Deciding to join the military is a big decision on its own, but it isn’t where the decisions end. There are six branches of the military that you can serve in. The Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, and Space Force. Each branch has its own culture and mission and making sure to pick the one that fits you best is an important step when joining the military. You also need to consider if you would like to serve on active duty, in the National Guard or Reserves. There is no one right answer. The best branch for you needs to meet your goals and aspirations and not just be focused on the “perks” of one branch over another. Depending on why you are joining and what you are looking for will help you determine what branch and way you should serve in the military. This chapter covers the culture and mission of each branch of the military and the primary differences between serving on active duty, in the National Guard, or Reserves.
What Branch Should I Join?
Deciding to join the military is a big decision on its own, but it isn’t where the decisions end. There are six branches of the military that you can serve in. The Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, and Space Force. Each branch has its own culture and mission and making sure to pick the one that fits you best is an important step when joining the military. You also need to consider if you would like to serve on active duty, in the National Guard or Reserves. There is no one right answer. The best branch for you needs to meet your goals and aspirations and not just be focused on the “perks” of one branch over another. Depending on why you are joining and what you are looking for will help you determine what branch and way you should serve in the military. This chapter covers the culture and mission of each branch of the military and the primary differences between serving on active duty, in the National Guard, or Reserves
“To me, it comes down to culture. When you find your fit, you feel it in your bones. In your soul. You feel it in your bones. In your soul. You feel energized by it in a way that is hard to describe – and in a way that the other simply don’t. Nothing wrong with the others of course – but you know when it’s right.” – Heather Price
In this weeks interview we covered these topics:
Know Your Why You Want to Join
Resources provided by veterans (contains affiliate links)
Answer these questions
Mentioned in this Episode:
A Girls Guide to the Military
Need a mentor: Email me email@example.com
7 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Joining the Military
Going through MEPS - Episode 34
Joining the Army While Still In High School - Episode 43
Amanda Huffman 00:00
Welcome to Episode 82 of the Women on the Military Podcast. This week, I'm answering a question that I got from one of my listeners who asked me what branch of the military Should I join? I wasn't really sure how to answer this question because my initial reaction is always, “Go Air Force.” But I wanted to get a feel of what the different branches were and how to help get advice to answer this question. So I went to LinkedIn and I'm going to tell you what I found out in this week's episode. So let's get started.
You're listening to the women of the military podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm your host, military veteran military spouse and mom, Amanda Huffman. My goal is to find the heart of the story and uncover issues women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women, and be inspired to change the world keep tuned for this latest episode of women of the military.
This week on the podcast, I'm answering a question I got from one of my listeners, what branch of the military Should I join? In my research? I learned this is a multifaceted question. And there are a number of factors to consider when picking the right branch for you. I decided the best way to start this episode would be to share a story from my experience when I was in ROTC. So, let's get started.
Want to go play army for a weekend? I'm sure I loved everything about ROTC so going on another trip sounded like a fun adventure. The words army should have alarmed me. Growing up my ex-boyfriend had once taken me to play paintball with him and his friends. one weekend, I had not enjoyed any part of getting shot at hiding from the enemy or playing war. This memory was far from my mind when I decided to go help out the Army ROTC unit and be the enemy, I didn't realize there would be paintball guns involved. I also didn't know that we would be handed a compass and be expected to find certain way markers with no guidance except a piece of paper and vague instructions. We drove up to the mountain on a bus and arrived and we were quickly separated into junior and senior cadets. I was a junior cadet and I was assigned with a team of a handful of junior Air Force and Army ROTC cadets. We were given a compass and told to find various waypoint I had never had to use a compass for anything like this. And I had no idea what we're supposed to do and the instructions as limited as they were felt like they were being spoken to me in a foreign language. No one on our team had any idea what we're supposed to be doing. We literally had a compass, a piece of paper, kind of a map, a vague map and a pencil, the most senior army cadet step forward to take the lead and tried to explain to us how to use the compass to find the different way markers other team members kept interrupting Her and each of us scrambled to read the compass I should add the word incorrectly read the compass and stared down at the chart and flipped over the charts and tried to figure out which way to go. We eventually decided to go this way in that way and ended up in the wrong direction going up and down over hills through rugged terrain of dirt, cactus bushes and trees. Finally, after two hours we arrived back at the base camp, where our hot tired and our feet fill the blisters that had begun to form we turned in our map and I personally couldn't care less how much or how our team had done but I found out that we have missed every way marker and pretty much have walked around for no reason. I guess I should have been this disappointed but I felt like it was the cadets leadership fault for not for sending us out without all the information we needed.
