Joining the Marine Corps is scary enough as it is. The fear of the unknown, the uncertainty, the doubt, the negative self talk and everything else that comes with joining can be daunting. Trust me I experienced it all! I remember having so many questions, but so little resources to find the answers I was looking for. Well, look no further, because you’ve come to the right place! For The Corps was created because I wanted to provide those of you looking to join the Marines or any other branch of service a resource that I wish I had when I joined back in 2010.
Step 1: Talk To a Military Recruiter!
If you are considering joining you must pass the first hurdle which is talking to a recruiter! I know, I know, this might seem like one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. We’ve all heard the horror stories. They don’t really care about me, I’m just a number to them, they’re going to screw me over, blah, blah, blah. The truth is YOU ARE IN CHARGE!
You have to go in to that recruiting office with this mindset! Sure, you are young, most likely still in high school or in your early 20’s and yes you will be intimidated, but I can assure you that confidence and doing your due diligence is key! Don’t walk in there without a plan and a solid set of questions to ask them (which luckily I’m going to give you today!) Own the situation and keep in mind this is your future and your life!
If you need to, go with a friend or a family member. Taking someone with you might help calm your nerves a little. Also, its important to remember that you are just going in to the office to talk and answer some questions. You aren’t going to sign your life away and ship off that very day! These things take time!
Be calm, be cool, be prepared and do your homework before you set up that initial meeting with your recruiter! Lucky for you, I have provided a list of 20 questions you should ask your military recruiter. Actually, one of my best friends from the Marine Corps is currently a Recruiter out of Pennsylvania and he kindly gave me this list and encouraged me to share it with you all. His words, and I quote, “If my son or daughter ever walked in to a recruiters office I would highly encourage them to ask these 20 questions!”
So with all that being said, lets dive in to what you came here for! Mind you, some questions may be more Marine Corps specific, but regardless they all apply to ever branch of service!
20 Questions To Ask Your Military Recruiter!
1. How long will my contract be?
This is important to know because some contracts can be longer than others. Depending on which MOS you choose it could lengthen your enlistment contract. For example, in the Marine Corps, some Air Wing specific MOS’s have a year long MOS School and often times these individuals have to sign a 5 year enlistment contract, as opposed to the standard 4 year contract. Also, you want to know if you will have to serve in the Inactive Reserves once you are off of Active Duty! My enlistment when I joined in 2010, was a 4 year Active Duty Contract followed by 4 years inactive reserves.
2. What jobs are available when I’m able to ship out?
It is quite common that some jobs may not be available to you when it comes time for you to ship, regardless of how well you did on the ASVAB. This might come as a shock to some, but keep in mind the Marine Corps is a business and has quotas that it must meet. Maybe that MOS you want so bad is all filled up. These things are important to keep in mind and may even require you to negotiate a sooner or later ship date to ensure you get the MOS you want!
3. When will I get paid and how does the pay work?
Pay is important, first and foremost! I mean a big reason people join is because of the pay and benefits. So its important to know when you’ll be getting paid and how much you will be getting paid as a new military member. There are things you can do that can increase your rank and pay before you even ship which include, getting a buddy to join, college credits, eagle scouts, among some others. Ask these questions because the more rank and pay you can get at the beginning the better off you’ll be!
4. How does the Blended Retirement Account work?
Retirement might be the last thing on your mind, but I promise its important! The sooner you can get your retirement savings going the better off you’ll be! Compounding Interest is a beautiful thing! As about the military specific retirement plan opportunities and how to go about setting them up once you are in. Whether your looking in to making a career out of the military or leave after 4 years, that money you put away for your future will quickly add up!
5. When can I start using Tuition Assistance?
Many people are drawn to the military because of the free college. What some people don’t realize is that while you are on Active Duty, you can actually take college classes for free! That’s right, free. Military life is demanding and you will be working a lot. If you are good with managing your time wisely you can actually get a degree before you even leave the military and then use your GI Bill to further your education once you are out! If college isn’t something you want to pursue, but rather you’d like to go in to the trades after the military these options are available to you as well!
6. How will you, the recruiter, prepare me for Boot Camp?
You need to know that this recruiter is going to set you up for success and hold you accountable. You don’t want to ship off to basic training unprepared! Ask them what they are going to do for you to help prepare you to crush it at basic training. Remember this is your life and your future and you don’t want some half as recruiter wasting your time and setting you up for failure.
