Teen Tips

Joining the Military: Is it Right for You?


As early as middle school, you with your family should begin to make decisions about your future. After completing high school, there is college, the workforce, Peace Corps, and the military just to mention a few that will provide skills for adulthood. Some parents feel that the military will give their children all the skills that they would need to become a successful adult. The military is a good way to go but isn’t for everyone. If you and your family think that the military is what you want and your desire to serve in the military stays strong, consider this a guide for preparing you for what’s to come:


  1. Consider Youth Programs. 

Boy/Girl Scouts, Navy Sea Cadets and Young Marines might be good options if you think you would enjoy some regimented military-like training that involves discipline, physical activity, uniforms and developing skills. If you join the Boy Scouts, challenge yourself to achieve Eagle Scout, as this would be helpful in the military and officer application process. The same for Girl Scouts. You should try and achieve the honor of the Girl Scout Gold Award.


  1. Consider sports , martial arts or other group activities (band, theater, music).

These types of activities will help you learn skills from other people (coaches, mentors, instructors) and requires you to work with others to perform tasks and learn valuable team-building skills.


  1. Time to Start Training.

Adding in some fitness training is a smart idea as you approach the teen years. Basic calisthenics and a variety of endurance activities are a great way to build a foundation of fitness that will enhance military preparation not just for fitness tests, but for actual training one day. It’s a good idea to add activities like running and swimming to the overall fitness program. If you need to shed a few pounds, add in non-impact activities to reduce impact injuries such as shin splints and joint tendonitis. Beginner Running Programs should be minimal. Start slow and increase distance in gradual increments.


  1. Learn Important Skills.

Learn how to swim, learn CPR and take a lifesaving course. If they enjoy medical training, take an EMT course and volunteer at a local fire department as a junior or senior in high school.  Challenge yourself academically and get involved in group activities with a common mission – “Teamwork”! Whether it is sports, band, theater, community service clubs or Navy JROTC, Army JROTC, or Air Force JROTC, there are options that will help build teamwork and leadership skills. These activities will help you determine whether you should consider college and/or officer training programs through the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy or Merchant Marine Academy. In addition, the ROTC (Army ROTC, Navy/USMC ROTC, and Air Force ROTC) programs at many colleges offer similar educational scholarships and military leadership training programs.


  1. Joining the military.

After high school, you can choose to enlist at 18 years old (17 with a guardian’s signature) or wait a few years and get college or job experience before enlisting. Just because the window to enlist begins at 17 does not mean you have to join then. You have until 35 years old in the Army, 34 in the Navy, 28 in the Marines, and 39 in the Air Force. Some special ops programs will cut the age limit to less than the military branch max age, but you typically have at least a 10-year window to join special ops programs as well. In other words, do not be in a hurry to join — join when you are ready to serve.


  1.  Initiative to learn about the journey forward.

Make sure you are aware of the recruiting process in entering the military as enlisted and all the requirements needed to enter the military as an officer. Both require significant research.

Trust but verify everything that is told to you by any recruiter. Try to find an advocate who has been through the recruiting process before, and make sure you read EVERYTHING you sign. The last thing you want to do is join the military doing a job that you did not mean to sign up for.