Husband Thinking About Joining military...any Advice?

Updated on August 26, 2011
A.D. asks from Washington, DC
16 answers

My husband has a bachelors degree is Mechanical Engineering and has been working the past 4 years for the US Department of Energy. We have been talking for the past year or so about him joining the Army and we really want to make a decision soon. There are several reasons we want this to happen: the chance to travel and live in different places, the sense of community you feel with other military families, the job security, help with school (he wants to pursue a masters' degree), and all the wonderful experience he will get. Of course the downside is him getting deployed and/or killed in action--which is a HUGE down side obviously. Can any of you military moms or spouses give me some advice or insight into military life and what we can expect? What do you like and dislike about being a military family? How did it effect your children? Thanks in advance!

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answers from Jacksonville on

The only advice I can give is to go Air Force. My husband was in the Navy and he said if he were to re enlist he would go into the Air Force. Better pay, better jobs, pretty much better everything.

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answers from Washington DC on

My son is an Army ROTC scholarship recipient - one of 15 chosen out of a pool of 750 at his college... The Army pays the best. Talk with the ROTC people and find out if he can go to school for his Masters and do ROTC while he's there -- then when he gets commissioned, he'll go in as an officer. Don't sign anything until you talk with everyone...
Navy isn't taking as many people, but since he has a degree in Engineering, they might be all over him. My son is a Chemistry major and the Navy didn't want anything to do with him.
Good luck!

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answers from Omaha on

My husband is a commissioned officer in the USAF -- 14 years. Your husband would go in as a Second Lieutenant (commissioned officer with a degree--Warrants are non-commissioned officers). I'm not saying it's a bad life, because in all honesty, it's treated us fairly well; but it's not as romantic as you make it sound.

There's some job security but not guaranteed--we've seen many folks sent packing (at any multiple points in their career--guys with a year of service, some with 15) because their career field is over-manned or they were passed over for promotion. Plus Congress is cutting DoD's budget and much of that is in manpower (I know, makes sense in a war?).

Be wary of his recruiter. They lie. They'll tell you what job you're going to get, how great it will be, just to get you to sign on the dotted line. They are about getting numbers through the door... they have no control what happens to you once you're in the door.

We've never been able to choose where we want to live or when we want to move. Sure, my husband gets to put in his wish list... but ultimately they match you up with the needs of the service, not your personal preference. My career has been uprooted every 3-5 years because of orders. I'm Civil Service and currently I am in a career ladder (annual promotion for 3 grade levels) and we're moving next month so I am giving up my top 2 grades and must look for a new job--or stay here and live 5 states apart.

See the world? Sure, my husband is a flyer so he's been quite a few places but as far as where we've lived--San Antonio and Omaha (twice in Omaha and in a month it'll be 3 times in San Antonio) for his entire career.

Want to be a homeowner? Sure you can (and we have/are). Plan on selling one every 3-4 years; about the same time you break even on the loan.

Watch Congress and the retirement plan carefully, it's not looking good for the future.

The GI Bill is a bonus and much improved and would help with his Masters but he may or may not have time to do it while he's serving. The other advantage to the new GI Bill is that your husband can "give" it to his children or spouse or split it between both.

In the Army, plan on him being gone (most likely overseas) for 9 months at a time, depending upon the career field he is paired up with. The first two years my husband was in the AF he was gone on average 220 days a year.

Now we have children and it's not a picnic explaining to my 3 year old that we're moving to Texas and she has to go to a new day care--not to mention we'll be there for kindergarten but will have to move again in September 2014 and put her into a new school again--oh and by then our son will be 3 and having to switch day cares too.

The community you feel with other families? The Navy is the best for that because they go out to sea with the same guys and the family at home become a good support structure... AF, not so much--although there are pockets.

Making friends? I have met some wonderful people along the way (coworkers, neighbors, military spouses), and we're good about keeping in touch--but it's tough saying goodbye to them and knowing that you'll likely never be in the same place for longer than 3-4 years.

Government Healthcare -- welcome to the biggest HMO in the country. My Primary Care Manager changes monthly (I never see the same doc twice). I'm often lucky to get in for an appointment at the military care facility. And the care is, well, scary. Did you know that you cannot sue a military doctor for malpractice? Even if you're civilian?

