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The mission of the Armed Forces is to: 1) Deter aggression and defeat attack against the Nation, 2) strengthen and build alliances, 3) prevent a hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and 4) prevent conflicts by reducing sources of re-gional turmoil through various means, including humanitarian aid, counterterrorism, or limiting the spread of militarily significant technology.
The Army and Air Force prepare for defensive and offensive operations, on land and in the air, respectively. The Navy organizes and trains forces primarily for sea operations, while the Marine Corps, part of the Department of the Navy, prepares for land invasions in support of naval or amphibious operations. The Coast Guard, under the Department of Transportation (except in wartime, when it serves with the Navy), enforces Federal maritime laws, rescues distressed vessels and aircraft at sea, operates aids to navigation, and prevents smuggling.
Together, the Armed Forces constitute America's largest employer. Maintaining a strong defense encompasses such diverse activities as running a hospital, commanding a tank, programming computers, operating a nuclear reactor, and repairing and maintaining a helicopter. The military's occupational diversity provides educational opportunities and work experience in literally thousands of occupations. Military personnel hold managerial and administrative jobs; professional, technical, and clerical jobs; construction jobs; electrical and electronics jobs; mechanical and repair jobs; and many others. The military provides job training and work experience for people who can serve for a relatively brief period (3 to 6 years of active duty) or embark on a career that lasts 20 years or more.
There are more than 2,000 basic and advanced military occupational specialties for enlisted personnel and 1,600 for officers. Over 75 percent of these occupational specialties have civilian counterparts. A brief discussion of the major military occupational groups follows.
Infantry, gun crews, and seamanship specialists are the backbone of the Armed Forces. Officers plan and direct military operations, oversee security activities, and serve as combat troop leaders. Enlisted personnel serve as infantrymen, aircraft crew members, weapons specialists, armored vehicle operators, demolition experts, artillery crew, rocket specialists, special operations forces, and combat engineers. Although these functions are unique to the Armed Forces, some involve skills that can be applied to a number of civilian occupations such as police officers, firefighters, and heavy equipment operators. In addition, people in this category learn how to work as team members and can develop leadership, managerial, and supervisory skills.
Military personnel assigned to electronic equipment repair occupations are responsible for maintaining and repairing many different types of equipment. Officers manage the regular maintenance and repair of avionics, communications, radar, and air traffic control equipment. Enlisted personnel repair radio, navigation, missile guidance, and flight control equipment as well as telephone, teletype, and data processing equipment. Many of these skills are directly transferable to jobs in the civilian sector.
Communications and intelligence specialists in the military have civilian scientific and engineering counterparts. Officers serve as intelligence gatherers and interpreters, cryptologists, information analysts, translators, science and engineering researchers, and in related intelligence occupations. Enlisted personnel work as computer programmers, air traffic controllers, interpreters and translators, and radio, radar, and sonar operators.
Military medical and dental occupations all have civilian counterparts. Holding the rank of medical officer are physicians, dentists, optometrists, nurses, therapists, veterinarians, pharmacists, and others in health diagnosing and treating occupations. Enlisted personnel are trained to work as medical laboratory technologists and technicians, radiologic technologists, emergency medical technicians, dental assistants, optical assistants, pharmaceutical assistants, sanitation specialists, and veterinary assistants. Health professions training obtained in the military is usually recognized in the civilian sector; service-trained health professionals are eligible to apply for certification or registration, a hiring prerequisite in many civilian health settings.
Military experience in other technical and allied specialty occupations is often directly transferable to civilian life. Officers in this field work as meteorologists, mapping directors, television and motion picture directors, and band directors. Enlisted personnel are trained to work as photographers, motion picture camera operators, mapping and surveying specialists, illustrators, weather data collectors, explosives disposal specialists, divers, and musicians.
