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What to Expect
Many parents with a child considering military service will have questions and/or conflicted emotions about this option. It’s only natural to want success and security for your child in whatever future they may pursue.
As you begin to have discussions with your child about their choices, consider this page a checklist of the important milestones they will experience as they prepare, join and train for a military career. Then, using the tips and advice on this page, you can ensure your support will help them toward their goals.
MEPS and the Military: A Parent's Perspective
Going to a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) is a big deal for applicants and their families. Watch as parents speak to what they thought of MEPS and what it meant to their child.Length 1:23 View Transcript
SCOTT MASTERSON: When my son first brought up to military to us, he -- it was out of the blue. It actually surprised both of us, I think.
ANDREA MASTERSON: For him to kind of take the reins and make the decision is a big thing for him.
SM: I was really proud, and I wanted him to feel comfortable doing what he wanted to do.
CAMERON MASTERSON: I wanted to do something that’s hands-on and I could be helping people in the process. So I decided that military was the best option. I just needed to choose which branch from there.
MIKE BOBULIS: I’m here for my son who’s joining the Army today. From what I just saw, he just did a swear-in process. I got up here, everybody’s been super informative, helpful, very organized. Looking at the process, how it goes, I mean from the recruiting station to the MEPS building to today to everything else, it’s been really good.
SM: The whole swear-in process makes me feel, he’s a man now.
AM: And I think he’s a little nervous. But today he said he seemed to be okay and he’s not nervous now. And he made a couple friends, so that was good. (laughs)
SM: My advice for other parents that have kids going in the military, support him a hundred percent.
MB: It’s been quite the experience, emotional, and just a very proud moment
MEPS and the Military: A Parent's Perspective
Choosing a Branch of Service
First, your child will choose one of the U.S. Military's six Service branches and decide between full-time Active Duty or part-time service in the Reserve or Guard. Each option offers a unique service experience and length of commitment.
Enlisted or Officer Paths
In the Military, your child can choose to either enlist or be commissioned as an officer.
If your child decides to enlist in the Military, they will visit a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), which are in locations all across the country.
At MEPS, your child will take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, undergo a physical examination (which varies by Service and job) and undergo a background screening. As a parent, you are free to accompany your child to MEPS, but you will be asked to wait in a separate area during the test.
Commissioning as an Officer
Being an officer involves a higher degree of responsibility, training and a college degree. Officers usually serve in managerial and leadership roles, or in a position that requires specialized advanced training. There are several paths to earning an officer commission. Officer careers include but are not limited to everything from public affairs, security forces and engineering to doctors, lawyers and chaplains.
To join the Military, your child must be a U.S. citizen who is 18 years old (or 17 with your signed permission). If your child wants to become an officer, he or she will need a four-year college degree.
Enlistment requires a high school diploma or GED, so encourage your child to stay in school and maintain good grades.
Meeting With a Recruiter
As a parent, you can ask the recruiter whatever’s on your mind — there’s a good chance you will think of important questions or comments that your child won’t.
Contact the Services to begin a conversation.
Finding a Military Career
At MEPS, your child will meet with an advisor to see which career is best suited to his or her strengths and skills. While it’s possible to switch careers later, it can be a long process, so it’s best to make a good, informed decision now.
Taking the Oath
To become members of the U.S. Military, recruits take the Oath of Enlistment and cadets take the Oath of Office. These emotional moments mark the official beginning of a young adult’s military career.
Recognizing Their Accomplishments
Many parents commemorate these momentous occasions by spending time with their child to celebrate, recognize their accomplishments, or simply prepare for the steps ahead. Others may see this as an opportunity to share their milestones with friends and family.
Training & Education
If your child chooses to enlist, they will either report to Basic Training shortly after MEPS or enter into the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), which allows them to attend training at a later date for reasons like completing a high school education. Contact is limited during boot camp, but you can always mail letters and some services even allow phone calls.
If your child has chosen the officer path, they will begin their education to obtain a four-year college degree before receiving their Service commission. In certain cases, enlisted service members can advance and transition to officers during the course of their military career as well.
Packing and Prepping
You can help him or her get ready for these big steps by lending them a hand with packing, encouraging them to stick to an exercise program, and by offering to handle day-to-day responsibilities such as paying bills, minding mail, and dealing with bank accounts while they’re away.
Approximately 90 percent of all enlisted recruits complete Basic Training and graduate. Officer cadets who graduate from their respective programs and institutions will go on to become commissioned officers. These events are important moments, as they represent the significant achievements your child has made in overcoming challenges to preparing themselves for Service.
After your child graduates, they will move on to receive advanced training for their specific role and ultimately put their new skills to the test on duty. Although they may not be able to reveal all of their accomplishments to you for security reasons, your child’s career will likely lead to recognition such as medals, ribbons and promotions.
Being Proud of Their Path
As you become more familiar with your child’s service and their successes, feelings of apprehension may evolve into those of understanding, appreciation, and pride. Some parents like to demonstrate this through various acts and symbols from military culture, including displaying the flag of their child’s Service branch alongside the American flag, and even learning common military acronyms.