Member Rara Avis
sorry it took me so long to get back to this...
some people have said things along the lines that i was going to, so if i'm repeating, forgive me. keep in mind that the following are my experiences and opinions.
the important point to consider when joining the military isn't really what you hope to gain from it (education, experience, travel, camraderie, etc.) though those are important, but rather how your personality will fit into the military life.
the military was not for me.
having said that, i also want to add that it also wasn't bad for me either. i entered at a time when my life was on a steep downhill slope and it was an option i could take to help myself get back on track. i learned much from being in the military, and a good portion of who i am today is a direct influence of my time there... but in an inverse manner from what 'they' were hoping to do.
the best personality for the military is someone who can handle being sequestered in a room with fifty or more people, being set on a strict routine, and being told what to do in every manner. now this doesn't preclude being able to think for yourself. you are always allowed to do that. but a person who fits well in a military environment must be able to accept doing something when it wouldn't be their choice. beleive me, as a rule, the powers that be couldn't care less what you think about... anything. it is a well established organization with many, many years of dealing with people who, as a rule, like to do things their own way. if you are out to change the world from a personal stance, don't go in. the changes you make will be the ones they want you to. now this doesn't mean that you can't have an affect on things. every person makes a difference. but policies are set and you are not going to change them. nope.
it can be and usually is a difficult life. unlike working a 'normal' job, the military is full time. they take and expect everything from you - you, in effect, become the propoerty of the government. this includes limitations to the way you dress and act in public (even when off duty), the times you can or cannot have personal freedom, when and where you can go, etc. the list is long, and, thankfully, one i've fogotten much of! you will have a 'normal job,' the duties of which will of course depend on branch and job. of course, on top of that you have duty times (standing watch, cleaning barracks, etc... though being an officer would reduce some of these, though not the watch part, but will also entail other responsibilities). oh i could go on. in a nutshell, the military life is full-time. even when you're not on the job, you are. it is a life that you have to be dedicated to, because it will be everything to you for the time you're in (and, probably for a time afterward as well).
if you're in a relationship with someone, consider that carefully as well, and discuss it with your partner. a life in the military is challenging... but not so challenging, i think, as it is to a person who's devoted to you. a military spouse not only has to deal with times away (assuming you don't get a position where you can stay in one place and not have to travel) but is also, in many ways, constricted by the life. their conduct is also partially controlled by the military.
geez, i see i can run a very long ramble here. let's get over to the flip side before i start sounding too bitter.
there IS a lot of good about the military. the level of friendship and understanding is virtually unparralled. you have literally thousands of people who have a major common ground with you, and they're the exact same people who can understand how that life is and how you fit within it. (a point of interest, while i was in, i saw a lot of problems with relationships that involved one military person while the other wasn't... and i also saw marriages/relationships between two military people work marvellously - understanding)
benefits are unparralled as well... and i'm not just talking medical and dental (avoid having to use a military dentist if possible... yuck! lol) i'm thinking more along the lines of 'incidental' benefits. things such as - while in the navy, you can literally hpe any military flight to anywhere... and i mean anywhere... for free. the only constrictions are of course space (if someone is reporting for duty, your vacation takes a backseat based on rank) amd time available. you get many discounts at many places just by showing your military id. there is a level of respect i've noticed both while i was in, and afterward as well... especially when applying for a job. they know that if you satisfactorily completed you time in the military, you're probably very responsible and will show up on time every day. you become eligble for many government grants in regard to buying homes, going to school (and this doesn't even count the money you get from school for them), and several other things. there are more, but i'm rambling again.
i'm gonna stop. hopefully i've given you a little better idea of what being in is like. some people absolutely love it. they deal well with the structure and constrictions as well as the friendships. others, like myself i admit, felt bound and smothered. my personality did not fit into the environment at all. i need space to breath, space to be. however, if you think you can do well, i think it's an excellent choice.
Feel free to ask any questions you like. to fight boredom while i was in (oh yeah, expect a lot of that, a LOT - the military motto is "Hurry up and wait" and i'm not kidding) i did an informal analysis of the sociological structure. i was in the navy, enlisted, but i had many friends both enlisted and commissioned.