Functional support and administrative occupations in military service require the same skills as similar jobs in private businesses and government agencies. Officers in this category work as directors, executives, adjutants, administrative officers, personnel managers, training administrators, budget officers, finance officers, public affairs officers, accountants, hospital administrators, inspectors, computer systems managers, and lawyers. Enlisted personnel in this category work as accounting clerks, payroll clerks, personnel clerks, computer programmers, computer operators, chaplain assistants, counseling aides, typists, stenographers, storekeepers, and other clerks.
Those in electrical and mechanical equipment repair occupations maintain aircraft, motor vehicles, and ships. Officers manage the maintenance of aircraft, missiles, conventional and nuclear-powered ships, trucks, earth-moving equipment, and other vehicles. Enlisted personnel serve as mechanics, engine specialists, and boiler technicians. They also install and maintain wire communications systems such as telephones. Skills obtained in these jobs are readily transferable to those in the civilian sector.
Military personnel assigned to craft occupations are skilled craft workers. Officers serve as civil engineers and architects and manage the work of enlisted personnel who work as carpenters, construction equipment operators, metalworkers, machinists, plumbers, welders, electricians, and heating and air-conditioning specialists.
Military personnel in service and supply occupations handle food service, security, and personal services and supply. Officers work as logistics officers, supply managers, transportation and traffic managers, and procurement officers. Enlisted personnel include military police, correction specialists, detectives, firefighters, and food preparation and other service workers. They operate transportation equipment such as trucks, ships, boats, airplanes, and helicopters, and act as quartermasters, supply specialists, and cargo specialists. Many of these skills can be transferred to civilian occupations.
Military life is much more regimented than civilian life, and one must be willing to accept the discipline. It is important to remember that by signing an enlistment contract, you sign a legal document that obligates you to serve for a specified period of time.
Dress and grooming requirements are stringent, and rigid formalities govern many aspects of everyday life. For instance, officers and enlisted personnel do not socialize together, and superior commissioned officers are saluted and addressed as "sir" or "ma'am." These and other rules encourage respect for superiors whose commands must be obeyed immediately and without question.
The needs of the military always come first. As a result, hours and working conditions can vary substantially. However, most military personnel usually work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Some assignments require night and weekend work, or require people to be on call at all hours. All may require substantial travel. Many require long periods at sea, sometimes in cramped quarters, or lengthy overseas assignments in countries offering few amenities. Some jobs are in isolated areas subject to extreme cold or heat. Others, such as carrier flight deck duty, are hazardous even in noncombat situations.
During times of conflict, many are in combat, and may find themselves in life or death situations. Countless hours of training produce teamwork that is highly critical to the success or failure of an operation, and possibly to the lives of individuals in the unit. Also, rapidly advancing military technology has made warfare more precise and lethal, further increasing the need for teamwork. Noncombatants may also face danger if their duties bring them close to the combat zone. They may also participate in dangerous training activities.
Those aboard ship, on air crews, and others travel regularly, while others in the military are stationed at bases throughout the country or overseas. Military personnel usually are transferred to a new duty station every few years.
Military personnel enjoy more job security than their civilian counterparts. Satisfactory job performance generally assures one of steady employment and earnings.
In 1995, about 1.6 million persons were on active duty in the Armed Forcesabout 523,000 in the Army; 405,000 in the Air Force; 442,000 in the Navy; 172,000 in the Marine Corps; and 34,000 in the Coast Guard. About one in eight of those on active duty were women.
Military personnel are stationed throughout the United States and in many countries around the world. California, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia accounted for more than 1 in 3 military jobs. About 287,000 were stationed outside the United States in 1994. Over 142,000 of these were stationed in Europe (mainly in Germany); large numbers also were in the Western Pacific area.
Table 1 shows the occupational composition of enlisted personnel in 1995. Nearly 4 out of 10 held jobs that involved communications, electronic, mechanical, or related equipment, a reflection of the highly technical nature of the fighting forces today. Table 2 shows the occupational composition of officer personnel in 1995. Officerswho accounted for about 16 percent of all military personnelare concentrated in combat activities, where they serve as ships' officers, aircraft pilots and crew members, and infantry or artillery officers. Officers also serve in engineering and maintenance, and medical and dental positions.
