When You Are Sure About Military Service but Don't Know Which Branch

Human resource specialist works as hometown recruiter
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Alexis Chacon, a human resources specialist with the 77th Quartermaster Group, works as a hometown recruiter at the Zaragoza Recruiting Station in El Paso, Texas, June 11, 2018. (Maj. Brandon R. Mace/U.S. Army Reserves photo)

Questions like these make me appreciate the younger generation more and have hope for the future of our country. This young man wants to join the military, yet is struggling with his decision about whether to join the Army or Navy

Here is his question:

Sir, I'm currently a junior in high school, and I'm having some trouble deciding upon a branch of the military. At the moment, I am PTing with the Army, with plans to go infantry and eventually Ranger. But whenever I decide on that, something just says, "SEALs!" and then I have more trouble. I haven't signed any paperwork with the Army yet, and I would very much appreciate any help or advice you could give me. Thank you

Sure, there are inter​​service rivalries between all military branches, but in the end, we are all on the same team. I had the same issue. My entire family were Army vets (World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam), and I was the first to go Navy. I had a true love for the water, ocean, rivers and even swamps since I grew up in North Florida.

Ask yourself what you enjoy. If running and rucking while wearing a backpack in any environment and working with large teams interests you, the Rangers might be the best option. You will have to swim, ride in small boats, shoot weapons, jump out of planes, use demolition, call in fire support and much more with this job as well.

If you truly want to have "one foot in the water," the Navy SEAL program might be best for you. Sure, the SEALs work on land and jump out of planes and helicopters, but they often will be tasked with some sort of waterborne insertion or extraction. The last decade of war has changed a few things, but if you want to get to and through the Navy SEAL program, you have to be very proficient in swimming and comfortable in any water setting. That means performing in oceans, rivers, lakes and swamps at night.

Both training programs and actual jobs in the teams are physically challenging. They are equally demanding on your personal life but personally gratifying that you are a warrior serving your country. To be honest, you cannot go wrong with either choice. Both are great units. 

Another option is to do both. I have known a few Army Rangers who did their time in the Army, then joined the Navy and went to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. A few former SEALs have gone the Army Special Forces and Ranger route, too.

Also consider where you will be stationed. Look at Army and Navy bases and see whether you would like to live in those cities, states or climate. Growing up near beaches, I was drawn to the Navy, because the bases around the world always have a beach nearby.

Not to make your decision tougher than it already is, but don't forget the Marines with their infantry, RECON and MarSOC units, either. The Air Force Special Forces (PJ/CCT) are also exceptional combat medics and air-fire control specialists who perform with valor in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world where needed.

Good luck with your choice. Regardless, thank you for wanting to serve in our military. I wish there were more young people out there like you who want to serve in any branch of our armed forces. You cannot go wrong with your choice.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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