How New Recruits Can Handle the Information Overload of Joining the Military

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A group of 324th Training Squadron basic trainees perform formation and parade drills in preparation of their graduation on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

The military is a unique lifestyle, and one that comes with its own set of challenges. Joining the military is a big decision, and the vast amount of information about how to prepare can cause anyone to overthink the process.

Don't worry. Feeling a little overwhelmed with how you handle the unknown is normal. The first thing you should do before you talk to a recruiter is take a deep breath, find the official recruiting pages online, start your research and find a job or skill that interests you.

There is a saying: "It's not the lack of information that prevents us from succeeding, it is the lack of trying." The same can be said for military recruits. There is a wealth of information available to those who want to join the military, but often it is the lack of effort that prevents people from succeeding.

The following will streamline the information available and give you the most important things you need to know before joining the military. This will help sift through the overload of information and take each step at a time as a military recruit.

1. Do Your Research

There is a lot of information available on the internet, in libraries and from military recruiters. It is important that you take the time to research all your options before deciding.

There are six branches to consider: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force and Coast Guard. Each branch has its own set of requirements and hundreds of jobs and specialties to choose from. Make sure you do your research and choose the one that's right for you and understand the academic, physical, medical and other tests in your near future.

2. Be Prepared

The military is a very demanding environment. You need to be physically and mentally prepared for the challenges you will face. Do workouts to help you lose weight and gain the physical abilities you need to take fitness tests well and endure tough initial training at boot camp, Basic Military Training or Basic Combat Training.

You can start your preparation long before you visit a recruiting office. In fact, by having the required paperwork (Identification, birth certificate and Social Security card, medical record, etc.) and exceeding the physical standards on your first visit, the recruiter will take you more seriously. You want this relationship to be good, as the recruiter will be your point of contact for the entire enlistment process.

Once you've decided on a branch, it's time to start the application process. Take a few practice tests of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This test will help determine your military occupational specialty (MOS) or Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), which is the job you'll do in the military. If you do not score well enough on this test, you may not be eligible for the job within the branch of service you selected.

3. Stay Focused

The military selection process is very competitive. It is important that you stay focused on your goals and do not let anything distract you from your path. Once you have found what inspires you, you will find more motivation and eventually discipline as you work consistently to prepare for the future you are setting for yourself.

Building solid habits in this process is a requirement. This motivation phase is a great time to start, as eventually this motivation has to evolve to discipline.

4. Be Positive

The military is an incredibly rewarding experience. Keep your head up and stay positive throughout the process as a recruit, a student during basic training, throughout the early years as a follower and eventually as a leader of others.

5. Ask for Help

If you are having trouble with any step of the process, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who are willing to help you succeed, from veterans in your friends and family network to recruiters in your region.

Make sure, though, that when you need to ask for help, you have taken the initiative and searched all over for the answer. When you find conflicting answers, those are perfect times to ask for specific assistance from people who may know the answers.

I take questions from recruits, active duty and veterans alike every day, and many become articles in my Ask Stew column. Please feel free to email me at stew@stewsmith.com.

By following these tips, you will increase your chances of success as a military recruit and beyond. Remember, there is plenty of information out there, but you still must search for it, validate it and then put it to use. So get out there and give it your best shot.

The last step in the process of being a recruit is attending basic training. This is where you will learn everything you need to know to be a successful military member. Basic training is tough, but if you prepare yourself mentally and physically, you will be just fine and thrive in an environment that you will be proud of being a member one day.

In the end, you get out of your military career what you put into it. These careers require discipline and sacrifice, but they can also be rewarding, educational and set you up for the rest of your life with valuable skills for any future career.

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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