Have you made the decision to join the Air Force, but unsure of which military branch you would like to make a career out of? Each branch – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard – have their pros and cons. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other in totality. It just means one branch is better for you than the others.
Of course, the only way to know which military branch is the right for your career is to have some expectations of what you’d be walking into.
Keep in mind that the decision to join the military is often a personal one. After all, you’re giving up your time and possibly life to ensure the freedoms of others. It’s why you need to look at each branch in great detail before deciding on a particular one. In the grand scheme of things, your choice will be one of the most important decisions you make.
3 Critical Steps To Choosing Your Branch Of Military Service
Research All Branches
Most people, when they decide to join the military, look at two different branches. While this is good, it’s better to look at all five of them. You don’t even have to visit the recruiters themselves. You can go to the recruiting websites and review the different brochures to get a feel of what branch you could see yourself in.
The websites and brochures give you some idea of what to expect – some, not all! Therefore, don’t base your decision solely on them. It’s not uncommon for recruiters to hear a person isn’t interested in joining a particular branch because of what they read in a brochure or saw on the website.
This is why talking to a recruiter will be your best bet.
A recruiter can tell you the positive and negative aspects of the branch. You can talk with them by phone or meet with them in person (in person is best). They can give you some insight into what you thought you knew and learn what you didn’t read about it.
Yes, it’s similar to talking to a car salesperson. They’re trying to sell you a vehicle, and they know you’re unlikely to make that important decision based on a website or ad. Unless the whole website or ad turned you off, you may not give it a dismissive thought and are more willing to listen to what a recruiter has to say.
Preparing For The Recruiter Talk
Before you go to a recruiter’s office, it’s important to write down your list of motivations. This list could entail any kind of goal – money for college, travel opportunities, good pay, job security, full-time employment, etc. The reality about your list is not how many are on there; it’s the ability to satisfy them.
Be sure to rank your motivators from most important to least. It’s a process called rank-ordering, and it helps you to determine which branch will ensure you satisfy them.
Bear in mind that your list of motivators is just that a list. You don’t have all the information to help you decide if enlisting is the right thing for you or not.
For example, if your primary goal is to get technical training, you won’t know if you can meet the motivator. Unless you took the Armed Services Vocational Battery test and underwent a physical examination, you can only assume you will qualify for this kind of training. After talking to the recruiter, you may have a better idea of whether or not you can satisfy it.
Deciding Between The Branches
After you’ve looked at each branch and talked with the different recruiters, it’s time for you to make your decision (if you already haven’t). Again, your choices may be narrowed down to two by this point. How do you decide between them?
The technique you used to decide on joining the military or not is the same you should use for deciding which branch of the military is right. Begin with your motivators’ list. Create a Yes/No category at the top and, at the side, write down the different military branches. Now, compare your motivator list and determine if one branch stands out more than others in satisfying the list. Again, you’ll typically have two left to choose from.
Compare the two – is there one better than the other in satisfying your list? Be sure to think about the negative features of each branch along with the motivators. If you’re still having problems, you need to consider the following factors to help you decide which branch is best for you:
• Enlistment Length – Some branches require you to stay in longer to get the same benefits you’d get from other branches.
• Advanced Pay Grade – Your enlistment options could lead to an advanced rank for some branches.
• Training Type and Length – How long and comprehensive is your training going to be? How useful is it going to be after you leave the military?
• Enlistment Bonuses – Consider the enlistment bonus, but don’t make it the deciding factor in the grand scheme of things. If one branch has an enlistment branch over the other, and you like what the branch has to offer you, then go ahead with that branch.
• Extra Allowances and Pay – You could be entitled to additional allowances and bonuses a branch has to offer. For instance, you could get Submarine or Sea Pay by joining the Navy. You don’t get that from the Air Force.
• Pursuing Higher Education – All military branches give you educational benefits, but you need to look at when you can take advantage of them. If you have a 12-hour shift kind of job and you need to be in the field more often than not, when can you take classes… even online ones?
Once you weigh those factors, then you should have a better idea which branch is best for you. If you still haven’t made up your mind, there are four things you can do:
• Ask recruiters if they can find a recently enlisted person that you can talk to.
• Take a tour of a nearby base – to get a feel for the area.
• Join online blogs geared toward military members – ask them questions.
• Speak with family and friends already in the military. You could even speak with civilian contractors for the military working on the military base. However, try to speak with someone with more “current” experience as they’ll have a better idea of “today’s” military setting and atmosphere.
How To Decide On Alternative Opportunities – Guard and Reserves
If active duty isn’t your deck of cards or it’s not supported by your main motivators, you may want to consider the Guard or Reserves. These are:
• Air National Guard
• Air Force Reserves
• Army National Guard
• Army Reserves
• Marine Corps Reserves
• Coast Guard Reserves
• Navy Reserves
There are three instances of when these are better options:
• You’re deeply rooted in your community and don’t want to leave.
• You’re going to college full-time and would like to stay in school.
• You’re working full-time and just want supplemental money or additional skills to apply toward your current job.
When it comes to your decision – be it Active Military, Guard or Reserves – you need to review back at your list of primary motivators to determine which action is the best for you.
What Is The Actual Mission Of The Military?
Forget what you see on TV or online and ignore what recruiters have to say; the military’s mission is not to give members skills that can be used after leaving the military or money to go to college. These are just side benefits of the military service. The true U.S. Military’s mission (no matter the branch) is to offer national defense.
And, even though this is the mission of the entire military, every branch offers national defense in its own way.
