Going army strong: joining the fight

December 12, 2012 — by Michelle Leung and Helen Wong
army

Few people think too long about the mysteries of the military.

Few people think too long about the mysteries of the military. It is enough for most of us to know soldiers are out there protecting our country. However, joining the military is actually a relatively simple process, and hardly as well guarded as Hollywood would have us think.

The military is made up of five different branches: the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. They represent land, air and sea combat, respectively. Of the three branches, the Army is the largest and is always seeking fresh recruits.

“The army is looking for the best to join the profession of arms,” said Staff Sgt. Faux of the San Jose military recruitment center (Faux did not give his first name, only his title, in deference to military protocol). “The Army seeks qualified, motivated Americans to step forward and serve.”

In addition to the prestige of being part of the powerful U.S. Army, soldiers also receive benefits such as college tuition support, health care and retirement pay.

According to Faux, however, most recruits join for the overall military experince. Soldiers gain experience from the travels, diversity and discipline involved in being part of the Army.

“My favorite part is pushing myself past limits I thought I had, learning to overcome obstacles,” said Faux. “Obstacles like physical and psychological strength barriers.”

Soldiers from the Navy also said that honor and pride played major roles in their choice to join the military.

“The reason why I joined [at first] was that I wanted to go to school,” Chief Calderon (he, too, did not give his first name) of the San Jose military recruitment center said. “Things changed, and it became about the pride of the organization and wearing the cloth of the nation. For people to depend on us for freedom.”

According to Calderon, the Navy deals mostly in humanitarian efforts. They ensure the seas are clear, internationally. 

Calderon said, “It’s not so much battle; it’s more protecting and helping out.”

With military enlistment comes military ranking, and this applies to all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

There are two divisions within the military: the officers and the enlisted.

“The enlisted are volunteers who enlist and do not already have a bachelor’s degree, while officers are commissioned by Congress, and have authority over enlisted,” Faux said. “[Officers] have four-year degrees, not necessarily from military academies.”

Applicants first contact a recruiter, and then go through a qualifying process, which takes into account the applicant’s age. Applicants can join all the way up to age 42, but the vast majority are in their late teens or early 20s. Once applicants qualify, they can select a job from those they qualify for, and are officially sworn

in as soldiers. After being recruited, soldiers join the Future Soldier Training program, where they learn the basics of their respective branch and earn early promotions prior to attending Basic Combat Training.

According to Faux, the U.S. Army implements the basic skills required. Soldiers learn drill and ceremony, basic rifle marksmanship, land navigation, physical training, and other basic military customs and courtesies.

Among these military customs and courtesies is the deference that younger soldiers must show in the face of drill sergeants.

“Training and drill sergeants today are mentors to the young soldiers,” said Faux. “They are their principal trainer and guide to becoming a soldier.”

After completing basic training, soldiers move on to Advanced Individual Training, where soldiers learn a specific area of expertise.

Within the Army, there are many specialized areas to work in, called military occupational specialities, or MOS. Depending on qualifications during enlistment,

MOS will be determined with the respective person’s transcription. An example is of a weapon repairer. They work on everything from handguns all the way up to a tank’s main gun and artillery.

Soldiers must learn to utilize their skills, so they must practice out in the field. However, the field is not the actual fighting ground; it is a simulation.

“The field is a training environment set to replicate a combat environment,” Faux said.

The offer of a free education draws many civilians to the Army. Soldiers are authorized $4,500 annually to attend college, not necessarily operated by the military.

According to Faux, everybody who honorably serves is given the option to receive the Montgomery GI Bill, which currently provides $53,028 to attend college after enlistment contract.

The Reserve Officer Training Course is another educational option for soldiers, much like a class that one may sign up for. ROTC teaches military service to college students, while junior ROTC teaches military service to high school students.

The Army offers two ways to serve: the reserves and active duty. Active duty is a full time position while the reserves attend battle drill one weekend a month and one two-week period a year.

“The difference is the reserves serve as civilians first, then soldiers second, while the active duty serves as soldiers first, civilians second,” Faux said.

In 2012, Army enlisted 58,000 new soldiers for active duty and 12,000 for Army reserves. But according to Faux, only one in four 17-24 year olds in the United States are fully qualified to become soldiers, as only the most skilled are permitted to enlist.

“The Army is striving to recruit an all-volunteer force, by finding the best to join the profession of arms,” Faux said. “I joined to serve my country and do something positive with my life.”

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