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How to Join the Army

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If you're considering a career with the military, specifically the U.S. Army, you'll need to learn how to get the process rolling and what exactly that process entails – from the time you talk to the recruiter until you ship off to boot camp.

Reasons to Join the Army

Those who choose to join the Army do so for various reasons. Some of the most common include: career stability, educational benefits, opportunity to travel, excellent benefits package and, of course, to serve and protect the country.

How to Join the Army

The first step in joining the Army is meeting with a local recruiter. The recruiter will conduct a prescreening to determine your eligibility. This process includes basic questions like your age – you must be at least 17 – marital status and education, along with more in-depth steps like a background check and examining your physical condition. There aren't specific physical requirements at this point, but a recruiter will help determine whether you are fit to serve or what you can do, if anything, to meet the standard.

A basic test further determines your eligibility and skills. Bring along documents such as proof of citizenship, your Social Security card, a direct deposit form and, when applicable, marriage certificate or divorce decree.

The recruiter will determine if a GED is acceptable in the event you do not have a high school diploma. Once you're officially cleared to serve, your recruiter will enroll you in basic training.

What You Can Expect in the Army

The Army is made up of different branches, so expectations can often vary. If you choose active duty, you will be considered a solider who serves full-time. In this position, you could be based in the United States or in another country.

If the Army Reserve is your path, you will be considered a part-time solider, and you'll only report for duty one weekend a month and two weeks per year. In this position, some choose to also have a civilian job or attend school.

Benefits of Being in the Army

While being a member of the U.S. military does not come with a huge paycheck (although there are nine levels of enlisted pay), the job does come with great benefits. Aside from healthcare for you and your family, there is the opportunity to have college paid for through the G.I. Bill.

Beyond education, members get 30 days of vacation per year to start, and free travel between military bases on "Space Available" military aircraft, not to mention travel depending on where you're sent for training and duty.

Other benefits include special opportunities for home loans, cash bonus options, discounts worldwide on everything from retail to sporting events to lodging. There is a housing stipend that is tax-free, or the option to live on base.