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Why Do People Join The Army?

Recruits in a stadium being sworn into the US Army

There is a high probability that somewhere, right now, a soldier is performing some type of Army duty and wondering why they joined the Army? Maybe they are trying to keep dry and warm in the elements, or maybe they are sitting in some pre-deployment briefing facing their third or fourth deployment asking themselves the same question. How they came to find themselves in an Army uniform is always a great topic of conversation.

Certainly, civilians ask the question, why do people join the Army? By civilian standards the pay can be, to some, notoriously low and the duty can be arduous, demanding long hours and commitment. Then there are the on-going wars that add tension to the issue. Many civilians make assumptions about why do people join the Army?

Ask any soldier why do people join the Army and the answers will vary, even within the same occupational specialty because soldiers are different. Their answers will vary because soldiers are a cross section of society and like Americans, they are unique. Sure, they wear the same uniforms, but what drew them to that uniform varies from soldier to soldier. While the differences are many, most young men and women are drawn to the uniform primarily for two reasons, institutional or occupational reasons.

Why do people join the Army? Patriotism used to be an overwhelming response by many soldiers, but more and more these days the Army is finding many of its soldiers serve for reasons other than love of country. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a massive surge of patriotic Americans who stepped forward to serve in the Army. But as the wars have slogged on, less and less responded that they are serving for love of country when they are asked why do people join the Army?

However, studies have shown that non-military Americans believe that service personnel are self-sacrificing and that military personnel are drawn to military service out of a sense of duty or patriotism. Survey respondents, 47 percent to be exact, who are not affiliated with the military believed that troops served either out of patriotism or sense of duty. Interestingly, in that same study, 40 percent of survey respondents who had served in the military cited pay and benefits as their primary reason for joining the Army.

In 2018, a Rand study found that 46 percent of junior enlisted Army personnel said that they joined the Army for occupational opportunities and job stability. Nine percent of those surveyed stated that they joined the Army for institutional reasons, meaning love of country, family and honor. Some soldiers, 37 percent, stated that they joined for both occupational and institutional reasons. Overwhelmingly though, when enlistees were asked why do people join the Army, they answered for pay and job opportunities.

In other words, most people who are enlisting now are in it for the money and less because it is a call to serve. Interestingly, soldiers who cited occupational reasons for enlisting over those who enlisted for ideological reasons tended to stick with military service in the long haul, the study found.

So, whether it is patriotism or pay, serving in the military can be a great step for someone who wants to travel the world. In what other profession could a person immediately out of high school get to live in a foreign country for a few years? Although travel was not one of the primary answers when soldiers were asked why do people join the Army, it has always been a tertiary reason, veterans say.

In addition to pay and patriotism, the benefits are pretty good. Where else can you get 30 days off per year? Healthcare is free and an enlistee doesn’t have to worry about stuff like what to wear to work. There are also other benefits like tuition assistance where soldiers can earn full-time wages while getting a degree parttime. Not to mention, if a soldier stays for 20 years, they earn a pension. Why do people join the Army? Those are some pretty good reasons.

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