No, I haven't talked to a recruiter yet. I thought I'd start by getting some unbiased opinions before doing that. So far I've mostly been reading online. Overall, I'd say I have very little knowledge at this stage.
I think the perception exists that you can walk into the recruiter's station a civilian and walk out a military man. Some people worry that a smooth talking recruiter will have them in boot camp before they know what hit them. This isn't the case. The enlistment process takes some time and several visits. You aren't committed to anything until you've been screened at MEPS, signed your contract, and sworn in.
If this is something you're seriously considering, I wouldn't hesitate in talking to a recruiter. Your first visit should be very informative and doesn't put you under any obligation.
Well, absolutely the first question you should ask yourself is what you want to get out of the deal.
Would you join for the pay? Education? Because you want to serve?
Do you hope to parlay military training to a civilian application, or would the military be more a change of pace, where you just want to try something new and exciting?
If you are looking to get a bonus, definitely wait a month or so. Nationwide, recruting was too successful over the past year, so incentives were cut significantly and the bar was raised on minimum qualifications. We're returning to a state of balance, and I suspect to see many of the enlistment incentives again soon.
What are you interested in specializing in? Anything that isn't a pogue and you had better plan on being deployed for at least a year, guaranteed. I don't see that as a bad thing but it does interfere with daily life especially if you have a family.
Any reason? I'm not in the National Guard, but am in the Coast Guard. I know guys that have joined as late as 29, & have read articles of guys older than that joining. Depending on how old a tad old is, fitness might be one of your questions. I'm not sure about boot camp for the Guard though.
Never did the guard thing but was active duty. Robert brought up a good point with all that is going on right now even if you are a non combatant you are likely to be deployed at some time or other. Also basic and AIT are the same for active duty and guard. Amateur also made a good point you really need to decide why you are doing this . It isn't a job you can't quit when it get irritating (not that you would). It's just not a decision to be taken lightly.
I was in at 17 with my hometown unit. I was Infantry for four years then cook for the next four. The guard unit itself makes the difference. The recruiter will most likely be attached to the unit so they tend to actually care more than active recruiters in my experience. They will see you again. Not all units are the same. Guard units are often have guys who served with their unit for many years and have prior service time. My brother was in the same unit about ten years before I was so my squad leader was a recruit with him and a buddy. My 1st platoon sergeant and I had issues at first because he had issues with my brother. When I had problems in college etc. some of the old-timers were like extra dad's. It becomes a multi-generational, bit of a good-old-boy system, thing that can be great or kick your backside. So can anything else.
I was called up for floods, went to Germany, and had some good times, some rotten ones, and even boredom beyond belief. It kept me grounded when I needed it and taught me a lot about people. You will have every walk of life. Blue collar NCO's who are giving orders to college kids like me. Nutty characters, teachers, cops, you name it and that is your squad. If its right its right. If its not, you could get stuck with it or traveling to a distant unit to get away. I advise observing a drill during your consideration process to see what they really do.
I should also say that my former unit has been sent into the current conflicts, Infantry, on more than one occasion in the years since I left. I almost went back when I heard they were called up the first time even though I had been out for a long time and started a family. It is a different type of loyalty than one would have with an active unit. I grew up with these guys for eight years, played ball with their sons. I knew these men when they were the kids and I was the old timer. That is part of the nature of being in the guard. It has its strengths and weaknesses.
Thanks for all the replies guys. Let me fill in a little on what I've been thinking.
Why do I want to join? Well, joining the military has been an idea I've tossed around for years but never got over my selfishness enough to seriously consider it. Now I'm on the edge of being too old (33) and regretting it. I want to join because I want to serve my country and my community. I may want to learn some transferable skills but I'd also like the change of pace. Having deeper connections in my community is appealing.
Trey, what exactly do you mean by choose your rate, choose your fate? Maybe you could give me a quick couple of examples. There are a lot of MOS's in the National Guard here in Colorado that I find appealing.
Amateur, thanks for all the practical tips. I think I will talk to a recruiter soon but I just want to have a good sense of the important questions to ask. I am mildly reluctant to do it early because the are so many horror stories about recruiters lying and people getting screwed.
As far as fitness goes I can still score a minimum 60 points on each element of the APFT and that's after not working out much all summer outside of a little jogging. In a couple of months I think I can dramatically improve that.
I do have a family and that's what's holding me back now. That's also why I'm leaning toward the Guard. I hope it will allow my to get my feet wet without having to radically alter my family's quality of life.
So thanks again to everyone. Feel free to keep sharing your thoughts and experiences; it's really helpful.
Choose your rate, choose your fate, means that you really want to take some time too learn about the different jobs carefully. While switching jobs can be done, it sometimes means a cut in rank, deployment away from loved ones...etc, etc...
I would suggest going to the local unit, talk to the guys there. See what the different jobs are.
I looked at the different rates in the CG before I joined. While I didn't talk to anyone at units, I researched what all the different jobs do. I chose to be a Marine Science Technician. I don't do very much science, but do work a lot in environmental response. This path really has me primed for a career after my 20 in the CG. I work A LOT with the maritime transportation community. There are a lot of opportunities that will open up for me, mainly because of my training in the CG.
ASVAB score means a lot too, the higher your score, the better jobs you can get. The smarter people normally get the better end of the stick. Hope that clarifies things a bit more.
Don't waste your time. Join the active service and get decent benefits for your sacrifice. The national guard has a habit of putting soldiers on tours of duty that end one day shy of offering benefits, you can get deployed regularly but cannot draw a pension until age 60 and have no medical coverage for either you or your family.
you will be away from home frequently yet your family will be left with nothing to show for your efforts. Furthermore NG units are the last to get funding for training and equipment, and your job options are severly limited and you can all but forget about any "adventure training". I know, I was in the guard also but then went active and made something of myself.