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Each years, tens of thousands of people join the U.S. Army. In 2016, for example, the Army set and met a recruitment goal of 62,500 new soldiers. Everyone who joins has his or her own reasons for doing so, which often go beyond serving their country. Some are looking to make a life in uniform as a career soldier. Others are looking for head start on civilian life with job training and education.
As of 2017, a brand-new Army enlistee earned about $1,480 a month, and pay increases with rank and time spent in the military. A sergeant with five years' experience, for example, made about $2,670 a month. Cost of living "allowances" for such things as housing and clothing can add hundreds of dollars a month.
Military service can make it possible to earn a college degree without racking up big student loans. Tuition assistance while in the Army – and GI Bills after you leave – can cover the entire cost.
The Army offers training in more than 150 different careers, in fields as diverse as engineering, music and photography. The skills you acquire in the Army will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Medical care is expensive in civilian life, but in the Army, it is all covered – both medical and dental procedures. Moreover, there are no co-pays, deductibles or monthly premiums.
Career and Retirement
For many, the Army offers career opportunities. If you spend 20 years in the Army you can retire and begin to collect a pension immediately. If you wait until you are 65 years old or serve 30 years, you can collect even more.
Many people entering adulthood are uncertain what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Army service provides you with the opportunity to do something worthwhile while you assess your life interests and priorities.
The U.S. military maintains more than 800 bases and other installations in more than 70 countries. So a career in the Army can take you all over the country and around the world. When you are on leave, you can visit locations that you probably would never have the opportunity see otherwise.
Many employers give hiring preference to veterans because they know that former soldiers typically make good leaders, exhibit maturity, job experience and good work standards. If you work for the federal civil service, your military time counts toward your federal retirement.
Buying a home is the biggest investment that most people ever make. The military's VA loan programs offer a number of alternatives that make it easier for you to acquire your first home.
Many join the Army because they feel that it is the right thing to do. Defending and serving the country is a high calling and for some it is a family tradition. The camaraderie and sense of community that soldiers find in the Army might not be replicated in civilian life.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.