Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters' offices who land in basic training thinking they're going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who's ever lived.
Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn't a bad thing.
1. A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy
So, you've learned that "Green Beret sniper" isn't something you can enlist into right away and you've picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won't be doing that job, either.
You'll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn't even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn't want to scrub floors.
An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It's more common than you think.
(Photo by Glenn Sircy)
2. You rarely do the things you learn in schools
Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it's either out of date, doesn't apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.
Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you'll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.
Or you'll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)
3. You'll find out that the things you learn at the "fun" schools still suck
Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you'll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you'll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.
Just how "awesome" are these schools, really? First, you'll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day
(maybe) jump out of. Then, when it's time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.
There will also be so much commotion going on that you'll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.
(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)
4. Camaraderie isn't given to you — it's earned
You'll hear the phrase "one team, one fight" echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They'll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They'll even toss you into the barracks where there's basically a party every night.
But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.
Don't worry, shared pain will get you there.
(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)
5. You won't be having much fun at the range
The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don't get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don't worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.
Nearly every time you go to the range, it's to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There's a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.
Even grenades become boring once you learn they don't explode like in the movies.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)
6. Most of your career will be spent waiting.
The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You'll wait on formation. You'll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You'll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.
If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.
On the bright side, you'll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad...
(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)