Joining The Army: 10 Myths According To A Former Recruiter

Army recruiters deal with a variety of applicants, who field a lot of different questions during the decision making process they go through before joining the Army. It’s a big decision to make, and civilians looking to make the transition to soldier are right to do their due diligence. I served as a recruiter in the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion for three years, conducted hundreds of interviews, and answered thousands of questions. Some were great questions, but others… not so much. That being said, these are the top ten myths I heard from applicants.

1. Recruiters receive a cash bonus for every enlistment. I mean, I wish I received a cash bonus for every person I put in the Army. It never happened though. As a recruiter, your motivation to get people to join the Army is simple: To keep your boss off your back. When you aren’t making mission as a recruiter or as a station, suffice it to say that life gets… difficult. So if you think your recruiter is getting rich off of you joining, you’re wrong. He’s just trying to avoid coming in on Saturday to make prospecting phone calls.

2. The MOS you want is there, you just need to threaten to walk out the door to get it. First things first: if your recruiter is any good at all, threats don’t work. Neither the recruiter, nor the guidance counselor at MEPS can decide what jobs are available – they have to go off of what the Department of the Army puts out. Can they make a phone call to see if there is anything not showing up on “the system”? Yes, but if its not there – it’s just not there. Keep in mind that most recruiters want to get you your dream job in the military because it makes their life easier. They don’t want you to have buyer’s remorse and back out of your contract before you ship to basic training. One caveat to all of this: If you want the widest selection of jobs, then score really high on the ASVAB, don’t have any medical issues, and don’t have any prior law issues. After that, it’s all what the Army needs.

3. Some people join the Army to get out of jail time. This used to be true, but in 1984 the Army banned the practice of “Join the Army or go to jail” being handed down as a sentence from a judge. If you are pending legal charges, you can’t join the Army. A recruiter can’t do anything for you even if you are on probation. All time must have been served, all fines paid, etcetera, etcetera.

4. If you were charged with a crime as a juvenile, the recruiter won’t find out about it. The only way that you could possibly lie about a charge is if you were never finger printed for it. All fingerprints are sent up to the FBI, and that is what the Army will check with the fingerprints you give before you join. It doesn’t matter if a judge sealed your records, it doesn’t matter if you were a juvenile, and it doesn’t even matter if the charge was eventually dropped. The recruiter, and by extension the Army, will know about it – so come clean and be up front about it!

5. Recruiters are all liars. Believe it or not, many recruiters don’t feel the need to compromise their integrity just to make mission. Are there some that do? Absolutely. Just like with any demographic, no matter how highly vetted, there will be some bad apples. But don’t assume that all are – that’s not fair to the many men and women who wear the recruiter badge and want to do right by you and the Army.

6. Your uncle/dad/grandpa who served in Gulf War/Korea/Almost-made-it-through-basic knows more about the process of joining the Army than the recruiter. The fact is that the Army is constantly evolving to meet new challenges and new threats, and by extension the recruiting branch of the Army evolves as well. Your Uncle Bill may be telling the truth about how it was back when he joined in 1978, but what was true then is not necessarily true now. You are right to involve those who influenced your decision to join in the recruiting process, but make sure that you take what they say with a grain of salt. The recruiter you are working with will always have the most up to date and current information as it pertains to you joining the Army. Don’t forget that.

7. You sign your contract in the recruiting office. Recruiters don’t actually put you in the Army, the guidance counselors at MEPS do. Recruiters are there to find you, convince you to join, and facilitate the application process. What they don’t do, is anything to do with your actual contract. In fact, at the MEPS in my area, we weren’t even allowed to be in the room when an applicant was doing their contract with the guidance counselor. So if your recruiter hands you some paperwork to fill out, don’t get all freaked out like he’s going to secretly enlist you without your knowledge. It doesn’t work like that.

8. Once you sign your contract at MEPS, you’re safe. Some people think that once they get the contract signed and are waiting to ship to Basic Training, that it’s time to let lose and do whatever you want. If you go out and do something that would disqualify you from service, you won’t ship to basic training. Getting a DUI, gaining too much weight, pissing hot on a urinalysis, beating your spouse, not graduating high school… the list goes on, but the point is if you do something to get you disqualified, you aren’t going anywhere – that contract won’t save you.

9. The Army can pull a bait-n-switch with your MOS. It’s a common fear among applicants and future soldiers that I saw, but one that has no merit. If you sign up for a specific MOS, then that is what you will be. The only thing that could change that is if you fail your jobs AIT (the job training) – which is pretty hard to do (with a few notable exceptions).

10. Despite what he or she says, recruiters don’t know everything about every job in the military. Many applicants think that a recruiter knows anything and everything about every single job in the military. Unfortunately, some recruiters also think this. I have seen recruiters tell people that a Ranger contract (Option 40) guarantees you to go to Ranger School, when it absolutely does not do that in any way, shape or form. I have seen recruiters who served as Infantryman talk as if they are subject matter experts on what an 89D – Explosive Ordinance Disposal Specialist does, just because they saw them blow an IED in place during one of their patrols in Iraq. The fact is, they can speak confidently about the job they did, but outside of that it’s all second hand information. Bottom line is this: When you are picking out your MOS, make sure you do your own due diligence. The recruiter may be helpful, but should not be seen as the end-all, be-all expert on the more than 200 jobs available in the U.S. Army.

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