Joining the military- a last resort?

December 05, 2012
A few weeks ago I was watching scared straight or one of those jail shows. The douchebag 17 year old said instead of finishing school he was going to join the military and get his GED there.

1. The military, or at least the United States Marine Corps, doesn’t accept people without high school diplomas.
2. The military doesn't accept douchebags (for the most part)
3. The military doesn't accept people with extensive criminal backgrounds
4. The military isn't a last resort, at least for douchebags.

Since I'm a USMC wife, I'm going to refer to the military as Marines in this post.

I don't think people view the USMC as a last resort. If you're a lazy fuck up, the last thing you're going to want to do, or be able to do is complete 3 grueling months of boot camp.

This kid on the show was a drug addict and criminal, I doubt he's going to obey authority and enjoy physical training.

You don't just join the Corps and start shooting people and blowing shit up - stay home and play Call of Duty.

The Corps is an elite group of men who stand in front of our country. It's about Honor, Courage & Commitment. For love of country.

I didn't think it was a secret, but apparently it is. Marines don't get paid well. You're not joining and becoming rich.

When you enlist in the USMC you make $1,491 a month. Does that sound like rich to you? 18k a year before taxes - that's poverty

well holy shit - after i posted this everyone and their mother jumped on my back. i did not make these pay scales. i did not include BAH and some other things -this is the base pay - this is not the point of this post. the point of this post is about joining the military as a last resort (or not) AND to point out to civilians that Marines are not making 80-100k per year even with benefits - Marines aren't rich. that's the point. I don't make up the pay scale - so get your panties out of a bunch. 

A Staff Sergeant who has been in about 8-10 years makes UP TO (but not always) $43k before taxes. Try living on that with a family. College graduates average $50-80k in their first year. 

A PFC makes $2 an hour and a SSgt makes $4 an hour
* note this pay scale does not include BAH and etc... the military is compensated for other things, but this shows the base pay. Regardless of which pay scale i post, it's dirt.

The recruiter is going to make the Corps sound glorious; it really isn’t. It can be – but you have to work your ass off.  

These men did not come off the streets as screw ups. I'm sure there are a few former screw-ups out there who have made it, but that's not what the Corps is about.

My husband, after a semester, found out that college really wasn't his thing at the time. Shortly after 9/11 he enlisted in the USMC for honor, for country. In a sense it was a last resort, but he enlisted to serve, not because it was his only option.

Growing up, we weren't in a time of war and the military wasn't as popular as it is today. As a kid I did think the military was a last resort, I guess I didn't know any better.

The Marines I have met and the ones who have trained Travis are an elite group of men. I have never met more amazing people than these men. They love this country. They love each other and they love their families. These men are protecting each other and us. They are held to high standards. They are United States Marine.  

Don't get me wrong, there are a bunch of douche bags, too, but they won't amount to anything, much less be given the chance to reenlist.

If you’re a screw up and care about changing your future and get through boot camp, you probably have a good shot at making something great of yourself.

There’s another form of joining the military as a last resort: unemployment. It’s no secret that unemployment rates have been high, and whether or not people end up joining, it’s a consideration for a lot of unemployed people.

While joining can be a last resort for some, it cannot be a last resort for all. For many, it’s a first option. Many of our generation grew up seeing awesome recruiting posters and commercials—they wanted the white gloves and the sword.

When you see a service member, please do not automatically think they enlisted because they were fuckups, or because they had no other option – they enlisted with a sense of pride to protect your ass.

My final words: Service Members Are Not Rich. They Can Barely Survive. 

Semper Fi!


  1. I have to be honest, the idea that military is barely surviving (due, of course, to financial reasons, and not their very risky occupations) is a little offensive. I know no other occupation that gets paid for living expenses on top of their base pay (not to mention other benefits such as your virtually $0-out of pocket heath care insurance). I also know of now other occupation so highgly populated with stay-at-home wives/mothers. In the "civilian" world if one income is not enough, we get a second one. I think the military is to be highly respected, and I will not argue that they are underpaid. But, I think you're stretching here.

    1. Thanks for your anonymous response - not enough to show your name?!
      The point of this post was to talk about "is it a last resort" not pay - pay was a minor detail. Wives are capable of getting jobs - the military doesn't make wives stay at home. Yes, they get more on top of their base pay - but the quality and conditions of life are different than civilians. You're not going to argue that a PFC making 18k a year and going to war is underpaid? No one, civilian or military should be making 18k.

      If you're a new reader - you must not have a grip on the fact that i post controversial posts. This one actually wasn't meant to do so - it was about joining - with a couple images of pay charts.

      Regardless of what they get paid - they aren't rich - the point is everyone makes out the military to be rich and celebrity status worth of income - it's not true, unless you're an officer in for 20 years.

      2 points - it's not always a last resort, and they don't make 100k a year. next time, feel free to comment with your name as I will disable anonymous comments moving forward.