Pay--They all pay the same. The differences in pay depends on where you live (Basic Allowance for Housing), BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence), how many dependents you have, combat zone pay, tax-free pay in a war zone, shore/sea pay, flight pay, your rank, qualified languages... etc. Some Army make more because they spend a year in a war zone and receive hostile fire pay--no thank you, I'll pass on that one. You can look up the pay scales on line--it's public record.

I don't mean to sound so negative but I would hate for you to go into this thinking it's like the commercials. Adventure and excitement. There are some really big choices you need to make about your life together before committing to the military lifestyle.

Good luck in making your decision.

ETA: My husband wanted me to metion--he is a Meteorologist by degree... and his job has absolutely nothing with weather in USAF (when he talked about joining while we were in college his plans were to be in the Air Force Weather Agency--ha ha , joke was on us!). So just because your hubby is an ME doesn't mean he'll necessarily get assigned a job in his career field/degree.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I was in the military as an officer. Based on what you said, I assume he is going to be a commissioned officer.

I think you will have a nice time if you want to have a nice time. I lived on bases in Japan and Germany and the states. I found that the military that wouldn't leave the base and get out to enjoy where they lived, hated it. We lived for 4 years in Germany. We traveled all over the place. We had a wonderful time. But I knew people that stayed on the base for their entire 4 years and they hated Germany. I learned to speak German very well. We lived off base in an apartment over a farmer's home. We got to know the Germans and they got to know us.

You will have a wonderful time if you choose to.

As which service to join . . .
The Army gives out more promotions, but has worse places to live.
The Air Force has the best places to live and has fewer promotions.
The Navy requires its sailors to go on deployments at sea. So your husband could be gone for 9 to 18 months at a time. The navy is best for singles.
The Marines are best for those that like to play infantry and be out in the mud and crud. They are always practicing war. So they are frequently on manuvers.
Good luck to you and yours.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlottesville on

My husband just retired after 28 years of service (National Guard and active duty). We have been married for 14 years of that time, and now we're both adjusting to civilian life again... we miss the military but not the deployments!
You might consider the National Guard as a way to get a taste of military life. Your hubby would be gone one weekend a month and 2 weeks in the summer to start. You do run the risk of deployment, but it is less likely than with many active duty units.
I agree with the posts about getting involved in the Family Readiness Groups, the local culture and post/base activities. You will find more to enjoy if you embrace the military culture instead of avoiding it. You will also meet some amazing people!
As for the medical care (which mostly only applies to active duty or deployments in the guard), we've met some of the world's best caregivers on medical installations. Our son was born at Bethesda and we could not have asked for a better experience and both pre- and post-natal support. I think military medical care is like civilian care-- it all depends on the medical professional, not the facility.
My children found my husband's deployment to Iraq very difficult. We were fortunate to have Skype access almost every day though. The biggest frustration was the constantly changing return date-- his 6-month deployment lasted 7 1/2 months because of administrative errors.
Bottom line-- I am very proud of my husband and I enjoyed being a military wife. My kids still remember the deployment, but they brag about their dad protecting our country. It is not always going to be easy, but if you ask for help, it is always available.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Oh gosh that can be tough. I am not personally an army wife but my best friend is and my brother is in the army and I spend a lot of my time helping my sister in law out with her kids.

All I can tell you from the outside is that it seems really tough. My friend and sister are constantly worried and their children are constantly asking about their father. Just the other day our town (really small, know everybody kinda town) had a daddy daughter dance and my nieces were so upset that everyone else got to go with their daddies but not them (my brother was recently deployed to Iraq) and it just made me hurt for them.

I understand the up side, really, my brother went in for the same reasons your husband is but I just think you have to be careful and weigh the situation. It can be very tough.

