USAA Tips: How to advise a young person to consider military service

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

There are a lot of big decisions in life: marriage, finances, buying a house, and many, many others. Right up there is the decision to join the military. Today, with so many career options for young people, it can be a difficult choice to decide to join the military.

Follow this advice to give guidance, support, and understanding to help others decide if a military career is right for them.

  1. Listen to a young person’s goals in their words. Before even starting to describe the benefits of military service, what does this person want to accomplish? Do they want to travel, live somewhere else, have new experiences, or just get out and see the world more? These can be reasons to join the service, but they can also be gateways to other career decisions to personal travel, higher education, working in a new location, or waiting for a decision to become more apparent.

  2. The military has higher standards today than most of us remember. Today, the military has very high standards of fitness, intelligence, existing body art (tattoos), prior drug use, and prior criminal activity just to name a few. If someone wants to join the military and they do not meet the standards, then they probably cannot.

  3. Think about the National Guard and Reserve. For some young people, joining the military full time may be too much of an initial commitment. For those young people, the National Guard and the Reserve may be a perfect fit. The attraction of the National Guard and Reserve: staying local, serving the military, learning new skills, and the potential for active duty can be a great option.

  4. Think about the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is America’s “forgotten” military service that offers great options. Many young people are compelled by more altruistic goals of public service, helping others, and being on the “front lines” daily instead of just when they are deployed. In this case, the Coast Guard maybe a great answer that offers public service and a strong focus on rescuing others in need.

  5. Military recruiters are your friend. Websites are great, but talking to a real person offers excellent options. A young person may be more comfortable with a military veteran in the room when they talk to a military recruiter to ask questions and not be intimidated by the uniform and “unknown” words. Meet with recruiters from multiple military branches and see what they have to offer and what sounds good to the young person.

  6. Talk about the four D’s: Disability, death, divorce, and deployments. I also talk about the Four D’s whenever anyone asks me about joining the military. Nearly every day in the military is difficult. You are in arduous conditions, deployed for months away from loved ones, in physical danger, and you often can’t call even for someone’s birthday. This is a hard set of subjects that must be talked about because it happens a great deal in every military service, even in “peacetime."

Listening to a young person’s goals and ambitions is the best way to discuss the potential of military service. Listen more than you talk, discuss the joys and sorrows of service, and get a military recruiter to talk about all the options in a relaxed setting.