The Pros and Cons of Joining the Military

Pros and Cons of Joining the United States Air Force

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Pros and Cons of Joining the United States Air Force

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, I recently enlisted in the Air Force. Since joining the military is such a huge, life-changing decision, I wanted to flesh out some of the pros and cons of “signing your life away,” and further explain my reasons for enlisting. Some of them may be familiar to you, as they are echoed throughout the military world.

Pros

1. Free Education

This one is pretty obvious. We all know how important college is these days. We also know how expensive it can be. I have a large amount of student loan debt and would like to continue my education someday. This is one of the CORE reasons I enlisted.

When you are active-duty military (not Reserves), you receive Tuition Assistance. That means the military pays 100% of your schooling. It’s important to not confuse this with the G.I. Bill. They are not the same. Tuition Assistance is only available while you are actively serving the military in a job.

2. The G.I. Bill

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is available after you leave the service. It helps pay for college tuition, up to around $4,500 per semester. If you choose to not use it, you can give it to your spouse or children up to ten years after your active-duty service ends.

You can also use it to pay off student loans you already have, but this money will be taken from what the G.I. Bill would have given you in college. You can’t double dip. So if you’d rather save it for your dependents, this is not a smart idea.

3. Tax-Free Housing and Food

Another awesome benefit while being in the military is the free housing and food. Whether married or single, you receive some form of housing for free. When single, you live on base in the barracks (like a dormitory) and receive extra income for food. If married, you can choose to live in a house on base, or receive money called BAH (Basic Housing Allowance) based on the zip code where you live. This is all given to you tax-free in addition to your regular monthly salary.

4. Free Health, Dental, and Vision Coverage

Just another extraordinary benefit for active military personnel. If you have a problem, they take care of it and pay it in full (unles it’s something that will get you discharged). When my fiance was going through AIT (technical training), he needed his wisdom teeth removed. They sent him to the dentist and all 4 were removed. He never had to pay a dime. Did I mention that this also extends to your family as well? Rest assured. You and your family will be well-cared for.

5. Thirty Days Paid Vacation

Every single year from the day you start, you accrue 2.5 paid days every month. That means you could take a week-long vacation every three or four months, if approved. There aren’t many companies that offer that kind of vacation time before spending a year or ten working for them.

6. VA Home Loan

Once joining the service, you qualify for the VA Home Loan, so you can purchase a home with no down-payment at a low-interest rate for the rest of your life. No matter where you go in the United States, you’ll be eligible for an excellent home loan. The VA can also help you out a little if something happens and you aren’t able to make a payment.

7. All the Military Discounts

Military discounts are EVERYWHERE. At the mall, when you travel and stay in hotels, when you eat… heck, even when you get married (our venue gave us a military discount thanks to Mike’s service). Discounts can be anywhere from 10-15% and can save you hundreds of dollars. People are grateful for your service. It’s businesses way of saying thank you.

8. Retirement

Something nearly unheard of these days, if you stay in the military for 20 years, you will be eligible for an amazing retirement. You will receive a check every month for half of what you were making when you retired. Now, while that may not be enough to live on in your old age, it sure is helpful! Few companies offer that kind of benefit these days.

Cons

1. They Own You

Some people believe that in bondage you find freedom, and that may be the case with the military. However, while you are still an American with everyday freedoms, once you enlist into the military, you must act in a way that always represents our country in a positive manner. You can’t drink while in uniform. You shouldn’t fight and cause a ruckus. You must have respect for all individuals and yourself. You must stay fit and emotionally sharp.

You must go where they tell you and do everything they tell you. You don’t have a choice. Sometimes, you have options, but ultimately, what they say is law. It’s kind of scary. The people leading you are boss, and while you may make objections, what they say ultimately goes and you can’t just quit to get out of it.

2. Deployment and War

Depending on what’s happening across the globe, you could be deployed into a danger zone. Admittedly, airmen don’t see a lot of ground combat during deployments. They are called the “office and desk jobs” for a reason. They tend to stay behind the scenes. However, you may still have to spend a lot of time away from your family, depending on your job.

3. You Can’t Quit

You can’t quit when you’re unhappy or if you hate your boss or location. You get one chance to quit, and that’s at your time of re-enlistment. If you do leave, chances of getting back in are slim (unless we get into another war). If you re-enlist, you’re locked in again for the number of years you signed.

4. Lots of Hoops to Jump Through

With everything. Rules, hoops, and paperwork. Hurry up and wait. If you’re used to corporate America culture, you may not even notice all the bull manure. Always remember that the military is a business too. There are office politics with good guys and bad guys. Unfortunately, rank plays a big part of it. If you are a newbie, you’re going to be treated like crap. That’s one thing I’m not looking forward to as an older enlistee.

Just be prepared for life to feel very unfair. It’s a tough system to break into, but as time goes on and you earn higher ranks, things do get better.

There you have it. While a lot of it is going to suck, the pride and benefits that come with serving and protecting the United States is going to outweigh all that.

What do you think? Are the benefits better than the cons?

6 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Joining the Military

  1. Just a tib bit for you about that GI Bill. If you do decide to use it towards school you must keep 3.5 point average or at least with the army. If you Graduate lower than that, you’ll end up paying them back. On the flip side, if they stop doing this then disregard this, I signed a kicker contract with the recruiter when I signed for the GI. With this contract and I highly suggest on holding to dear life for it if you got lucky to sign one, you receive an extra $400- $500 towards the GI. I get around $2000 monthly just because I kept everything, plus a grant which $10000 yearly.

    1. Good to know. I know things are changing all the time. It doesn’t surprise me that they have stipulations to receiving that money. Thanks for the info!

  2. My husband is active duty AF and we definitely did not get any extra money when we had our daughter. Just so you/others know Love reading about your AF experiences!

    1. Thanks! I wrote this one before I actually got in, and I think I read somewhere that people received extra money for food if they have children. I will delete that.

  3. Thank you for posting your blogs. I always wanted to join the AF but I decided to do college first, and while I don’t regret the knowledge and experiences, boy do I have a lot of debt because of it. My husband is in Tech School right now, and depending on how well we can balance things, I might also join. But the whole “They Own You” is definitely hitting home right now. I haven’t seen him in almost 6 months now and I wont until they relocate us to his first duty station. We skype and talk but its just not the same. I currently live in Maine and he’s out at Keesler, MI, so it isn’t exactly a quick commute. No one was able to tell him really anything in terms of a schedule or how long to expect to be there, so finding your blog helped a lot. Following what your experience was like has been the same in terms of time-frame, except he had to wait to get into Sec+. He’s finally starting the course though, and if he passes the test I’ll finally be able to see him again in a few weeks! Now we’re doing all the hoops to move. So at the moment, I’m feeling mostly just the cons, but I can’t wait to finally be able to spend some time with him once he uses some of his vacation time!

    1. I’m so glad my blog could be of help to you. I understand the pain. It is very hard being separated from your husband. It was hard when the roles were reversed and I was in tech school. Thankfully, most cyber systems jobs are only 3-5 months long vs. 6-12 like others.

      As far as for you joining, I would definitely hold off a bit until you get settled into wherever he is stationed. If you’re near a decent sized city, which MOST bases are (not all, unfortunately), then you might be able to find a job that pays well in your degree field. Don’t jump in too soon. Thankfully, you’ll be able to see the real Air Force (not the weird version you’re fed in BMT & tech school) through your husband, and that will greatly help your decision. Feel free to email me anytime if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to help out.

      I promise, all this wait to see your husband will be so worth it! And you may be able to score a great job on the base (which is not a bad way to go!).

Tell me what you think!