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Everyone should have a “before you join the military checklist.”
Raise your hand, take your oath, sell your things and ship out!
First of all, have a plan. You will raise your hand, take your oath, and serve with pride. However, sometimes our best-laid plans have other ones for us. You can find tons of content online about what to do before you join the military, but what about things you should not do? From an airman to my future fellow service members: Let me be the first to warn you about what not to do when you are prepared to leave everything behind.
1. Do not sell all of your items.
You will miss them and need them when you have processed into Advanced Individual Training, and acquire your MOS, or AFSC, or Assignment, what-have-you. It is much easier to compress your items into a low-rate storage unit than having to replace it all when you PCS. On the other hand, there may be a few who discover a medical ailment, or limitation, and are sent home from training and separated from service. There is nothing more comforting than your OWN things surrounding you when your plans suddenly change (other than family and loved ones, of course).
2. Do not burn bridges.
That means: Do not separate yourself from your loved ones and friends, and write them off. THEY will be there for you when you are separated, on leave, injured, alone, at war, etc. You may think you are paving a new way, on a new tread, but your path is well-worn by the thousands before you; and they would have you be reminded of such. Love your relationships, and love them through your training.
3. Do not toss away job prospects.
Sure, you may get past training and complete your enlisted obligation, but there will be an end to it, either willingly or not-so-willingly; and there will be a need for a transitional lifestyle into the civilian world. This could also be filed under not burning bridges. Keeping the lines of work-communication available will make your military transition experience, or even a request for a reference, much easier.
4. Do not buy a car.
Yes, you will have a new and somewhat steady paycheck. Do not burn all of your money on a new car that you won’t even be allowed to drive, because you’ll be PCS’d to Korea. Seriously. Just take that money, put it into a retirement account right off the bat, and thank me later. If you’re intent on throwing it away, please send it to my address.
5. Do not get married.
Love is love and all that love. Love takes time, and kindness, patience, money, and can disintegrate with distance and youth. Love with communication will endure if it is meant to be. You can return home and re-visit the topic and find out if that partner of yours can truly endure the military lifestyle, which includes way more time apart than a few months of basic training. Read “The 5 Love Languages, Military Edition: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” by Gary D. Chapman and Jocelyn Green. You’ll thank me later, and so will your bank account and heart.
As always, there are a few exceptions to these baseline topics of advice, so keep them in mind with a grain of salt. However, know that there is deep truth in these things, and they can, and WILL, happen when you aren’t looking for them to. Keep your chin up, serve proudly, and keep a weather-proof storage unit with a great rate.
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