My sister (and friend) are constantly saying that they tend to feel very "alone" even with all the other army wives around.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have been active duty navy for the past 8 years.I have had many positive experiences over the past 8 years, but also some negatives as well. I did get to pick my job. The pro's are the benefits, lots of time off, 100 percent paid medical, and housing money. There is not as much job security as there used to be.I don't know how the other branches do it, but in the Navy, re enlistment are not automatic. This is because they are overmanned. You have to be approved to re enlist, and if they deny it, then your done. If you don't pick up advancement in the time frame that is set, then your done. I have seen people out at 14 years because they could not make the next advancement. I'm assuming he will go in as an officer. I'm enlisted so I can not speak about the officer side of it, but depending on what his job is be prepared for him to deploy possibly a lot, and at a moments notice. For me that is the biggest downfall of this job. It is incredibly hard to leave your family especially if you have kids, and know that you wont see them again until months later, but that comes with doing this type of job. Some people deploy a lot, some not so much. It really just depends on what his job would be. I deployed a lot my first three years, but now that I am in the medical field, I have not deployed since 2006. Another downfall is that there is no stability. You move around every couple of years, so your kids are always starting over again with new schools. Some people see this as a benefit, I guess it just depends on how you look at it. My daughter is getting ready to start first grade, and she has not had to start at a new school yet, but after next year we will be moving and she will have to do that, and I"m not looking forward to it. I don't want to scare you, but I'm just offering my experiences. This is a big decision and it's not one to be taken lightly.

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answers from Washington DC on

my husband was in the marines before we had kids. He got out in 2003. Honestly for me, it was horrible. When he was gone, I was lonely and worried sick about him. He was in the front lines though. Base housing was horrible. We had rats INSIDE my bedroom, brown water, and I'm not kidding that place was haunted. I would call the office to take care of some of these problems and since my husband was gone, they wouldn't do anything for me. I learned that the wives act like they were in H.S. with all the drama and neighborhood gossip and some (not all) would cheat on their husbands. My husband and I are the ONLY couple still married from him unit (10 years in Feb!!). I do believe that the military can be a great thing as long as you prepare yourself for him having to be gone and having to take care of the kids and become mom and dad all by yourself. It is not easy. Being alone when he was gone before kids was hard enough. We have recently moved to VA from CA and my husband had to be gone in another state for 3 months for his training. It was horrible. I was alone here with my kids who missed their daddy and they had a very hard time with it. I have heard that the air force is better and the marines are the worst in how they treat them and their families. Just really think about it first. It's not all roses and being a military wife is a VERY tough job. Good luck

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answers from Savannah on

My husband is in the army. He signed his papers for delayed enlistment a month before I found out I was pregnant. As far as effecting our son, the only downside was that he was not around for the birth of our first born. My son will never be able to remember, but my husband was not physically there for my son for a couple of weeks of his life, which is a lot better than others. Now that we have our permanent duty station, my husbands unit had just returned from deployment when we arrived, so he wont be deploying any time soon (i can't be any help in that area). I have heard that they just changed deployment length from12 months to 9 months, but they took away R&R. Even when they are not deployed, there are times when your husband would not be able to come home, sometimes for a few weeks at a time, due to training, but my husband is allowed to use his cell phone if he has time.
As far as the community, there are a lot of groups and activities to do on post. Our post has play days once a week, story times at the library, classes for adults like scrap booking, quilting, or personal finances, and also classes/activities/teams for children. They are always advertising events and trips for families and some for just high school ages.
The thing that is the hardest on us is that we were moved from California all the way across the country to Georgia. We are so far from our families and friends, which is rough because we are used to lots of time together. Also, My husband is sad that our son will not grow up with his cousins.
All in all, I left the decision up to my husband to enlist, and I am proud of him. We did choose his job together though, and I would suggest our method if he does not have his heart set on a specific MOS. We sat at the computer and researched every single job the army has. We wrote on index cards all the pros and cons of the ones we liked. Then we organized the index cards in order of preference. When you go in to choose the MOS, you only see the jobs that are available at that time, not all of the ones you qualify for. My husband had originally wanted one job, then we did our method. We had no idea if he was qualified for all of the jobs that we chose, but our first choice, which want' listed for him the first time, was open and he signed on the doted line.
Military life can be tough, but you have to decide whether you will be strong enough to handle it. Have you gone to the recruiter's office? They can give you a book and a dvd about being a military spouse and life on post.

Good luck in this decision!

