Allow me to add to Aaron Clarey's advice on a career in the military. He makes a great case for joining the military at the age of 18 in Chapter 5 of his latest book, Bachelor Pad Economics.
He explains the young member of the military will have food, shelter, clothing and healthcare covered - in addition to a paycheck. He explains that the same young man who doesn't join will have to compete in a civilian job market where he is not taken seriously. He emphasizes the education opportunities available in the military - at no cost. Thus, the debt-free life. I could tell you more, but if any of this is relevant to your life you need to step up and buy the book to hear more.
I'd like to offer some additional advice. I enjoy reading Clarey's books and blog posts because he and I have several things in common. These include growing up in the mid-west, having frustrating careers in the mortgage industry, suffering a string of stupid bosses, and a sincere sadness at the state of the union in the areas of quality parents, opportunities for growth, and advice for the next generation.
Why young men should consider a career in the military - a supplement to the advice in Bachelor Pad Economics:
I served 14 years in the Army Reserves in both enlisted (E-1 to E-5) and commissioned (O-1 to O-3) ranks. I only have fond memories of my time in uniform, which is why my comments below are overwhelmingly positive, and probably a bit naive.
Pay and Advancement
All pay, from the private to the general, is published for all to see. There are no secrets about compensation like there are in the corporate world.
The same goes for promotions. Promotional requirements come down to a point system. Performance, PT, education, time in service and other factors all add up to a score, and promotions in the non-commissioned officer ranks only occur when a score exceeds the minimum threshold. Two additional perks: performance must be quantitative, not subjective to the whims of a biased rater. And, college education carries a TON of weight in the scoring process - a HUGE incentive for the enlisted service member to take advantage of the education benefits.
Are there unfair practices in the promotion process? Maybe. If so, it is well hidden. If so, there is very little room for subjective influence. But it is a guarantee that it is a minimum compared to the civilian sector.
Where else can you get a group of co-workers who are 1) drug free, 2) super healthy, 3) have, like you, taken the largest risk of their lives by joining the service, and 4) are self-driven?
Diversity. (I think this is the first time I've used the word "diversity" at Ushanka without being sarcastic.) The military is the ONLY place where diversity works. It works so well that liberals feel compelled to infiltrate this success to call it their own. Recruiters don't have any quotas. They sign-up whoever wants to join and meets the minimum standards. Then they send them into the basic training units without any regard to skin color. What you have is a REAL melting pot - a stressful situation for everyone that forms a bond you'll never get in the civilian world. Not even a fire or police department can duplicate this bond. Yes, there is racism and sexism in the service. But, believe it or not, I never saw it.
There is NO WHERE in the world where a young man can be assigned more responsibility than in the military. And, trust me, being assigned responsibility is a huge factor in job satisfaction. You'll be assigned the responsibility, shown the standard, and expected to meet it. The mission, and often lives, are at stake.
Clarey is right that many bosses in the military are duds. (I have a perfect story, several actually, to prove this point. For another time...) But it is equally true that there is NO WHERE you'll find a higher percentage of real leaders either. Again, trust me here. The military is an environment where the duds can't help but expose themselves. It is not a perfect system that expels all the dead weight, but it is a superior system to anything you can find in the civilian sector.
It took me years to figure out this is the single biggest benefit of the military. My resume might be two pages, but only a single line is devoted to my military service. When asked in an interview, it becomes a speech and the main reason for being hired. I list off the different type of leaders I worked for. What management and leadership styles they used and their level of success. What they did that I have adopted myself, what they did that I discarded. There are no other experiences on the planet that expose a young man to more leadership styles, traits and practices than the military. And that is raw currency in the job market.
The active duty member will have a chain of command who, essentially, own you. They get involved if you do something stupid like take on more debt than you can handle. This may sound harsh, but in the civilian world, as Clarey points out time and again, nobody is looking out for you.
The average young man has lived in one or two places his whole life. If he joins the military he is sent somewhere completely new for his training, then sent somewhere else for duty. That "somewhere else" has often been Iraq and Afghanistan - places that will give any objective liberal (if there are any) an appreciation for the American system. The military has a way of sending you to the most God-forsaken places in the world to give you the perspective necessary to best fight for your country. (And this translates into a wonderful tingle-down-the-spine during the National Anthem.)
I grew up near Chicago and was sent to basic training in Alabama at the age of 18. It was there, not high school, where I learned about the Civil War (which, I learned, isn't completely over!). It was the South where I learned where the core of our fighting men come from and where the core of America exists. It was there I took my first sip of sweet tea (not trivial).
As to Social Engineering
Yes, Obama is President. Yes, the higher ranks of the military have become politicized and polluted with "YES" men when it comes to integrating gays, diversity training, moral relativism, diluting excellence, etc. And, for good and bad I suppose, those same men are "NO" men when it comes to taking risk and taking the fight to the enemy.
But, because the military is the one part of our government that actually has to perform, these social engineering efforts are controlled so as to not cripple the mission. And for that reason, no matter how bad it is in the military, the social engineering in the civilian sector is worse and always will be.
Advice - Be the Tip of the Spear
My biggest regret is that I dipped my toe rather than pushed all my chips in. I knew nothing about the military when I joined. I just had an unconscious drive to be challenged. It wasn't a choice - my feet took me to the recruiter and my hand signed the form. But I joined the Reserves as a hedge. Shame on me. It turned out that I loved the military.
To those considering the military, please read and re-read this advice: Get as close to the tip of the spear as you can. Why?
1) During wartime it is likely the safest. Not logical - I know. The tip-of-the-spear guys get to choose where and when to fight. They initiate contact and they fight to win. The further away from the tip is to accept risks such as IEDs, "trusted" locals shooting you, and accidents like a pallet of equipment falling on your head. You also avoid traitors like the cross-dressing homosexual who gave thousands of documents to wikileaks.
2) The best peers. Only the best get to work at the tip of the spear. The competition is high, and only those who earn the trust of their peers and superiors get to participate.
3) You only live once. Why not be the best?
4) I'm biased, but this spear means ground combat - Army or Marines. If you are not out in the rain and in the mud 24/7, you're not anywhere near the spear, let alone the tip. Don't let the Air Force or Navy tell you they've got the spear opportunities. They do (ie. SEALS), but their primary missions involve data centers, ships, cubicles, etc.
Advice - Self Confidence
Clarey leads his military career advice with his regret of not joining when he was young. I have heard more candid regrets from close friends who SUFFER with the thought that they made a key life mistake by not joining.
There are times when I'm faced with a douche of a boss, or someone else in a position to judge me, who only assess my value based on his life, his career or his priorities. It is these few moments in life where I can look across the table and express zero reaction to their judgement. Because I know. And he knows. And he realizes I know that he knows - WHO at that table has really known hard work, long hours, a competitive environment, personal risk, selfless duty, teamwork, and great responsibility.
Still need more advice? Really??
Aaron Clarey just posted this video where he responds to active service members' desire to leave the service.
Comrades! Buy the book!
Thanks for sharing: Matt Bracken on FB, IOTW, Captain Capitalism.