Military Workers, Enlisted


Exploring this Job

You will need to do a fair amount of exploring to determine what job you would like to have as well as what branch of the military suits you. Consider any family members or family friends who have served in the military a valuable resource. Ask them about their experiences, what they liked best about the military life and what they liked least. Talk to recruiters from several branches to learn about what each has to offer you.

Attend events that are open to the public, such as air shows, where you may also have the opportunity to talk to those in the service, and visit the Web sites of each branch. Think about what job you would like to have in the civilian workplace and find out the requirements for that position. Then determine if a similar job exists in the military and ask recruiters about the probability of getting such work. After all, if you want to be an aircraft mechanic but you end up working in food service, you may be very dissatisfied for a number of years. Researching before you join is one of the primary ingredients to success in this field.

The Job

The military has a pyramidal structure, with the president of the United States acting as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. The president appoints top military officers and maintains the nation's military strength.

The Secretary of Defense is an appointed position usually awarded to a civilian. They are a member of the president's cabinet, presiding over the Department of Defense and directing the operations of all military branches. The senior commanders of the different services are the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who along with the Secretary of Defense advise the president on military matters.

Under the auspices of the Department of Defense, the individual services (the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard) make up the armed forces. The Army is the senior service, and it is traditionally known as the branch that fights on land. The Navy, more than any of the other services, has a special way of life. Its officers and enlisted people work and live together at sea for long periods, which is a lifestyle that demands close attention to duties and teamwork.

The Air Force, the newest of all the services, is highly technical and appeals to those interested in aviation and mechanical trades. The Marines operate on land and sea, and they usually form the advance troops in military operations. The Corps is closely associated with the Navy, and like the Navy, prides itself on meeting the highest possible standards in training, military bearing, and discipline. Apart from more military duties, Marines provide security on Navy property and guard U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

The Coast Guard, which has been part of the Department of Homeland Security since 2003, is the smallest of the military services and offers unique opportunities. It is responsible largely for the enforcement of maritime law but is well known for its involvement in search and rescue efforts, aiding those in distress at sea. In recent years, members of the Coast Guard have been tasked with protecting the United States from terrorist attacks and the delivery of terrorist weapons via our nation’s waterways. Most duties in the Coast Guard are related to the waters and shores of the United States, although there are opportunities for overseas assignments.

Military workers fall under two broad occupational categories: officers and enlisted personnel. Officers function as managers of the military, overseeing the work of the enlisted personnel. Enlisted personnel comprise the majority of the armed forces; they execute the daily operations of the military and are considered non-commissioned officers.

Both the Army and Navy maintain a third classification of skilled experts called warrant officers. Enlisted soldiers or civilians who demonstrate technical and tactical ability in any one of several dozen occupational specialties may qualify as a warrant officer. Warrant officers have highly specialized training and gain additional expertise by operating, maintaining, and managing the services' equipment, support activities, or technical systems throughout their careers. Examples of the specialties are missile systems, military intelligence, telecommunications, legal administration, and personnel.

Depending on their occupation, military workers jobs can range from participating in and supporting military operations and activities to operating and maintaining equipment to providing technical or administrative support. There are a wide variety of occupations in the military. Some of the areas are administration; combat specialty construction; electronic and electrical equipment repair; engineering, science, and technical; health care; human resources development; machine operator and repair; media and public affairs; protective service; support service, which includes food service specialists and religious program specialists; and vehicle and machinery mechanics.  

Most members of the armed forces live and work at military bases located around the world. Much of the work done on a base is similar to that done in communities anywhere. There are jobs for clerks, cooks, mechanics, electronics experts, technicians, doctors, dentists, scientists, computer specialists, and others. The military branches also employ their own police forces and intelligence and communications experts. More unusual jobs are also available. For example, the Marine Corps offers a special program for applicants with musical talent to train to play in corps bands.

In general, an enlistee, or someone just entering the military, is assigned a job based on his or her education, test results on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, the needs of the service, and the person's wishes.

The armed forces require strict discipline from all personnel. Special military laws must be followed, and military workers must wear uniforms while on duty. Military workers can expect to move many times and also live apart from their families during their careers. Life in the military is demanding, but it does have many rewards.