What You Could Expect From Each Military Branch
Air Force’s Mission – To Fly, Fight and Win – In Air, Space and Cyberspace
In order to attain their mission, the Air Force has the goal for Worldwide Vigilance, Power and Reach, which is based on three primary capabilities: operations integrations, developing airmen and warfighting technology.
• Air and Space Excellency – With this, all branches can control enemy operations – be in by air, sea, land or space.
• Worldwide Attack – The Air Force, due to its technological advances, can quickly carry out attacks anytime and anywhere with better accuracy.
• Quick Worldwide Mobility – The Air Force can quickly respond to any location to ensure quick worldwide mobility.
• Accurate Engagement – With this technique, members can use discriminatory force against certain targets due to the type and nature that demand accurate and dependable use of military power with little risk and damage.
• Data Superiority – The joint force commanders’ ability to keep up with data and add it into a plan is important.
• Responsive Combat Support – Successful operations demand responsive deployment and sustainment to help any military branch – be it temporarily or permanently.
Army’s Mission – To Fight and Win Wars By Offering Rapid Dominance
It doesn’t matter what the Army’s component is, the service carries out by institutional and operational missions.
• When it comes to operational services, this includes numbered armies, battalions, brigades, corps and division to carry out worldwide operations.
• When it comes to institutional services, it’s the infrastructure needed to train, equip and deploy readied forces.
Training bases offer soldiers the military skills and professional education they need. It allows the branch to expand their numbers in instances of war quickly. The Army is provided with top-of-the-line equipment and logistics that includes installations with “power-projection platforms” needed for deployment of land forces when called upon.
The mission of the Army is to fight the nation’s wars and win them by offering immediate, sustainable land dominance through an array of military operations to support others commanders. How does the Army do this?
• It executes both Title 10 and Title 32 U.S. Code directives to include organize, equip and train forces to carry out immediate and sustainable land combat operations.
• Carry out the missions brought forth by the Secretary of Defense, U.S. President and fighter commanders – to transform the future.
Coast Guard’s Mission – To Make Sure The Safety and Security Of the U.S. Maritime.
The U.S. Coast Guard has, for more than two centuries, protected the maritime interests of the sea and ports of the mainland and areas around the world. Those who enlist in the coast guard are in charge of protecting the environment and economy of the maritime, defend its borders and save people in danger. For this reason, their motto is “Semper Paratus” or “Always Ready.”
There are close to 42,000 men and women in the active duty coast guard, which do a plethora of military and civil jobs that affect almost all parts of the maritime environment. The Coast Guard, by law, has 11 missions:
• Search and rescue
• Security of coasts, waterways and ports
• Help with navigation
• Drug prohibition
• Maritime safety
• Migrant prohibition
• Ice operations
• Defense readiness
• Living maritime resources
• Marine environmental protection
• Other jobs pertaining to law enforcement
Marine Corps’ Mission – To Offer Swift, Aggressive Response In Times of War By Land, Sea or Air
The U.S. Marine Corps has been in full readiness since 1775. The goal is to provide an immediate and aggressive response when called upon. Marines are soldiers on the sea that offer detachments and forces to shore and naval ships operations. They are worldwide leaders that come up with various innovations and help other countries with their forces and agencies with their military operations.
The Marine Corps is the nation’s first line of defense.
Navy’s Mission – To Uphold, Train and Prepare Naval Personnel With Combat-Ready Techniques
The Navy’s purpose is to ensure personnel is combat-ready in case of war. Navy personnel are taught how to deter aggression and win wars while maintaining freedom in the seas and oceans.
The Premise Of Basic Training For All The Military Branches
Basic training helps each branch train enlisted members to meet the individual mission of that particular branch. The initial indoctrination takes place in Basic Training. While the premise is the same for each branch, each one has their own Basic Training setup. Men and women learn to become soldiers, marines, airmen, sailors and coast guardsmen.
Basic Training Requirements
• Pass physical fitness tests, which can vary from each branch
• Pass swim test – for certain branches
It’s important to prepare yourself for these tests before you go to Basic Training. While Basic Training is a key part of the initial military service, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in picking a branch to join, especially if you’re going to make a career of it.
Remember, a career with the military lasts at least 20 years. Basic Training lasts between eight and 12 weeks.
Basic Training Locations and Length of Time
• Air Force – 8.5 weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas (No Swim Test)
• Army – 10 weeks at Ft. Benning, GA., Ft. Jackson, SC., Ft. Knox, Ky., Ft. Sill, OK. and Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. (No Swim Test)
• USCG – 8 weeks at Cape May, NJ. (Swim Test)
• Marines -12 weeks at Parris Island, SC. and San Diego, CA. (Swim Test)
• Navy – 8 weeks at Great Lakes, IL. (Swim Test)
Special Note – Female Marine enlistees have recruit training at Parris Island, SC. Army Basic Training is dependent upon the military specialty. While a majority of the trainees finish basic training on time, some take longer to finish it.
Listen Up! What You Need To Remember…
Your decision to join the military is a personal, but all-important one. And, the branch of service you go into is just as important. You can’t make that decision on what a website, brochure or recruiter says. Instead, read what you can and talk to current military members to decide on the branch of service that will satisfy most, if not all, of your motivators. But don’t dare stop there. Look at the jobs and training by each respected military branch. This is not a simple four or seven year decision but one that may dictate career and life-style choices for the rest of your life. Be diligent. Be wise and do your research before speaking to a recruiter. Visit military bases before raising your right hand. Ideally, talk to current military members that work in the career path which you’re interested.