What Women Should Know Before Enlisting
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are more than 201,000 female active-duty military members serving our country. Today, more than 90% of the military occupations available are open to women, making it a great potential employment path for American women. Whether you want to see the world, test your discipline, or find an exciting and fulfilling job, the military can be an excellent option. That said, there are some tips that females should consider when preparing to enlist in the armed forces. For example:
Be prepared when you meet with the recruiter. You’ll need your social security card, birth certificate, other IDs, transcripts from high school and college, and more. It’s also a good idea to research job positions that you may be interested in filling during your service, rather than leaving it up to the recruiter to pick one for you. Also, review the list of medical conditions that can disqualify you, as well as the ones that require a waiver from your doctor. Going in prepared can save you time and headaches of having to reschedule your meeting.
Get in shape before joining. Do your research and find out the height and weight requirements for your branch. Many Americans will be required to lose some weight before they are eligible to join. Also, start practicing your pushups, sit ups, and jogging. Basic Training will build you up in those areas, but you don’t want to have to start from square one. Research and start working towards the maximum standards for women, or even start working towards the men’s standards, and getting up to speed will be much less painful. You don’t want to be the one holding your group back, and ultimately, your physical fitness can impact the success of your future missions.
Build you your mental fortitude. Basic Training is hard on everyone. But know that it is different for women compared to men. You may face stereotypes and past negative experiences from other soldiers (for example, previous female soldiers who did not pull their weight or work hard). You may have to work through a feeling of judgment or awkwardness from being the only female in the room, or you may have to deal with the female dynamics of your other trainees. Whatever the emotions coming from other soldiers, the one answer is to work hard. Keep your complaints to a minimum, push yourself as hard as you possibly can, and don’t make excuses. Your work ethic will speak for itself and motivation goes a long way in proving yourself. This applies to both men and women.
Prepare to be away from family and friends. It’s a fact of life for members of the armed forces. Whether in training or deployment, you will be away from family and friends. There are currently more than 9,000 female members of the armed forces deployed globally. You may miss important events or struggle with loneliness. You will have to lean on your support system, especially if you have children. The sacrifices to serve your country affect both men and women, and military service truly is a family endeavor.
Consider Cutting Your Hair. It may seem stereotypical, but in truth, shorter hair is much easier to manage, especially during training. If you have longer hair, you’ll be required to keep it up in a bun, and with the amount and frequency of quick showers and training in the elements, your hair might end up damaged and even moldy. Once you’ve made it through Basic Training, there’s plenty of time to grow it back if you’re so inclined. But you’ll still have to master the bun.
Get rid of the bad habits. Basic Training will rid you of many bad habits, like smoking, drinking alcohol, snacking, and napping throughout the day. Make it less painful on yourself and give these things up before you enter training. You’ll have enough on your mental plate already without making it harder trying to fight through bad-habit withdraws.
Get some perspective. It’s a good idea to talk to someone other than a recruiter before joining up, to get a true perspective on the good, bad, and ugly of service. Talk to someone in the branch you’re interested in, especially a female if you’re lucky enough to know one. It’s best to go in with a realistic perspective, knowing that some things will be harder than expected, and some will be easier. Talking to a fellow female soldier who has made it through also give you the extra motivation to keep fighting through Basic Training when you need it most.
Stay out of trouble. Know that your actions before joining up can affect whether or not you can enlist. Any criminal record will be reviewed, so be prepared to tell your recruiter about any arrests because he or she will find out eventually anyway. Once you’ve decided to enlist, stay out of trouble and keep your goals as your priority.
Be prepared to gain discipline. Despite the rigors and hardships, you will come away from your Basic Training and military experience with an increased sense of discipline, motivation, pride, and a set of practical skills and training. It’s a good idea to start expanding your worldview before enlisting; learn about other countries and what’s going on in the world. You will undoubtedly be experiencing and impacting it it first hand once you are a member of the armed forces.
Good luck and thank you for your service!
Written by Megan Hammons