a minimum of 90 hours a week in the classroom (45 class time and 35–80 studying since your notes and books couldn’t leave the building) burnt me out on academia.
And yes, there is the possibility that you may be in harms way or have to do something that ends the lives of others, even if it’s just entering coordinates and pushing a button; you have to accept that. Of course, other means are preferable, but diplomacy doesn’t always work. In fact, that is pretty much the entire reason that the military exists; diplomacy by force. Sure, you might build schools or water plants for refugees, but you might not. You might be a supply clerk well behind friendly lines, but you might not.

@josie There are cons, unless you are the type of person that dedicates their entire being into the service. Do you have a spouse and/or kids? Try not seeing them for a few months, possibly not even communicating with them at all for long periods. I could list more, but one will suffice to prove my point.
On balance, military service is usually a good thing, but it’s not all good. I don’t regret my 5½ years, but I can’t honestly say that it was all sunshine and lollipops either.

josie's avatar

@jerv I do not regret my years in the service either. And there were ups and downs to be sure. But I (and I assume you) volunteered. Nobody promised me anything other than that I was signing up to be a soldier, which can be gross, horrifying and a challenge to the sensibilities. But it was still voluntary. I know what you are saying, but we factor those things in when we sign.

whitenoise's avatar

@jerv re “other means are preferable, but diplomacy doesn’t always work. In fact, that is pretty much the entire reason that the military exists; diplomacy by force.”

Some people may see the presence of military alternatives (both at ones own as well as at the opposing party) as the reason that diplomacy doesn’t always work.
But from what you wrote, I take it that you and I more or less agree.

And… yes being a teacher isn’t everyone’s cup of tea either.
Neither is being a butcher, nor being a farmer, nor…


wundayatta's avatar

They sell you on things like education benefits. Or honor. Service. Straightening you up. Or learning certain valuable technical skills that might earn you a lot when you get out. If you get out.

But you are more likely to get killed in the armed services than most other jobs. Plus you are locked into the service for a lot of years, and even when you get out, they still own you.

There are other ways of getting an education that don’t involve joining the armed services. Even if you have no money.

Most nations seem to feel they need an army, and someone has to serve. Costa Rica has no army and they’ve done well without one for a long time. They are more prosperous than most nations in that region.

The military drives technological development through their persistent demand for ever better ways of killing. However, some people suggest that we’d be even further advanced technologically, if the military hadn’t sucked up all that talent. If you join the military, you are supporting that way of thinking. If you don’t, you are supporting a more progressive way of thinking. Not everyone cares about that.

If you join the services, you will be popular. In some times. In others, you will be condemned. Right now, people in the service are popular. Who knows how long that will last. Especially given the secret data that has just been released.

Blackberry's avatar

@wundayatta Is there a thread about those leaks yet? I was wondering how people felt about that Wikileaks website.\

Edit: Nevermind I found it.

josie's avatar

@wundayatta It is still voluntary. And clearly, it seems, it is not something that you personally would volunteer for, or if you did by mistake before, volunteer for again. I am getting a little old to be an enthusiastic killer (Jefferson said that Priam should not wear the armor of Hector), but at the time I knew I was serving an important purpose. I was changed by some things that I saw and did, but not necessarily for the worse.

semblance's avatar

Cons -

1. Getting killed.

2. Getting maimed for life.

3. Possible psychological problems.

4. Getting hit on a lot is more of a problem for women than men. I have no personal experience on this, but some people who do say that unwelcome lesbian advances are almost as common as unwelcome male advances.

5. Being under someone else’s total and at times possibly unreasonable control, without the option of quitting.

6 Possible forced long term commitment long after the time you signed up for. Some might call that a form of slavery or indentured servitude.

Pros -

Unless you are doing it for patriotic reasons, the only “pro” I can think of is that the educational benefits after serving your term are pretty good. However, most people don’t take advantage of them. It seems that after serving in the military most people are too much in a hurry with getting on with their lives and find that they don’t want to take the time to go back to school.

Being in the Air Force probably does carry less risk of getting killed or maimed.

Please let us know what you decide to do.

