The US Military Catch-All Thread


No prob, Dave. I’ll break it down.

There are two schools after bootcamp, A and C. A is the general “rate” or job, and C is the specialty or … where you’ll end up, so to speak. For some of the higher training requirement rates, the enlistment term goes up. Six year rates are the highest for enlisted personnel, meaning a pretty good chunk of that time is spent training before even going to a ship. It also typically means that the recruit finishes schooling with E-3 rank and gets E-4 rank at graduation of the follow on C school.

Nuke rates go to nuclear ships, subs, and very rarely, shore duty. They are necessary to the point that the highest signing bonuses and re-enlistment bonuses are for those same rates. So that means if your son chooses to extend, most likely his re-enlistment bonus will be just as high as that signing bonus. Not all rates even get bonuses, so that shows how much they want and need nuclear rates (there are several job specialties within the Nuclear program.)

Chances are also -somewhat- likely that training he gets will be valuable for civilian work. I say somewhat because nuclear isn’t as expanded upon anymore and I can tell you living near a current plant, the jobs there are highly coveted. Then again, so are trained employees. Your son should also get assistance with that loan payback AND he should still choose to pay for the GI Bill, which is actually an option and paid for during the first few years of enlistment by a small deduction to their pay.

Now let’s cover the bad. And as former Navy I don’t want you to think of it as all bad, but your son needs to know what’s coming.

  1. He will take the ASVAB at a MEPS station, aka a test center, aka a HIGH PRESSURE sales push to, “go ahead and let’s sign up here, right now.” Make the yes or no decision before you go. But if he does not do well on the ASVAB they will try to say, “well you already signed your commitment here, you’re in.” No he is not. Not until he takes an oath, and that’s after scoring, rate selection and the very last part of things at the MEPS station. Why would he bail if his ASVAB score is low? Because it is EVERYTHING to those going in. A low ASVAB score is like dooming a person to the crappiest jobs for the rest of their career. You can, “strike,” for a different rate once you’re in the fleet, but that’s months down the line and not a given in any way. The ASVAB is extremely important. A crappy score means they will pressure him into a crappy rate and before you know it you’ll have a miserable son. Talk about that, and talk about him being firm against them pressuring him because it means absolutely NOTHING until the oath. Let me repeat, they WILL try to convince people otherwise, it’s complete horse crap.

  2. If you line up all the places to work in the Navy, two remain at the top of the shitty list. One: Carriers. Two: Subs. Both go to port less, have more bullshit, and have some of the most unhappy crewmen. It is what it is. That doesn’t mean it will be all crappy, but a smaller ship will port a lot more, and ANY ship will port more than a sub. If he lands on a missle sub those are VERY long cruises and VERY little porting. EDIT: Civilian translation: like no crying in baseball, there are no days off underway. You work every, single, day, and the work day is LONG. Ports mean an occasional day off. Shore duty means weekends off, or at least something akin to it. Ship duty is hard work, and lots of it.

  3. He’s already on track for a good job (engineering.) Hell, take a semester off, go back at it. Try a different school, whatever. I’m saying this because I was in his shoes. How much of an idiot was I? I enlisted … AFTER I had graduated college, with a 4 year degree!! His pay will be attrocious. No sugar coating that in any way. As far as his eventual career goes, it’s like taking 6 years off pay raises and advancement he would have if he just finishes school. It’s worth trying it. The Navy will be there at any time, there is no rush. He has until 30 I believe to enlist. Take that time, try hard not to use it as an option, because that’s no 401K, no advancement to management, no stock options, no anything.

  4. This has to be said, we are all over the place right now. We’re in between major conflicts. I was thankful not to have had too bad of a ride for 6 1/2 years. Now? Not a chance. We have a President who can barely make a good decision and it’s entirely likely something will pop up. Carriers and subs will be front and center. They are -extremely- expensive to operate. They don’t sit in port waiting for the worst of the worst, they are there from the start.

If you or your son have any questions, please ask. Note that I finished in 1998. A lot has changed. I have lifelong friends from my time served. I loved it. I got fantastic training that landed me a career getting out. I went to 17 countries while I was in. I grew up. I also was unable to have a successful long term relationship my entire time in. I made crap for pay. I put aside a whole lot of, “what could have been,” by going in. In this current timeline and world status, I don’t think I would do it.


This is absolutely true. It’s hard studying. It is nothing like, “easy ride,” coming from college. And if he washes up, guess what? He’s still in, now committed to that term and in a much worse job rating.


Amen, brother. :)


Back in the 80’s, after taking the ASVAB, I got offered a nuclear engineering program with a 6-year commitment. I don’t recall what my scores were, but I do know I am horrible at math and engineering. I suspect I might have joined up to find that particular A-school actually out of reach.

