This was originally published with the title LIFE on May 3rd, 2017 in The Belle Banner at Belle, Missouri.
CareerCast is the internet giant for identifying jobs and matching people to jobs. Each year it also ranks jobs for desirability. According to them, the good jobs have great work environments, low stress, and high projected growth, whereas the bad jobs have poor work environments, high stress, and poor projected growth. For 2017, enlisted military personnel was number 196 on their list of 200 jobs. Fourth from the bottom. They rated it as the most stressful job in the world, period. They claimed a “very poor” work environment and poor projected growth. That irritated me, so I looked up who wrote different articles on the ranking, then I looked into CareerCast, who are they and what do they do. I found that the work environment they consider as that of enlisted military personnel is combat. Infantry soldiers engaged in combat. That is stressful, the first time an enemy shoots at you, the pucker factor increases 1000 percent in a millisecond. Then you start trying to figure out how to put the enemy out of business. General Patton said; “No dumb b***ard ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other poor dumb b***ard die for his country.” And not everybody who has seen combat gets PTSD, you try to remember what you did right and what you did wrong, and think about what you might do next time, if you’re an infantryman, it’s your job. The ratio of support soldiers to combat soldiers, in the Army is about seven to one. Seven support soldiers for every combat soldier, and if you throw in the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force the ratio is probably 20 to one. This reminds me of the young man who saw the movie “Lone Survivor” and assumed that’s what life in the military is like. It portrays the lack of knowledge about our military by the general civilian population.
When Betty and I got married I was a Sergeant E5 and Betty was a Registered Nurse. Four years later, when our first, Sara, came along, I was a Staff Sergeant E6 and Betty quit work. She never went back to work until we were back here and the kids were older, when she worked as a substitute teacher for a couple years. Two more, Richard and Heidi came along and Betty stayed home and raised the kids while I soldiered. We lived well (she kept the checkbook), we bought two houses, one of them new, and a few new cars along the way, and we didn’t do without, we lived comfortably. When I retired from the Army in 1984, my base pay was about what a Specialist E4’s pay is now, so the pay has kept up with the times. We enjoyed our time in the Army, you might say we had the time of our lives.
I found a forum question from a young person who was about to leave for basic training, and had read some negative comments from soldiers and wanted to hear some positive comments, so he or she asked for comments. Here are some of the answers:
1 – I love my PT shirt.
2 – I love my job, the unit I am in, and my duty location. To get where I am, I had to wade through some crap, deal with annoyances, suck it up and drive on. I also like that the Army is kind of a “safety net” for me and my family. No matter how bad the economy is, I will always have that paycheck on the 1st and the 15th, and me and my family’s health needs will be taken care of.
3 – Best thing about the Army? The people I work with. Worst thing? The people I work with. It’s a funny mix of the best people you will ever meet, scummy bottom feeding knuckle draggers, and those who are paragons of the phrase “good enough for government work” whose only goal in life is to retire before 40 and do as little as possible. Then there are the guys that really make you motivated.
4 – Female Soldier: The Army is where I learned about motivation, determination, leadership, mental toughness, resilience, brotherhood, and pride. I was weak before I joined – mentally, physically, and emotionally. The Army took a whiny little bitchass mouse who had panic attacks when asked to speak in class and turned me into a confident adult with skills and accomplishments I can take pride in. Before I joined the Army, I whined about waking up at 7:30 for an 8:00 class. Some days I just chose not to go out of pure laziness. Last Monday, I woke up before 0400 to go take a darn APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). And I freaking loved it.
5 – Four day weekends.
6 – I like it because for those who want to excel, you can. The Army, at least for officers and NCO’s, will continue to place you in positions of greater responsibility. I also have been incredibly fortunate to work with some great Soldiers. They are honestly what makes going to work every day, worth it. I also like DFAC breakfast. You can’t beat $2.50 for bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit.
7 – Pretty much getting paid to go to school, wish I had realized how awesome this was before I got a year of college debt.
8 – I view the Army overall this way; Navy – I hate water/boats and I didn’t like the lifestyle they have. USMC – They’re just not for me, I didn’t want to be a Marine. USAF – Too laid back and too corporate, I didn’t want anything cushy. The Army, in my opinion, is my happy medium. We are diverse and every unit has a different culture. To me, I think the Officer, NCO, Soldier relationship is different from the other branches. We just do things different and it fits me perfectly.
9 – I get paid really well to fly helicopters.
10 – The people and the simplicity. And how much it’s made me appreciate my free time and my sleep. 0800 used to be early for me.
11 – I love watching my Soldiers be successful in their careers. Awards, badges, ceremonies = I don’t care two cents for. The best award in the world is getting a random text or email that says “Thank you for mentoring and training me.” Nothing in the Army compares to watching that young SSG or SGT rise to become an awesome PSG or 1SG.
12 – Legacy. I believe establishing a legacy is one of the best things about being in the Army. I came from a divorced family and we lived close to poverty level. There was no way for my mom to pay for my school. I was looking at dead end jobs and college debt. Joining the Army, I have established myself as a professional. I have a rewarding career with pretty good retirement. I have earned my Associates, my Bachelors and am currently working on my Masters. Been married 14 years with three beautiful kids that will inherit my GI Bill (since I will finish my Masters prior to my retirement). What the Army has done for me is set not only me but my family on a great path. Instead of struggling day to day, I am able to make sure my kids will have better opportunities than I did. This is the legacy. This is what I love about the Army.
13 – I love the simplicity of it, there are very few grey lines when it comes to the day to day of it.
14 – Hands down the comradery. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in the Army, no matter what, you’re always surrounded by Soldiers who are there to have your back.
15 –“20+ years” – 1 -The comradery is unlike any other job. 2 – Travel (to good places, not just hell-holes), good pay/benefits, sense of accomplishment, the list goes on and on. 3 – They pay you to receive training and experience. The pay and benefits are very competitive to civilian jobs, 30 days paid vacation a year, full medical and dental, housing paid for, college education tuition paid for while in and after you get out, free legal services, name brand grocery shopping at cost, exchange privileges (-20% under average prices off post), free/low-cost tourism trips & activities, & more. 4 – As long as I can consistently go to sleep feeling like I’ve accomplished something, it’s a good job. As you move up in rank and start training others, it becomes even more rewarding. 5 – I initially joined because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I didn’t like what I was majoring in at college (Dentistry) and didn’t know what career path I wanted to change to. I joined for a short term to give me time to explore my options. I have enjoyed it enough that I’ve stayed in for over 20 years now. I’m starting to think about retirement, but that’s still a few years off. I’m looking at working with youth groups when I get out. 6 – Goes back mainly to my first answer. There is no other job out there where your co-workers will always be there for you no matter what. From something as simple as helping you move or picking you up from the airport to actually having your back when bullets are flying. Even if you don’t necessarily like each other, you still have respect and trust for each other.