Blackberry's avatar

@semblance People do waste the educational benefits, I am not sure how much, but I wasted 5 years of doing absolutely nothing except partying and working. I have started now, but one of my biggest regrets is not starting when I joined. I would already have a degree right now.

jerv's avatar

@josie Nuke School offered a sweet deal, so yes. Afterwards, I found out what Navy really stands for: Never Again Volunteer Yourself :D

@wundayatta @semblance Considering the jobs I’ve had, I am at more risk of being maimed or killed than I ever was in the Navy. I take it neither of you have ever worked in manufacturing. Milling machines don’t care what they cut, electricity doesn’t care where it flows, and Seattle drivers don’t care who else is on the road. I felt safer on board an aircraft carrier than I do here. Hell, I have a higher risk of being shot at here than when I was in the military!

@semblance I’ve had unreasonable bosses in civilian jobs as well, Sometimes they ordered me to do very risky stuff. As for civilians having the option of quitting… I guess you haven;t seen the economy for the last few years. And yes, there are ways out of the military.

@Blackberry If I coul’ve overcome that fear I mentioned earlier and been able to afford the colleges in the Northeast while still eating and living indoors, I would’ve had mine long ago. As it stands, I won’t ever need to take any math or physics classes if I do go back to school, and I could do an electrical apprenticeship in a few months instead of years due to prior experience.

semblance's avatar

@jerv – I never suggested that civilian employment was ideal. However, it would be foolish to suggest that someone who joins the military has the same freedoms that a civilian employee does. There may be an economic consequence if one walks off the job in civilian life, but no one is going to send you to jail for it.

wundayatta's avatar

@josie No. I would never join. I can’t advise anyone else to, either. However, at least I mentioned some pros here. In other answers, I have not even gone that far. I was trying to be a little more objective here, but I am not totally convinced that the armed services are necessary.

Here’s an even more unpopular point of view. Most people say they support the troops, but not the mission, or something like that. Since it is a voluntary armed service, I believe that everyone who joins is saying they support the mission. It’s hard for me to support someone who is willing to kill for something I think is wrong. People don’t have to join.

@jerv I know that there are dangerous jobs out there. Coal mining was the one I had in mind when I wrote that. That’s why I qualified what I said: “But you are more likely to get killed in the armed services than most other jobs.”

So, yes. If you are in a mining job or a manufacturing job where you work closely with body-mangling machines, then sure, the armed services could be safer. But I think the OP is female, and I doubt she’d be considering manufacturing jobs as an alternative. But who knows. Maybe she wants to be a fire fighter.

I’m just not a person for “heroic” jobs. I’d rather use the noggin to avoid problems than to have to use the body to fight problems. As I have said many times before, war is a failure of diplomacy. If our nation were good at diplomacy, then the armed services would be as safe as any other police or marine or aviation job. Well, probably safer than police, since they wouldn’t actually be chasing people with guns.

jerv's avatar

@wundayatta I went in to study nuclear propulsion, and I never learned about weapons beyond what I already knew by age 4 (my parents had firearms). The school I went to was all about problem-solving and using your brain. The military is diverse, and not all of us fit the stereotype that many people have about the military.

How can you use a gun to isolate a B-phase ground? What combat skills do you use to troubleshoot a faulty bus transfer? Okay, hauling shore power cables is a simple matter of brute force, but paralleling an SSTG to shore power properly afterwards so that you don’t lose electrical power for even an instant (or blow shit up in a spectacular lightning storm) requires using your head.

Not all servicemembers are “dumb grunts” and I saw quite a few females in Engineering, Operations, and especially Aviation while I was in. It takes more than muscles and marksmanship to maintain an F/A-18 or decrypt encoded radio transmissions.

Scarlett's avatar

Well for me it’s either the Army or Air Force. I’m a 20 year old girl.

I want to do something hands on with people, I don’t want to work behind a computer or office, but be hands on talking with people.

My Air Force recruiter said I should be a military police.

Scarlett's avatar

I want to go in because I really need direction in my life. I feel like I’m floating, and I’m pretty much on my own right now. I want something challenging both physically and mentally.

I’ve been struggling deciding if I should join the military or stay a civilian here and try to go to college, get a job, and just try to figure life out here.

Scarlett's avatar

I wanted to join the military to get some direction, and also the financial and educational benefits. I just got out of a Homeless Shelter, and I’m on my own, so I was thinking hmmm, they could give me structure, and I’ll have a roof over my head, while travel the world, and gain new experiences.

