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Did you know that immigrants can serve in the U.S. military? It’s true! The military is an excellent way to establish yourself in your new country while receiving considerable benefits, whether you serve for the minimum duration or make it a lifelong career. You can choose from 7 different branches, or armed forces, of the military that align with your interests and skills:
- Army: The largest and oldest service in the U.S. military, the Army provides the ground forces that protect the United States.
- Marine Corps: Working in tandem with the Navy as America’s 911 responders, Marines serve on U.S. Navy ships, protect naval bases, guard U.S. embassies, and provide an ever-ready quick strike force to protect U.S. interests anywhere in the world.
- Navy: Today’s Navy handles operations on and under the sea, in the air and on the ground. It spans 100 international ports and the open ocean. It maintains, trains, and equips combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining the freedom of the seas.
- Air Force: The Air Force provides a rapid, flexible, and lethal air and space capability that can deliver forces anywhere in the world within hours.
- Space Force: The Space Force organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force.
- Coast Guard: The Coast Guard provides law and maritime safety enforcement, marine and environmental protection and military naval support.
- The National Guard, comprised of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, are reserve components of their services and operate in part under state authority. Together, the National Guard supports combat missions, domestic emergencies, humanitarian efforts, and homeland security operations, among other efforts.
Upon joining the military, you can work either full-time or as part of the Reserves. Each of the 7 branches has a reserve component (i.e. Army Reserves for the Army, Navy Reserves for the Navy, etc.). Full-time military personnel may live on a military base and be deployed at any time. Reserve personnel are civilians (non-military/non-police) who are trained to be available for active duty in the armed forces should the need arise, such as in times of war, a national emergency, or when the country is facing threats to national security. While the Reserves can be called upon to serve either stateside or overseas, its primary job is to fill the gaps in stateside service positions when the active duty forces ship overseas. As a member of the Reserves, you are required to participate in training drills one weekend a month and two weeks per year.
NOTE: Though the mention of military service can conjure up mental images of soldiers running around in combat, the military is so much more than that. With job fields and industries similar to those found in civilian life, you can find your place in the military by exploring the diverse career options throughout its 7 branches, including human resources, construction and other trades, technical work, machine operation and repair, media and public relations, and administration. With that being said, however, joining the military is not a decision that should be taken lightly and is not for everyone. It requires a great deal of consideration before enlisting.
Before deciding which branch of the military is best for you, you must determine your eligibility to serve according to the following basic requirements:
- Hold a high school education or equivalent;
- Are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (“Green Card” holder);
- Are between the ages of 17 and 39 (depending on branch).
Women are not prohibited from serving in combat.
In addition to the plethora of career and educational opportunities, joining the military provides other fringe benefits, many of which also apply to reserve forces.
So without further ado, let’s get started learning what service in the U.S. military can offer you as a newcomer to the United States.
Active-duty military service is a paid, full-time job with specialized training provided. Reserves are part-time but receive much of the same benefits. Upon enlistment, most people qualify for E-1 (Enlisted Pay grade 1), the first pay level out of 9. However, some may be eligible for an enlistment bonus depending on the branch and the service’s needs as an added incentive to join. Additionally, you may qualify for Advanced Enlistment Rank Pay (i.e. a higher wage) if you meet certain conditions. Finally, the nature of the work you will be doing for the military could add specialty pay to your base, like hazardous duty pay, for example.
Even if you don’t have a post-secondary education when you join the military, you can still receive one while on active duty or as a veteran (when you leave the military). Incentives are in place to help you further your education, such as paying off your existing loans or tuition. The military’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) can cover up to one hundred percent of your tuition fees. Should you decide to leave the military when your service is up, you can take advantage of “The Forever GI Bill,” a military program that helps veterans and their families pursue educational opportunities.
Serving in the military not only provides you with the chance to give back to your adopted country but also the opportunity to see different parts of the world. The military covers any relocation expenses for its service people, whether you are required to move domestically or internationally for your job. Furthermore, taking vacation time is easy and convenient for service members and their families. For example, members and their families are eligible for “space available” flights to almost anywhere in the world and can lodge at military facilities for next to no cost. If you’re looking for something a bit more lavish, however, there are also military-exclusive resorts all over the world that offer special rates.
Active-duty members are eligible for $50,000 to $400,000 in life insurance. Most military bases also provide medical and dental services on or near their facilities for members and their families. Members of the Reserves and their families are also eligible for this care when members are on active duty and can be eligible for full or partial insurance coverage.
This is a big incentive for many. Military recruits start their career living in shared accommodations on a military base. As you move up in rank, different housing opportunities become available. Additionally, most military bases have communities for families designed to emulate civilian life, with facilities such as movie theatres, schools, gyms, churches, and stores. In addition, as previously mentioned, serving in the military allows you to live all over the world, as circumstances allow, which is paid for by the military.
After completing service or retiring, your status will change to that of a veteran, providing you with access to a variety of benefits. Benefits vary according to state but can range from health insurance to loans to start your own business or to buy a home. And should you desire a new career path, don’t forget about the educational benefits discussed earlier in this post.
To learn more about military service and its requirements, visit your local recruitment office or the website of any of the 7 branches. If you need help getting started or exploring your options with the military, sign up for our Resource Referrals or Career Coaching services today! We’re here to help you find your place in your newly adopted country of America. Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!