From special operations weathermen to musicians and DJs, there plenty of jobs in the military that seem like they don’t belong. Some are essential, while others just make life better for troops and their families. Here are 24 of the most unexpected careers a recruit can choose.
1. Business Manager (Navy)
Sailors on ship want to rent videos and buy Pringles like everyone else, but the Navy doesn’t have convenience stores staffed by civilians out at sea. Instead, they have sailors whose job it is to run the vending machines, small shops, and rental booths that offer services on ships underway.
2. Community Services (Marine Corps)
Similar to the Navy’s business managers, Community Services Marines manage retail services for the Marine Corps. Also, they conduct some of the morale, welfare, and recreation activities for the Corps.
3. Corrections Specialist (Marine Corps, Army)
The military actually has its own fairly robust prison system. Just like their civilian counterparts, military correctional specialists supervise the prison population. Inmates can be prisoners of war or American personnel accused or convicted of a crime.
4. Cryogenics Equipment Operator (Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy)
No, they’re not keeping Chesty Puller’s body ready to thaw for the next big war. Cryogenics, though typically associated with keeping bodies on ice, refers to the production and behavior of materials at very low temperatures. The Marine Corps and other services use this technology to safely store oxygen for pilots’ tanks and nitrogen for planes’ tires.
These guys specialize in defending U.S. military networks against a constant barrage of cyberattacks. They also conduct counter-attacks when called to do so. To see just how hard their job can be, check out this live map of suspected cyber attacks around the world.
Military dietitians create diet plans based on mission requirements, available resources, and service member needs. Yeah, it’s all in the name.
Bugs can be a major threat to military operations and it’s the job of military entomologists to take care of it. They seek out evidence of infestations and combat them. They can order pesticides and traps, introduce an insect’s main predator, or cover troops in delousing powder.
8. Financial Manager (Army, Air Force, Marine Corps)
Financial managers supervise the purchase of the military branches’ equipment and supplies. They cut the checks for MREs, plan how much money to save for potential conflicts, and track grants given to friendly militaries.
9. Geneticist (Air Force)
The Air Force runs the only full-service genetics laboratory in the Department of Defense, so they need geneticists to staff it. They provide counseling to families with genetic diseases such as cancer, and in some cases, conduct neonatal care or other procedures for patients who need it.
10. Journalists (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force)
Many of the images and videos of military operations are taken by service members assigned to public affairs and combat camera units. The Navy combined most of its photographer and videographer jobs into one rating, while other services still allow troops to specialize. Specialties include combat camera — the military term for photographer — print journalists, who concentrate on writing articles for base newspapers and/or web stories, and broadcast journalists, which shoot and edit video, and serve as DJs.
11. Instrument repair technician (Marine Corps, Army)
The military has some great bands with lots of instruments that need constant upkeep. The Army and Marine Corps have troops with the primary occupation of repairing musical instruments.
12. Multimedia Illustrator (Army)
Army multimedia illustrators support the creation of military publications as well as civil affairs and psychological operations. These are skilled artists who — you guessed it — spend a lot of time drawing.
13. Musician (Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Navy)
The military branches have a surprising number of bands. Most major commands have at least a small band that plays at special functions. While many of these musicians are service members temporarily assigned to a band, some are actually recruited into the service as a musician. They travel the world playing for both American and foreign audiences.
14. Nuclear Reactor Engineer (Navy)
Yes, these sailors spend all day working on or with nuclear reactors. Reactors are used to power all of the Navy’s active carriers and submarines, and their safe operation depends on vigilant and capable operators. The title of nuclear reactor engineer only goes to the commissioned officers, but there is an enlisted version of the job.
15. Packaging specialist (Marine Corps)
Ammunition, weapons, chemicals, the military packs and ships a lot of dangerous items. In order to ensure everything is packed legally and safely, some Marines specialize in packing materials for shipment.
The military provides doctors for its service members and their families, and that includes the kids. Pediatricians do the same job in the military that they do in a civilian hospital, though they can also be deployed worldwide to support humanitarian missions.
17. Water Support Technician (Army, Marine Corps)
Water from rivers can be very gross, and it can be even worse after Army and Marine personnel use it. To treat water both before and after troops use it, the Army and Marine Corps have personnel assigned to testing and treating water.
18. Postal clerk (MC)
This job used to be present in every service, but the other branches have combined the job into other supply positions. Marine Corps postal clerks ensure that U.S. postal laws are followed and that Marines’ mail flows quickly into and out of the civilian postal system.
19. Quarrying Specialist (Army)
Part of the Army’s engineer corps, quarrying specialists blast rocks with explosives and assist in the construction of bridges, dams, buildings, roads, and air strips.
20. Railway equipment repairer (Army)
The Army moves a lot of equipment by rail, but sometimes the railroads in an area of operations have been damaged or destroyed. Since the Civil War, the Army has fielded units to repair rails and operate the trains on them.
21. Refrigeration/Air conditioning technician (Marine Corps, Air Force)
The Air Force has airmen trained as standard HVAC technicians. The Marine Corps version is a little different with some Marines being trained in refrigeration and air conditioning while others handle heating systems. In either case, these service members are the ones called when the desert is too hot or the mountains are too cold.
22. Shower/Laundry and Clothing Repair Specialist (Army)
Like the HVAC technicians, these service members try to make deployed life just a little more comfortable. Soldiers in this job set up and operate deployed showers, laundry facilities, and repair damaged uniforms.
23. Veterinarian (Army)
While all the services employ working dogs, the Marine Corps trains on horses, and the Navy uses dolphins and sea lions. The Army provides veterinarians for all of these programs. Though they’re Army officers, these veterinarians are tasked out to support every branch.
Weather specialists track weather patterns and advise commanders on how it will affect operations. These guys can get insanely exact, giving a near-exact time a dust storm will shut down an airfield or a typhoon will strike a carrier group. The Air Force has both conventional operations weather specialists and special operations weather team specialists.