What Are The Benefits For Joining The Military?

Military Benefits Series

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Question: What are the benefits for joining the military?

Answer: There are many benefits available to military members, ranging from medical care, to special pays, to tax advantages, to the base exchange and commissary.

All of these are detailed in the feature article, What the Recruiter Never Told You, specifically, the following parts to the article:

P​art 1Choosing a Military Service: How to decide which branch of the military to join.

 You may know you want to serve your country, but what branch of service do you decide?  Look at all the options from jobs and training available and required, deployment cycles, duty station locations for starters.  Parts 2-14 below may also help you decide as there is much to learn about a future profession.  Going into the military fully informed is highly recommended as in the end it is your decision and your life for at least the next four years.

P​art 2Meeting the Recruiter: Be prepared for your meeting with the recruiter.  Treat the recruiter like you would someone interviewing you for a job, but ask questions. It is up to you to ask pointed, specific, no-nonsense questions, and expect direct answers. Be very suspicious of any unclear, or vague answers.  Always press for specifics. If in doubt, ask the recruiter to put the information in writing, and sign it, or to show you in the regulations, guides, or pamphlets that what he/she is saying is true.

P​art 3—​The Enlistment Process and Job Selection: Know about the tests you will take and the qualifications needed for various military jobs.  From the ASVAB to MEPS and in some cases the CSORT (Special Ops), you need to prepare as much as you can for these as well as fitness tests in your future. 

Part 4 -- Enlistment Contracts and Enlistment Incentives. All of the services use the same enlistment contract -- Department of Defense Form 4/1. This is the contract that is used for military enlistments and re-enlistments. Of all the paperwork you signed during the process to join the military, this is the most important document.  If you enlist on active duty, you'll actually sign two enlistment contracts. The first one places you in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP).

Part 5 -- Military Pay.  Everyone gets base pay, and it's the same regardless of what military service you are in.  It's based on an individual's rank and the number of years you've been in the service. With added specialty pays (dive, nuclear, language, etc) plus medical and dental, and allowances and bonuses, you will find it very competitive with civilian sector salary.

Part 6 -- Housing, Housing Allowance, and Barracks. Free, or nearly free, housing is given to everyone in the military. But how they provide housing depends on your marital status, dependents, and rank.

Part 7 -- Chow Halls and Food Allowance -  The military promises to feed you, and they do so primarily by using three separate methods: chow or mess halls, basic allowance for subsistence, and meals-ready-to-eat.

Part 8 -- Education Programs.  From the GI Bill, College Reimbursement Plans, Tuition Assistance, and college credit programs for training accomplished, the military has several ways for its members to have the ability to finish college either while on active duty or within 10 years post service.

Part 9 -- Leave (Vacation), and Job Training.  Whatever their rank, all military personnel get the same amount of annual paid time off. Military members get 30 days of paid leave per year, earned at the rate of 2.5 days per month.

Part 10 -- Assignments.  While the services will consider your preferences, the overriding deciding factor is where the military needs you the most. If that coincides with one of your preferences, great. If not, you'll be assigned to where the service wants you.

Part 11 -- Promotions.

 Each branch of the U.S. armed forces has its own promotion system for its enlisted members.  There are nine enlisted pay grades in the military, from E-1 to E-9. The rank or rating varies by branch of service, but the pay grade level is the same. 

Part 12 -- Military Medical Care. Medical and dental expenses and health insurance costs are a concern for many people, but while on active duty, you do not need to worry about that expense. However, if the recruiter promises you free health care for life, it's not the whole truth.

Part 13 -- Commissaries and Exchanges. There are three separate exchange systems: The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), The Navy Exchange Service (NEXCOM) and the Marine Corps Exchange. As with the commissaries, there is no sales tax charged at the exchanges, and this can add up to a significant savings over time, or when you are buying expensive items.

Part 14 -- Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) Activities. Depending upon your base and branch of service, there may be other services, such as riding stables, outdoor recreation rentals, and more. Overall, MWR activities offer important services to military personnel and family members

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