Today's Military:

Parent FAQ

Is my child eligible to serve?

The minimum age required to join any Service is 18, or 17 with parental permission. Upper age ranges vary by Service and may be waived in some cases. Each Service also has specific height, weight, and fitness requirements. Other factors that affect enlistment include education level, number of dependents, and financial obligations. See more requirements.


How long is an average term of service?

While total length of service commitment varies based on Service branch need and occupational specialty, a first term is generally four years of Active Duty followed by four years in a Reserve unit or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). IRR members do not drill and are not paid, but may be recalled to Active Duty in times of need until their eight-year total commitment has expired. For more specific information, contact a recruiter.


Will my child be able to choose a specific career?

Jobs, or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), are assigned based on several factors:

  • Current and anticipated military needs
  • Individual career aspirations
  • Individual skills and qualifications
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB test)

Essentially, the recruit has some say in career choice, especially once all critical jobs in a Service have been filled. A recruiter will discuss opportunities with your child to ensure the best career fit. Explore possible career opportunities.


What are the day-to-day living conditions like?

On-base housing varies by rank and family situation. Most single servicemembers starting out are required to live on-base for a period of time. Their housing is similar to a modern college dormitory or apartment complex. Soldiers with families who live on-base have a variety of options, such as apartments or single-family homes.

Servicemembers who live in off-base housing are given a housing allowance based on the number of people in their family and the cost of living in their area. Keep in mind that off-base housing is granted based on a servicemember’s rank, family status, job responsibility, and performance. A commanding officer must approve any request to live off-base.


What kind of lifestyle will my child have?

As in the civilian world, Military life varies depending on a servicemember’s job. Once work or training is done for the day, however, a servicemember can do as he or she pleases. Many people are surprised to find the Military is much like any other job. Even during deployments, servicemembers may have time for recreation and exploring new destinations.


Can my child have a family while serving?

In general, DoD prohibits the enlistment of any applicant who has more than two dependents under the age of 18. While the Services are allowed to waive this policy, they often will not. In fact, most of the Services are even stricter in their policies:

  • Army: Requires a waiver for three or more dependents
  • Marine Corps: Requires a waiver for any dependents
  • Navy: Requires a waiver for more than one dependent
  • Air Force: Allows applicants to have one minor dependent upon enlistment, provided the applicant is married to a civilian
  • Coast Guard: Considers dependents on a case-by-case basis.

Once serving, all servicemembers are free to marry and have children as they wish. Military health care can be applied to family members and female servicemembers can take maternity leave. For more specific information, contact a recruiter.


Can my child still go to college?

Yes. All Service branches offer the opportunity for higher education, both during and after service. Many Military training programs count toward class credit, while some branches offer classes on-base or online (the Air Force, for instance, has its own community college). All servicemembers are eligible for tuition support through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other tuition repayment programs. Learn more about money for college.

High school students interested in officer careers may wish to enroll in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the college of their choice. In exchange for a service commitment, ROTC provides college scholarships and leadership training. Learn more about ROTC.

Service Academies offer another opportunity for young adults. These academies provide a strong college education with the discipline of officer training. Learn more about Service Academies.


What kinds of jobs are available to my child in the Military?

There are thousands of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) across hundreds of fields. Some jobs require prior experience or advanced degrees, but most come with full training. The jobs available at any given time depend on what the Services need, so it’s best to speak with a recruiter for specific information. In the meantime, you can explore possible career opportunities.


What will my child earn in the Military?

Military pay is based on rank and time in service, with raises occurring at regular intervals. Compensation is a combination of Base Pay and allowances (housing, medical insurance, and more). All Services use the same Base Pay scale. Explore factors that affect compensation.


What kind of training will my child receive?

To begin with, all recruits undergo their Service branch’s version of Basic Training, commonly known as boot camp. While boot camp varies in duration from Service to Service, the focus is the same: preparing recruits physically, mentally, and emotionally for their future in the Military. Learn more about boot camp.

Following Basic Training, servicemembers receive advanced training in their specialty. A variety of training methods are used, including classroom instruction, field exercises, and simulations. Ongoing training is also available in most specialties to keep servicemembers’ skills sharp. Learn more about advanced training.


Will my child be shipped off right away?

Following boot camp, most Service branches allow new servicemembers a short break to spend time at home. After that, servicemembers generally spend another six months to a year in advanced training for their occupational specialty before deploying overseas or stateside.


Where will my child be stationed?

With installations all over the globe, it is impossible to predict in advance where a servicemember will end up stationed. Servicemembers are assigned jobs based on the Services’ needs, and the servicemember’s skills and training. The good news is that servicemembers generally know well in advance where they’ll be going. The other thing to keep in mind is that deployment does not automatically mean going to war. Servicemembers may also be deployed for support in noncombat areas, or may be deployed domestically to help with disaster relief.


How often will I see my child?

All active-duty Services offer 30 days of paid vacation per year during which servicemembers may spend time with their families or plan other Rest and Recuperation (R&R). Options like space-available travel allow troops to fly free of charge on regularly scheduled Military flights, provided there is a seat available. This is a great, inexpensive way to get to a destination. Family members are also welcome to visit their servicemember on-base.


How will we stay in touch?

Even while deployed, servicemembers will usually have access to postal mail, email, instant messaging, and phone service (even while at sea). While communication may be restricted during certain missions, modern technology makes it relatively easy for your child to keep in touch.

If there is a family emergency, you should contact your local American Red Cross office, which can relay messages to U.S. military personnel worldwide.


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