Being all that you can be means performing any number of tasks. Whichever of the five branches of the United States Armed forces—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Forces, or Coast Guard—you choose to join, prepare yourself for more than a buzz-cut and target practice. Officers are leaders, organizers, strategists, and managers whose duties entail enormous responsibilities. Each branch of the armed forces has particular tasks. The Army is in charge of land-based defense initiatives. The Air Force supervises space and air defense. While the Navy flies the flag upon the seas, the Marine Corps provides them with land support. The Coast Guard plays a dual role. In peacetime, it works for the Department of Transportation, controlling access to American shores. The moment war breaks out, the Coast Guard works alongside of the Navy.
Some of the responsibilities inherent in a chosen military career are obvious, such as running a nuclear submarine or commanding a platoon of demolition specialists. Less obvious, but just as important, are the various clerical and managerial tasks that are essential to the smooth operation of our national defense and international peacekeeping. Because of military officers’ versatility, training, and skills, they are valued in the civilian world. Many former officers find themselves in great demand at some of America’s largest corporation. Military training is thorough, disciplined, and tough. Working conditions vary greatly, but in all cases, standards of appearance and behavior are regulated. While forty-hour weeks are common, many officers must work odd, long hours. The perks include extensive travel and health-care benefits, as well as family-oriented services like day care, job security, and a decent pension after a relatively short career. Of course, the gratitude our nation shows its soldiers cannot be left out of the package.
There are three tracks for pursuing the ranks of officer. You may enlist and eventually apply for officer candidate school, you can join ROTC at your college or university, or you can apply to one of the highly-competitive service academies. The best known are West Point (Army), Annapolis (Navy and Marines), the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. Admission standards are rigorous. Officer candidates must undergo extraordinary training and pass a battery of tests, including the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
The decision to join the armed forces should not be taken lightly. You are putting your life into the country’s hands. Ask your recruiter for the details of your service, including the length of your term, the salary you will receive, and if there are any educational opportunities available. Talk to current members of the service about their jobs. Because military fosters a clearly defined lifestyle a military enlistment is difficult to reverse, look carefully before you leap. Enlistment contracts can last eight years. Graduates from service academies must serve for several years after their graduation.
Officer candidates must go through basic training, a nasty eleven-week affair that builds muscle and character. Instruction and duty assignments follow. Much of military life involves the constant repetition of tedious tasks such as digging holes, but many educational opportunities are also available to the enthusiastic, competent young officer.
The military is a good training ground for a number of careers, and those who leave often have training in specific technical fields, such as aerospace engineering, computer programming, systems engineering, and inventory management. Employers in many industries appreciate the general discipline and leadership skills that the military teaches. An officer’s training, skills, and versatility are valued in the civilian world, and some of America’s largest corporations are anxious to hire former officers.