Back in 2012, I joined the Army as a Medical-Surgical Nurse. I’ve met some of the greatest people, been in places I never thought I’d go to, and learned skills that only the Army can provide. Joining the Army as a nurse was something I always knew I wanted to do since I was in my third year of high school. Fast forward a few years later, I am still currently serving. There were many things I wish someone told me about joining back then. If you are thinking of signing up for any of these branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Public Health Service), use this as a guide for you to navigate the process of joining, during the application process, and what happens after you join.
- Understand your reasons for joining and what you are signing up for. If you sign up for any reason, understand that your decision will affect you for the next couple of years.
- Reflect on whether it’s a good time for you to join or should you put in on hold. Consider what’s going on nationwide and worldwide.
- Understand that you’re not the only one affected when you join, especially if you have family, responsibilities, and pets to consider.
- Prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually for what’s to come.
- Know your physical fitness test age/gender requirements. Start training for it. Aim to achieve at least your minimum requirements (but don’t just settle for the minimum) prior to going to basic training so you’re prepared. (click here for more info)
- Get your life in order.
During The Application Process
- Speak specifically to a healthcare recruiter because they will know what you’ll need for your application. Do not go to a regular recruiting station. Instead, go to a healthcare recruiting station.
- Compile all of your requirements together per your application in a timely manner. Application packets go up to a selection board so make sure your application is complete and shows how qualified you are for the job.
- Choose the type of job you’d like to do whether its Active Duty (full-time) or Reserve (part-time).
- Know that the application process from start to finish takes a few months so be patient. It can take a couple of months.
- Prior to signing your contract, read it in full and understand what you’re signing up for. Until you sign the dotted line, you are NOT bound to your contract. If you feel you made a mistake in joining, you can back out before you sign the dotted line. Again, you’re not bound to anything until you sign your contract.
- If your recruiter mentioned incentives of any kind, make sure it’s written on your contract or you are not guaranteed to get it.
- Once you sign your contract, understand that you are fully committed for the length of your contract.
- Understand that this is not something you can quit like a normal job.
After You Signed The Dotted Line And Swear In
- Once you sign the dotted line and swear in, you are in it until your contract is over.
- You are in charge of your own career. No one will take care of your stuff unless you do.
- Start your basic training as soon as possible. Don’t wait too long.
- After your basic training, you will have to report to where you’re assigned to go.
- It will feel awkward at first when people salute to you or greet you sir/ma’am if you’re not used to it. You will get used to it as time goes on.
- Have proper military bearing at all times. This is a must. So, don’t forget to salute if you see a higher ranking officer. Salute back to others who salute to you. Don’t salute if you’re in a no salute zone.
- Get used to the idea of waking up very early in the morning (sometimes, it’s 3AM early).
- Understand that if you’re an officer, you will pay for your own stuff (like uniforms) which costs a lot of money. You can claim them (and any other work related expense) on your taxes.
- Make 6 copies of everything (minimum) because things tend to get lost quite easily especially with hard paper copies.
- Create an “I love me” file that has all of your records.
- Follow your chain of command. The military is very particular about this (and I mean veryyyyyyy particular about this).
- Be a leader in your unit and play a more active role in a leadership position. As an officer, your fellow colleagues especially subordinates look up to you whether you like it or not.
- Always better yourself through self-development. Take military classes to increase your knowledge, which can lead to leadership positions.
- Always fulfill your annual mandatory classes per your branch of service.
- Make sure that your yearly evaluation is completed and submitted on time.
- Make sure your medical readiness status is 100% GO always.
- Always have a passing physical fitness test. When you fail a physical fitness test, you cannot do any leadership activities. You’ll be surprised how much tasks require a passing physical fitness test score.
- Stay up to date with your health and your fitness. Your performance is very much needed for your assigned unit to function. Team work is very important in all branches of service.
- Create your living will, trust, and any other relevant things you need to get in order just in case you go somewhere or something happens to you.
- You can change your job title in the service if you choose to change your military job.
- If you are in the reserves, there are laws that protect you, such as the USERRA law.