I decided to join the reserves as a way to test the waters, pun intended. Glad I did. I was a horrible enlistee, and being shut away in the bowels of a ship is a bit of a drag.


Thanks for all the input! I had him read @Skipper’s reply and cliff notesed the rest for him. It’s his decision, but I want his eyes wide open before be makes it.

Thanks again, guys. This is part of why I’ve been on this forum since it started many moons ago.


Good luck with the decision. It’s not like taking a normal job where you can quit. It’s an enlistment. You can’t just go home. Once you sign and take the oath, your life belongs to the military. Like I said, make the decision before even going to MEPS, because once there, they will push really hard to have you commit to an enlistment.


Agree. And the 6 yo commitment is a LONG commitment. The Reserve option highlighted above isn’t a bad call. Find out if you dig military life before you lock yourself in with a major life commitment. I have known a LOT of Nuke techs who’ve rocked out. Just because the training at A and C school is intensive, on top of the adjustment to military life. And that is before they go to sea.


For what it’s worth, I work with Navy guys on an almost daily basis, and they are some of the finest guys I’ve known. I’ve never send myself, but i respect the service, and I’m glad to be able to work with them.


I’m a former submarine nuc. DM me and I’ll be happy to help.


They are pretty darn optimized to teach that stuff. If you are smart and willing to work, they can teach you. The school is very, very intense though. I was a radiochemist and I didn’t run into anything new in college chem or physics until I hit graduate classes.


Just want to amplify this … I failed out of my junior year of engineering school in 1998 (distractions, not a problem with ability), worked for a few years, then joined the army, getting out after 4 years and some change in 2006. Used the GI Bill for an A.S., then after another gap to work, B.S. and M.S. For a long time my resume carried a line “4.0 GPA in undergraduate courses taken after 2006” (I got a fully deserved B in a graduate class during my MS).

I can’t say for sure I wouldn’t have grown up anyway, but I certainly approached my classes as my job after the Army, and it paid off.


As a former Air Force Vet., I would say listen to what Skipper said. Prepare well for ASVAB, and get guaranteed job in writing. Do not believe anything recruiter promised, their job is get you to sign the dotted line and take the oath, so only things in writing are guaranteed.

Also explore other branch of the military, The Air Force is really good for technical/engineering jobs. Did I mention it also has the best dorm and cafeteria. I dropped out college after two years of engineering study with hard partying, after ASVAB (did really well on math and electronic part), I got guaranteed job as Biomedical equipment repair (4A2X1), Enlisted for 4 years, then got a high paying job in healthcare in late 90s, and used the GI bill to finish my BS and MBA while working. The Air Force experience is a good one for me.


This is so true. My rate was technically an early form of IT. But we didn’t just get training in mainframe and PC setup, operation and repair, we also got digital theory training, and electronics training, and micro repair training. In addition, while in we had opportunities to jump on training for new systems, and I leveraged that to get additional training and civilian IT certificates that landed me multiple job offers the second week I was home from the Navy. I TRIPLED my Navy paycheck as my starting salary as a civilian. They train you very well, but they do not pay civilian equivalents.


Wasn’t the intro called B Double E? :)


It was indeed. Back then I guess the thought process was anything, “electronics,” related should get Basic Electronics and Electricity school. I’m not complaining. I can still follow a basic (very) schematic and fix a solder joint. The digital theory course actually helped more, understanding binary/octal/hex, logic probe use, things like that. Those were all the base that I took toward a career, for sure.


I certainly don’t have anything to add to Skipper’s excellent summary, but I want to chime in and say that I received the EXACT same phone call and sales pitch neigh on 30 years ago as an engineering student. The Navy has always been and probably always will be desperate for young officers to fill those slots on subs and carriers.


Both of those were the start of FC A school back in the day at “GLAKES”. “Great Mistakes.”

A School was like a year for me. Intensive. And two freezing cold winters…


I guess the problem is they can’t just offer a straight up competitive salary? It seems strange to have these super-expensive ships and have trouble staffing them because you are limited to 30% of civilian pay rates.


That’s where the enlistment / reenlistment bonuses come in. Hell, I got a bonus for joining the infantry.


Well, first of all this convo was about enlisted rates, not officers.

Secondly, the services still have to chase away young officers and enlistees who vie for skilled MOS/rates. . The deal has always been “I’ll educate you, but pay you less.” Bonuses too (for enlistees).

The real issue is retaining those (officers and enlisted) who have been in 6-8 years already.

The youngsters aren’t the problem, and never have been.


Indeed. I also got recruited hard by the Navy for an enlisted slot as a nuclear power technician. At one point I said ‘make me an officer and I’m in’, but they said no dice. They touted the training as equivalent to a BSc in engineering, but would not count it toward a commission. 37 years ago, though, so maybe that’s changed.