Military Myths Debunked About Your 1st Duty Station
Military Myths Debunked! 3 Things About Your 1st Duty Station
So finally, you made it through MEPS, reception and survived your branch’s grueling boot camp and advanced training for your military occupational specialty (MOS). Now the day has arrived, and you are reporting to your first unit. There are several moments in the military that every Service Member remembers and reporting to their first unit is one of those moments.
Even today, after 21 years of military service, I still can remember the moment that I walked into my first unit. I thought my hair cut was sharp, my bearing was impeccable when I walked into my squad area and within 15 minutes, I was completely wrong about my place in life and was quickly reminded that everyone starts at the bottom.
It turns out that I had a pretty big knowledge gap when it came to what new Service Members knew about military life. Young people especially seem to have a lot of misconceptions about what it is like to arrive and serve at an actual unit. Here are 3 things you should know about your first duty station.
Myth#1: Everyone Will Immediately Like You
Often people say that the military is one big family and although the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces seem similar, the types of jobs, geographic locations, environment, and cultures are often worlds apart. Knowing which service best fits your goals and personality will ensure you make the best choice for your personal situation; however, it can also lead to some conflicts. Your unit is comprised of people from various walks of life and those differences in culture and attitude does not mean that it will necessarily mesh with your personality or yours with theirs. There is a vast difference between boot camp and unit life.
At boot camp, everyone is mostly on an equal playing field. At the unit, regardless of branch, you have will unit members who have various levels of experience. Even the new private that arrived a month before you, has more experience and seniority than you, even if you are the same rank. At unit level, a new service member is expected to perform and prove themselves before they are accepted and liked. I was often reminded that I was not infantry until I arrived and performed at my unit. Once I made Specialist (pay grade of E4), only then I was started to be liked by other members of my unit. The keys to success at a unit is work hard, be a team player and do not quit. You are going to make mistakes, that’s a given. But if you work hard and keep contributing to the unit, your fellow members will come around and then the lifelong friendships will start to form.
Myth#2: You Will Not Be Able to Be In Contact with Family & Friends
According to JAMRS, 50 percent of young people thought that joining the military meant it would be harder to stay in touch. But it is 2020, everyone. Smartphone capabilities and other tech advances have made communication easier than ever. Skype, Facetime or any of the other many video-chatting services have given deployed service members around the world the ability to be in touch with their families and friends at any time of day in some of the most remote areas of the world.
RELATED: 11 Free Video Conference Services to Stay In Touch
When I deployed in 2004 to Iraq, we still were receiving written letters from home. During my return deployment to Iraq in 2008, every building had internet and I could video chat and do whatever I wanted with little or no interruption. Finally, during my 2018 deployment to Kosovo, my internet and cell phone service there was better at times, than I had at my house back in the states.
At unit level, Service Members can talk to their family members while they are at work, however some units may dictate that a Service Member can only talk during breaks or lunches. This can be a painful pill to swallow for some families, who are used to this day in age where the social media footprint tells them everything that their loved one is doing.
Due to a unit’s operational security or mission, the Service Member may not be allowed to talk all the time or have their device on them. For example, if they are on a training exercise at JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center) or a fleet deployment, they may go an extended amount of time before they are able to contact their families. This is simply due to the conditions of the exercise or mission. Regardless, some sacrifices are going to have to be made to accommodate the unit’s mission.
Myth#3: The Unit Will Get Me to Where I Need to Be as a Service Member
Answer: The answer to this question is both TRUE and FALSE.
You do have to be fitter than your average contemporaries. You cannot report to a unit being out of shape, because then you will automatically start with your back against the wall.
Running, swimming, calisthenics, rucking, and lifting are required at varying levels of intensity depending upon your branch and military specialty. This is a military requirement and there are standards to uphold. If you cannot uphold them or fail to meet them, you can lose your job or not be hired.
If you are not comfortable with living up to a unit’s standards of fitness, military bearing, grooming, and wearing of the uniform, you might find the military more than you can handle. However, the unit will teach you how to conduct yourself as a Service member and as a professional in your respected branch. You only have to put the effort in to be that person the unit and the military needs.
The bottom line is this, you are in the real world now, you are at a unit. You must be willing to sacrifice many things, and most importantly it could be your life. Your daily job will require sacrifices in time with family, friends, your spouse, and your kids, and you also will not be able to live, work, eat, change jobs, or travel normally as well when permanently stationed or deployed with your unit. These “little things” are some of the many things that get taken during your time.
Military Myths Series:
- Military Myths: Joining the Military
- Military Myths: Prepping for Boot Camp
- Military Myths About Boot Camp
- Myths About Military Spouses
- Myths and Tips for the Military Male Spouse
About the author
Justin Fisher is a currently serving with the Arkansas Army National Guard. His career has expanded two decades and has three deployments. He holds a Bachelor’s in Arts in Communications and hosts a weekly podcast featuring candid interviews with members of the military.