• A Parent's Guide

  • A Parent's Guide to joining the Military

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    • Choosing a Branch & Type of Service

      Choosing a Branch & Type of Service

      First, your child will choose one of the U.S. Military's 12 Service branches: five active-duty Services and their respective Guard and Reserve units. Each offers a unique service experience and length of commitment. Explore our Service branch pages to learn more about different types of service so you can discuss options with your child.

      The entrance process also varies depending on whether your child enters as an enlisted service member or an officer.

    • Entrance Requirements

      Entrance Requirements

      Your child must be 18 to join the Military or 17 with your signed permission. He or she will need a high school diploma or GED, so encourage him or her to stay in school and maintain good grades. If your child wants to be an officer, he or she will need a four year college degree. Look into ROTC and Service Academies, both of which offer scholarships in exchange for a service commitment as an officer, or going straight to Officer Candidate School (OCS) after college.

      Usually your child must have been born in the U.S. or be a Permanent Resident Alien to serve. Properly documented non-citizens may enlist; however, opportunities may be limited, so it’s best to talk to a recruiter if this describes your situation.

      Learn more about Entrance Requirements here
    • Meeting with a Recruiter

      Meeting with a Recruiter

      Meeting a recruiter in person with your child is the best way to learn more about a particular Service branch. It's completely private, and there is no obligation for further contact afterwards. As a parent, you can ask the recruiter whatever's on your mind — you might think of things your child wouldn't. A recruiter will guide you through what to expect for your child, various military careers and benefits.

      Find a recruiter here
    • Enlisting

      Enlisting

      If your child decides to enlist, he or she will visit a MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). There are 65 stations located throughout the U.S., and transportation arrangements can be made for recruits who do not live within driving distance of a MEPS station.

      At the MEPS, your child will:

      • Take the ASVAB test. Encourage your child to study — ASVAB scores can help determine which jobs he or she is qualified to perform.
      • Take a physical examination. Physical requirements vary by Service and job.
      • Undergo a background screening. Your child should be completely honest. This screening is confidential, and waivers may possibly be obtained for some youthful indiscretions.

      You may accompany your child to MEPS, but will be asked to wait in a separate area. You can help your child collect the documents he or she will need for the day, including his or her medical records, birth certificate, Social Security card and driver’s license.

    • Finding a Career

      Finding a Career

      Your child will meet with an advisor to see which career is best suited to his or her strengths and skills. Talk to your child about the kinds of experience, training, responsibilities and compensation he or she wants from a job. While it's possible to switch careers later, it can be a long process, so it's best to make a good decision now.

    • Taking the Oath

      Taking the Oath

      Finally, new recruits take an Oath of Enlistment to become members of the U.S. Military. You and other family and friends are welcome to attend. Be sure to bring a camera to capture this moment — and perhaps some tissues. It can be very emotional to see your child begin his or her military career.

    • Training

      Training

      After MEPS, your child will either report directly to Basic Training or participate in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), which schedules him or her to attend in a few months (for instance, following high school graduation). You can help him or her pack for boot camp, stick to an exercise program and delegate personal affairs. Contact is limited during training, but you will always be able to write, so stock up on stamps.

    • Earning an Officer Commission

      Earning an Officer Commission

      In the Military, your child can choose to either enlist or become commissioned as an officer. Being an officer involves a higher degree of responsibility and education in military history and theory. Officers usually serve in a managerial role or in a position that requires specialized advanced training (such as military doctors, chaplains or lawyers). Your son or daughter is commissioned by attending a Service academy, participating in ROTC during college or attending Officer Training School (OCS) after college graduation. This is also the case for enlisted service members who transition into officer roles.

    • Graduation

      Graduation

      Training may seem like it lasts forever, but your child will graduate — 90 percent of all recruits complete their first six months of training. Be sure to attend the graduation ceremony if you can. Not only is it a proud moment for your son or daughter; it’s a chance to experience military tradition firsthand and meet the service members who have worked with your child.

  • Questions to Ask

    Questions to Ask Recruiters About Your Child’s Service

    Questions to Ask Recruiters About Your Child’s Service

    As a parent, you might have different questions for a recruiter than your son or daughter has. Recruiters are happy to talk with you to provide information and ease any concerns. Here are some common questions parents have for recruiters:

    • How long will my child’s first term last? Do you have programs of different lengths?
    • How much will my child get paid, and what are the benefits?
    • Can my child marry and have a family while serving?
    • How often will I see my child? Where will he or she primarily be working?
    • Will my child still be able to begin or complete his or her college degree?
    See more questions here
  • Supporting Yourself

  • Supporting Yourself

    Supporting Yourself

    Being a military parent can be stressful. It’s good to know there are thousands of other parents to connect with to help support you and your child. The links below are a sampling of the national support groups for military parents of various Service branches. We also recommend finding fellow parents locally. For example, ask around the neighborhood and see who else has a child in service. Or ask your place of worship if they have support groups — you will often find that local families in your exact situation are already meeting. Social networks like Facebook also offer parent communities, and many military units put together pages to keep parents and other family members informed and connected. Just look around — the support you need might already be there.
  • Resources

    Contact a Recruiter

    Schedule a meeting with a recruiter and learn what to expect from your visit.

    Request Info

    Get a free DVD and magazine, plus additional information from each Service, sent to your home.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    View answers to commonly asked questions about the Military.

    Further Exploration

    Further Exploration

    You've finished your journey and seen all the Military offers. Continue your exploration with hundreds of Joining, Training, Living & Working videos.