Do you have what it takes to join the military, make it through boot camp, adapt to the rigors of a regimented life, and find success as a member of the United States armed forces? That’s a question that hundreds of thousands of young men and women ask themselves, and it’s definitely worthwhile to ponder it, advises former Marine, Danielle Riddle. Let’s take a closer look at what signing on the dotted line to serve Uncle Sam really means.
How Fit Does a New Recruit Have to Be?
You’ve probably watched movies in which a big, bumbling character heads off to boot camp and becomes a lean, mean fighting machine. But is that realistic? Isn’t it better to train until you’re at the peak of physical business before you even sit down with a recruiter?
Yes and no, says Danielle Riddle. Perhaps surprisingly, the average fitness level of would-be soldiers is relatively low. While there are fitness standards that service members must achieve, remember that most of them don’t come into play until after boot camp. That’s the whole purpose of basic training, after all.
Obviously, the fitter you are, the easier you will likely find those first few weeks of PT. But don’t be deterred if you can’t rip a phone book in half with your bare hands or drag a car that’s hitched to your torso.
There Will Be Mental and Emotional Challenges, Too
No doubt you’ve heard and maybe even internalized the idea that boot camp in particular, and military service in general, is designed to break down recruits and then rebuild them into soldiers. That doesn’t just refer to your muscles, either. Danielle Riddle of Boise, who has been through boot camp for two separate military organizations, can attest to the fact that you will be tested in every conceivable way.
The moment you put on that uniform, you begin learning lessons in teamwork, selflessness, respect for authority and peers, bravery, perseverance, integrity, endurance, and perhaps above all, discipline.
As you adjust to the rigors of military life — waking up at dawn, marching for hours in full gear, repeating a physical fitness drill until you literally collapse, having drill instructors scream at and belittle you — your personality will change. And that’s not even counting the stress stemming from combat, and the subsequent PTSD.
Emotional and mental fortitude can be learned, Danielle Riddle Boise explains, but if you can’t learn how to compartmentalize and push aside your feelings to focus on the task at hand, you might not be a great candidate for military service.
Quitters Need Not Apply
It’s true that joining a branch of the armed forces will change you, but that doesn’t mean everyone can succeed in this endeavor. According to Danielle Riddle, there are a few prerequisites. In addition to the basic requirements such as having a high-school diploma or equivalent, meeting height and weight standards, and scoring a minimum of 33 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, you ought to also possess certain qualities. Grit and a dogged determination to succeed are the two most important personality traits when it comes to surviving the biggest challenge you’ll probably ever undertake.
If you have a track record of quitting activities when you don’t immediately excel at them, if you tend to ghost your girlfriends instead of putting in the hard work that your relationship requires, or if you lack follow-through simply because you lose interest in an activity, you should rethink your interest in joining the military life.
Of course, adds Riddle, there are many incredible stories of recruits who make it through basic against all odds, but it’s crucial to be honest with yourself before embarking on this adventure.