Soldiers Share What They Wish They Knew Before Enlisting

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Joining the military has its perks, but some soldiers' expectations weren't quite in line with reality. Inspections? Better be perfect. Want to advance? It's arbitrary. Oh, and you're going to miss the heck out of your friends and family.

Hotzspot asked, Soldiers of Reddit, what is something you wish you knew before joining the armed forces?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

That middle 5 percent though...

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90% of soldiering is being cold, wet, exhausted, hungry, bored and pissed off.

5% is running around shooting things.

The remaining 5% is cleaning all the stuff you used to shoot things with.

You can apply this to many job fields.

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Don't pick a job that seems like it would be "cool". They're all sh***y. Pick one that will get you some of training or certification you can use after you get out. Or just pick one that stays indoors working on computers.

Never thought of soldiers being bored after returning from the front lines.

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  1. Airborne infantry is a lot of physical work in an environments paired with nonsensical busy work with no payoff. Bad leaders will destroy your moral, but good leaders will shield you from them.
  2. Get a job that translates into a "real world" career.
  3. Realize that when you deploy, you will live through highest and lowest the human experience can offer. When you return, it will be utter disappointment and prepare yourself to endure that forever.

Can't even imagine.

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How badly being in the infantry would affect my back, shoulders, and knees. I wish I had joined as a medic from the beginning instead of waiting until I had left and was a reservist to do it.

Sergeants aren't supposed to be nice.

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How much I'd be sitting around with my thumb up my a**...

Or how power-mad an E7 could get. Stop micromanaging. You've given us our tasks, let us f_cking do them.

Getting up at 5 am? Sounds impossible.

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Buddy of mine would always complain about having to be ready for PT at 5 in the morning when it was officially supposed to start at 8.

Once he hit E6 (or 5? I'll have to ask him) and he was the one setting the time, he tried being the cool staff sergeant and letting his marines sleep a bit longer. After they kept being late he realized why everyone adds a half hour buffer to their start time.

The pay isn't great.

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Save for the future because all of it ends quicker than you think.

Scrub scrub scrub.

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If you are enlisted just how much good damn cleaning and yard work you would do, came in handy though when I got out I had me a sweet gig as a janitor.

Flies jets but is "down to earth."

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Ad Air Force here.

90% of the people you work with are super down to earth and chill. It just so happens that 9% of the remaining 10% is leadership that doesn't give a f_ck about anything you do but results that make them look better. Mismanagement and hubris are a big part of supervision in my career field, the disconnect between junior enlisted and nco/sncos is staggering and apparent.

Experience vs etiquette training. Experience sounds more fun.

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A lot of your career will depend on your leadership and your shop. Some shops will prioritize you knowing your job, while others will prioritize you knowing how to be a good airman/soldier/sailor/marine. Those two things don't always dovetail.

Edit: the jobs where they care more about the mission than how enthusiastically you can recite the service creed tend to be more fun.

Go go college when your service is up.

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Recruiters tell you that a military career in your job history shortlists you for being hired at any civilian job. Not true at all. At best it'll give you the appearance of being a team player, but that is almost never enough. You need actual skills they are looking for. Being able to pass inspection and firing a rifle does not mean you are qualified. Take the money you saved up from your time in or the GI bill you are entitled to and use it to go to university.

Leadership isn't loyal - sounds like capitalism.

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That the military will take your health then toss you aside like you're worthless and you've given them nothing. Loyalty in the military is between you and your brothers. Expect nothing from your leadership, expect nothing from the system, you are nothing more than filler for various spreadsheets to them.

It can be months or years.

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How long it would actually take before seeing the face of a family member.

More people should go into trade jobs in general.

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It's something I was told from the start before I joined but as I was leaving, I saw lots of infantry who came to the same realization too late and had a lot of regrets.

Join up doing a trade you enjoy if you can. The military will train you for free and let you loose on multimillion pound/dollar installations that civilians wouldn't dream of letting you near without a dozen degrees and a decade of experience.

That's PTSD.

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You never really go home, a part of you is always still there.

That's pretty much life.

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How political the system is, and how little it uses common sense. Built like an ox? High speed, great leader, motivated, knowledgeable? Awesome! Fail the run but could ruck with 150lbs for days? Well, no promotion for you. Heres a counseling statement about how you are not a well-prepared soldier. On the other hand... sh_tbag that is unmotivated, does the minimum they have to, undermines unit cohesion, always hard to find, creates problems but can run get a 300 on a PT test? Great, promote him.

The standard is perfection

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I wish I knew the standard we would be held to during inspection. Steep learning curve there I'll tell ya.

It's not gay if you're on a ship.

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Sailor but:

It is not, in fact, gay if underway.

Always had this instinct seeing them at school.

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Never, ever trust a recruiter.

"They own you."

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They OWN you. Doesn't matter what job you qualified for, if they think they're better served with you digging a ditch or cleaning toilets then that's what you are going to do.

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