Table 1. Military enlisted personnel by broad occupational category and branch of military service, 1995 Marine Air Occupational Group Total Army Navy Corps Force Total 1,300,937 439,471 381,241 153,841 326,384 Infantry, gun crews, and seamanship specialists 221,353 124,590 37,273 38,237 21,253 Electronic equipment repairers 127,110 25,177 56,765 9,119 36,049 Communications and intelligence specialists 119,392 45,543 39,158 12,150 22,541 Health care specialists 87,562 33,943 30,086 (1) 23,533 Other technical and allied specialists 32,685 12,799 4,121 3,609 12,156 Functional support and administration 212,637 75,035 39,947 25,361 72,294 Electrical/mechanical equipment repairers 258,114 60,608 97,884 23,008 76,614 Craftworkers 53,503 8,444 25,149 4,167 15,743 Service and supply handlers 116,900 49,313 20,133 21,183 26,271 Nonoccupational 68,974 1,369 30,703 16,992 19,910 (1) The Marine Corps employ no medical personnel. Their medical services are provided by the Navy.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense
Table 2. Military officer personnel by broad occupational category and branch of service, 1995 Marine Air Occupational Group Total Army Navy Corps Force Total 240,986 83,930 60,325 17,825 78,905 General officers and executives 2,019 328 226 684 (1) 781 (3) Tactical operations officers 93,263 33,623 23,007 8,697 27,936 Intelligence officers 12,580 5,987 2,251 716 3,626 Engineering and maintenance officers 31,814 9,755 7,543 1,752 12,763 Scientists and professionals 11,380 2,919 2,377 466 5,618 Medical officers 41,708 16,184 11,602 (2) 13,922 Administrators 16,264 5,070 3,150 1,588 6,456 Supply, procurement, and allied officers 20,441 8,038 3,597 2,078 6,728 Nonoccupational 9,433 137 6,517 1,735 1,044 (1) The Marine Corps includes colonels as general officers. There were 68 generals in the Marine Corps in 1995. (2) The Marine Corps employ no medical personnel. Their medical services are provided by the Navy. (3) There were 274 general officers and 507 executives, not elsewhere classified, in the Air Force in 1995.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense
General enlistment qualifications. As it has since 1973, the military expects to continue to meet its personnel requirements through volunteers. Enlisted members must enter a legal agreement called an enlistment contract, which usually involves a commitment to 8 years of service. Depending on the terms of the contract, 2 to 6 years are spent on active duty, the balance in the reserves. The enlistment contract obligates the service to provide the agreed-upon optionsjob, rating, pay, cash bonuses for enlistment in certain occupations, medical and other benefits, occupational training, and continuing education. In return, enlisted persons must serve satisfactorily for the specified period of time.
Requirements for each service vary, but certain qualifications for enlistment are common to all branches. Enlistees must be between the ages of 17 and 35, must be a U.S. citizen or immigrant alien holding permanent resident status, must not have a felony record, and must possess a birth certificate. Applicants who are 17 must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before entering the service. Air Force enlisted personnel must enter active duty before their 28th birthday. Applicants must pass both a written examinationthe Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batteryand meet certain minimum physical standards such as height, weight, vision, and overall health. All branches prefer high school graduation or its equivalent and require it for certain enlistment options. In 1995, 95 percent of enlistees were high school graduates. Single parents are generally not eligible to enlist.
People thinking about enlisting in the military should learn as much as they can about military life before making a decision. This is especially important if you are thinking about making the military a career. Speaking to friends and relatives with military experience is a good idea. Determine what the military can offer you and what it will expect in return. Then talk to a recruiter, who can determine if you qualify for enlistment; explain the various enlistment options; and tell you which military occupational specialties currently have openings for trainees. Bear in mind that the recruiter's job is to recruit promising applicants into the military, so the information he or she gives you is likely to stress the positive aspects of military life.
