Enlisting in the Military - A Viable Option

By Daniel R. Van Hoose

What the Military Offers


Why might a young person be attracted to military service? In addition to being an honorable act of service to our country, community and family, many young men and women capitalize on the opportunities available to them through military service. When I was a recruiter, I used the acronym "MATTRESS" to describe the potential benefits and identify which was most important to the individual. MATTRESS can be translated as:
Most new enlistees enter active duty to satisfy one of these needs or desires in their life.

Many of the students I talked with were particularly attracted to the Air Force for training and educational opportunities. Most military bases are similar to a small city. Some students were surprised to discover that every occupation one can think of that is necessary to support a small city are also required to support a military installation, and thus, career options within the military are as diverse as those available outside of the military.

The technical training available through the military is one of the strongest benefits for this type of career. Hundreds of occupations taught, many with civilian counterparts and some that do not. For example, aircraft avionics is taught in military technical training and is also used in our civilian airline industry. On the other hand, some specialized combat arms fields do not have a civilian counterpart. Artillery specialist might be an example of an occupation not used in civilian industry, but then, at the same time, an artillery specialist also would have had training that would probably qualify them for some aspect of protective services in civilian life.

Education is another benefit for which many young people enlist. Currently, the military will pay 100% of the tuition for enlistees who take college courses while they are on active duty. Most military installations have an Education Office or Center right on the installation. Colleges and universities will actually teach classes and offer degree programs right on the military installation. Many military members attend night classes in their off duty time and work toward degrees.

For those enlistees who leave active duty and want to increase their educational qualifications for civilian life, there is a new Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act. (It is too lengthy of a benefit to describe in this brief article.) This is a graduated benefit that does not require any monetary contribution by the military member. The individual makes their contribution to their benefit level through the amount of time they spend on active duty.
Military Qualifications

What are the qualifications young men and women need to have to be eligible to serve in our military? All new enlistees are strongly encouraged to have a high school diploma. Students who stay in school and graduate also tend to stay on active duty and fulfill their enlistment contract. In addition, the Armed Services Vocation Aptitude Battery (ASVAB ) is a required test that is available free to all schools. All of the branches use the ASVAB to determine enlistment eligibility and technical training qualifications. Each of the branches of service has their own interpretation of the ASVAB and each have their own qualifying scores required for enlistment and their respective technical training schools. However, students don't need to take the ASVAB for each branch of service in which they are interested. They can take the test one time and then have it interpreted by each branch they are interested in. An ASVAB Education Services Specialist can help counselors schedule a testing date and provide a test administrator (1-800-323-0513). The ASVAB is a valid and reliable assessment of aptitudes, interests and values, and links assessment results to both military and civilian occupations.

In addition to the ASVAB, students must also meet the moral qualifications for the branch in which they are interested. Police records checks, driving records checks, several personal interviews, and a national agency check are performed on all enlistees.

Finally, students must be physically fit. Basic training, technical training, and military service are physically demanding. A thorough physical and psychological examination is conducted at a Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS).

Helping Students Get More Information

Finally, how can you help students to get more information? The Internet is an excellent tool for researching the different branches of the military and obtaining some preliminary information. Some potential websites include:

However, being an old recruiter myself, there is no substitute for talking to a recruiter. They will have all of the current information and criteria for their branch of service. Students shouldn't be afraid to approach recruiters and ask them "real" questions. I always enjoyed talking to students, explaining the Air Force to them and talking to them about the benefits of military service. Of course, in that career role, I wanted to sell young people on enlisting, but I didn't want someone to enlist who didn't really want to serve. I knew they probably wouldn't make it through basic training if it wasn't a career option they really wanted and in which they were motivated to succeed.

Invite your local recruiter to come and talk with you. Interview them. If the recruiter gains your trust and confidence, you will feel more comfortable referring your students to them. Set up a panel of recruiters from all of the branches and let them come and speak to interested students who want more information about military enlistment. Finally, view the military as one of many career possibilities for your students. The strategies suggested here may better facilitate your students exploring enlistment in the military as a possible career path.

Daniel R. Van Hoose, M.A., is the Assistant Director at the University of South Florida Career Center. He served 21 years on active duty, including tours in Turkey, the United Kingdom, Florida and Missouri. Then he attended the University of South Florida on the G.I. Bill and earned a Master of Arts degree in Counselor Education. He can be reached at dvanhoose@admin.usf.edu

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