When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you'll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don't even spend all of their time fighting wars.

Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.

It's not even that your recruiter lied to you, it's just that much of life in the military isn't as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they're what keeps the machine running.

You probably didn't expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:


1. Playing paintball

If you're a prospective Marine, then you've probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn't hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it's actually a lot of fun. Hell, it's probably some of the best training you can get.

It's hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)

2. Loading ammo onto an aircraft

We've all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we're thinking, "whoa... that's so cool." That is, of course, before you're the one loading the ammo.

Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.

You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

3. Feeling emotional extremes of every type

Troops are tough bad*sses — but we're definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they've already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You'll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you'll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you'll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.

Some may use their anger more than others.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

4. Hanging with another country's troops

You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can't really foresee the time you'll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You'll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.

And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.

You might even earn their accolades.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

5. Building a terrain model

Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.

You also probably didn't expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don't mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.

If you've got time and you'll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?

(U.S. Army)