So you think you made up your mind, “I’m gonna join the military and be the best soldier ever!” (Probably said no one ever, but who knows?) Everyone sure has their reasons why they want to sign up— it could be a childhood dream, the desire to serve the country, maybe influenced by someone, or could probably be the fat sign-on bonus and benefits.

Whichever it is, before the images of yourself in uniform and boots while marching alongside your comrades start dancing in your head, you might want to stop for a bit and ask yourself these questions before signing up:

Do I really want this?

Just like any other career, joining the military is a life-defining decision. It’s a long-term commitment, so it should be something that you have decided for yourself, not just talked into joining, maybe by the recruiter or pushed by your family or friends. Instead, it should be a well-thought-of decision.

The Navy, Army, and Marines have annual recruits drop out at 11 to 14 percent, while the Air Force has only 7 to 8 percent. Of course, there could be other reasons one would drop out from boot camp, but you won’t want to spend so much time and effort trying to be part of something only to regret it and quit afterward. With that, and before answering the question with, “Yes, I really want this!” it’s also crucial that it is an informed decision. Do your research, and learn about the current events that could affect your whole training process and future assignments. Consider talking to veterans.

Dana Beesley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Do I have the best behavior fit for the military?

So you did your research and decided that you wanted to be one of the country’s uniformed personnel. You also ticked off being physically, emotionally, and psychologically buffed on the list, so what’s next?

The next thing to consider is if you have the behavior needed for the military. As they say, discipline is the soul of the army. Acts prejudicial to “good order and discipline,” a core characteristic of the military, are punishable by the commanders. Good order and discipline are two critical factors that would dictate the success of every operation.

United States Air Force, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps it’s good to reflect if you’re a rowdy, hard-headed, disorderly person before signing up. There will also be a background investigation to check if you’ve had any arrests in the past. If you have, you must inform your recruiter about it.

This goes hand in hand with discipline and learning the military way by heart, and not just because you don’t want your drill sergeant or drill instructor to scream at your face.

Can I live far from my family?

Soldiers can be deployed far away from home, from your family, loved ones, and everything you’re used to being with, and for a long time. This is true, especially during conflicts and wars, and it is uncertain how long you will be away. But, on the brighter side, you get the chance to see the world, experience different cultures, meet other people, and learn new things that will influence how you view the world.

Am I ready to leave the civilian way of life?

All in all, not only becoming a soldier will shape your life and the lives of people around you in many ways, but you must be ready to abandon civilian life. Your personal life almost comes second to your responsibilities; you will also not have the same constitutional rights. As American Friends Service Committee wrote,

“Your rights to free speech, assembly, petition, and exercise of individual expression, such as clothing or hairstyle, will be restricted. You will be required to follow all orders given to you, whether you agree with them and consider them right or fair.”

This also means sacrificing your life, if needed, to fulfill your sworn duty.

If you think your answer to all the questions is yes, then you are ready to jump into the military way of life.

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