What is enlisting in the military like? What things do you need to know before you sign up to serve your country? This is week three of A Girl’s Guide to the Military series on the Women of the Military podcast and we are talking about everything you need to know about enlisting in the military. So far in the series, we have talked about why some people join and then what can disqualify you from service. But there is still more to learn so we are going to discuss what you need to know before joining the military to help ensure you start your career on the right foot. We will also talk to Jamie who shares her experience leading up to heading off to Basic Training.
Thank you women veteran alliance for sponsoring this week’s episode
Women Veterans Alliance is the premier national network focused on directly impacting the quality of life of women veterans. They do this successfully through transforming the way the community networks bring people and programs directly together. Every other year in the fall, Women Veterans Alliances host their Unconference with the goal of bringing women veterans together. I attended in 2021 and had so much fun connecting with other women veterans and can’t wait until September 2023 for the next one. Head over to http://womenveteransunconference.com/ to learn more
There are a lot of choices you have to make before joining the military. And while it may feel easier to hand over the driver’s wheel and let your recruiter decide what option is best for you it is important for you to take the time to stop and think about what you want for your future and then make the right choice for you. But what is enlisting? Most people who serve in the military enlist. The only requirement is to meet the minimum standards of the military through the ASVAB and MEPS physical. We will talk more about becoming an officer in week 5 of the series. But this week is focused on enlisting.
The first step is picking the right branch for you. Maybe you think all branches of the military are the same and it doesn’t matter what you pick. Or maybe you think there is only one opportunity for the job you want. While some jobs are specific to branches there is a lot of cross-over. And each branch has its own personality and mission.
You can learn more about the different branches in Episode 82: What Branch of the Military Is Right for Me. In this episode, I do a deep dive talking about the six military branch options. Most people focus on the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, but the Coast Guard and Space Force although small have interesting career opportunities. Take time to look at all of the branches of the military and figure out what one is best for you. I go into even more details about helping pick the right branch in my new book A Girl’s Guide to Military Service coming out on September 13th. You can preorder your copy here.
Picking a career field is an important step in the process of joining. When you hear Jamie’s story she talks about how she had to take a supplemental test so she could get the career field of engineering. She scored high enough on her ASVAB to have the opportunity to take a secondary test giving her the opportunity to serve in the career field she wanted. That is why it is critical to take the ASVAB seriously and do the best you can. Your score opens up opportunities.
Also, picking a career is an important decision so make sure you think about what you want to do. A lot of times there are opportunities to switch career fields but it isn’t always guaranteed. Undermanned career fields (often the ones with bonuses) may not have enough people to allow you to move out of the career field. So, a bonus can limit you into a career field that may not be right for you. Follow your gut and things you are already passionate about and see if there is an opportunity to do a career that fits who you are. You can hear stories of women who have served on the Women of the Military podcast. There we have talked about so many different career fields and opportunities. The Women of the Military mentorship program also allows you to get mentorship from women veterans to help answer questions and provide guidance on joining. You can sign up here.
One aspect of military life you will learn a lot about when you join the military is physical fitness. So if you are considering joining the military start moving. Later in the series, there is an episode focused on Fitness and Health. But for this section start researching your branch’s physical fitness test requirements. The military across the board used to focus on sit-ups, push-ups, sometimes pull-ups (Marine Corps), and running. But there have been a lot of changes in recent years, especially in the Army. So make sure to learn what you will be required to do and start working to train for that test. Passing the physical fitness test, ruck marches, long runs, etc are some of the various physical fitness requirements for passing Basic Training.
Depending on your weight. Getting moving might also focus on losing weight to meet height and weight standards. The challenge of meeting weight is sometimes a difficult one. Next week, where we will talk all about Basic Training, Allison will share her story of having to lose weight prior to heading off to Basic Training. She worked hard to build up muscle for the Army Combat Fitness Test. And the extra weight gain from the muscle mass put her above her weight limit. She worked with a dietician to help lose the weight before leaving for training.
Sometimes you can also be below weight standards. In episode 127, Marissa shared her experience of joining and serving in the Air Force. She was below the minimum weight standard and because of this, her recruiter recommended she not work out because he was worried she would lose more weight. But strength training can help build muscle mass and actually increase your weight. Instead of not working out and being unprepared physically for Basic Training there are safe ways to train and also help build up muscle mass to gain weight if you find yourself in this type of situation.
Next week, we will be talking about Preparing for and attending Basic Training. Allison will share her experience leading up to Basic Training and what her experience at Army Basic Training was like.
Check out the whole series here.