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Many people are confused by the vast structure of the U.S. military. It is easy to become perplexed amid discussion of the various branches of the military, the reserves, and enlistment contracts. Those wanting to join the military may not know which branch they would like to go into, and whether they want to make a career out of their enlistment. This article will sort out military�s overall structure and options for potential enlistees.

Recruiting offices act as the doorway to military enlistment. They explain the basic course of military service to those wanting to enlist. They detail how military training always begins with a Basic Training course regardless of whether one serves in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marine Corps. This is true for those who directly enlist, and for those who enter a military reserve, training course at an Army or Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at a college or university. If recruits opt for the ROTC program, they will graduate with a rank of Second Lieutenant upon graduation. However, those who do not enroll in ROTC can obtain that same rank by entering and graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS) or Officer Training School (OTS).

Recruiters also help applicants pinpoint whether they want to join the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, or the Air Force based on questionnaires. It usually does not take long for recruits to decide which branch of the military they would like to pursue. They learn that the Army chiefly involves ground-soldier duty, the Navy and the Marine Corps involve sea duty, and the Air Force involves air duty. Yet, it may take some time for the applicant to decide whether he or she wants to devote eight total years to the military. The enlistment contract is a legally binding contract that, on average, stipulates a term of four years active duty and four years inactive duty. However, recruits can also choose whether they want to serve exclusively on active duty or reserve (inactive) duty.

In active duty, soldiers report full-time to military command for duty. Lengths of active service can range from two to six years, depending on the country's staffing needs. Moreover, active-duty soldiers are often deployed for about a year, with a military-leave break after six months. On the other hand, reserve-duty soldiers work mainly as civilians and participate in training about one weekend a month, along with a two-week Field Training Exercise (FTE) per year. This is the case for National Guard soldiers or Reserve soldiers. They may instantly be placed on active duty during outbreak of war. Their terms of service are often between three and six years. Furthermore, if they complete their undergraduate training while on reserve, they are often eligible for military jobs both on- and off-base following graduation.

It is also the recruiter's job to inform potential recruits of the benefits and payment plans for military service. If the recruit opts for an ROTC course, his or her tuition could be entirely paid through merit-based scholarships offered by many ROTC programs. Even so, recruits who go directly to Basic Training and report for active duty will enjoy free housing, free medical and dental insurance, free meals, paid military vacations (leaves), and shopping bonuses. Recruits may also receive cash incentives if they qualify for a special job or position. In fact, many military soldiers decide to work as field doctors, information technology specialists, and analysts. Naturally, their payment goes up on par with their experience and ranking, especially if they wish to obtain a military command position such as Second Lieutenant.

The recruiting process continues with a series of exams after the potential recruit has decided on a military branch and terms of duty. Immediately following that point, the recruiter will schedule an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) for the recruit to take. This three-hour test measures the recruit's skills levels and any Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). The recruiter then schedules a physical examination at a nearby military processing station. After passing this exam, the recruit will then sign an enlistment contract that takes into account his or her needs and preferences.

The recruiter then sends the new private soldier to attend weekend drills that give a taste of Basic Training. A sponsor will also be assigned to mentor the recruit and give a tour of the facilities. During Basic Training, the recruit will receive uniforms, obtain immunizations, and receive personal records. He or she will also attend classroom sessions on military courses while undergoing rigorous physical training. From this point, the soldier may either concentrate on a military specialty at Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or begin to serve active duty. Naturally, this entire scenario differs if the recruit has opted for an ROTC program, which permits the student to undertake a standard baccalaureate program while completing their Basic Course and Advanced Course. They also undertake Basic Camp, a 4-week version of Basic Training, at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
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