First and foremost, it’d be completely unethical and totally unfair to say that all military recruiters lie to everyone interested in joining the military. That would be completely untrue. Recruiting for the military, just like any job in any part of the world, is comprised of people. Sometimes honest people, sometimes dishonest people.

In the interest of full disclosure, understand that military recruiters DO undergo sales training in order to receive a station. This fact carries a couple of implications that you should keep in mind when you go to talk to a recruiter. Hopefully that doesn’t ruin the prospect of enlisting for you. Just keep in mind that your recruiter does stand to gain something by getting you to enlist, but not much. They may have a quota to meet, but otherwise, they still collect a paycheck regardless of whether or not you join.

The truth is that sales training is required because the military has hundreds of thousands of people leaving every year, and recruiters are necessary to get young people to join in order to maintain the military population. These guys do serve an integral role in the military by keeping recruits coming in while there are so many going out; whether by retirement, washing out, or simply completing their military service obligation.

In many cases, recruiters are working with young people, often right out of high school (Definitely me when I joined.) who may know a few people in the service, but often have very limited exposure to military life, military personnel, and extremely limited knowledge of the enlistment process. Very often, peoples’ perception of the military lifestyle is limited to what they’ve seen on the news (LOL) and T.V. shows.

Unfortunately, some (perhaps even many) recruiters do lie. Obviously it’s a detestable thing to give misleading information just to help your sales numbers, especially when it’s a substantial stretch of a recruit’s life that may result in him or her in a combat environment. This is not only dishonest, but also shortsighted and detrimental to the good of the U.S. military. In a perfect world, such people would be weeded out of their recruiting position and given a duty a little more up their alley, like keelhauling. That’s just my cynical opinion, as I have little patience for any asshole that turns honest people into unwitting victims. Moving on…

The obvious aside, bad information is easily dealt with by absorbing good information. In order to prevent being led astray by a dishonest recruiter, simply learn what to look for. Every recruiter and every recruiting situation is different, and though you may not hear these lies verbatim, they may take on a different form. Just keep your ears open and use a bit of common sense. They’re in no particular order, and I picked them up from people I know who joined the military, served with in the military, and a couple I picked up on my way in.

Your College Will Be Paid For!

Yes and no. The MGIB and Post-9/11 GI Bill both go a long way toward paying for college, true. But often what goes unsaid by the recruiter is that you will have to pay $100/mo for your first twelve months of service before qualifying for the Montgomery GI Bill. To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, certain time in service standards need to be met.

The GI Bill has definitely come a long way, but if a recruiter tries to convince you that it’s “money in your pocket”, don’t buy it. There are pre-requisites, performance standards, and tremendous administration involved. The program is great, and an awesome selling point. But be aware that claiming the GI Bill is a process all its own. Fortunately, while you’re active duty, the Tuition Assistance program pays 100% of tuition fees, but more on that later.

If You Back Out Before Boot Camp, You’ll Go to Jail

Nope. This one is in place to protect the recruiter’s numbers and if he/she tells you this, it’s 100% untrue. More often than not, a recruit will be placed in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) before shipping out to basic training. This is sort of a holding pattern for the recruit, who have promised following through with going to boot camp. While the enlistment documents signed when enrolling into DEP are technically a contract, and in theory, the government could prosecute you in theory, NO ONE has been subject to court martial for backing out prior to boot camp in about 30 years. The rationale? The U.S. doesn’t have the funding to prosecute every person who changes his mind.

Same goes for other threats: “you’ll lose your citizenship” “you’ll lose the prospect of citizenship” if you’re applying for it. I’ve also heard “you’ll be blacklisted” (whatever that means) or “you won’t be able to join the military if you back out” or “you won’t be able to join this branch”. On the other hand, if you do back out before boot camp, and you do change your mind, chances are good your recruiter will be pissed. If you end up reconsidering and want to join the same branch, chances are also good that you may have closed a few options for yourself. On the other hand, if you’re absolutely sure you want to join the military, you have nothing to worry about.

You Can Quit Anytime You Want If You Don’t Like It

This one is hard to believe, but it does happen. If you join the military, you’re in it for at least 8 years. Period. You may have two, three, four, or six years active duty, but all contracts are for 8. The period where you are not longer considered active is called ‘inactive reserve’ in which the military reserves the right to call you back to active duty on short notice should World War III break out or you accrued some awesome skill while you were in.

If you make it to boot camp (i.e. the REAL start of your military service), the only way you’re going to make it out of the military is if you’re willing to accept something other than an honorable discharge. This is a terrible strategy for more reasons than I can list here, so we’ll just move on.

Signing Bonuses/Enlistment Bonuses

This one’s rough because it’s such an effective ploy to get people into the military. Signing bonuses are not a gift from the military, and they usually come with enough fine print to make a lawyer’s head spin. Very often, these payouts happen only upon the completion or during technical military training. They’re often employed to fill the holes of high demand positions like nukes or special forces, and terminate if the terms aren’t met within a certain timeframe.

This is not to say that they’re all bogus because they’re not. But as with everything, read the fine print if one is offered to you. If you receive a $25,000 sign on bonus for making it halfway through your technical training, and then your security clearance is denied and you lose that job, YOU WILL BE PAYING IT BACK. They know where to find you, after all.

Boot Camp Officials Don’t Yell at Recruits In Basic Training Anymore

Boot camp has changed a whoooole lot in a relatively short period of time. Talk to any old timer either on active duty or better, retired who went through basic 20 years ago and ask him how things were back then. There may even be one in your recruiting office. The military today is “kinder and gentler” than it used to be. But don’t be fooled, you will be yelled at in boot camp. Naturally, if this scares you, then joining the service isn’t for you.

Today, the Marines and the Army are the two branches with the most old-school methods of basic training, as they both ultimately send more of their recruits into combat than the Navy or the Air Force. For better or worse, however, although the yelling and melodrama that you may have see on movies and T.V. is far less than what it was, the principles behind basic training hasn’t changed a whole lot, so yes, recruit commanders still yell at recruits.

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