Fact vs. fiction: Common myths about military life

by Katie Lange, DOD News
Defense Media Activity

Aside from what you see in movies, what do you know about the military?

It turns out there’s a pretty big knowledge gap nowadays when it comes to what civilians know about military life. Young people especially seem to have a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to serve.

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Lacount stands before a formation of Marines with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, during the University of Hawaii Military Appreciation Game Night at Aloha Stadium, Hawaii, Oct. 29, 2016. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert Sweet

For instance, according to the Defense Department’s Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies program, only 50 percent of young adults age 17 to 35 were able to name all four active-duty military services; 36 percent didn’t know there was a difference between an officer and an enlisted person.

That should be pretty standard knowledge, but that’s not the case anymore. So to help clear up some myths and concerns that young people have, here’s the truth about a few other common misconceptions:

Army 1st Lt. Nicole McCoy uses Skype to stay in contact with her son, Landon, while her husband, Michael, looks on. McCoy tries to Skype with her family as much as possible. Skype is one of many tools used by many service members to stay in contact with their loved ones, it helps them to feel closer to home while deployed. Army photo by 159th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

You won’t be able to be in contact with family and 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’s 2016, 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.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Esper walks across the flight line with his wife and children during a homecoming celebration at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland Sept. 7, 2010. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clifford H. Davis

Military life is incompatible with having a family.

When young people think about the military, some believe it can be a lonely life that involves lots of location changes and deployments. While there is a lot of moving in the military, it’s very family oriented. In fact, 52 percent of the enlisted force is married, while 70 percent of the officer corps is. That’s higher than the U.S. average of about 48 percent, according to Census Bureau statistics from 2011.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Latoria Ellis received the 12th Outstanding Airman of the Year award for 2014 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Air Force photo by Benjamin Faske

You get penalized if you get pregnant.

Some young people actually believed this, but it’s definitely false.  In fact, the DoD offers some of the best maternity leave available in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter expanded maternity leave to 12 continuous weeks for all new moms serving in uniform. The secretary is also working to expand paternity leave for dads, too.

In fact, if you’re worried about this subject, you should check out our blog about the expanded reforms to read up on how they’re helping – not hurting – families.

GI Bill

You have fewer chances to earn money for college.

Not true. In the past decade, the GI Bill has helped more than 2.3 million veterans pay for college. And did you know that there are actually several options for educational benefits under the GI Bill? There’s the Montgomery GI Bill for active-duty and select reserve service members, as well as benefit programs for disabled veterans. There’s also the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which offers more than just help with tuition and fees. It also offers a living allowance, money for textbooks and even the option to transfer education benefits that service members don’t use to their spouse or children.

Many service members are also able to get their degree while on active-duty. Then there’s the ROTC (the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, if you’re unfamiliar with it), which trains college students for future service. About 120,000 people have benefited from ROTC scholarships in the past decade.

Army Spc. Letecia Adams receives resume help from Lorna Fredeluces, an employment service specialist with the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Army photo by Christine Cabalo

Veterans don’t know what to do when they go back to “the real world.”

Like anything else, when you leave one way of life for another, it can be a transition. Moving cross-country. Leaving home for college. Those all represent a big change, but people adjust, and it’s no different for veterans.

Sure, there’s definitely a transition period when you leave the military, but there are several programs that help service members with transition and separation, including the Hiring our Heroes program.

And if you’re thinking that your job skills won’t transfer, that’s a myth, too. People forget that the military has all sorts of opportunities – from cooking to doing scientific research to public affairs – and a lot of those skills are extremely transferable. Not only that, but in the military, you get a crash-course in things like dependability and reliability, teamwork and team-building, leadership, handling stress, decision-making and critical thinking, just to name a few. All of those qualities are highly valuable to employers in the civilian sector. So, just like any civilian who might transfer from one job to another, people with military backgrounds can do that, too.

Need help with your civilian resume, or tips on how to interview? The military has that covered. And if you’re looking for a career change when you leave, as we’ve shown above, there’s lots of help to get you where you want to be!

Hopefully this has helped dispel some rumors about what military life is like. At the end of the day, it’s not so different from the lives our civilian friends live!

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