  2. My comment didn't post for some reason grr but my husband ENLISTED after he graduated with his Bachelor's Degree. People can be so naive. And that was all I was going to say until I saw the response above. Most people respect the military; not bash it. What a terrible thing for the person above to say; shame on them.

    I am also college educated but stay at home with my son because I WANT TO. Not because I'm lazy or don't want to get a job. It's hard to find a job when we don't know how long we will be in one place and I find staying at home to be very rewarding. I have my entire life to work, so why not stay at home now?

    Don't be so quick to judge, "anonymous".

  3. I guess I fall in the "got my panties" and "jumped your back" crowd. I did that because you're using horrible data to support your point. You've purposely left out data that completely voids your "pay is dirt" comment. How do I know? Because I used http://militarypay.defense.gov/mpcalcs/Calculators/RMC.aspx to calculate about what your husband makes in just base pay, BAS, and BAH. You can't ignore those last two like they don't exist, because they are a HUGE part of the benefits package of the military.

    Proof: http://imgur.com/yTuVb

    For the lazy, a SSgt with 10 years in the area Chelsea lives makes over $60,000 a year in base pay, BAS, and BAH. Include the tax free advantages of BAS and BAH and it's over $65,000. Quite the stark difference from what is above, no?

    Okay, so SNCOs get paid well. What about the poor Pvt you mentioned earlier (you actually said PFC but meant Pvt)? He lives rather nicely in your area as well. To the tune of $40,787.20 as an E-1, 1 yr service, a family of 3, 5% marginal state tax (that's the middle of the scale), and no spousal income. That isn't anywhere near the poverty line.

    There is an even bigger benefit that isn't even considered in the calculations above: health insurance. I'm paying over $500 a month for my family's coverage through my civilian employer and that is not the "Cadillac" plan, either. That's a middle of the road, not go bankrupt because you went to the ER plan. What are you paying in premiums per month for Tricare? When was the last time you paid a copay or paid for medication out of pocket? How much were those costs? I'll tell you now they pile up very quickly.

    Now I know you're going to say that pay wasn't a main point of the article. Unfortunately you've left yourself open to arguing that it is now the main point because you were so sloppy and quick to jump to the conclusion that military pay is crap. It really isn't. I wish I could go back to the compensation package I had while in the military. I was living an exponentially more comfortable life style than I am now in the civilian work force. And know what? My salary now is more than my base pay as a Sgt over 8 years.

    I hope you don't learn the hard truth of military pay like I had to. It sucks.

    1. You now owe me a bottle of Enjoy by 12.21.12.

    2. I wish! I would kill to drink brews in their garden. I actual have 3 bottles in my fridge. One for me, one for Dad to take home, and one for us to split when he's in town.

  4. Since we have all decided to miss the point of this blog post I will one attempt to get us back on track and then completely derail the conversation again as Marcus so kindly did.
    1- The purpose of the post was to discuss how some citizens view the military as a last resort. And I think it has been viewed that way for many years since it has been a 100% volunteer force. When an individual has no other choices and only want money for college or to collect a paycheck on the 1st and 15th they look at the military. It should never be viewed this way because we few do it for honor and love for our country. I have attempted to lead a few that only wanted a paycheck and those that I could not motivate were encouraged to seek employment else where.
    Now, back to the conversation about pay. I am not going to base my salary on a Marine is on duty 24/7, but let's take a look at my last few weeks of work. I did the math, over the past two weeks and for the next two weeks I will work 98 hours over 7 days. And by the way this is stateside so no tax free benefits. That comes out to $1.80 cents an hour. I will earn less than 2 dollars an hour for my family. This is based on 65,000 dollars a year, in which Marcus is not wrong. I cannot refute his facts, but these are compelling facts as well.

    1. I already addressed the "you're not getting the point" meme. I have every right to address the use of bad supporting facts, especially when they are purposeful gross misrepresentations. Sorry you don't seem to agree with that.

      14 hour days for a week straight? That's pretty intense and I feel for you. Your math seems off, though. I can't replicate it. Here is what I came up with.

      $65,000 yr / 12 months = $5416.67 per month
      $5416.67 month / 4 weeks = $1354.17 per week
      $1354.17 week / 98 hours a week = $13.82 per hour.

      I don't see where I could have messed up, where are you getting your $1.80?

      The long hours do suck, but that is part of the game of honor of wearing an EGA. The overall fact is we (well, you now since the Corps decided it hates Sergeants) don't do this for the pay. We just need to remain mindful of our true benefits and not mislead people.

    2. Even at $13/hour for a 10 year Marine is terrible. I think it is equal to or less than minimum wage. 14 hour days are worse than deployments but that's my opinion and don't need to start another fire. I made almost $13 an hour in college and I know a felon who makes $25/hr in a factory job

  5. The military always does better recruitment when options are limited. There are a few people who live their life planning to becoming a soldier but most "find" their way to the military when their first options arent working out. Even in your example your husband went to college, didnt work out, joined the military. Thats the most common path to the military.

    "I dont know what to do with my life at this point, guess I will join the military."- 80% of standing military.