There are many different reasons why soldiers enlist in the army. Some enlist for the country, because of family, and honor. However, according to a study done of enlisted soldiers, one true motivation for joining the Army is simple — for money. A RAND Corporation exhaustive survey of 81 soldiers between E1 and E4 suggests that the choice to enlist is influenced by two overlapping factors — institutional ones like family and duty, and then occupational ones like job stability and professional development. While 37% of soldiers identified cited both institutional and occupational reasons for joining the Army, a whopping 46% said they enlisted due to solely occupational reasons. Only 9% said they joined for entirely institutional reasons. It seems that the overwhelming majority of respondents had economic reasons for joining. It seems for most military service, it is a job first and calling second. Here are the top reasons that soldiers are actually joining the Army.
Adventure and Travel
Joining the military offers you tons of experience and adventure that you otherwise would never see. “I’ve been in Kansas the majority of my life, so I figured if I joined the Army, I’d have a greater chance to go out and visit new states and new countries,” one soldier told the RAND researchers. Most soldiers who decide to join the Army have never been outside of their hometown and they are dying to get out and explore the world. The Army, as well as many other branches, give you tremendous opportunities for living abroad in other countries and cultures. While there, you get to experience the culture and people, eat the food, and broaden your view of the world.
A significant amount of soldiers (32% to be exact), called military benefits major motivation for enlisting in the Army. The most important benefits to them being health care, active duty tuition assistance, and post-service support structures like the GI Bill. Military service is a “lifeline” for some Americans, the researchers note, citing one single mother who joined “just because I had my son and I needed the benefits, I guess you could say.” There are so many people who if they did not enlist in the Army, would not have any health care, education, or even a steady place to call home.
Job stability and Pay
Nearly a quarter of soldiers had a very simple explanation for their decision to join — They “needed to make money,” especially given the economic turmoil that the country has faced in recent years. “The Army can provide me with great education benefits and great career benefits later on,” one soldier told the researchers. “So, why not start that and do that, instead of just working at some dead-end job that’s only paying minimum wage, maybe $10 an hour when I can go and get fantastic benefits?” After weighing the factors, another added, “I was like, well, why not, and if I stay in for 20 plus years, I can retire at 40. So, it seemed like a good deal to me, especially in the economy we’re in.” Many soldiers who enlist feel this way. Just 20 years in the military will give you 50% of your pay when you retire for the rest of your life. Additionally, you get full health and dental coverage for you, your wife, and children until you die.
Escaping a Negative Environment
For a lot of people, the military isn’t just an economic lifeline — it’s a sociopolitical one. “I guess I just joinred to get out of the situation I was in, didn’t really see myself going anywhere,” one soldier told the RAND researchers. “Yeah, I feel like the Army has provided that for me. The kids that I grew up with, out of the group that I hung out with, two of them are in jail and then the three either passed away or disappeared.” For many soldiers, it is just an escape from their horrible reality. Many join the army to escape going to jail or ending up dead, and this has been going on since the beginning of time. According to popular online casino website, PokerStars casino, back in the 1800’s, Leo Tolstoy joined the Russian Army to escape gambling debts to a publisher incurred by playing billiards. Thomas McGregor is another case of joining the military to better his reality. According to CNN, McGregor risked his life to pay off $108,000 in student loans and joined the Army. To many, they feel that they’re better off enlisting than serving time or sticking around and getting into even more trouble.
There are so many different programs in the Army that pay for school or give you more opportunities. These range from giving you $4,500 per year in tuition payments while you are still in the army, to paying for your entire degree while getting housing expenses paid. Many soldiers love the idea of having everything paid for while doing on-the-job training to get them ready for the career of their dreams. For some, it’s really a no-brainer. Many who joined the Army for job training might not have ever found a job back home and they are truly better off, especially in today’s economy.