Luckily there wasn't enough time for them to send this out again and we prepared to have dinner at the time I didn't know this was round one have to land now. horses and a few hours later, I found myself back with my incompetent team ready for nightline lab. This time we had been assigned a senior cadet to advise us, because apparently our team had done so bad. We needed help. Instead of giving us instructions and actually showing us what to do, he looked at the compass and quickly pushed us in the directions that we were supposed to go. At least that's where he told us to go. And we did complete the course very quickly. But again, we missed our waypoint, the senior cadet who had helped us had actually been no help at all, and the young army cadet, who had stepped up as a leader was being cancelled and I quickly snuck away back to the Air Force side of the camp feeling guilty that our team had caused her to end up getting counseled but also feeling that our senior cadet had actually only made our experience worse, rather than Better since he taught us nothing soon enough, it was time for bed. The army cadets were going to sleep under the stars and the Air Force cadets got in our van and headed to the barracks for a night sleep indoors on a bed. It was awesome. We woke up the next morning and made our way back to camp, feeling well rested and slightly achy from walking all over tarnation the day before, we had been promised that we would be guarding station and not marching. So I was excited. I was teamed up with four other Air Force ROTC cadets, and we were to garden outpost. I didn't know that each army unit would have over 20 cadets, and every time they would come to attack us, we would lose because there are only four of us. But nonetheless, it wasn't that bad.
The senior cadet talked about strategy and high ground and I just looked around at all the green grass and trees and wondered how this could be the same area of land that I had been hiking On the day before, and although the team of four against 20 continually defeated us, we let a lot of fun and that day I learned how to be the bait to draw the army teams away from our tactical positions. I also learned that when there's no outhouses, you have to improvise with a tree for the bathroom breaks, and I also found out that paintball guns don't hurt as much when they come from a standard paintball gun and not a modified one that my ex-boyfriend and his friends use. Have end of two days I had realized that there was a big difference between being in the Army and the Air Force. If I only talked about the fact that we were sleeping inside on beds and the army members slept on the ground outside and sleeping bags you could see that the way of life and the creature comforts were important to those of us in the Air Force, and not so much in the army. Even when we teamed up with Army we prefer indoors and match Even if we were given hell in the morning when we arrived, I personally didn't care. I was so happy that I got to sleep inside each branch of the military has a personality and picking the branch that matches your personality best can have a huge effect on how enjoyable or miserable your military service will be. And a fun note to mention that this trip that I went on that I'm talking so fondly about now is where I met my husband and we started dating, so maybe it wasn't that bad after all. So, when you decide that you're going to join the military, it's a big decision on its own, but it isn't the only decision you have to make. There's lots of decisions. There are six different branches of the military that you can serve in the Air Force, the army, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the newest branch, the space force. Each branch has its own culture and mission and making sure to pick the right one that fits you best is an important step when joining the military, you also need to consider if you would like to serve on active duty and the National Guard or the reserves. There is no one right answer. But there is a best choice for you the best branch for you needs to meet your goals, your aspirations, and not just be focusing on the perks of one branch over the other because there are pros and cons to all of them depending on why you are joining and what you are looking for will help you determine which branch and which way you should serve in the military. So, I'm going to give a quick breakdown of the different branches. The Air Force was established on September 18 1947, but its roots began in the army in 1907. When the military created an aeronautical division, they began testing their first airplanes in 1908. The early testing led to the US being ready for World War One with the first arrow Squadron. World War One and World War Two showed the power of air superiority and after the war's over the decided to create a separate force. The Air Force's mission is to fly fight and win and air, space and cyberspace but Space Force kind of took the space part away. So, I don't know if they're going to come up with a new mission, but that's what their mission is. Currently, there is a rich history and their vision guides their Airmen as they pursue their mission with excellence and integrity to become leaders, innovators and warriors.
The Air Force's motto is aim high fly fight when the next branch we're going to talk about is the army. The US Army was formed on June 14, in 1775, the Second Continental Congress formed the Continental Army as a means for the 13 unified colonies to fight the forces of Great Britain. George Washington was unanimously elected as the commander in chief of the new army, and he would leave the colonies to victory and independence. The Army's mission is to deploy and win our nation's war by providing ready, prompt and sustain land on minutes by army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the Joint Force. The army motto is you make them strong; we make them Army Strong.
Next, we have the Coast Guard. The US Coast Guard was founded on August 4 1790. It was created when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. It has been called the revenue marine and the Revenue Cutter service and has grown in size and responsibility as the nation has grown. It was given the current name of Coast Guard in 1915. Since 2003, the Coast Guard has operated as part of the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation's frontline agency for enforcing the nation's laws at sea, protecting them marine environment and the nation's vast coastline, airports and saving lives in times of war or at the direction of the President. The Coast Guard serves under the Department of the Navy. The mission of the Coast Guard is to ensure our nation's maritime safety, security and stewardship. The Coast Guard motto is semper paratus, which means always ready.
