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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.
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.
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.
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?