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For the military veterans, what do you wish you could have done differently before enlistment? Any regrets, lessons, thoughts for future service members?

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5 answers

Joshua’s Answer

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Definitely agree with the above, research what you want to do. Look at what they can apply to in the civilian world after the fact. I enlisted into a combat position that did not transfer well into the civilian world, and this forced me to retrain once I left the service. It makes you start in your career later in life, and miss much needed experience.

The military can help with education, certification, and housing, among other things while you are in. It can also assist once you are out. Take full advantage so that you benefit fully, and set yourself up later in life .

Prior to enlistment, any college classes can help.. as they can gain you a rank or two (as can eagle scout experience). ROTC is a good thing to check out as well. Going in with a degree opens your options as well.

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Vince’s Answer

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I enlisted in combat arms (M-1 tanks) with the Army. It was a great experience. The only different I might have done was to look at the other job types available. There isn't much use for tank drivers in the civilian world even though I had a great time. Take advantage of the available job types to explore or learn a skill either relevant to your future or something that may interest you. You should also consider ROTC or OCS if you want to make it a career.

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Robin’s Answer

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I wish I would have done my research! I am a 26 year retired AF SMSgt. The AF has every job that is comparable to the civilian work force and then some! Pick a job that can easily be done in the civilian world, e.g. medical career field. You need to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Work inside or outside?
2. Work schedule (days, night, shifts, M-F, weekends, etc)?
3. Do you want a job that is primarily based overseas (linguist)?
4. Do you want a job that will easily transfer to the civilian world whether or not you make the military a career?

Answering these questions will help you narrow down your interests! Then it is determining which service you would like to join! Be sure to talk to all the recruiters (to include Coast Guard) and some actual members of each of the services if possible!!Each branch has a distinct culture so you want the one that is a match for you!
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Nicholas’s Answer

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I am still Active Duty Navy, definitely explore your options research everything you are interested in to see where you fit in best. There are a few different branches to choose from, there are a lot of jobs to choose from, whether you want to be enlisted or officer. Then other choices like whether you want to do 4 and get out or make a career out of it. I would definitely recommened getting a job that equates to a civilian job, it makes transition easier and definitely makes what you do in worth doing to the best of your ability. I am an Electronic technician in the Navy, and I dable in the IT cybersecurity field as well. If for some reason I had to get out of the Navy today, I know I would be lined up and fully qualified to find another job rather easily.

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Lance’s Answer

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Pick your job carefully - I steered away from combat arms jobs because I knew that I wanted to get out someday and start a second career. I selected a radio communications maintainer position that offered me the opportunity to get the needed skills to transition to a decent paying civilian job. I ended up staying in the Army much longer than I ever thought I would (21 years), but along the way, I earned a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree and a wealth of experience that I was able to leverage for rewarding jobs paying money that I never imagined I would be making.


Lance recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about what you want to do once you get out of the military (everyone gets out one day).
  • Make a list of things that you are really good at (something that you, in general are better at than your friends).
  • See where the overlap is between things that you want to do and things that you are great at.
  • Share your plan with everyone that you can and modify it after you get feedback.
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