Let's face it. Talented young Americans are driven away from joining the active military for a multitude of reasons. They may want to maintain their freedom to live wherever they want, pursue higher education at their own pace, or have a full-time civilian career. Despite these barriers, many millennials still feel inclined to serve in some capacity.
Here are five reasons why millennials should consider joining the Reserve or National Guard component of any branch.
1. Joining gives you the opportunity to be part of something greater than yourself.
Joining the Reserve or National Guard may fill that void if you aspire to serving a greater cause much larger than yourself. If duty to your country is not your primary motivation, joining any component of the military likely won’t be a good fit. It is imperative that anyone considering joining the armed forces contemplate the event that they may be mobilized for more than just annual training stateside.
Filling the ranks of any branch is an age-old tradition, and recruits will be indoctrinated into a community of America’s best. A willingness to serve and put up with anything thrown your way is a prerequisite to ensure your commitment, and the pride of your service will last a lifetime.
2. It will strengthen your professional development and leadership potential.
The Reserve and National Guard components provide their personnel with responsibility and incredible training opportunities ranging from technical certifications to specialty schools. For example, fields such as cyber security are extremely reliant on industry professionals in the civilian sector, and the military is attempting to utilize those individuals in the National Guard and Reserve. Technical experience gained through education or employment may now be easily transferred to part-time military service, and becoming a Reservist or Guardsman further develops that previously existing expertise in a purposeful way.
If, you’re feeling unsatisfied with your monotonous civilian job, having a second career in the military will provide you with variety and some excitement. Maintaining two careers requires fundamental time-management skills, and the ability to be a badass. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to do something completely different from your civilian occupation. Bob may be a banker from Monday to Friday, but once a month he can tear off that Men’s Warehouse suit like Superman and emerge as a military professional.
Regardless of your military or civilian career, experience in the Reserve or National Guard will undoubtedly separate you as a candidate from your peers when applying for employment. It proves that you possess a great sense of loyalty and selflessness, and the responsibility given in terms of personnel and equipment often outweighs the responsibility of someone working in the civilian sector.
3. It provides you with the opportunity to understand military culture and tradition.
Just like many other things, you can’t really relate to those in the military simply by reading a few books or watching “Zero Dark Thirty.” While nearly everything about military lifestyle is public information, it takes immersion to begin to understand firsthand. I personally have a much greater respect and admiration for veterans now because I feel that I have a slightly better grasp of what they sacrificed for our country. When you have the opportunity in the military to interact with those who you saw on CNN during the Battle of Fallujah as a kid or read about in Sebastian Junger’s book “War,” it leaves a lasting impression of inspiration and gratitude.
Military tradition and culture go far beyond the ridiculous acronyms and barracks pranks you see on YouTube. Military personnel have a strong commitment to their brothers and sisters in uniform, and there are numerous support systems in place to assist anyone who faces personal or professional problems in their life. Needless to say, a dominating aspect of military culture is a strong sense of belonging and camaraderie. The superordinate goal of the military to protect the United States and its interests bestows a deep sense of purpose in individuals, and their devotion to work as a team is what makes us successful.
4. Joining offers a second source of income and other financial benefits.
While the Reserve or National Guard cannot sustain you as your primary source of income (unless working full time as Active Guard/Reserve), it is a considerable amount relative to the amount of time devoted to training. The pay for reservists and guardsmen varies by rank and years of service, and there are charts available that clarify what the income is like for each pay grade.
As a newly enlisted reservist, you will make around $200 for just one weekend of drill and receive active-duty pay for your time in training. Income increases with promotions and time spent in the military, so a brand new lieutenant will go from making around $400 for a weekend of drill to $600 after spending three years in the military and gaining one promotion.
Besides the direct income, you can maximize your financial benefits from joining in a multitude of ways. There are bonuses, scholarships, and even loan repayment services available to Reserve and National Guard service members. They can also take advantage of military-friendly companies like USAA, which provides service members and their families discounted banking and insurance services.
5. Joining promotes your civilian employment opportunities.
Ever thought about the military as a networking opportunity? U.S. service members are some of the most ambitious and dedicated Americans you’ll ever meet, and being around them will undoubtedly enhance your ability to succeed in your personal and professional lives. Besides, you never know when your barracks bunkmate happens to be the hiring manager for a Fortune 500 company.
As a new soldier, sailor, airmen, or Marine, nearly everyone else in your unit will have more experience managing two careers. Their lessons learned and domain knowledge is a limitless resource that can help you navigate tough decisions and prioritize what really matters.
Joining any component of the military isn’t for everyone. For those who need to fulfill that yearning to have a positive impact on others and the world, I strongly encourage you to apply your skills to the military. We must all serve doing whatever it is we do best, and with the drawdown of American armed forces personnel in 2015, many experts have advocated for more reliance on National Guard and Reserve forces. The United States is going to need its best and brightest millennials in uniform to solve the complex challenges of the present and future.