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Spring 2007 Vol. 51, Number 1

Military training for civilian careers
(Or: How to gain practical experience while serving your country)

The inaugural Occupational Outlook Handbook provided
career guidance for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Harking back to those origins, this article highlights the
career value of military service.

by C. Hall Dillon


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 areas.

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 regimented activity.

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.

Service life

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 abroad.

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 locality offers.

 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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Last Updated: February 15, 2007