Join the Military–With Your Eyes Wide Open

The costs of joining the Marine Corps

If you’re on the fence about joining, even after talking to a recruiter or Officer Selection Office, this post will not push you towards the “Join” side. Brace yourself for the dirty little secrets of the unglamorous side of Marine Corps officer life.

You will miss your family

If you have a close relationship with your family, sorry, but that relationship will take a hit. Marines miss innumerable birthdays, holidays, and special events. It’s very common to miss out on the birth of children, the death of parents and grandparents, and everything in between. You are moved around the country, often spend significant time overseas, and rarely get to use all your leave. Spending less time with family is one of the hardest parts of service life for many.

You won’t get to pick where you are stationed

Don’t listen to an OSO or recruiter who tells you that you get to live where you want. Just because the Marine Corps has a base in sunny San Diego, or Texas near your family or tropical Hawaii does not mean you get to go there. Many jobs in the Marine Corps are only at two or three locations in the whole world. If one of those locations is remote Maine or swampy Camp Lejeune, NC, that’s where you will get stuck.

You will move. A lot.

Twenty moves in 22 years is a common career. Personally, this article’s author has moved at least once every 6 month period of the last 4 years. Your kids can’t have life-long friends. Your wife can’t have a long-term job unless she works online. Fact.

Accessory duties suck

You will stand firewatch at OCS for an hour or two a night. Such wastes of time do not stop after OCS. Every officer has to stand duty periodically, which could be a 24 hour period of walking around base and making sure nothing is going on. Someone stands duty in each unit every day. If your slot comes on July 4th or Christmas Eve, tough. You just got screwed. Long, boring stretches like duty are commonplace in the military. You will never have more of your time wasted or get more bored!

The hours and physical requirements take a toll

The majority of Marines work very long hours–definitely more than a 40 hour week like their civilian counterparts. When you go to the field, you are at work 24 hours a day. This is very difficult for single parents, for those taking care of family members, etc. The physical requirements of training, especially in the combat arms, take a very real toll. Everyone who works around aircraft or weapons ends up losing hearing. You just will. Get over it. Everyone in the infantry ends up with damaged knees and lower backs. The amount of former Marines on disability pay is sky-high. There are more exceptions to this fact than the rest, but this is a pretty strong rule.

Oh by the way, this job can get you killed.

You will not get rich

Housing, food, and many uniform items are covered for you. However, the money that is left over is at best a middle-class life-style. If you have a good civilian job or “come from money,” you are probably going to sacrifice lifestyle unless you somehow have a spouse that is able to keep a career going. Many of the author’s junior Marines are actually on food stamps they are paid so little.

No Two Week Notice

You find you don’t like it? Someone offer you a better job? Sorry, you signed a 4 year commitment. Skipping work is a felony.

Any more?

If you have military experience (maybe even as a brat?) feel free to share any other thoughts.

Future candidates, consider the cost before signing

You need to go into this with eyes wide open. Joining the Marine Corps is not “Call of Duty.”

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2 thoughts on “Join the Military–With Your Eyes Wide Open

  1. Very valuable article. It’s the reality of things and you find early on that a lot of people make this realization too late.

  2. Enlisted Marines have it worst off than their counterparts on some regards but it both goes back and forth. Officers get more responsibility which a big undertaking on its own. You do move a lot but for the first year its moving cause of training which is different than moving to your first Permanent duty station. Also as an officer you get paid more than an E-6 in most cases. You get paid more than your subordinates and if you get promoted money will surely come. Life on the commissioned side has its advantages. More money.

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