The military helps individuals advance their careers while enjoying a paycheck on the first and fifteenth days of every month.
Lilliana Reyes, a mass communications specialist petty officer 2nd class, who has been in the Navy for 11 years said she joined the Navy to continue her education and get out of El Paso, Texas.
“I didn’t have money for college or money to move out,” Reyes said. “I was very shy and I also thought the military could give me the self-confidence to do more than what I thought I could do.”
One of the few ways in which the Navy helps pay for your education, she said, is Tuition Assistance, which is available to active duty personnel.
“It is free; you don’t have to pay it back, and it is very easy to start using it and your supervisors are going to be happy you are going to school,” she said.
She said that for those who serve and get out after their agreed term of service, there is the Post 9-11 GI Bill, which offers $120,000 for any university, college or vocational school. Through this bill, the government pays the institution directly. On top of the GI Bill, the Navy can help with housing and utilities with the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and will also provide $1,000 for books and supplies.
“You also qualify for the Texas Hazelwood Act. The state of Texas offers you 150 credit semester hours for you to use in any state college or university,” Reyes said.
In addition, Navy COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) offers technical certifications that make former sailors more marketable on the outside world.
Being on active duty offers housing, a guaranteed paycheck, college money, medical and dental benefits, and access to base facilities as well as the liberty to go out and hang out with friends, she said. The Navy is only a nine-to-five job.
Reyes said that there is also the opportunity of going into the reserves; this is a part-time affiliation with the Navy that allows individuals to live in their home-town and work a regular job while obtaining experience, gaining a second skill and earning money for school.
Joining straight out of high school, enlistees go in as E1, or enlisted one. Having college credits, however, can advance the enlistee to E2 for 24 credits or E3 for 48 credits. While in some of the branches of the military, people can go straight to war after boot camp, in the Navy that is not the case. “Once you finish boot camp, you go to an ‘A’ school (apprenticeship school) for the job you selected. The Navy’s combat service is volunteer,” Reyes said.
Each military branch has different expectations. All branches, however, require every potential or hopeful enlistee to take the ASVAB test. Based on the AFQT, or composite score, the branch decides whether or not the applicant qualifies for service, Reyes said.
Staff Sgt Noel Wood, who has been in the Army for eight years, said that the Army offers anywhere from $47,000 to $191,000 for college education, plus $4,500 per year while serving.
“We have over 200 jobs that you may qualify for,” he said. “And yes, several can help you out in the civilian side.”
Wood said that in most cases people will not deploy right after basic training, but it may sometimes happen. He has deployed twice to Afghanistan.
Hesgar Rios, an Air Force enlistee who attends Midland High, said that the reason he decided to join was because they offer great career opportunities.
“I would have gone into the Marines, but I have talked to former Marines, and they say that after they stop serving they pretty much have to start from zero,” he said.
Rios said that Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps has helped him train for what is coming in basic training. JROTC is a high school extracurricular that is offered from the beginning of freshman year.
This group trains high school students and attempts to teach them self-defense, leadership skills and first aid.
Anyone who is a part of JROTC and who plans to enlist in the military is advanced to an E3, the equivalent of having 48 college credit hours.
“The reason I chose the Air Force is because it has so many scholarly benefits not only for me, but also for my future wife and kids,” he said.