Life in the military is a life of extremes. On the best day of my life, I landed a jet on an aircraft carrier for the first time. On the worst day of my life, I watched a close friend of mine die in a crash on a training mission. Both the best and worst people I have ever met are in the navy. The military is both simultaneously the tightest family you will ever have and the most callous organization that, at times, not only does not care about you, but even seems to hate you. I joined seeking adventure and sometimes felt like I received far more than I bargained for. It’s a roller coaster ride, with higher highs and lower lows than you’ll find anywhere else. The highs may be few and far between, but as long as you enjoy the ride, you won’t regret a thing.
I will agree with both of my Veteran brothers about highs and lows. I spent 9 years in uniform, part active duty Air Force and part Air National Guard.
I do not believe that there is a definitive answer to this question. Many factors will affect one's experience. The two biggest factors, in my belief, are the people you work with every day and YOU. Following up in a close third place would be your job. Even the lousiest of jobs can be more tolerant if you're with the right group of people. When I went from active duty to ANG, I had to be interviewed by my new supervisor. He immediately referred to me as a RAFSOB (Regular Air Force Son of........). When he saw that I took on the name proudly, he knew I would fit in the work center. Once I transferred in, I was then known as XRAFSOB for the remainder of my time.
When I was in the Air National Guard (ANG), after a few years I was transferred from my original job to another. Although I was in the same unit, the people in my new work center made doing the job sheer misery. And that is why I left. The people that worked in there had been working together for many years. My work center worked with this one all the time, so we all knew each other for years. Except my office didn't always see eye-to-eye with them. Then again, this holds true for any job in the private sector as well.
I have been out for many more years than I was in, however, I still associate with some of them. Because of the stuff you go through together, it sometimes form a strong bond. The end result though, is everyone will have their own experiences.
To give some context, I served as an Infantry Rifle and Mortar Platoon Leader in the Army for four years.
I agree with Aedan's theme (and appreciate the honesty in his answer) - military service is filled with intense highs and lows, prolonged periods of profound boredom followed by short bursts of paralyzing excitement.
Military service is absolutely a lifestyle. It dominates every facet of your life. I am both extremely proud of my time in the Army and hugely relieved that I am no longer serving. I think that might be the best way to think about military service - juxtaposition of opposing feelings. The Army had a huge influence on the person I am today and has absolutely fueled my professional success since I got out in 2017 but I definitely have scars (mental and physical) from it.
If the military is something you're interested in, the best thing I can recommend is to think very carefully about WHY you want to join. Military service is drastically different from how it's portrayed in film and the media - there is probably nothing further from reality than how each branch of service advertises itself. The simple fact of the matter is that being in the military isn't a video game - in one way or another, there is pain in serving.
Think carefully, talk about the decision with your family and friends and try to find veterans/active service members to talk to. I'll recommend a couple of books that you could check out that I think give a more realistic depiction of service (sorry, they're both focused on life as an infantryman in the Army - my perspective is biased by my own experience).
Good luck - feel free to add a comment on this response if you have any other questions.
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I served 3 years in a fast paced unit in the Army, which was the 82nd Airborne Division. To be specific 2/504 PIR, which is an airborne infantry unit. At the time I loved doing what I did, however it was extremely time consuming and definitely put the stresses on you. I cannot explain the value/lessons I learned in this short time; from self discipline, accountability, leadership, paying attention to detail, and others that just are not coming to mind. I was married at the time and honestly it is so hard being married and being gone all the time, so when my time was up I chose to save my marriage and not re-enlist. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed in, but I have been married over 30 years, so all is good. If you are looking for a purpose in life and unsure what to do, then consider serving in of the branches and there are so many things to do and offer many life lessons.
I hope this answer finds you well. I am currently serving in the United States Marine Corps on active duty and have been doing so for over five years now. For me, I have never had any regrets on deciding to enlist. In fact, last year I decided to sign up for another four years. As those above me have stated, the military can be quite the wild ride. There have been weeks and even months for me where everything seemed to be going well. I have had certain jobs and billets that I loved doing and was excited to execute my duties in. But in contrast, I have also been put under a great deal of stress at some points in my career. Mission accomplishment is first and foremost while in the service, and sometimes needs to be accomplished by any means necessary even if that means staying late after work or meticulously executing small, receptive tasks.
I look back at my time and can honestly tell you the good outweighs the bad. I have met people from all around the country that I consider my brothers and have gained a lasting bond with others that I think would be hard to find outside the military. I have had the opportunity to spend 3 years of my life in Japan, and gained a plethora of new experiences and learned a lot about myself.
Like many other jobs, it's what you make of it. I know people who have put in an immense amount of work in while on active duty, and are reaping the benefits today, whether that be more money or leadership opportunities. I have also met Marines with very little work ethic or sound decision making abilities who struggle and even find themselves in a worse situation getting out than when they first joined.
My question to you: Who do you want to be?
Crush your goals and outwork those around you.