I always wanted to write a column on advice for those who are considering joining the military, specifically the Army since it is the only military branch that I have experience in. I was going to wait until I ETS’d but in my last year on my initial contract I reenlisted for three years so now my ETS date is 2020, but I feel like I have enough experience to share my opinion. Whatever I say in this article is solely my opinion on my experience. My only goal is to give insight to those who are considering joining the Army before they talk to a recruiter. Not all recruiters lie, some will actually have your best interest at heart, but recruiters still have a quota to meet, so they’ll never tell you not to join. I’m not here to persuade to you join or not, just sharing my opinion from a perspective that has nothing to gain from your enlistment.
First, I’ll tell you why I joined the Army. I graduated college with a B.A. in English. I had no idea what I wanted to do with an English degree. I figured that could get any decent job with a degree. I wanted to go into HR but I didn’t even take the time to write up a good resume while I was in college, and all my applications got denied.
I thought that joining the Army and getting experience in Human Resources would be a good choice because I could also get a Masters degree in Human Resources for free. I signed up for the Army three months after I graduated college. I was eager to start a career.
My first duty station was at Schofield Barracks, HI and I got put into a Military Intelligence unit, which meant no combat deployments and no field exercises. Everyone told me that I was lucky to get Hawaii for my first duty station, and even luckier to have a MI unit. I wasn’t lucky, I was blessed because God gave me everything I asked for. I asked God for a place where I didn’t have to do PT in cold weather, I didn’t want to deploy, and I wanted to work a 9 to 5 so I had enough time after work to pursue my masters degree online. God gave me everything I asked for.
Even though there were many times where I wished that I never joined because of the stress. Yeah, even in a nondeployable unit that doesn’t do field exercises still had a lot of stressful moments.
On the Human Resources job
If you want to do HR as a civilian then it is good to get hands on experience in the Army, but at the same time Army HR is much different than civilian HR. If you have a laidback personality like me, then you will have a hard time in HR because you have to deal with a lot of people. And in the Army, anyone who out ranks you thinks that you’re their personal servant and much make their request your top priority. HR is an unthankful job in the Army. People will praise you privately but put you on blast whenever you make mistakes. I have been blessed to be in units that normally don’t work past 5pm. But there have been times when I worked until 6 or 7pm and even had to come in on weekends. If you’re not a people person, not good with keeping track of a lot of paperwork, and hate jobs where you’re always busy, then HR is not the MOS for you.
On the Army in general
Your experience in the Army is all about what you want to get out of it. Your job, motivation, unit, leaders, battles, etc will all determine what kind of experience you have. From what I seen, most Soldiers want to get out after their initial contract. Soldiers who have military intelligence jobs usually leave the Army with great paying jobs. If you’re in HR like me then your best bet to transferring to a great civilian HR position is to have at least a college degree in HR and have manager experience which is leaving the Army with at least the rank of Sergeant (E5).
Even with the benefits of free health care, free money for education, a guaranteed paycheck, and other benefits, it is important to keep in mind that you’re joining an organization that is responsible for protecting the freedoms of the American people. There really isn’t much combat operations going on right now, but that doesn’t mean you have a zero chance of deploying to a combat zone. Deployments in general can put a strain your finances, your family and friends, and yourself. Same with field exercises, it takes you away from the comforts that you’re used to having every day and your weekend activities.
If you want to join the Army for education money, make sure that you have reviewed all other options before signing up for the Army. The Army is and should be a last resort because it is a dangerous and highly stressful career. Not trying to scare anyone, but just being realistic about what the Army is. At the end of the day, I’ve seen many people create a great lifestyle for themselves through the Army. But of course, many people have paid the ultimate sacrifice for joining the military and lost their life, a limb, or their mental stability. Most people like to think that the worst-case scenarios can happen to anyone else except themselves.
And that is one of the reasons why I want to leave the Army. I believe that the longer I stay in the Army then I will eventually end up in a unit that does field exercises, that deploys to combat areas. Everyone that I talked to who did a combat deployment said that it sucked and they would never want to go back. I get built up with anxiety when I have to teach a class, so I can’t imagine myself having the courage leave my family, friends, and comforts to fight in a war that I most likely won’t know anything about or even care about.
So far, I got everything I came in the Army for. I’m a Sergeant so I have manager experience, I got over 4 years of HR experience, and I will finish my masters degree in Human Resource Management by before the end of 2019. My ETS date is 2020, and I be anxiously counting down the months to get closer to getting out. The Army has provided me the tools I need to succeed in the civilian sector so I’m ready to leave, and the military lifestyle just isn’t for me.