People keep ragging on me about my choice to join the National Guard. Their questioning has been enough to make me wonder if I did the right thing. So I decided to sit down and analyze the good and the bad. I quickly realized how much better my life is because of joining the military! Here’s a quick list of why enlisting was one of the best decisions of my life:
1. The Army Provides Consistency
I know, regardless of everything else going on in my life, every month, like clockwork, that drill weekend is going to come. I know I have to exercise because the dreaded APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) is a certainty. I have to keep my grades up because the Drill Sergeant will see them. The regularity of the military is like an anchor in the uncertainty of life. Furthermore, I know what each year’s is going to bring for the remainder of my contract. It’s a comfort to know I’m not going to be fat or homeless for at least another six years!
2. “Battle Buddies” are Better than Friends
The Army enforces a system of Battle Buddies. Everywhere you go, you must be in groups of two or three. In Initial Entry Training (Basic and Job Training), you are actually assigned a designated Battle Buddy. That system is beneficial. It teaches people to get along with people they may have nothing in common with. Furthermore, the concept of unity and brotherhood is reinforced in the Soldier’s Creed, a list of the principles by which we live and die. Within the Creed are the phrases, “I am a Warrior and a member of a Team”, and also, “I will never leave a fallen comrade”. Loyalty is literally indoctrinated into us. Battle Buddies can’t and won’t ditch you for petty drama, or get in a fist fight with you over a girl. Can you say the same thing about friends?
3. The Culture is Diverse and Generally Accepting
I mentioned how much I learned about race in my first article about the military. I still stand by those words. There’s a common saying in the Army: “No one’s White, Black, Brown, or anything in between; we’re all green, like the uniforms we wear every day.” And in my experience, thus far, that statement has held up to reality. I’ve seen White NCO’s (non-commissioned officers), from rural, conservative, Pennsylvania publicly honor a young Black Specialist’s potential to be the first promoted to Sergeant in the entire company without hesitation. In the military we have more important things to deal with than the color of your skin.
4. Assurance of a Financially Secure Future
In exchange for agreeing to attend Drill once a month, and give up some of my summer for a few years, I have ensured steady income for the foreseeable future. The Guard is going to pay my full tuition at a State University, pay me for Drill every month, and give me an extra several hundred-dollar stipend as part of my contract. I’m getting paid for my training this summer, and I’m going to receive a several thousand dollar bonus over the course of my 6 years in the Guard for signing up for my specific job.
5. The Military Builds Character
The Guard is an environment that forces you to be respectful to people you disagree with (a definite struggle of mine). They encourage teamwork by punishing the group for the mistakes of one; which ensures we look out for each other. Physical training breeds discipline. Integrity and honor are expected as a given. There are disparaging terms used for those who backstab or don’t pull their own weight. We as Soldiers take it as a point of pride to be a step above the societal moral norms. The Army consciously works to build our character, because we’re going need it to make our Nation proud on the battlefield.
6. I Have a Purpose
In the early years of high school, I was adrift. So much was happening all at once, and way too quickly! Stress was causing me to fall short of my goals. To be honest, I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to my potential. Though my test scores were through the roof, my GPA was plummeting and I was losing hope. When I met a recruiter at a school event, I really had no intentions of pursuing anything. But the more I learned about the Guard, the more I was intrigued. I enlisted with major apprehensions. But looking back, a year later, I can confidently say the military renewed my hope for the future, and gave me a structure in which to pursue my career plans. And if I decide to stay in the Guard after college, I’ll know what I’m doing is important, which is all that truly matters at the end of the day.