Should I Get Out of the Military?

The question that gnaws at you.

How do I know if I am making the right decision?

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Its 0445 on a Thursday and your alarm clock goes off.

You check the weather on your phone, and you see that it is a nice and brisk 20-degree morning awaiting you outside for PT and the question crosses your mind. 

Its 0730 on a Sunday and your phone rings.

You hear your supervisor on the line and now instead of taking your kids to the park, your Sunday morning plans are now to meet with your unit’s leadership –  and talk about your failings as a leader. Turns out one of the troopers decided it was a good idea to drive after spending all his pay at a strip club…again. There it is again, the same question.

You have been cranking out and quarterly training brief slides for the past week – go to make sure the commander looks good in front of his senior rater so he can get a “most qualified” and is highly enumerated. But almost all the slide deck is a fairy tale. Nothing gets locked in a T+6 or T+1 for that matter, so why are we projected (with detail) as to what will happen a year from now? Why are we still nitpicking this slide deck of bullshit until 2200 on a Sunday the night before the brief?

And again… the question crosses your mind.

Should I get out of the military?

Do not get embarrassed that you thought this. It says nothing about your commitment to the nation and your unit. It is only human to wonder and everyone that has served has thought about it once or twice.

But what does it mean when this question that was once sporadic is now at the forefront of your mind? Everyday? Since I keep thinking about it, should I ACTUALLY get out of the military?

Do not get flustered or frustrated if you are unable to immediately answer this question. You will most likely think about it for months, if not years. As you should since this is not an easy question, nor is it one that you should take lightly.

Take into the context the overall breadth and depth of the question and all that it entails. This is not a simple career change, but rather this an extremely complex life change.

Already have your mind made up? Quick decision for you? Slow down there guy. Take some time to truly think about it.

Think deep and hard since you must be as sure as you can because you only get one chance at this decision. And last I checked you cannot put the shaving cream back in the can – I tried, it went everywhere.

Before you can answer this question, you must first understand the root cause of your discontentment.

Is it really the military that you are not satisfied with? If you came into the military depressed is it really the military that is making you depressed now? If you are going through personal troubles (relationships, family, financial, etc.) those will most likely persist in your life outside of the military. Your issues could also quite possibly get worse without the government support that you have grown accustomed to.

And remember, if you were a sad bastard before the military, have been on every duty assignment, and on every deployment then most likely you will be a sad bastard after the military. Take stock of your life and reflect on what is really troubling you.

Have you made the most of your military experience? Everyone has goals or an idea in their head as to what they expect to achieve in the military. Did you get to do everything that you wanted?

OR is it a question of effort: have you been putting in your best day after day. And don’t confuse “your best” with just showing up at the proper time, in proper place, in the proper uniform. There is a difference. Have you TRULY given your best habitually?

What did you want to achieve in the military? Now is the time. Leave it all on the field.  

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

 – Vince Lombardi

Next you must identify the specific reasons why you are dissatisfied with he military. Is it the time spent away from family? Or the lack of control in your own life? At one point in time you acknowledged these characteristics and still raised your right hand and swore an oath – what has changed since then? Be as specific as possible so that one of your reasons does not overlap with another.

Once you have your list of specific reasons dive deeper and see if each grievance is temporary or permanent in nature. You don’t like living in Fort Polk, Louisiana? Cool, wait a couple of years (maybe less) and you will get a fully funded move to your next rendezvous with destiny. Same goes for your chain of command or position. The military is always in a state of flux and if you think you are trapped in one spot – just wait.

But for others, many of the specific reasons on their list persist. Family, the grass is always greener (link), educational pursuits, work / life balance and many, many more all are reasons for deciding to leave the service.

To take it a step further, make a pros and cons list for your decision. Look and reflect on it regularly.

But a pros and cons list can be profoundly flawed if your decision-making process is riddled with the 4 Villains of Decision Making.

Or better yet, conduct a fear setting strategy. Fear Setting is a three-page road map of your fears, and the possible results of action or inaction.

Remember, you are asking yourself a very serious question that corresponds to giant decision. Make sure you talk to someone about it! Talk to your spouse, your parents, your career counselor. Do not rely solely on other guys in the barracks or what your girlfriend thinks.

Reflect. Research. Talk to trusted and credible sources. Reflect more. Talk to your loved ones.

But remember.

Only you can decide.

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