Ask the recruiter to assess your chances of being accepted for training in the occupation or occupations of your choice, or, better still, take the aptitude exam to see how well you score. The military uses the aptitude exam as a placement exam, and test scores largely determine an individual's chances of being accepted into a particular training program. Selection for a particular type of training depends on the needs of the service, general and technical aptitudes, and personal preference. Because all prospective recruits are required to take the exam, those who do so before committing themselves to enlist have the advantage of knowing in advance whether they stand a good chance of being accepted for training in a particular specialty. The recruiter can schedule you for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery without any obligation. Many high schools offer the exam as an easy way for students to explore the possibility of a military career.
Enlistment contract. If you decide to join the military, the next step is to pass the physical examination and then enter into the enlistment contract. This involves choosing, qualifying, and agreeing on a number of enlistment options such as length of active duty time, which may vary according to the enlistment option. (Most active duty programs have enlistment options ranging from 3 to 6 years, although there are some 2-year programs.) The contract will also list the date of enlistment and other options such as bonuses and types of training to be received. If the service is unable to fulfill its part of the contract (such as providing a certain kind of training) the contract may become null and void.
All services offer a "delayed entry program" by which an enlistee can delay entry into active duty for up to 1 year. High school students can enlist during their senior year and enter a service after graduation. Other enlistees choose this program because the job training they desire is not currently available but will be within the coming year, or because they need time to arrange personal affairs.
Women are eligible to enter almost all military specialties. Although many women serve in medical and administrative support positions, women also work as mechanics, missile maintenance technicians, heavy equipment operators, fighter pilots, and intelligence officers. Only some occupations involving a high probability of direct exposure to combat are excludedfor example, artilleryman and infantryman.
People planning to apply the skills gained through military training to a civilian career should look into several things before selecting their military occupation. First, they should determine how good the prospects are for civilian employment in jobs related to the military specialty which interests them. Second, they should know the prerequisites for the related civilian job. Many occupations require a license, certification, or a minimum level of education. In such cases, it is important to determine whether military training is sufficient to enter the civilian equivalent or, if not, what additional training will be required.
Other Handbook statements discuss the job outlook for civilian occupations for which military training is helpful. Additional information often can be obtained from schools, unions, trade associations, and other organizations in the field of interest, or from a school counselor.
Training programs for enlisted personnel. Following enlistment, new members of the Armed Forces undergo recruit training. Better known as "basic" training, recruit training provides a 6- to 11-week introduction to military life with courses in health, first aid, and military skills and protocol. Days and nights are carefully structured and include rigorous physical exercises designed to improve strength and endurance.
Following basic training, most recruits take additional training at technical schools that prepare them for a particular military occupational specialty. The formal training period generally lasts from 10 to 20 weeks, although training for certain occupationsnuclear power plant operator is an examplemay take as much as 1 year. Recruits not assigned to classroom instruction receive on-the-job training at their first duty assignment.
In addition to on-duty training, military personnel may choose from a variety of educational programs. Most military installations have tuition assistance programs for people wishing to take courses during off-duty hours. These may be correspondence courses or de-gree programs offered by local colleges or universities. Also available are courses designed to help service personnel earn high school equivalency diplomas. Each service branch provides opportunities for full-time study to a limited number of exceptional applicants. Military personnel accepted into these highly competitive programs receive full pay, allowances, tuition, and related fees. In return, they must agree to serve an additional amount of time in the service. Other very selective programs enable enlisted personnel to qualify as commissioned officers through additional military training.
Officer training. Officer training in the Armed Forces is provided through the Federal service academies (Military, Naval, Air Force, and Coast Guard); the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC); Officer Candidate School (OCS); the National Guard (State Officer Candidate School programs); the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences; and other programs. All are very selective and are good options for those wishing to make the military a career.
