Deciding to enlist in the armed forces, in whichever branch you choose, be it the army, navy or air force, is a life changing decision. Being part of the military is not a decision to take lightly as it is not at all like a regular nine to five job. For as long as you are enlisted, the unit that you serve in will be your place of work, your family and your way of life. It is an all-consuming career and many civilians are simply not able to make the transition from being a free individual that answers to no one, to a trained soldier that operates under a chain of command.
Here are a few things to think about if you are deciding to enlist:
1) Appreciate what the military really is
In the UK, the British Armed Forces (or HM Forces) is the military organisation under the command of the UK government and is tasked with protecting UK interests at home or abroad. It also works in conjunction with other countries or organisations such as NATO. British Armed Forces is designed and structured for war, and is divided into the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Whichever branch you choose to join, and whatever role you choose to pursue, your job is still the same – to aid the overall military aims and objectives of the government of the day.
2) Physical preparation will make your life less miserable
The recruitment stage for any armed force is an extremely tough process, and a lot of emphasis is put on physical fitness. This is obviously done to ensure that recruits become suitably trained soldiers that are capable of performing under the pressures of operations or war. You will train both indoors and outdoors, and will need to carry a certain amount of equipment across terrain in various weather conditions, so you really need to toughen up. The army will ensure that you are adequately prepared during the training phases, but if you arrive at depot already reasonably fit and robust you will find the whole process easier to get through. The last thing you want is to fail your recruitment training because you are not fit enough. And if you are hoping to pass the Royal Marine’s Commando Course or the Parachute Regiment’s P Company, then the fitness requirements are even higher. So you cannot arrive for training out of shape or you will soon get found out!
3) Do a bit of research
It will make your life far easier during training if you have a basic understanding of some essential military terminology, and some basic knowledge about the unit that you are trying to get into. It is a massive jump from civvy street to the military, and at times it seems like everybody is speaking a different language that you do not understand, so a bit of reading up on some of the most common expressions and acronyms will be extremely useful in those early days. Also try to speak to any ex-military friends or family about basic training and absorb what they have to say about their own personal experiences in the armed forces. If there is one thing that remains the same over time it is the experiences of new recruits – everybody ends up going through similar events and training, no matter when they served, so it is useful to know a bit about what to expect.
4) This is not a democracy!
The army has a very specific way of operating, even in these times of political correctness and health and safety. That is not to say that the military ignores any of these issues, far from it. As a massive employer with a workforce of over 120,000 men and women of all persuasions, religions and backgrounds, the army does take welfare and issues of the day very seriously. That said however, it is an organisation that exists to wage war, and the consequences of messing up your job could put the rest of your team’s lives at risk – so do not expect any sympathy if you are not fit enough to stay with your platoon on a speed march, if you operate an assault rifle with negligence or if you disobey a direct order from a superior. The forces are designed with a ranking system and you will be at the bottom. You are expected to fulfill a certain role and your opinion counts for next to nothing, especially in the early days. Operational effectiveness is everything, and you will be expected to fulfill your role.
5) Unforgettable experiences
It can be said though, that service in the armed forces will teach you how to think for yourself, how to practice self-discipline and how to push through challenges and difficulties when you thought that you would normally quit. Life in the forces is an amazing mixture of experiences and adventures that simply cannot be gained or fully understood as a civilian. You will leave the army, navy or air force with unforgettable memories and friends that will last a lifetime. Military life is what you make of it, so get fit, do some prior research, understand what you are getting into and why, and then give it your all!