Scarlett's avatar

I’ve been battling it out because I’m sort of an artistic female, and girly girl. Not saying just because a woman joins the military she has to be butch, but I am very self-expressive.

So I’ve been fighting whether I’d rather be free in my creativity, or join the service to get my life going, because right now I feel “Stuck” so to speak.

Scarlett's avatar

Oh and I’ve had some depression before, in my teen highschool years. But I think I’m more depressed right now not knowing what to do in life.

If I had money to go to school and a stable living situatuion then I don’t think I would join.

Scarlett's avatar

I feel like a lost soul right now so to speak that is another reason why i wanted to join, was to get direction.

wundayatta's avatar

How many women do you find on the shop floor in heavy industry, these days?

Never mind. We’re talking right past each other. It’s a silly point. Although it would be interesting to see how many female engineers or whatever end up in heavy industry.

Pandora's avatar

Looking from the outside in. (Married to a retired military man for years.)
I spent 18 years with my husband out of the 22 years of service he did so I can only point out what I’ve observed and what I’ve been told by him and many other service members over the years.

It is not a job. It is not a career, it is a way of being.
Pros are as follows. There are some benefits already mentioned. School, medical but I’m sure you are aware of those things.
So I wish to mention things people over look.
1.There is a kinship that you will find doesn’t exist in the civilian world. It does become one large family.
2. There is the knowledge that those you work with all share the same goal.
3. There is pride in what you do.
4. There is the knowledge that when you or your family is in need that there will always be someone to help you through the rough times. The military does take care of it own and its extended family.
5. Plenty of days off.
6. It will help to build your self esteem and character the longer you stay in.
7. You will learn what it means not to quit.
8. You will always be a family member even when you are out.
9. There will be many mentors and you will learn how to mentor yourself.
10. Out of all the branches the airforce promotes the idea of furthering your education more than any other branch.
11. The military branches may compete against each other and joke about who is better but in truth there is always and underline respect for each other.
12. You will find it easier for you to get a job when you get out than if you remain civilian.
a. Because you will have years of experience in your field.
b. veterans have preferance.
c. many employers either once served themselves or at least see the difference in character when compared to a civilian person. They know you understand the meaning of hard work and that you will probably be less likely to quit right away.
d. employers also know that you understand better than most that to achieve promotion you have to work hard to get it.
13. You learn valuable leadership skills
14. Sense of adventure
15. Most of all it gives you a strong sense of purpose.

Cons, Obvious are death, death of someone else, and possibly
1.Yes they will help you out with family but its not a perfect system. Sometimes they drop the ball when you needed them most.
2.Many deployments are possible which means you may not be around for many special occassions.
3. Lonliness sometimes lead some military folks to marry out of desperation, only to discover a few kids later that it was a mistake. (however the same mistakes happen in the civilian world)
4. You may feel like your abandoning your family when you deploy. Especially during times they may need you.
5. Every place does have a group of the wrong people. Being far from home may lead you in moments of weakness to be persuaded by these people to do foolish things that jepordize your relations back home. Or even jepordize you work.
6. There will be many times when you will feel isolated and alone even though you are surrounded by friends and family.
7. Of them all, I think death doesn’t bother most as much of the thought of being badly wounded at a young age and not being able to care for yourself or maybe feel like a burden to someone else when released.
8. Many find it hard to adjust to civilian life afterwards. Its a different lifestyle and mentality. When you get out you have to fight to look ahead at what is in your future and not look behind missing what you left behind.
9. In time of war.
Deployed to places where you may feel you can’t trust anyone but another military member.
It may be dirty, cold beyond belief, or hotter than hell.
Little water to shower,
or on a ship your are in cramp quarters, water smells like kerosene, everybody knows your business, fights, jealousy, drunks, foul language, (in close quarters its easier for people to loose there temper)

Of all the branches the Air Force is probably best however there are a lot of deployments. Of course a lot of it has to do with what MOS you chose.
Army promotes faster than most. ( I think)
Also what kind of danger you may be put in also depends on your MOS. Some jobs are primarily kept in the states. Not too many these days since most of those jobs are handed to contractors.
I’m not trying to discourage you from joining. But it must be something you are willing to do 100%.
It never works out for those who thought it just as a job. They are the ones who go in and complain all the time and make it difficult for those who want to be there.

