There was a lot I needed to learn before I decided to join the military. Before I joined the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) in college the only thing I knew about the military was that there was one. I didn’t know branches, certainly didn’t know ranks and had a lot to learn. And I thought if I learned the ranks, how to march and when to salute I would be well on my way to a great military career.
The strange thing about the military is that it is more than just marching and saluting. You don’t actually march very often once you finish all your training requirements. And when I think about all the things I thought I knew before I went from ROTC to active duty I realize I didn’t actually know very much.
seven things I wish I would have known before I decided to join the military
1. The training environment isn’t like real life
The marching, the being yelled at, the made-up scenarios are great to help you learn how to lead and follow. And are mainly a part of the military because they are efficient. But they are not a part of your normal life once you begin to do your actual job. The military required me to use these tools I learned, but often in an outside the box type of way. The training prepares you for your job, but it can never actually be like your job. Real life is always different than the training environment.
2. You can do this
One thing that would have helped me at the start of my military career was the confidence I could do it. And guess what, you can do it. If you want to do something you may need to work hard. But you can do it. I wasted a lot of time doubting my abilities and thinking I wasn’t worthy. But I completed all my training requirements and became an officer in the United States Air Force. I could do it and I did it. You can too.
3. It will be hard, but it is worth it
The military requires a lot from you. Maybe it will be that you will deploy or maybe your job requires you to work long hours. It doesn’t matter what you will do in the military. There will be something hard about military life. But what you learn about yourself will be worth it. And if you are lucky you will get to work on something that will have a greater purpose and may even change the world.
4. Your friends will become your family
I didn’t realize how important the person sitting next to me would be. I didn’t realize being far away from my immediate family would mean the friends I made would often become lifelong friends. And when I became a mom the friends around me became more than just people I knew, they became part of my family. Looking back I wish I would have invested more of myself in my friends.
5. Your weakness may actually be your strength
I am on the side of quiet and shy because I am an introvert. This also means that instead of jumping right into something I am often watching and learning about what is happening. When I was in training this was a weakness because I wasn’t quick to jump in or speak up, but in the workplace, I was able to observe things and speak up when needed. This ended up being an asset that early on in my career I thought was a weakness.
6. Deployment is hard but good
I was terrified of deploying. I was really afraid of possibly deploying with the Army and having to go on combat missions. It turns out that what I was most afraid of was the deployment I was chosen to go on. And I really didn’t think I could do it, but the military prepared me with training and I had a team of people who went through the experience with me. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
7. You are going to change when you join the military
Leaving the place where you grew up and meeting people unlike you will cause you to change. Living in a new place gives you a new perspective and you will change. The military will also give you tools and teach you about yourself as it pushes you in ways you never expected. This means that you might not relate to the people you used to know. You will be different and it isn’t a bad thing.