Life in the military
Basic training provides a transition from
civilian life to military life. And the military truly is
a way of life: Seven days a week, 24 hours a day,
servicemembers put the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces
ahead of their own. Deployment is always a possibility,
too, although many servicemembers never work in conflict
The armed services do provide something in
return, however. From salary and allowances to healthcare
coverage and recreational facilities, military benefits
extend beyond those offered in most 9-to-5 jobs.
Begin with basic
Each of the branches has its own basic
training program. These programs vary in length, from 6
weeks of Air Force basic to 13 weeks of Marine Corps boot
camp. But all are intended to be rigorous combinations of
physical, classroom, and field training.
The goal of basic training is to get you
into top shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll
run, do sit-ups and push-ups, and complete other physical
training; learn subjects such as military history, rules
of conduct, and first aid; and adjust to a life of
Inherent in the fitness, knowledge, and
understanding you gain is the method used to teach them:
In basic training, you internalize the ability to follow
orders and respect rank. The armed services’ capacity to
function depends on it.
You will get a haircut. You will be on the
go from sunrise (or before) to long past sundown. You will
practice many drills and stand in many, many lines. You
will be given strict orders about what to do—and how to
do it. And you will succeed, if for no other reason than
there is no other option.
Few people enjoy their time in basic
training while they are going through it. But in looking
back, many people credit it with giving them a sense of
confidence they never had before. They not only met new
challenges daily but overcame them.
After completing basic training, you may
move on to another type of training. But at some point,
you’ll finally train for the occupation that will be
your military job. These training programs vary among the
branches and last from a few weeks to more than a year.
But servicemembers become experts in their fields.
Where you are trained often depends on
what you are training for. Similarly, your job may
determine where you are stationed. Food and other living
accommodations are provided on military installations,
whether on a ship or on a base in the United States or
Your military life will be much more structured than
your civilian one. The armed services dictate every aspect
of your life, including grooming, leisure, and discipline.
Even during the time you spend on shore and off base, you
must follow certain rules—or face consequences. These
vary from demotions for minor infractions to courts-martial, or military trials, for major ones.
Hours and working conditions differ by
branch and by assignment, but a 40-hour military workweek often includes
nights and weekends. Furthermore, you are always on call,
even in your off-duty hours.
This rigorous training, adherence to
rules, and constant readiness prepare servicemembers for
the ultimate duty: defending our Nation’s interests in
military missions. Armed-services training is structured
to be the best preparation possible for facing challenges,
even dangerous ones.
In every situation, there will be time for
you to relax. Recreational activities available to
servicemembers include swimming, weightlifting,
basketball, tennis, and many other sports. Other
facilities on installations include libraries, chapels,
and movie theaters.
You can spend your spare time reading;
taking college courses; watching television; listening to
music, which sometimes includes free concerts performed
especially for military personnel; and participating in
many of the same activities you enjoyed in civilian life.
And when you are able to leave the ship or
base, you’ll have a chance to explore your surrounding
community. Enjoy your time sightseeing, scuba diving,
skiing, or discovering other activities your stationed
Pay and other benefits
One of the most obvious monetary benefits
you’ll receive is basic pay, a salary based on your rank
and time in service. As of April 2007, enlisted servicemembers
receive between about $1,204 and $6,382 per month.
On top of this base pay, you might receive
special pay for hardship duty. You’ll also get
allowances for specific expenses related to your service,
such as buying and maintaining uniforms.
Some benefits in the military are similar
to, but often more generous than, those offered in the
civilian workforce. These include paid vacation, access to
healthcare and life insurance, education benefits, and a
pension in retirement. Eligibility for retirement requires
20 years of service.
Other benefits are unique to the armed
services. Many of these benefits extend to family members;
examples include free legal assistance, counseling, and
information about life issues, such as buying auto
insurance. Servicemembers sometimes receive discounts,
such as for train travel.
Some benefits are available only to
veterans. These include programs for discounts on hotel
stays, travel fares, and entertainment. The U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs provides many forms of
assistance, including access to healthcare, prescription
drugs, and guaranteed loans for home purchases.
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