In the end. Know that once in you no longer have your own freedom. The military owns you. You have to be willing to deal with that concept. Even though you fight to maintain american civilians freedom an to protect them. Do not expect open gratitude. Many believe it is something that can magically be achieved by just chatting up our neighbors. Few realize the sacrifice that must be made to achieve our sense of Freedom.

semblance's avatar

@Scarlett – From the profile you’re developing for us, dear, I really don’t think you would be very happy in the military and almost certainly not in the military police! You’re recruiter ought to have her or his head examined. Creative people naturally question authority and don’t tend to do really well in really structured environments. I

I’ve never had it quite as rough as you because I never had to try to live out of a homeless shelter, but I was close. Back then, we were in the middle of a regional recession which is now almost forgotten in everyone’s minds. I actually worked full time in security awhile just to pay the bills while I went to school. I wasn’t the kind of young lady suited for the job and got smacked around a number of times. I stuck it out, though, through most of college and fortunately never got seriously injured.

My advice to you is to think about a career path you would like to pursue if you had the resources for an education right now and then work backwards from there. There are many great careers that allow for creative expression – architecture, advertising design, filmography, and even surveying. I think that you’ll find most creative and lucrative jobs do involve office work to some degree, but they also involve working and talking with others and often involve time outside of the office. There are plenty of counselors at just about every college that can help you with considering different careers.

Figure out how you can go to school part time – probably nights – and work at the same time. I would start with courses at a community college. If you can figure out what education you want to pursue and a part time program to start on, then hopefully you may be able to find a job (not in security) which you can scrape by on for as long as it takes to earn that degree. I know that times are difficult for many right now and what I suggest isn’t easy.

Good luck to you.

woodcutter's avatar

the military will give people structure and discipline. You will learn to think on your feet, very important life skills. America’s 20 somethings will benefit from this as too many of them cannot find their asshole with both hands in a funnel.

wundayatta's avatar

From what I understand, one of the ideas of basic training is to crush out any ideas other than the officially prescribed ones. Then they rebuild you in their preferred mold. At some point, if you get high enough, a little creativity may be called for, but only that which is seen to be in service of the desired goal.

It’s not for artsy fartsy, rebellious types, unless you want to get rid of artsy-fartsy rebellion. If you are tired of being creative, then I’m pretty sure they can relieve you of the burden. And I wouldn’t worry. They are very good at what they do. You will be a team player by the end of basic training, no matter what.

jerv's avatar

@Scarlett I have to side with @semblance here; it doesn’t sound like the military would be good for you. I joined for entirely different reasons. If nothing else, the depression may disqualify you from entering the military in the first place.
There are other ways to get direction in life, and at your age my life was fairly directionless despite having been in for a year, completed schooling, and going on my first deployment. I am not sure what would be best for you, but I am damn sure that the military isn’t it.


@wundayatta We do talk past each other, and I concede that not many women do pretty much because they think like you. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy really; if you convince girls that certain fields are male-dominated then they will steer clear and perpetuate the stereotypes of women being secretaries, and I find that sad.

Just out of curiosity, if you had been trained as an interior communications electrician or diesel mechanic and done that job long enough to earn a few stripes, isn’t it possible that you would at least try to work in a related field when you got out? Or how about not even getting into those jobs and getting that training if it’s not your cup of tea?

You have to be a team player even if you never set foot in the military, so I refute that statement. If I couldn’t work well with others, I would be bounced out on my ass from my current job and most of the other jobs I have ever had. They like people who follow orders (naturally) but we had a few guys on my second ship get a recording contract and the Navy actually has a Musician rating (MU). They don’t mind creative, and certain jobs demand creativity. Hell, even in Engineering department, sometimes you have to think outside the box to get stuff done, or at least keep things going until you have a chance to get proper replacement parts.

I find it a little odd that you are going on guesswork rather than experience here and yet feel you have greater authority. I don’t feel that the military is for everyone since it is a bad fit for many people like the OP but I really take issue with agenda-driven falsehoods, propaganda, and proselytizing.

