This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So, here are my top 5 "Tips" that every young recruit should know.
1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!
It might sound like a simple thing, but if I had a dime for every time I heard of a good kid doing something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. Having a good time is one thing, but it's another to get caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.
I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through, my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.
A recruit with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, takes notes during a class for educational benefits Aug. 26, 2015, on Parris Island, SC. Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Bolser.
2. Stay In School!
When I finished the 10th grade, I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join, they laughed (for several reasons, one of which was my GED). I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits, which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.
Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this, you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military, including Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.
Photo from public domain.
3. Don't Do Drugs!
I know what you are saying.. "But Nick, It's just a little weed or a beer or two." Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. What it comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is, then you are not ready for the commitment of being a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it; your personal beliefs don't matter: The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for "experimental use" that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift... Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don't let a little peer pressure ruin your life.
Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (in a state that it is legal of course).
Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis.
4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!
This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit, just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young, I read an article in Men's Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold's Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now, I would have trained completely differently and become a motherf'n beast! I did good at the time, but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.
Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it can also affect a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start-over, or return home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you or your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friend's parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a warfighting machine and when you're in it, you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depend on it.
The Spartans are known for their excellence in combat. Learn from them.
5. Know Your History!
George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is truer to me now after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again, I would've read every military campaign book starting with the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire — all the way up to current events. As I said, the Marine Corps is America's fighting force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization, then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.
My favorite MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was knowledge — not knowing was not an excuse! That being said, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy, then that is what you need to do! We, as warfighters, take every advantage we can take because, at the end of the day, it's us against them — and I'm going home to have a steak and beer when this is done.
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. --George S. Patton
Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey.
Now, you might say, "yea, yea, yea, Nick. That's all simple stuff." Well, then I say to you, "why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things.?" Truth is, common sense is not a common virtue. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things, so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!