Next, we have the Navy the US Navy was founded on October 13 1775, the Continental Congress decided to arm to selling vessels with 10 carriage guns, as well as swivel guns and a man crew of 80 men. Their mission was to intercept transports carry munitions and stores to the British Army in America. The foundation of the Navy was a pivotal step in the Revolutionary War that first began to fight for the rights under the British Empire and some members of Congress resisted the bid for independence creating their own fleet. would change the landscape of the war. The mission of the US Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seeds. The Navy's motto is non civilly said archery, which is not self but country and I probably butchered that really badly.
Next we have the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was founded on November 10 1775. It was created when the Continental Congress ordered that two battalions of Marines be raised for service landing forces with the fleet Marines have fought in all wars of the United States. The Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy while the Marine Corps is its own branch of the US military. It falls under the administration of the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps motto is the few the proud the Marines or simplify which means always ready.
And last but not least, we the space force the space force was established on December 20 2019. The US military's newest branch is still in the process of being formed. That space force falls under the administration of the Department of the Air Force the same way the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. Its history comes from when in 1982 the US Air Force created the Air Force Space Command Cold War era Space Operations focused on missile warning launch operations satellite control, space for surveillance and command and control in 2005 Air Force Space Command game the responsibility of cyberspace but this responsibility was transferred to the Air Force Air Combat Command in 2013, allowing Space Command to focus on maintaining space superiority and outpacing our adversaries in the space domain. There are still a lot of unknowns is this new branch formed, but as more details come out, this branch might be worth considering as it's on the edge of a new frontier, shall we say, and it's kind of an exciting time to consider joining the new branch as it stands up, so more information to come but currently not available.
So now that we have an overview of the branches, I have gone to the internet to get some advice from veterans to help answer this question because I felt giving the one sided view of an Air Force veteran who has limited experience of deploying with the army. And you heard my story at the beginning being with the army for the weekend training, but I also wanted to get advice from other veterans who served in different bridges. So I decided to go on LinkedIn. And I asked people what advice they would give if they were talking to someone about joining the military and I was really surprised because I expected it It's gonna be a military, whether we kind of like haze each other and pick on each other and say like, you should join this branch and this you should join this one. And this is why, but and it started out this way because one of my friends who's in the army so that you should join the Air Force. But then after that, the comments got really interesting. And it was more about figuring out what the right branch is for you. Someone who's in one branch might tell you it's the best branch but it's probably the best branch for them and maybe the best branch for you and something different. So I love this quote from Heather price. She said to me, it comes down to the culture when you find your fit, you feel it in your bones in your soul, you feel energized, that the other branches simply don't. Nothing wrong with the others of course, but you know, when it's the right branch for you. So, here's the advice that the People on LinkedIn, which was over five pages of notes, when I copied down everything, everyone had said it, but they all had general themes. So, I put them into four main themes. And the first thing that people said is to think about your future. You're joining the military, and you're going to serve in the military, but it's not going to be forever. Even if you serve for 20 years, most military members after their 20-year career, get another career and they go to work. And many people who serve in the military, sir, four years, eight years, but way less than 20. So, think about how the military can set up your career for the future. It doesn't have to but it is always good to think about like making the right decision for what you want to do. I think that I kind of got stuck into a I'm a civil engineer, so I should be a civil engineer and I didn't even look at any other job in the military and looking back I should have looked at different jobs. Because just because my degree was in civil engineering, that didn't mean that's what I had to do. It kind of made the most sense because I like it. But I wish that I would have spent more time at the open houses that I went to and like talk to the different cadets, or the different officers that I met and find found out what was available to me because I kind of closed the door to everything and I didn't even look. So think about what you want to do in your future. What job really, are you passionate about? What is something that you can take with you after you leave the military one of the coolest jobs that I've learned about on the podcast is being a PA in public affairs. You could be an officer, you can be enlisted both facets of being an officer being enlisted gives you a wide range of experiences that you can use in the outside world and there are so many things that you get to do in the public affairs career field that you Can't do when you're young as a civilian because the Public Affairs office only has a certain number of people. And so, they give you a lot more responsibility than you might get if you are working at like a magazine or a newspaper company. That's like the one career field that if I didn't know that I was going to be doing a podcast soon when I left the military, but it just, I find those stories fascinating. And I think that there are so many opportunities of stuff that you can do while you're in the military. Even as a civil engineer in the Air Force. I, as a second lieutenant was out looking at construction projects, and I was running a lot of stuff that I would never have gotten to do as an entry level engineer. So you get a lot of responsibility, and you get a lot of cool experiences when you're in the military. So think about what job you want to do in the military and what job you want to do after the military and figure out if you can make the bowline and just go from there. Another piece of advice that I got was Ryan shared a story with me about how he wanted to join the airforce and fly. But he wasn't able to fly with the Air Force. But he did get a pilot slot with the army. So