Jabe73's avatar

Make sure you choose the branch that will best suit you and try not to rely on other people’s opinions more than your own. The military isn’t for everyone. Make sure you are making this decision for the right reasons.

wundayatta's avatar

@jerv I think I’ve made it clear that what I am saying is based on opinion and conjecture. People can take that for what it’s worth. Well, not completely conjecture. I know a number of people who have been in the services and who are not very happy with their experience. I have also worked with people who have been in the service. I’ve also read about it and watched an interesting documentary about basic training. I am also very clear about my political feelings about the armed services.

I agree with you about women in traditionally male jobs. I’d like to see more of that. Do not confuse my descriptions of reality with my wishes about what reality should be. However, there is a lot of evidence that these disparities are not because of lack of opportunity or access. They are due to personal choices.

If I were in the armed services and were trained to do something specific, I’m sure I would try to get a job in that field, unless I found I didn’t like it. I’d also get more education, if I were entitled to that benefit. I’m not arguing against people working in fields they are trained in. Out of curiosity, are there equal numbers of men and women amongst the diesel mechanics in the services?

As to being a team player—I agree. You need to be able to work well with others anywhere. However the military model for being on a team is only one possible model. Do you know any of the others? I was not saying that being a team player is bad; just that the military will make you one, no matter what, and in doing so, they will break you down, personally, and rebuild you in their mold.

As to creativity—I would argue that every job demands creativity. However creativity surely is discouraged in many jobs in the military. I think they call it insubordination. Certainly in the civilian world, there are also ways that you can be insubordinate, but at least you have more of a choice about whether you want to take such a job.

Oh, and like you, I also take issue with agenda-driven falsehoods, propaganda, and proselytizing.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I was initially reluctant to answer this question, as my military career was greatly different from any the OP is likely to encounter; but I’ll give my perspective.

I joined the Army after completing a Masters degree, largely for reasons of family tradition. I initially intended to spent four years as a junior officer then return to my PhD studies. I found that the structure and traditions of military life suited me; I made a 29 year career in the Corps of Engineers, retiring last year.

The questioner is interested in career training and educational opportunities. If all the Air Force recruiter can offer is Air Police, she should be aware that the MOS is the most likely to encounter ground combat of any in the USAF. She would likely be assigned to guarding an air base in the Middle East or Central Asia, prime targets for insurgent attacks. The only civilian use for that training would be private security or police, who are swamped with ex-military applicants already. Almost anything in the Army for junior enlisted personnel will involve service in a war zone. The Navy may be the best option if she doesn’t want to see combat (although smaller ships have seen action), but enlisted promotion is the slowest of all the US armed forces.

Unless one has high aptitude scores or already has a college education, the armed forces can only offer dangerous or menial service for 4–6 years in exchange for low pay, little choice of location and the prospect of a college education later. If one intends to serve for patriotic reasons it’s an entirely different matter, I’d never advise against someone doing that.

mattbrowne's avatar

Pro: You will protect other people.

Cons: Higher risk of getting hurt. Being away from your family.

jerv's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I don;t know about the slow promotion. I was E-3 on day 1 of Boot Camp, E-4 in six months, and saw a few make E-5 in under a year. That involved a special, hard-to-get school and a re-up, but that doesn’t mean advancement is slow. Hell, we had one guy that dropped out and went back to E-3 but managed to hit E-9 in 12 years anyways. Some rates really are closed, but to make a blanket statement that advancement is sow in the Navy isn’t entirely accurate.
Aside from that, great answer.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@jerv You were a nuc. You have to have great test scores just to get into those schools, even the washouts typically do well. If the AF recruiter is pushing AP at her, she probably doesn’t have the test scores to get into the elite schools that we did. I went from Army E-1 to E-5 in 8 weeks, was an O-1 after 5 months and an O-3 less than 3 years later, but it was a special program for candidates with engineering degrees. My career flattened out at O-5 and I was only given O-6 as a courtesy because I was retiring soon.

jerv's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I know people that were in for 10 years and never hit E-5 as well. All I am saying is that your blanket statement was a bit too all-inclusive.

Also, I don’t recall there being any mention of testing or anything, so I assumed that the AF recruiter was just going after any warm body they could get for a shitty billet. The Army was pushing Cavalry Scout on me.. and they knew my ASVAB scores!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@jerv True, he’s probably pushing Sky Cops because of a quota.

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