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The Top 5 Reasons Soldiers Really Join The Army, According To Junior Enlisteds
Americans join the Army for plenty of reasons: for country, family, and honor. According to a new study of enlisted soldiers, however, a core motivation is relatively simple: for money.
A RAND Corporation exhaustive survey of 81 soldiers between E-1 and E-4 suggests that the choice to enlist is influenced by two overlapping factors: institutional ones like family and duty, and occupational ones like professional development and job stability.
But while 37% of soldiers identified cited both institutional and occupational reasons for joining the Army, a full 46% said they enlisted due to purely occupational reasons; only 9% said they joined for entirely institutional ones. (Interestingly, those who did cite service as a calling were mostly medics.)
In other words, the overwhelming majority of respondents had economic reasons for joining up; for most enlistees, it seems military service is a job first and a calling second.
According to the RAND study, the primary motivations for enlisting include:
- Adventure and travel: Perhaps Matthew Modine was onto something in Full Metal Jacket when he commented that he "wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them." 42% of soldiers joined up to get the hell out of Dodge. “I’ve been in Kansas the majority of my life, so I figured if I joined [the Army], I’d have a greater chance to go out and visit new states and new countries," one soldier told the RAND researchers.
- Benefits: A significant number of soldiers (32%) called military benefits a major motivation for enlisting: health care, active-duty tuition assistance, and post-service support structures like the GI Bill. Military service is a "lifeline" for some Americans, the researchers note, citing one single mother who joined "just because I had my son and I needed the benefits, I guess you could say."
- Job stability and pay: Nearly a quarter of soldiers had a simple explanation for their decision to enlist: They “needed to make money," especially given the economic turmoil the country's faced in recent years. "The Army can provide me with great education benefits, great career benefits later on," one soldier told the researchers. "So... why not start that and do that, instead of just working at some dead-end job that’s only paying minimum wage, maybe $10 an hour when I can go and get fantastic benefits?"After weighing the factors, another added, "I was like, well, why not, and if I stay in for 20-plus years [I can] retire at 40. So it seemed like a good deal to me, especially in the economy we’re in."
- Escaping a negative environment: For many, the military isn't just an economic lifeline — it's a sociopolitical one. "I guess I just joined to get out of the situation I was in, didn’t really see myself going anywhere," one soldier told the RAND researchers. "Yeah, [I feel like the Army has provided that for me]. The kids that I grew up with, out of the group that I hung out with, two of them are in jail and then the three either passed away or disappeared."
- Job training: Many of the enlisted soldiers chose the Army over other service branches "because it allows enlistees
to choose their MOS before enlisting," providing an extra incentive for those who see the military primarily as an economic vehicle, according to RAND: "Participants stated that this provided them a bit of autonomy and allowed them some idea of the role they would be expected to play once their terms of service began."
Ironically, those soldiers who cited occupational incentives for enlisting over sacred ideals tended to stick with military service in the long haul, though soldiers who saw the Army as a career "tended to cite institutional motives with more frequency than those who did not," the researchers write. Just because the military service is a job and not a calling doesn't mean enlisted soldiers aren't planning on kicking ass at their job.
Well, maybe not too much ass. When asked why they chose to pursue the Army over other service branches, a few soldiers responded that they "felt the Marines were 'way too hardcore,'" according to RAND. "One respondent recoiled from joining the Marines after his Marine recruiter became overzealous and tackled him during a game of ultimate Frisbee."
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
Toxic Chemicals Poisoned The Drinking Water At Military Bases. Now Congress Is Doing Something About It
Hoping to push for clean-up and to hold polluters accountable, members of Congress created a task force Wednesday to help constituents nationwide who have contended with drinking water contaminated by chemicals used on military bases.
A congressionally mandated commission is weighing whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service System, or whether the U.S. needs a draft registration system at all.
Confessions Of An Apache Pilot: What It's Like To Fly The Military's Most Heavily Armed Attack Helicopter
Welcome to Confessions Of, an occaisional series where Task & Purpose's James Clark solicits hilarious, embarrassing, and revealing stories from troops and vets about their job, billet, or a tour overseas. Are you in an interesting assignment and think you might have something to share? Email email@example.com with your story.
"Nothing is more powerful than a young boy's wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine."
While this Patrick Stewart quote may be from an R-rated movie about a talking teddy bear, it's remarkably accurate. After all, the old warhorse has been kicking ass since it was first adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1980s. Designed to get into trouble fast and put it down even faster, the AH-64 Apache usually comes bristling with ordnance, from an M230 chain gun firing 30mm rounds to Hellfire missiles and rockets.
In the words of Tyler Merritt "it's basically a fucking flying tank."