Welcome to my first article, this is my first of a, hopefully, long series of helpful military-related articles to help people out, in regards to joining the military and other military-related services, for people that are already serving or considering joining.
This article will help explain the benefits of the military service, from an active duty E-6 perspective, with 7 years of military service and experience.
First, an individual that chooses to join the military MUST believe in the moral duty to serve their country. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s not about the pay, medical benefits, etc, or any of the below reasons that I will outline here in a second; the individual must really believe in the cause of the military and country. That will make the initial lower pay (I will explain that in a second) worth it, and will make service bearable. At the end of the day, if you do not truly, with all your heart, believe in the fight and the cause and your contribution to the country, then that is why soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen get out after their first contract/tour with the military. They can SAY it’s because of the “stupid BS,” the long hours, etc, or a myriad of excuses, but the core reason is because they have lost the drive to serve. With that flame to serve, the rest can be put up with, because NO job is perfect. It’s all about your attitude, and your BELIEF that the job is the right one for you and you believe in the cause.
Second, a far second, is the pay. Now, of course, military service, especially ENLISTED military service, is not going to sway and entice the small percentage of privileged children of doctors/lawyers, and people, whether college-degreed or not, that have HIGHER aspirations than enlisted military service. These people, I have found, do not have a burning urge to joining the military and fight for their country, they MAY like to contribute through other means, but themselves joining as a recruit is not one of them. With that being said, I personally think military pay is not that bad, as long as you have aspirations to be more than just a 14-20 year E-6 (making about 55-60K a year, before taxes), married with an non-employed spouse and 3 kids. Not to call out or be offensive to people in that group or similar situation, because there are A LOT of service members in that group, but those are going to be your guys that complain about the pay, because at the beginning of the month, and middle of the month, they see the after-taxes money coming in, and then subtract all their expenses (ie, mortgage, food, diapers, bills, gas, etc.), they realize they’re living close to pay check-to-pay check. Depending on their specific level of frugality and savings, they may be saving anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars monthly; but at that stage in their career, it is usually, I find from personal experience, too late for them to separate and start a new career from scratch. Also, not to mention too risky, calculating their age about 34, (if joining at 20 and with 14 years in), and the fact that medical insurance in the civilian world would be very expensive for the family of five. All those things factor into someone that’s basically “plateau’d”: too committed now, with 14 years in and a big family, to separate and start something new, and the pay is JUST enough to entice continuing service, where you get about a extra hundred per few years, for continuing service and not making the next rank, BUT, not enough time, if nothing else, or drive, to continue pushing, advance, or, complete their Bachelor’s Degree and submit an package to cross-over to the Commisioned Officer side of the military.
Another group, I have experienced, that complains about the pay A LOT is the typical E-1 to E-3, with less than 4 years of service time, making about 20K-30K pre-taxes yearly, depending on married or single status. This group that complains usually performs the bare minimum and complains about how “the military pay sucks and I’m getting out in 2 more years.” If this same group worked hard, they can quickly advance to E-5 in 2 years or less, from date entering boot camp, with ability to advance to E-6 in about 3 years after that. So, effectively, a hard-working service member, that plays his or her cards right, can see a pay jump from 20k, entering boot camp, to about 54k or so, in about 6-8 years’ time. These numbers are averages and meant to illustrate my point, of course, personal experiences will vary. The point is this: even enlisted pay is not that bad, “bad” being a personal representative of your expectations and standards. If you expected to join as an E-1 and be making over six figures in a few years, you have read the wrong recruiting pamphlet and mis-interpreted the phrase “service and sacrifice to country.” If you expected to join as an E-1, straight out of high school, work HARD for 6-8 years, focused on your job while at work, and do college on the side, off-duty, complete your Bachelor’s degree, and switch over to the Commissioned Officer side, DO expect about 60-70K a year, because these are typical pay of a O-1E, or prior enlisted commissioned officer. A 26-27 year old, whether single or married, making 60k-70k a year is very well off, in my personal standards, especially in light of the unemployment rate and in comparison to the 34 year old married E-6 with the 3 or more kids. Oh, by the way, commissioned officer pay jumps up, per rank, SIGNIFICANTLY higher than enlisted-rank pay jumps. We’re talking 700-900 dollars more, per rank increase, compared to about 100 dollars or so for enlisted side. These numbers are not made up, anyone with internet access can Google search “2012 military pay chart” and see for themselves.
I didn’t expect to write such a long article on just 2 points of “why join the military?” I kind of went on a rant; I will finish the rest of my points during part II of answering this question.
Please feel free to post responses and questions. I am in the Navy, in the aviation maintenance field, so if you have questions directly related to that area, feel free to ask regarding that, as well. This was my first article here on InfoBarrel and I am looking forward to writing many more! Thanks for reading!