Choosing which branch of the military to join is a big decision. Joining the military in any capacity is a major commitment that requires time and sacrifice in a variety of ways, so it’s understandable to want to do as much research as possible to ensure you’re making the most informed choice.
Maybe you are joining a branch because you want to follow in the footsteps of another family member and already know what branch you want. Or maybe you have aspirations of becoming a Navy SEAL and the branch of choice is obvious. But possibly, you aren’t sure which branch you want to join. In that case, continue reading for a glimpse into what it’s like to join the different branches of the military.
At its most basic level, there are five different armed forces military branches within the United States. They are Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. The Army National Guard and Air National Guard are reserve components that partially operate under the state in which they serve. Each branch has its own part-time and active-duty components that can vary by location, service commitment, and so on.
Let’s break down the different branches to give you an idea of what life and opportunity are like within each branch so that you can make an informed choice when deciding which military service to join.
What It’s Like To Join The Navy
Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own pros and cons. For example, a possible pro (or con depending on your personality and what kind of environment you desire to work in) for joining the Navy is that almost every base is located on the coast.
An obvious consideration with Navy is that there will most likely be sea duty, i.e. months at sea, on a ship. This varies depending on your job but usually consists of a rotation of onshore duty, followed by a similar rotation on sea duty. For enlisted basic training, the Navy only has one training campus on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center is mostly indoors since sea life is mostly on a ship or in a submarine.
There are more than 80 different jobs within the Navy, called ratings. Job classifications are different in the Navy compared to the other branches of the U.S. military, with each rating being broken down into a sub-specialty called Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs), as opposed to being broken down into separate job categories as you’d find in the Army. If being at sea for months at a time interests you, maybe Navy is the choice for you.
What It’s Like To Join The Army
Unlike the Navy, soldiers in the Army are stationed at land military bases all over the world. Army is one of the oldest branches of the U.S. military with a rich history. Basic Combat Training, or “Basic,” in the Army comes in three phases and lasts about 10 weeks, depending on your military occupational specialty. Following Basic, you will most likely complete two more phases of Advanced Individual Training.
There are over 150 different jobs within the Army. The kind of training you undergo, as well as where you will be located, all depend on the type of job you are taking and the type of environment that you want to work in. Just like with most branches of the military, there are many benefits to joining the Army. You can receive tuition assistance, health insurance, and you are provided the opportunity to see the world. If you want to have a ton of career and skill options to choose from, as well as being a part of the oldest branch of the military, Army might be the path to choose.
What It’s Like To Join the Coast Guard
The U.S. Coast Guard is a branch of the military, and it’s not just search and rescue missions like Hollywood portray it to be, although it is that as well. Coast Guard is responsible for drug interdiction, assisting civilian ships with hazardous or dangerous cargo, inspecting ships and containers for illegal cargo, environmental protection, among many other duties. Coast Guard might be the job for you if you want to work in and around the water.
The Coast Guard has many of the same jobs as the Navy, but the branch is much smaller (which can also make it more competitive to get into in the first place). Day-to-day life varies greatly in the Coast Guard which provides a unique opportunity within the military. Coast Guard also values placing soldiers at the base of their choice, more so than any of the other branches. So if you want to be stationed at or around the beach, travel a lot, and save lives, Coast Guard might be for you.
What It’s Like To Join The Marines
Often considered the fiercest and toughest of the military branches, Marines are actually part of the Department of the Navy. While they are their own stand-alone branch, they fall under the administration of the Navy. Marine boot camp is, by far, the toughest of the military boot camps. They are located in San Diego and Parris Island, SC, and you’ll go to one or the other based on where you are located in the United States. Marine Corps boot camp is also broken up into three phases that last 14 weeks.
Marines are trained the hardest because they are often the first to deploy to the most dangerous of situations. This branch is smaller than many of the others, with a smaller scope of work, which means there aren’t quite as many jobs to choose from. Most who join Marines join to become infantrymen, to see combat, to be on the frontlines of battle. If you want to be a part of an elite fighting force that forms some intensely deep bonds with their comrades, Marines is a great option.
What It’s Like To Join The Air Force
The Air Force is one of the most well-funded branches of the military. Other branches of the military joke that you can either join the military (Army and Navy), a corporation (Air Force), or a cult (Marines). All require sacrifice, dedication, and expertise, as well as provide community and honor. The focus of the Air Force is to provide Rapid Global Mobility, Global Strike, Air and Space Superiority, among other core missions.
Air Force, like many of the other branches, offers the opportunity to explore the world as it has bases all over the world. In Air Force, unlike Army, soldiers can list their top location preferences for where they would like to serve. Basic Military Training for Air Force is said to be much easier than other military basic training, but it is still challenging. It is 8.5 weeks long and is located in San Antonio, Texas. The most well-known of Air Force jobs is, of course, a pilot. But there are other great jobs like Drone Pilot and Cyber Warfare. If you are interested in joining the military in a “softer” environment (i.e. less “roughing” it), Air Force might be the branch you should join.
Deciding Which Military Service To Join
When choosing which military branch you want to join, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. What type of job or skills are you looking to gain and utilize within the military, but also outside of it? What type of environment do you want to work in (land, sea, air, easier, more challenging, etc)? Pay is the same across the board, for the most part, unless you are in a specialty career field. Within each branch, there will be some overlap with training, skills, and jobs, such as; security and police, medics, aviators, and basic training. Each branch has its own traditions and legacies. It’s up to you to decide which one you want to be a part of and contribute to.