Sometimes we jump into things that we don't fully understand. This pertains to many different crossroads of life. We don't always know where we'll end up, but sometimes hindsight is truly always 20/20.
u/dumbuffoon asked: Military members of reddit, what's one thing you wish that you knew before joining?
The sad truth.
It's an inhuman machine that doesn't care about you. This isn't inherently a bad thing; it just is. But what it means is that you need to look out for your own interests - the military will not.
Any attempt to guilt you out of looking out for your own interests is misguided at best and predatory at worst. The "We're all brothers in arms" creed applies to the very, very few individuals whom you trust with your life. Everyone else is part of the machine. Look out for them too as part of being a decent adult, but put your own oxygen mask on, first.
Broader advice for those joining: Save. Your. Money. Literally all of your income is disposable; your shelter, utilities, food, gym, medical, and dental are covered. This is the one time in your life when you can easily save more than half your income and still have enough to party. You can very easily save up a down payment on a house while you're in; that, a valuable job skill, and the GI Bill can set you up extremely well for success in the civilian world.
Alternatively, you can get a brand-new Mustang at 19% APR from the local dealership and throw the remainder of your paycheck at strippers. Same thing, I guess.
Wait until October 1st at least to join. Don't join in September.
Why? Fiscal year starts 10/1, which is also generally when all the good jobs become available. And then get your MOS (job) put in writing in the contract.
Your recruiter is there to put butts in seats for whatever branch. If you want something, have it put in writing. He doesn't necessarily give two sh!ts about you-some do, most will straight screw you to make a quota.
A lot of people probably don't know that.
The recruitment process is a negotiation, and it represents the last time that you'll have all the power in your relationship with the military.
I joined and went into a high demand MOS at the height of the war on terror. Most people in my training platoon had received bonuses in the tens of thousands of dollars, and some of them picked otherwise hard to get follow-on training (such a Airborne school if you are not in combat arms) or even selected all-but-impossible to get first duty stations. I, meanwhile, received a sandwich, because I wasn't aware of the power dynamic.
On a less serious note, some portion of the people who join will do so because they have heard that "Women love a man in uniform." The more important axiom to remember is that the love for a man in uniform is inversely proportional to their proximity to a military base. This axiom is well earned and constantly reinforced.
That Recruiters jobs are basically to funnel people into specific jobs that maybe they are down in numbers on... so that AMAZING job and skill-set that you are a perfect fit for with your test scores... is likely just Johnny Recruiter meeting his numbers.
Go. To. Medical. when things hurt. Not change your socks. Not ignore it. Tell them it's an 8+ out of 10 on the pain scale or they won't document it. Then when you get out, you can have a valid history and have accountability, versus the VA disregarding your injuries as service-related and telling you to pound sand.
The worst part of your early military service is not basic training. It's MEPS. MEPS is a domain of the damned and full of the biggest a-holes in uniform. You will face a battery of exhausting tests and paperwork and when you are the most tired, they will try to push into some or other career field that is undermanned.
Do not make a decision based on what they tell you. They are not your friend and don't give the slightest s**t, they just have boxes to fill. Pick the job you want. They might tell you "well, no openings there.. might take a while". This is often a total lie. Call them on it. Walk out the door. Wait if you have to. It's way better to wait a few months than to have a job you hate and are stuck with for years.
Great advice my recruiter gave me (believe it or not!):
At MEPS, the correct answer to most questions is "no". Ever had a speeding ticket? No. If you say yes to these questions, you still get in.. it just often means more delays and paperwork.
At basic training:
Never volunteer for anything, ever.
Be as invisible as possible; you don't want your DI/TI to know your name or anything about you as long as possible.
Almost nothing that happens at basic training (apart from learning basic stuff) matters for your career. Nobody cares about honors, you will probably never see any of those people again.
It's a very short amount of time, really. Don't get invested, don't get upset at the idiots in your group.. remember it'll be over soon. Knuckle down and do what you have to get by.
If you want a specific job, DO NOT sign the contract until your recruiter gets that job for you.
I wanted a cyber job in the Air Force and my recruiter told me to go in open electrical and hope I get cyber because it would be too long of a wait to be guaranteed that job. I ended up with a job I hated instead.
The military will take whatever it wants from you, so make sure you get all you possibly can from it.
The real world.Giphy
That the day to day work is a lot less Full Metal Jacket and a lot more Office Space.
That it isn't an exception to other government organizations.
Minimal budget with maximum paperwork hurdles.
Somehow planes and missiles and bombs get bought daily and often recklessly, but it you want a paperclip you'll have to cry your eyes out only to hear that the allotted budget for office supplies has run out... in May.
That should probably be expected.
Run, do push ups, and do sit ups, even if you're going into the Air Force.