7. What is Boot Camp like and what should I expect?
Boot Camp is scary and the though of it is frightening to think about. What gets people the most is the fear of the unknown. Well guess what, your recruiter went through it at one point or another. You should be picking their brain and asking them any questions you have. Ask them for advice on what you can do to help prepare you for whats to come.
8. What does all my training look like?
There are many different MOS’s (Jobs) within the Military and each job has specific training designed for that job only. Ask your recruiter about the jobs you are interested in. Figure out how long you will be in training, if you’ll acquire any useful certifications (that will transfer out of the military), and what to expect overall.
9. How do Promotions work for the jobs available to me?
Promotions are important for two reasons. One, the higher your rank, the more money you make. Two, the higher up the totem pole you are the more responsibility and respect you’ll have. Some jobs promote much faster than others and its important to know how the MOS you are choosing will set you up for future success.
10. How much vacation time do I get and when will I get it?
Vacation time is important! You should want to go on leave and see your friends and family. Taking trips and time away from work is extremely healthy and beneficial. Determining how much time you will be granted will allow you to plan your trips and time off ahead of time. Find out how time off works as well. Some units are more strict than others on approving time off so that is also something to keep in mind!
11. What is day to day life like in the Military?
Look, as I discussed before the military comes with a lot of uncertainty. Its a big life change and a huge culture shock to most. Often times, most people settle in just fine and find that its just like working any other job, but with a little bit more of a strict regimen. Decide ahead of time is Military Life is right for you!
12. With The Marine Corps Downsizing, how will this affect my job and future in the Marine Corps? (Specific to the Marine Corps, but it does still apply to other branches!)
The Marine Corps seems to always be downsizing. Some jobs are even going away for good. You should be sure to ask your recruiter how this might affect you and the MOS you are interested in!
13. Where will I be stationed?
There are Hundreds of Military Bases scattered throughout the world and depending on which Military Branch you choose, you could be stationed at any one of them. If this scares you, you need to ask your recruiter what the likelihood of you getting stationed somewhere half way across the world is!
14. What types of Deployments are there, and can I be deployed?
Depending on your Branch of Service and your MOS that you choose will largely determine when and if you may get deployed. Not all MOS’s deploy regularly. Also, not all combat MOS’s will see combat. If deploying is something you are interested in, certain MOS’s may offer more opportunities. Choose accordingly based off of your goals and desires.
15. Why do all Marines have to attend Combat Training? Will I see combat?
Again, a little more Marine Corps specific, but this question still applies to all other Branches of Service. All Marines are Basically Trained Rifleman, but not all Marines will see combat! I know many grunts that deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan that never saw any combat.
16. What is the best job for me if I want to go to college afterwards, learn a trade, promote, deploy, etc…?
Lets face it, the Military can really set you up for success whether you decide to make a career out of it or not. What you choose to do with the tools and resources available to you is highly dependent on you, and you only. Nobody is going to force you to take extra college classes, learn a trade or go after desirable certificates while on Active Duty, but knowing what is available to you will help you achieve what ever it is you want!
17. How will my specific branch benefit me when I decide to leave the Military?
Speaking from experience, many companies on the civilian side will gladly hire Veterans. Not only are we resourceful, dependable, hardworking, we bring a different set of skills and experiences. Having been released Honorably from the Military with a DD 214 in hand can help put you in the front of the hiring line on the outside.
18. If I have a family (spouse and kids) when can they come out and live with me?
Joining with a family can seem a bit scary and often time is discouraging to some. Once your training is over with you can bring them to live with you at your new duty station. As a married individual in the Military you are given an extra housing allowance which will help pay for you living expenses.
19. What happens if the Military isn’t for me?
Lets face it, the Military just isn’t for everyone. Some people either hate it or love it. It’s a big culture shock to some and can be a miserable lifestyle for some individuals. Knowing what options are available to you if you find yourself in this unfortunate may help you better decide if its right for you!
20. Why should I join one branch over another?
Each branch is entirely different from the next, each having its own individual mission, set of values and history. Choosing which one is best for you is important because you’ll have to live with that decision for the rest of your life. I chose the Marine Corps because I wanted a real challenge, and I wanted to earn the coveted title of United States Marines. I would see them on television, out in public and I was just drawn to the brotherhood. Its not for everyone and whichever branch you choose is completely fine!
If you’ve made it this far, good on you. You now have a list of 20 questions that you can and should ask your military recruiter. These questions are important because you are making one of the biggest decisions of your life and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Remember, while the recruiters might seem intimidating and all you are the one in charge. They need you, not the other way around. Go in there confident, prepared, and be ready to be the one controlling the conversation.
Thanks for stopping by!
For The Corps