Federal service academies provide a 4-year college program leading to a bachelor of science degree. The midshipman or cadet is provided free room and board, tuition, medical care, and a monthly allowance. Graduates receive regular commissions and have a 5-year active duty obligation, or longer if entering flight training.
To become a candidate for appointment as a cadet or midshipman in one of the service academies, most applicants obtain a nomination from an authorized source (usually a Member of Congress). Candidates do not need to know a Member of Congress personally to request a nomination. Nominees must have an academic record of the requisite quality, college aptitude test scores above an established minimum, and recommendations from teachers or school officials; they also must pass a medical examination. Appointments are made from the list of eligible nominees.
Appointments to the Coast Guard Academy are made strictly on a competitive basis. A nomination is not required.
ROTC programs train students in about 950 Army, 60 Navy and Marine Corps, and 550 Air Force units at participating colleges and universities. Trainees take 2 to 5 hours of military instruction a week in addition to regular college courses. After graduation, they serve as officers on active duty for a stipulated period of time. In the last 2 years of an ROTC program, students receive a monthly allowance while attending school and additional pay for summer training. ROTC scholarships for 2, 3, and 4 years are available on a competitive basis. All scholarships pay for tuition and have allowances for subsistence, textbooks, supplies, and other fees.
College graduates can earn a commission in the Armed Forces through OCS programs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
Persons with training in certain health professions may qualify for direct appointment as officers. In the case of health professions students, financial assistance and internship opportunities are available from the military in return for specified periods of military service. Prospective medical students can apply to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, which offers free tuition in a program leading to an M.D. degree. In return, graduates must serve for 7 years in either the military or the Public Health Service. Direct appointments also are available for those qualified to serve in other special duties, such as the judge advocate general (legal) or chaplain corps.
Flight training is available to commissioned officers in each branch of the Armed Forces. In addition, the Army has a direct enlistment option to become a warrant officer aviator.
Advancement opportunities. Each service has different criteria for promoting personnel. Generally, the first few promotions for both enlisted and officer personnel come easily. Subsequent promotions are much more competitive. Criteria for promotion may include time in service and grade, job performance, a supervisor's recommendation, and written examinations. Although the Armed Forces is a large organization that will continue to promote many of its people, the military drawdown continues to reduce the number of promotion slots. People who are continually passed over for promotion are eventually encouraged to leave the military.
America's strategic position is stronger than it has been in decades. Due primarily to the reduction in the threat from Eastern Europe and Russia, the Armed Forces enacted a personnel reduction plan that is now nearly completed. From 1994 to 1999, planned reductions are as follows: Army, 18,000; Navy, 9,000; Air Force, 25,000; the Marine Corps has no further planned reductions. After 1997, the number of active duty personnel is expected to remain constant. The Armed Forces' goal is to maintain a sufficient force to fight and win two major regional conflicts occurring at the same time. However, political events could cause these plans to change. This personnel reduction has caused a decrease in recruiting levels and a toughening of advancement standards. In addition, many career personnel have been given the option of a severance payment to leave the service before their planned retirement.
In spite of this personnel reduction, job opportunities should be good in all branches of the Armed Forces through the year 2005. Persons entering the Armed Forces in the late-1990s will finish their first enlistment after 2000, and by then the planned personnel reduction should be complete. About 190,000 enlisted personnel and 15,000 officers must be recruited each year to replace those who complete their enlistment or retire. Educational requirements will continue to rise as military jobs become more technical and complex; high school graduates and applicants with some college background will be sought to fill the ranks of enlisted personnel.
Starting salaries. Annual salaries by rank and years of service of military personnel are shown in table 3. Most enlisted personnel started as recruits at Grade E-1 in 1995; however, those with special skills or above-average education started as high as Grade E-3. Most warrant officers started at Grade W-1 or W-2, depending upon their occupational and academic qualifications and the branch of service. Most commissioned officers started at Grade O-1; highly trained officersfor example, physicians, engineers, and scientistsstarted as high as Grade O-3 or 0-4.
