As I’ve mentioned before, the Navy is not for everyone. Those who enlist into military service do so for a wide range of reasons, some of those involve:
- Pay off college debt or for an “all-expenses paid” trip to college after at least 2 years of completed service.
- Traveling the world.
- Getting out of a shitty situation/shitty home life (my main personal reason).
- Making money and getting benefits for you/your family. (Damn, you must have really been poor—or joined because of the 2008 economic crisis).
- Fight for ‘Merica and kill them “terrorizers”.
Those are just a handful of reasons. Regardless of the one’s that may apply to you, you at least joined with the intention of making something greater out of your life, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. In the end we all signed that dotted line with a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Unfortunately, after 4 years (or 6, depending on what field you chose) of service, the realities of Navy life have finally set in. As you ask yourself the oh-so-important question, should I re-enlist? You recall just how often you have been exposed to epic levels of fuckery during your career. Now that it’s time to sign that dotted line once again, you really don’t know where you stand.
On one hand, sure being able to watch Ping Pong shows in Thailand is awesome and “life-altering” (if you don’t know what a Ping Pong Show is, do not google it at work).
On the other hand, the day to day bullshit and “asininity” of Naval life can take its toll on any rational human being, and after a couple of years, nothing becomes more enticing than the opportunity to wrap one’s self up in a DD214 blanket of protection.
The decision to re-enlist is not easy. For those who are fortunate enough to have the option stay in and are still on the fence I will share with you the three questions that I pose to those who are foolish enough to ask me for career advice.
1. Do you have dependas who rely on your steady pay and benefits package?
Now those of you who are butt-hurt by my cavalier use of the notorious word “dependa”, do realize that this has nothing to do with traditional image of depentapotami and refers simply to all person’s that are recognized by the military as dependents.
If you fall into this category and at least have one person who relies upon you, the allure of Tricare and continued BAH is certainly an incentive to stay Navy. Is it a good reason? Yes and no. Those who see this as the only reason to stay in may feel trapped—from both ends.
The best way to keep yourself out of this situation, if you are looking to get out, is to ensure that you have at least 3- 6 months worth of money saved up to pay for expenses while your are unemployed so that you can continue to provide for your family without the fear of living under a bridge looming over your head
We all know that one Chief or First-Class who will try the old, “if you get out you’ll end up flipping burgers” scare tactic to convince you into re-enlisting.
Don’t let their closed-mindedness scare you. After all, many companies today bend over backwards to hire veterans and can provide benefits that match what you received in the service.
Personally, as a wife and mother, this remains part of the factors that led to my decision to re-enlist. My health is less than stellar, sure I can pass my PRT above a GOOD, but not everything works the way it used to. Also, kids are expensive and by signing over my GI Bill to my daughter, I have at least provided her with one less reason to become a stripper.
2. Do you live paycheck to paycheck?
Serving in an FDNF billet that is home-ported out of Japan can prove hectic, but boy did it give me a chance to amass a ton of cash in my bank account. COLA and OHA sure helped a lot too. This of course lulled me into a false sense of security and led to unrestrained spending habits.
I had a fair amount of credit debt but never really took the time to deal with it since at the time I expected to be stationed in Japan for another 3 years or so, and figured I could start paying off my credit cards within a year or two.
Unfortunately, reality always has a way of shitting on dreams so I unexpectedly was forced to return back to the US, due to medical concerns, thus losing out on all of that dough.
I am fully to blame for this, and this reason also led to my eventual changing of job fields so that I could attain a re-enlistment bonus.
Don’t make this financial mistake. Save yourself the pain by spending money wisely, and though you do need to play the credit-game to establish a credit-worthy history, remember that the ideal credit to debt ratio is around 30%.
Keeping revolving credit debt on any one card below that of 20% will help establish your profile as a responsible credit user.
If you are like me and are slowly climbing out of that seemingly bottomless pit of credit card debt, a steady paycheck for x amount of years can help you plan your eventual financial freedom.
3. Are you either a die-hard, bleed-red-and-blue, GO NAVY Mofo, or do you have zero direction and need structure to keep yourself from F*^king up your life?
For this question to apply to you, you must fall into either extremes. There is no middle ground. Remember though, that neither one of these reasons is a bad thing either.
Post 9/11 saw a massive influx in soldiers and sailors who saw it as their duty to protect their country. The increased presence of terrorist organizations like ISIS have continued to stoke the flames of patriotism. Those who are unwavering loyal to flag and country and can’t imagine life without the Navy will certainly go far in their careers, soaring on the wings of “Hooyah Navy”.
However there are also those on the other side of the spectrum who joined mainly to find some form of structure and discipline in their lives. The idea of not having a regimented career can be scary-shit for some.
More often than not, I find myself referring to junior sailors as “kids”. This of course is a dangerous habit and title to give them. After all, the men and women that serve are not children, but professionals. Yes there are those who don’t really strive, but we all know who they are, and in the end, you do get what you put into your career.
But for some Sailors, the regimented life of the Navy is what keeps them stable and guides them in their life, of course, I don’t think this is a bad thing, however it can certainly lead to life-shattering realizations if their service is unexpectedly cut short. Always have a back up plan and remember to take advantage of all the things that the Navy has to offer you while you are still serving.
I Just completed my Bachelor’s degree, sure it took me 9 years, but at least it didn’t come out of my own pocket.
In the end, if you fall in the middle of these 2 extremes, consider your options outside of the Navy. Travel the world! Finish college, or just do something you are passionate about! Don’t just meh your way through your career in the Navy.
Now take a hard look at yourself and ask, do any the three “incentives” listed above apply to me? Nope? Then get out and live your life already! You served your country proudly and now it is time to move on and into a new chapter of your life.
The unknown can be incredibly scary, but so is continuing on in a career where you are unhappy or struggle daily with your choice of staying in and don’t really see a future. Remember that the reason itself is not necessarily important just as long as you have one.
As someone who has drunk the Kool-aid three times now, I myself still struggle with my choice to re-enlist every now and then. It’s natural, but I know that I am better off than when I started.
I have enjoyed my career and will continue to do so until “they” say I am done. I also know that I have been fortunate to provide a good life for myself and my family. I am certainly grateful for the opportunities that I have had while serving.
So make a decision, and remember that it needs to be right—for you.