Posted on Jun 3, 2021
Theodore Rivera
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To preface, I'm an incoming freshman planning on attending school in California (Aerospace Major at USC). I was considering doing the SMP program and trying to get a 3 year GRFD scholarship. I was planning on using my degree to join a tech company post grad (Space X, etc. ), however I was wondering if the 8 year commitment to either the Reserve or Guard would be huge detriment to my career progression. I'm not sure whether to go down this route or to find alternative methods of funding my undergrad. I was also wondering how the Guard or Reserve would affect my work life balance.
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SFC Retention Operations Nco
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If you see military service through the lense of "what can I gain?" in the long run you'll lose more than it's worth. There's no quantifiable way to compare it to other, more competitive programs where it doesn't lose out. You receive assistance with college and usually walk into a job that you will be pulled from at every state and national emergency, plus one weekend a month and two weeks a year. When you look at the numbers, there are better options out there.

But, that's because the best benefits aren't really quantifiable. All the things things these professional development seminars, books, and websites try to sell you, you get for free. You'll develop leadership experience. Not just go to a seminar about how good leaders perform, not just go to classes on leadership, you'll be given lots of opportunities to fail in leadership positions, and fail spectacularly, in a way that the civilian world doesn't make room for. The Army puts you in situations where you're forced to figure out a situation on your own and alternately provides you mentors. When I left the Army at 21 I was almost immediately promoted in every job I worked at because of my leadership experience in the Army. Fortune 500 companies pay millions of dollars for Leadership trainers to train their managers. You get elite level leadership training and experience for free.

You will develop professional networks that beat anything you can develop on Rally Point, LinkedIn, FB, or any other professional social media network. You will work with people in your own career field at your peer group, as well as leaders with 5, 10, 20+, years of experience in your local community. Those contacts will produce more results than 1,000 networked contacts on your LinkedIn profile. You may have access to a leader with 20-30 years of experience who is personal friends with a hiring agent or manager of a company who is expanding in your area. A large majority of jobs are still filled by word of mouth recommendations.

In addition, military service offers a camaraderie that civilian service doesn't. I can't explain it here, no words will ever replace what it's like to have a brotherhood of people you can rely on at any point. When you're young you think that all your friends are friends forever. But time shows they fade away. Bonds that are not formed in the fire of shared suffering often fade with time, especially as your values change and grow. I have comrades from 20+ years ago I can reach out to, who will share my burden, help me with anything, and I can always rely on. I know that the friends I developed in the invasion in 2004 I can ask for a hand, a recommendation, or just talk to for advice right now. I know that most of the friends I've developed outside the military in the past 15 years aren't willing to get a desperate call at 1am just because I need to talk.

Last, and the most important part to any young man. The military will give you the chance to feel a sense of accomplishment. Asuch as we strive to make our mark upon the world, in the military we learn that the only lasting mark is growing and developing people. Some of my greatest accomplishments were some of my military achievements and some of the people I developed to do great things. Unless you're building a stone monolith your name will be washed away in a generation or two. But when you train a new generation of people to be great humans, you live on through them.

I can't quantify how incredible it is to see the next generation of Soldiers I've trained who will become the leaders of their career fields and pass on the ethics, morals, and ideology I taught them. There is no numerical or financial value to it. It won't pay my bills, purchase my IRA, or give me extra money. But it has offered me opportunities for high paying jobs when I retire, connections with senior level generals and leaders, and friendships with people I trust my life with.

Let me repeat that last part. I have something worth more than money. I have fiends who I trust with my life, and who I can call on in a decade, who can call on me in a decade and ask for a favor or a recommendation. Believe me, it's worth more than money. It's a whole separate culture

If you're looking for a financial equivalent, it's not worth it. You can find some grants, scholarships and loans to pay for your tuition. But if you want to be a person of the world, who has a chance to do great things for great people in great places, then maybe it's the opportunity for you
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LTC Program Manager
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Only you can answer that for yourself.
Consider looking into the DoD Civilian SMART Scholarship as another path if you think the Guard or Reserve will hold you back.
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SPC Computer/Detection Systems Repairer
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Honestly if this is perspective you are viewing military service through, I would not recommend it and find an alternative path. In the military you 100% get out of it what you put in. If you are looking to take advantage and get the most out with the least put in, you run the chance of putting yourself in a miserable position. That is one of the reasons that experiences vary so widely across the military. Using the guard/reserve to pay for your education is a great option for people that WANT BOTH. If you only actually want one, then you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. There is no telling what will happen in your 8 years. I have been in almost 5 years and have almost 4 years of active duty days accumulated because of circumstance, I happen to go to a unit that immediately deployed when I got out of AIT, sent me on numerous out of country training exercises, got activated for wildfires, and COVID response. If that is not something you would be happy doing, then if it does happen to you, you will be miserable. I have not had the opportunity to settle down in any civilian career because my "one weekend a month two weeks a year" turned into a much larger obligation. Turns out, nothing could have made me happier, you have to ask yourself how these kinds of circumstances will make you feel and if you would be ok with that.
Hope this helps and best of luck.
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