Is active duty military service calling your name? Whether you feel inspired to serve your country, want to follow in your parents' footsteps or are looking to begin a new career, any one of the five military branches will be more than happy to have you.
However, entering the military and becoming an active-duty service member isn't as simple as filling out an application and submitting it. There are numerous eligibility requirements you must meet and various lifestyle changes you may be required to implement. From what a typical day in the life of an active duty service member is like to what, exactly, the term "active duty" really means, our blog will answer these and other questions you may have so you can make the best decision for you, your family and your future.
What defines active duty?
Let's start things out with the basics. What makes someone who is on active duty "active?" According to the Department of Defense, active duty is the equivalent to full time in the civilian working world. However, unlike a full-time job, where the typical workday runs approximately eight hours, an active-duty service member is always on. This means that whenever they're called upon to perform a certain task or duty — regardless of what time of day it is — they are required to do exactly that.
Naturally, no one can work non-stop, and this certainty isn't the case for military personnel. They receive breaks and holidays just like everyone else. Yet it's important to understand that by signing up for the military, you commit yourself to doing what your unit asks of you at all times.
What kinds of things do active-duty military members do?
Whether it's soldiers in the Army, sailors in the Navy or Coast Guard, aviators with the Air Force or "devil dogs" in the Marines, active-duty servicemembers are perhaps best known for their skills and bravery in combat settings. Months of training (such as in boot camp) is required to become experienced in weaponry use and other strategic tactics when deployed in battle zones or humanitarian missions.
For the most part, however, these tasks represent a very small part of what military personnel do on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, much of what a servicemember does depends on their specific occupation or industry. There are several to choose from, and include the following:
- Human resources
- Computer science
- Police enforcement
- Food service
Thus, an average day in the life of an active duty servicemember varies significantly. What can also influence the agenda for military personnel is the branch of the armed forces in which they serve. For example, say you want to join the Army. Should you make that decision and sign up, you'll be asked to complete a test: The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) serves as a rubric that allows supervisors to determine what kind of job suits you best based on your capabilities and strengths.
How you perform on the ASVAB will ultimately decide your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and what you can expect to be doing during your active duty tenure. At the outset, though, you'll participate in advanced individual training (following basic combat training), which will give you more authority and familiarity in the MOS that suits you best. What jobs are available also depends on the branch you pick.
What are the different branches of the military?
The U.S. armed forces breaks down into five branches:
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
Currently, the largest branch — in terms of the most men and women on active duty — is the Army, accounting for 35% active duty personnel of the overall 1.3 million military members, according to estimates from the Council on Foreign Relations. Tied for the second largest are the Navy (24%) and Air Force (24%), then the Marine Corps and finally the Coast Guard (3%).
Each branch serves a specific purpose as it relates to the defense of the United States. The Army provides the ground forces. The Navy is responsible for sea-related events, whether above or below the ocean. The Marines is a constituent of the Navy and participates in ground and amphibious operations. As the branch's name implies, active duty servicemembers in the Air Force primarily handle aircraft, including jets and helicopters. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, is perhaps the most multifaceted branch, as members provide environmental protection, military naval support, and maritime safety enforcement. They answer to the Navy during wartime and the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime. Altogether, each branch helps make the U.S. military the most effective in the world.
What are the requirements for joining the military?
There are several eligibility requirements to take into consideration, from physical and educational to citizenship status. One of the main ones is age: You have to fall in a certain range for active duty:
- Army: 17-35
- Marines: 17-28
- Navy: 17-39
- Air Force: 17-39
- Coast Guard: 17-27
There may be exceptions if you have prior service enlistments.
Generally speaking, you also have to be a legal U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Additionally, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required. For specific details on physical fitness eligibility, you may want to reach out to a recruiter.
How does active duty differ from reserve?
The main distinction is degree of commitment and how long you're required to serve. While active duty is full time, reserve is part time. For example, those in the reserves traditionally only need to take part in training drills one weekend per month and two weeks per year to satisfy their service obligations. As for how long you will be enlisted, the typical length is eight years. You may be able to do as few as two years of active duty while the remainder can be completed on a reserve basis.
Should you decide to leave the military, you'll receive veteran status, but even if you decide the service is for you forever, the mere fact that you joined the armed forces can qualify you for this highly sought-after title earlier than you realized.
Joining the military comes with a lot of advantages, and if you're ever in need of a personal loan, Omni Financial stands ready to serve you. We specialize in providing military loans to both active-duty and career retired services members. Contact us today to learn more about our loan products, eligibility terms and how you can apply.
The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with a financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.