This is the first of a series of posts that I’m sending to the MGers. It follows the Salt Lake Sit-Downs that I did recently with Rob and Bullrush. I choose to do the series here to share some of my experiences from my time in the U. S. Army, to provide information so that anyone out there, in MG Land, who is considering donning the uniform to make as informed a decision as they can. There’s no better way to get information than to talk to someone who did it, and who’s willing to talk about it. This wasn’t always the case with WW II, Korean, or Vietnam veterans. Times are different now, and we have a more robust Internet with which to share information.
Also, how I approach this is a little more “raw” than the cheerleaders out there, or those who are more focused on talking about the Good, and not so much the Bad. Even less, the Ugly. I also approach this as only I can . . . someone who is well-read, can write well, and who believes, with the benefit of lots of life experience and observation, that this sheds light on often overlooed nooks and crannies. Yet, I’m also trying to be balanced, but that’s for you, MGers, to decide.
Let’s get to it . . .
MY STORY (QUICKLY)
Unlike many people who enlist in the military around 18 years old, I enlisted at 32.
Now, you may ask, why did I choose to enlist at a (relatively) older age? There were several reasons, but here are the standouts:
- I needed a reset in my life, because I felt that I was a bit rudderless and I didn’t like the direction I was going in.
- I was looking for adventure, more so than just sitting at a desk all day.
- I was looking to travel the world (especially Europe).
- I was looking to challenge myself, and take advantage of a life-changing experience before I did get too old.
- Given that Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was under way, and still in the wake of 9/11, I decided that it was better to move toward the madness, in a manner of speaking, and not sit on the sidelines. The “madness” of which I speak was a strong current, and I needed to be on a strong current.
But, most importantly . . .
I needed a steady job, especially after what I had been doing up until that time.
Let me say more about the last point. Until I was well on my way to basic training in early 2004, I had spent most of my life either in school, prepping to attend school, graduating from school, working at shitty low-wage labor and service jobs, dealing with unemployment or underemployment, and reading and watching classic movies a lot. From an early age, I found ways to keep myself occupied that didn’t involve drugs, alcohol, or loose women . . . and am better for it.
However, what always eluded me was a decent, “professional” job, with a decent, “professional” wage or salary, where I could save money, be out on my own and be on a steady path, and start accomplishing some of my longer-term goals. My inherent laziness notwithstanding, I found it hard to move in a consistent direction because of where I come from (northeast Ohio), where there are few professional jobs to be had because the area was once a manufacturing hub, and now is one of the many areas in the Midwest/Rust Belt that has been dying a slow, agonizing death for many years. Put simply, the area was in steep decline, even closer to the major cities.
Also, my background was academic and in the liberal arts, and I didn’t have any hard skills to call upon. Yes, that was a blunder that took me a few years to overcome, but also made worse by the shitty economy I mentioned above, and because I didn’t have the resources to move to a larger city in a more robust economy, so that I could move forward much better. As I said, when you’ve spent a good portion of your working life either unemployed or underemployed, it’s hard to save money to get yourself steady.
My job for the past 20 years has been in IT. I got into the field in early 2000, right around the time of the tech bust. Not surprisingly, there were few jobs (and even fewer jobs in Ohio) to be had. Then, when I moved (the first time) to the Washington, DC area in 2001 to work at a start-up, things took another turn for the worse when 9/11 happened. Fortunately, I was nowhere near the Pentagon when it got hit, but the shockwave from that event reverberated in the area, and the rest of the country, for at least a year or so afterwards. When my time with the start up was coming to an end in early 2003, I had already investigated joining the military. Though I was much older compared to the average recruit, who enlists at 17-19 years old, I had years of life experience and the habit of doing my research thoroughly so that I could make an informed decision and not be taken for a ride. Had I decided to enlist when I was 17 and fresh out of high school, I probably would have made some serious errors because I was wet behind the years.
After doing some research, and after going to one recruiter, who was ready to disqualify me for a handful of reasons, I finally pulled the trigger and successfully enlisted in the summer of 2003. Basic training didn’t come for another six months. That was in January 2004 at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Home of the Infantry.
SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?
Now let’s leave my story for you, the dude thinking of enlisting.
This is a question only you can answer, obviously. This is your life, and I’m not you. What I have to say in posts after this one is based on the decisions I made in 2003, the circumstances in which I made those decisions, what was going on at the time, and how amenable the people involved were with me in providing me with the rocket booster to get moving. The year is now 2020, and the world is a different place than it was 15+ years ago . . . and even nearly 20 years ago, if you count Operation Enduring Freedom (e.g., Afghanistan). Things might be tougher for you, or easier. Whichever one this might be, you decide.
And, be prepared to play the long game, while keeping your eyes open for opportunities. In my view, this is good advice for anyone going through life. As the saying goes, “Man plans; God laughs.” Nothing is guaranteed, except maybe that you have the power, and some resources, to make the best decision you can make.
With that out of the way, let me break down the common reasons why someone considers enlisting in the military:
- A sense of patriotism (whatever that means).
- A sense of service. Because I live in “the best country on earth,” it’s my duty/obligation to give back to society.
- A sense of revenge or retribution. This was a fairly common reason why people enlisted right after 9/11.
- A history of family service. My granddaddy did it. My daddy did it. I have to do it. And so on, and so on . . .
- I’m a teenage reprobate, and the court gave me a decision. Enlist or go to jail. (Kind of Hobson’s choice, if you ask me.) This reason you might have heard in years past. It’s still valid today.
- I want a steady job, because fast food, casual labor, and the chicken plant aren’t doing it for me.
- I can’t afford college, so I want the GI Bill.
- I’m like a leaf on a river, with no direction in mind. The military might be a good way for me to have direction, see the world, etc.
There are more reasons I could give, but these are the most common. I’m sure that at least one of these apply to you. One or two of them certainly applied to me when I was seriously considering it in 2003.
For sure, if things are awful in your life and your home life, and you really want to hit the reset button, joining the military is as good a reason as any to get you out of your present circumstances. You just have to make sure that you’re in good physical shape, have a clean record, and be firm and resolute in what you want from what service. That’s not guaranteed, I want to stress, but you again have to play the long game.
When you go active duty, the minimum timeline you have is four years; the maximum is 20, where you retire with a pension. (Though that has now changed; see the blended retirement system now in effect.) Few make it to 20 or 20+ years, and many others are short-termers, doing one or two tours of duty. Thinking that you’re going to “do your 20” is, in my view, a very ambitious and a huge stretch goal. As I’ll cover in subsequent posts, there are several risks to your life and limb that could derail that plan.
At worst, you could be killed in a combat operation or a training accident. Below that is the risk of being seriously injured and then being medically retired, because it’s in the military’s best interest to get rid of you if you’re broken. And, at best, you simply can’t stand the bullshit of the military, long term, and decide that one tour of duty is more than enough. If one tour is all you can stand, don’t feel bad about it or that you’re inadequate. The military is tough on everyone, and many can’t cut the mustard.
But, if you do decide to be a short-termer, then you should do it strategically, so that you’re not worse off than you were before you enlisted. Apply Red Pill knowledge here and keep your eyes on the prize.
That’s all for now, potential recruits, until next time. Dismissed.