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answers from Augusta on

Don't go navy. He won't be able to pick his job. They put him where they want him not the other way around.
Army he can pick his job. It will be in his contract.
Since he already has a bachelors I'd suggest him looking into going warrant officer when he gets in.
He will get in , go to boot camp then be shipped to his MOS ( job) school. after job school he will get his first duty station.
You can expect him to get deployed at some point. deployments are 12 months with a 2 week break at the 6 month mark. Then he won't be able to be deployed again for another 2 yrs, if he's in the same unit. There are some really good bases and some not so great bases. Just like in anything there are some good units and some not so great ones. What I disliked is we were in before they implemented the family stability act where you are at a post for at least 2 yrs before moving , we moved a lot, one post we were only at for 6 months. But now that's not a problem anymore.
What else do you want to know I don't really know what else to answer lol

If you he does go in , go with Tricare Standard for insurance, so you have the option of going off post for a Dr. On post care is iffy. I almost died in a military hospital due to the Dr not doing the right thing.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think JulieBean gave you some great advice!
I know from personal experience that moving frequently during childhood can be very stressful and the places you may be traveling to (?) well, who knows. You may end up in some pretty desolate, boring locations.
Bless your husband (and you!) for considering serving our country, it is a HUGE sacrifice and it is not unappreciated!

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answers from Dover on

JulieBean is right on with absolutely everything she said. My husband is a Reservist for the USAF & I work full-time in the Finance Office at Dover AFB. From the moving to the money to the deployments to the recruiters being liars she is literally 100% spot on. 8kidsdad is also correct in saying that it's all what you make of it, but of course the same can be said for life in general so take that for what it's worth. Just make sure you go into it with your eyes open & do as much research as possible BEFORE signing anything.

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answers from Washington DC on

My husband and I have been married for almost 16 years. He is an Air Force officer. I never wanted to marry a member of the military because I was afraid to move from place to place. However, I fell in love and have actually loved moving around the country!!!!!! I love the fact that when we move, we have "instant" family (neighbors become friends pretty quickly.) We have an almost 13 year old son, and he is pretty resilient about moving. I think he thinks it's pretty cool thathe has seen so much of the country and the world. My husband is currently on his 1st deployment in Iraq. Saying goodby was the hardest thing I've ever done. The military has been very good to us overall. He has gotten his masters and PhD.

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answers from Biloxi on

I have no advice :)

Just want to thank you both for considering this service to me, my son, and our country.

God Bless



answers from Amarillo on

You do have to know yourselves. As a wife you have to be an independent person and not a clinging vine in order to make it. When PCSs and deployments happen you have to make decisions very quickly and may not have a chance to discuss it and be comfortable with what you decided. Hubby cannot/should not complain about what you did for the good of the family.

Being your husband has a degree is he thinking of going in as an enlisted or an officer? This decision will affect how your are treated and where you will live on base/post and the size of your housing unit.

When hubby is deployed there will be other women in the same situation. Most facilities have support groups for spouses with deployed husbands (wives) and they offer activities. This is part of the family that takes care of each other. Yes there is all of the drama of HS and the other that goes on but that does not have to be you. Select your spouse friends carefully and you will have them later in life as best friends even though you do/will live in other areas of the country or world.

Job security, medical and schooling are reasons many people join the services. Travel to other states and countries are bonuses. When you live in other states/countries you get to see what other people think/feel about Americans and sometimes that is not always the Rose Colored Glass affect. Each move is a chapter in the book of the military life. So if you don't like your neighbors you know that in the next 2-4 years one of you will be moving and you can endure them and learn from them what you do not like.

As for your children, they will learn how to adapt to changes in moving, friends, schools and states (countries). They will be able to handle situations that come up better because of the places that they have lived. I know that many people civilians have said many off the cuff things about military families but they have never been on the inside to undertand what really goes on and what a family really does go through and only go by what so and so said. Yes we are proud of our spouse (him/her) for defending our country. Yes we do have to stand/stay behind to let our loved one do their job. Yes we have to do show support for what our loved one does. Yes it gets lonely at times but we must move forward and know that this is necessary to freedoms we enjoy daily. Life is a trade off in what you want.

Do think about all the good and the bad in separate columns and go from there. Speak to several recruiters before you make any decisions. If you can contact someone that has gone into the field your husband is considering talk with them at length to get a feel of what is going on.

Oh yeah, I do miss the days of the moving van in front of the house and the adventure to the next assignment.

The other S.

PS You have the commissary for groceries, the Post/Base Exchange for all the other. Many bases put in mini Taco Bells, Burgerkings and such so you don't have to go "downtown" to get a snack.

Good luck to you.



answers from San Antonio on

Do your research and go in as an not just enlist!!

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