he decided to join the army. And that was the right choice for him flying was more important than what branch he wasn't. So if he was able to get a pilot slot, then joining through the army instead of the Air Force was the best option. Another thing is, not only do you have to decide if what branch you're gonna join, you have to decide how you want to join, you can join as an officer, or you can enlist and then you can join on active duty or National Guard or Reserves. That's a whole nother episode that I'll do in the future, talking about those different topics. But they are things that you need to consider and start thinking about because they're the recruiter might make you feel like there's one path to the military, but that's far from the truth. There's so many different paths So many different ways forward. So make sure you this next piece of advice I got from the people on LinkedIn was find a mentor. And I think that if you can talk to other people use the podcast as a resource to hear the stories of women in different branches, different career fields, Officer enlisted, everything is covered on the podcast, except spaceforce. Because there's not very many people in there yet, but I'm working on that. But if you can find a mentor, and if you can't find a mentor, you can always email me at airman to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help find a mentor that can help answer your questions about different branches, different careers, anything that you're looking for, that you need help with is I can help you get connected with the right people. So if or if you have a question like the person who emailed me about the show, about what branch join, if you ask me Question that makes my job easier when coming up with topics for the podcast? Because I can just answer your question and make it into an episode. So find a mentor, ask questions. And if you need help finding a mentor, you can always reach out to me. The next thing is to do your research. So you have this thing called the internet where you can find so much information about the military at your disposal. You don't have to rely just on your recruiter and what they tell you. There's a bunch of blogs, there's a bunch of podcasts outside of my podcast in the show notes, I'll link to some of the different resources that I have found, and some of my favorite podcasts about serving in the military so that you can have different resources to check out there are other podcasts by women about military women, so I'll link to those as well and you can hear so many stories and get connected so You can make the best choice for you. You don't have to do it on your own. There's finding a mentor doing your research and then asking questions that help you know what you should do. So the fourth thing is know your why. And what you want to do when you join. I'm working on a book about joining the military and the first chapter is all about your why. And I think figuring out your why is one of the most important steps when you join the military because it helps direct all the answers to where what branch Should I join, what job should I do? What route Should I take officer enlisted, what why should I serve active duty National Guard Reserve if you know your why, and what you want to do, then you can figure out all the other pieces so know what you want to do and what you want to do after that's about what I talked about earlier that came up a lot. And there are some questions that an army recruiter Donald Mack cart gave me he said what Is the person's objective of service service tradition, adventure training, college assistance, etc? What is your objective? What are you interested in and capable, which we mean qualified of doing based on your as web score if you're enlisting or your college degree or your medical qualifications will determine what jobs you're qualified for. You can't do every job in the military just because you want to there's a lot of different qualifications. So you will be limited by your choices by how you well you do on the ASVAB or what you get your degree in and those types of things. So that's something to consider. Another thing to question to ask is does the service offer the career choice of the individual? Maybe you want to join the Marines but you want to do something that the Marines doesn't do? I don't have a good example of what this would be, but I Do know that the word engineer doesn't always mean the same thing. And it's very different between like Air Force, civil engineers, and army engineers, and even Air Force developmental engineers. They all have different purposes and different meanings. So if you want to do something in your branch that you want to do doesn't offer it, maybe that's not the right fit. And it's telling you that you should pick a different branch. But there is a lot of crossover. And even though there is a lot of crossover, the way that the job is done, and the culture is different, so picking the same job in a different career, or in a different branch could mean different responsibilities and a different experience. Are you looking for a career in the military? Or are you planning on just doing four years? That's something to consider in how you pick your job and what branch you pick? Is there a reason that you want to stay in the location that you're at that would make it so that National Guard or Reserves might be the best option and not active duty and then also thinking about are you planning on listening or being an officer? So those are some of the questions that he gave me that he asked his recruits when they came to the recruiters office. And I had a handful of recruiters respond. And a lot of them talked about how they more than once would take someone who came to their office to a different office because you know, how recruiter offices are usually all next to each other. And so they would take them out of their office and to the crew, recruiters office that fit their brain. So they said it was a lot of like gut instinct, or feeling or just the way they answer those questions. They could figure out what branch they should be in. Those are questions you should ask yourself, think about what the best choice for you is. And there are some other resources that were provided by veterans that I will link to on the show notes. So if you have more questions about what branch Should I join, you can have even more resources to look at and if you have any other questions or if you need help In deciding what branch join, always feel free to send me an email or, or a message on any of the social media platforms that I'm on. Thanks for listening and have a great week. Thank you for listening to this episode of women of the military. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the amazing stories I have with women who have served in our military. Did you love the show? Don't forget to leave a review. Finally, if you are a woman who has served or is currently serving in the military, please email me at airman to email@example.com so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military.