Joining the Air Force: Some Things to Consider
By Stephanie Rose, age 19, Tennessee
Choosing a military service can be a complicated decision. The services differ when it comes to enlistment incentives, assignment opportunities, quality of life programs, deployment rates, promotion opportunities, and more. The Air Force ties with the Coast Guard as the hardest service to join. The Air Force enlists about 27,800 new recruits per year. For the past several years, the Air Force has gotten more volunteers than they have slots for. This allows the Air Force to be more "picky" when accepting applicants than the other services.
The Air Force requires a minimum ASVAB score of 36 to enlist, but your chances are much better for acceptance if you score a 50 or better. The Air Force has over 150 enlisted jobs. Only three of these jobs (Para Rescue, Combat Controller, and Tactical Air Command and Control), are closed to women. The Air Force offers very few enlistment incentives. Enlistment bonuses are only offered in a handful of critically needed jobs. The Air Force does not have a "college fund," like the Army and Navy, which adds money to the GI Bill, but it does offer a College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) of up to $10,000. Like the other services, the Air Force offers advanced enlistment rank up to E-3 for such things as college credits or JROTC.
The Air Force only has one location for enlisted basic training: the 737th Training Group, at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas. It doesn't matter if you're joining the active duty Air Force, the Air Force Reserves, or the Air National Guard. All new Air Force recruits go through the same basic training at Lackland. Each year, over 35,000 new recruits go through Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). This year my little brother went through this training. He was in the JROTC program and has always been interested in the military.
My family and I have been going through a difficult time coping with him being gone. He left in October 2009, and he is still there. BMT, basic military training, is 8 weeks. He has been there for 10 weeks. He got injured running and has been in the 319th, the medical unit, for 6 weeks. When he got injured we thought he would go right in after he got better, but his knee has not healed.
While he was in the 319th he had a lot of time to think. The fact that he still wants to continue is amazing. We found out that he would be able to return to basic after 6 months at home. My brother is the strongest person I know.
If you are thinking about joining the military, or have questions about any branch, contact a local recruiter. You can also talk to your guidance counselor - they should have the information. Please understand that this article is my personal experience with the military; not everyone has the kind of experience that I've had.
Disclaimer: I am not bashing on any branch of our military. The Air Force is the only one I know a lot about. I support EVERY branch of the military. I wrote this article to inform people about the enlistment process. In no way am I try to talk anyone out of joining the military!!
Editor's Note: For more perspectives on the military option, allow me to recommend Elaura's article in this issue "Life Is One Big Surprise" (SDM, February '10) and one from an actively serving gal, Adrienne: "I Graduated High School ... Now What?!" (SDM, May '08).