I retired from the Army last year July 1, 2004. After spending 23 years in the Army, I would encourage any young man or woman to join. The Army was a great experience, and I would do it all over again if given the opportunity. The benefits I received made it well worth the occasional sacrifice. Some of the benefits are full time employment, money for college, free health care, Learning new skills, and the pride of knowing you are serving your country. While in the Army I earned decent money, 30 days vacation a year, and was eligible for numerous benefits for my service.
While on active duty in the Army I received what is called basic pay.
I got paid twice monthly on the 1st and the 15th of each month. I have heard a lot of people complain about the pay in the military, which is unjustified in most cases. I retired last year as a First Sergeant with 23 years in service and my retirement pay is $2200.00 a month. I still needed to work full time and make at least $16.00 an hour to earn as much as I did in the Army. Some soldiers don’t realize or appreciate the fact that a lot of the income they receive is tax free. The Army provides for housing, meals, and uniforms and all this is provided tax free and isn’t added to W-2 at the end of the year as earned income. I didn’t realize how good the pay was until after I retired and stopped receiving these benefits. The best and most important benefit to me is the military pension for 20 or more years of service. I will receive a pension for my service for the remainder of my life and I hope that’s going to be a long time. How many jobs in the civilian sector provide a pension after working for 20 years regardless of age or retiree? I would venture to say not very many.
Another important benefit the Army provides is educational benefits. The Montgomery GI Bill is available for active duty and veterans to help with education costs. The Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits for college, business technical or vocational courses. The veteran or soldier must be a full-time student enrolled in a regionally or Nationally Accredited college or university, and can get up to $1004 a month at the current rate to cover education benefits, including high-tech or vocational technical programs. It all adds up to a total benefit of over $36,000 and these benefits are increasing every year. The college loan repayment program can assist in paying off student loans. Soldiers on active duty can receive up to $65,000 for college loans. Soldiers in the Army Reserve can receive up to $20,000 for college loans. To take advantage of this program soldiers must enlist full time in the Army for three years or in the Army Reserve for six years. The Army also allows its soldiers to attend college while on active duty and pay up 100% of the tuition. The Army partners with over 1,600 community colleges and four-year universities, so its soldiers can attend college during active duty service. Another great benefit in the army is family medical and dental care at little or no cost. Soldiers and family members can receive treatment within the Army’s network of hospitals and clinics. The official military health insurance provider is Tricare. It is available for all soldiers and retired veterans. With the health insurance costs of today this benefit alone can save someone with a family thousand of dollars a year. The Army also provides job training. A lot of the skills and on the job training I received in the Army I can use in the civilian job market. The Army has numerous job fields called Military Occupational Specialties they include medical, aviation, construction, and mechanical fields. The maintenance field is what I entered when I enlisted in 1981. I was trained as a track vehicle mechanic. The skills I learned helped me get hired as a civilian instructor on Fort Knox after I retired. I was hired to instruct soldiers on maintenance procedures on tracked vehicles. I also have trained on and have applied management and supervisory skills. I held numerous supervisory positions during my military career and have supervised numerous personnel. I also have been responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment. The opportunities for advancement within the army are numerous if someone has the determination and wants to put forth the effort. I can’t promise anyone that the army will be to him/her what it was for me. I do know the pride I feel knowing that I served my country. I also know that as an 18 year old young man with nothing more than GED in my hand the Army welcomed me. I was a young man from the inner city with a bleak future. The Army taught me and gave me an opportunity to become a soldier, who one day would be in charge of over 200 soldiers as a Company First Sergeant. I’ll never regret or forget the time I spent in the service to my country. I hope everyone will at least consider it. There are hundreds of possibilities within the Army and everyone should be able to find something he/she enjoys doing.