Table 3. Military basic pay by grade for active duty personnel with fewer than 2 years service at grade, 1995 Rank and title Basic monthly pay Army Navy Air Force Marine Corps Commissioned officers: O-6 Colonel Captain Colonel Colonel $3,449.70 O-5 Lieutenant Colonel Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel 2,759.10 O-4 Major Lieutenant Commander Major Major 2,325.60 O-3 Captain Lieutenant Captain Captain 2,161.20 O-2 1st Lieutenant Lieutenant (JG) 1st Lieutenant 1st Lieutenant 1,884.60 O-1 2nd Lieutenant Ensign 2nd Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant 1,636.20 Warrant officers: W-2 Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer 1,752.90 W-1 Warrant Officer Warrant Officer Warrant Officer Warrant Officer 1,460.10 Enlisted personnel: E-6 Staff Sergeant Petty Officer 1st Class Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant 1,290.30 E-5 Sergeant Petty Officer 2nd Class Staff Sergeant Sergeant 1,132.20 E-4 Corporal Petty Officer 3rd Class Airman 1st Class Corporal 1,056.00 E-3 Private First Class Seaman Airman 2nd Class Lance Corporal 995.10 E-2 Private Seaman Apprentice Airman 3rd Class Private 1st Class 957.60 E-1 Recruit Seaman Recruit Basic Airman Private 854.40 E-1 (1) 790.20 (1) Fewer than 4 months active duty.SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense
Allowances. In addition to basic pay, military personnel receive free room and board (or a housing and subsistence allowance), medical and dental care, a military clothing allowance, military supermarket and department store shopping privileges, 30 days of paid vacation a year, and travel opportunities. Other allowances are paid for foreign duty, hazardous duty, submarine and flight duty, and employment as a medical officer.
Athletic and other recreational facilitiessuch as libraries, gymnasiums, tennis courts, golf courses, bowling centers, and moviesare available on many military installations.
Military personnel are eligible for retirement benefits after 20 years of service.
Annual earnings. In 1995, the average compensation of all military personnelincluding basic pay and housing and subsistence allowanceswas $29,300. Enlisted personnel averaged $25,400; warrant officers averaged $42,400; and commissioned officers averaged $52,800.
Veterans' benefits. The Veterans Administration (VA) provides numerous benefits to those who have served at least 2 years in the Armed Forces. Veterans are eligible for free care in VA hospitals for all service-connected disabilities regardless of time served; those with other medical problems are eligible for free VA care if they are unable to pay the cost of hospitalization elsewhere. Admission to a VA medical center depends on the availability of beds, however. Veterans are also eligible for certain loans, including home loans. Veterans, regardless of health, can convert a military life insurance policy to an individual policy with any participating company in the veteran's State of residence. In addition, job counseling, testing, and placement services are available.
Veterans who participate in the New Montgomery GI Bill Program receive educational benefits. Under this program, Armed Forces personnel may elect to deduct from their pay up to $100 a month to put toward their future education. Depending on the length of enlistment, the Government will contribute up to $9,600, until the combined contributions reach a maximum of $10,800. In addition, each service may provide its own additional contributions to put toward future education. This sum becomes the service member's educational fund. Upon separation from active duty, the fund can be used to finance an education at any VA-approved institution. VA-approved schools include many vocational, correspondence, business, technical, and flight training schools; community and junior colleges; and colleges and universities.
Information on educational and other veterans' benefits is available from VA offices located throughout the country.
Each of the military services publishes handbooks, fact sheets, and pamphlets that describe entrance requirements, training and advancement opportunities, and other aspects of military careers. These publications are widely available at all recruiting stations, most State employment service offices, and in high schools, colleges, and public libraries.
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