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Advice for a New Recruit

Today we went to my step-brother's house for a cookout to celebrate his youngest son's high school graduation.  Graduating high school is nice, but that's what everyone does (or at least should do).  The big deal with our nephew is that he has enlisted in the U.S. Army and leaves for basic training in July.  I came up with the following advice for him.  Feel free to share if you'd like, just credit it to me.

Advice to make the most out of your time in the Army
  • Be a leader – if something needs doing, do it – coordinate your fellow soldiers without being “bossy”
  • Live in the barracks – sounds like fun to get a house in town with your buddies, but it leads to trouble, expenses, and more trouble – living in the barracks you get free room and board – take it
  • Stay away from the E-club and bars in town – spend your free time improving yourself – gym and college courses through St. Leo and AMU are the best thing you can do – also make extra money by taking guard or duty shifts from others
  • Don’t fall prey to the easy credit outside of base – if you truly need a car – and you don’t if you live on base – save up and buy a cheap one for cash – all bases have places where you can borrow tools and equipment and learn to work on it yourself – you don’t need one to come home on leave or anything like that – take Greyhound
  • Don’t fall prey to the townie girls and the wives/girlfriends of deployed soldiers – there is no reason for anyone to be married or have kids until at least E5 and after reenlisting
  • Don’t waste money on entertainment devices, extra civilian clothes, and other useless crap that you will have to move with you when you change duty stations – spend some money on better gear than what the Army issues, and save, save, save!
  • Don’t take stupid vacations like Las Vegas or Disney World – the Army has all kinds of free recreational equipment for soldiers to use – camping gear, canoes, fishing equipment, all kinds of outdoor fun
  • Take any advanced or specialty training you can – it will help with promotions, and may even pay additional money – Airborne, CBRNE, NCO school, Drill Sgt. school, marksman instructor, things like that
  • Volunteer for Afghanistan or Iraq – hazard duty pay PLUS no federal income tax while over there
  • As soon as you can, establish legal residency in a state with no state income tax (Tennessee, Florida, Wyoming, New Hampshire, there are a couple more). It will take a little time, money and creativity, but it will save you thousands and thousands of dollars over the course of your enlistment. If you get stationed in a tax-free state, do it immediately, otherwise you need to use some leave time to go to the state. If you can get a driver’s license in the state, that is typically all you need to do to establish residency. Then see your base legal officer and fill out DD Form 2058 – State of Legal Residence Certificate. It is stupid to pay taxes to Va. when you don’t live here anymore and don’t use the so-called “services” that the state provides, but the only way around it is to establish residency elsewhere. If you can manage it this summer before you go to basic, all the better.
Most guys get out of the Army without a penny to their name and deep in debt. If you follow this advice, whether you have a 4 year tour or a 30 year career, you will come out far more successful and ahead of your contemporaries. It is possible and realistic to live on about 20% of your pay and bank the rest. I really wish that when I was 17 years old, I had gone in the Marine Corps active duty and had this information and the discipline to live by it. I’d be A LOT better off now.

Advice for Raising Kids

Yesterday, Jack Spirko had a fantastic episode of The Survival Podcast offering his advice for parents raising kids.  I'm not a parent.  I work around kids and am very close to our young niece and nephew, but I've never raised kids.  The information that Jack offered yesterday was great advice, and would be of value to any new parent, whether with a newborn, or coming in as a stepparent like he did.  If you don't listen to The Survival Podcast, I really encourage you to listen to yesterday's episode.  Here's the link to Episode 920, Building Self-Reliance in our Children.


  1. I work on an Army installation. Excellent advice! Can't tell you the number of young people who get into high debt and a bunch of kids before they have hard stripes! Young Soldiers should seek out the BOSS program. If your post doesn't have a good one, volunteer and help make it one -- take your buddies and re-make the focus. Our BOSS NCO was telling me today that they have funding for trips and recreation so that Soldiers can visit interesting places within a day's drive using gov't transportation (traveling as a group) at very low cost. They also do a lot of community service projects, so a good command-sponsored organization. Every installation has an education center that can help you get credit for classes you took in the Army and with enrollment and tuition aid for knocking out some college courses. One young man was selected as the CDR's driver and finished all his lower level English, math and history courses as he waited for the old man! In addition to the Auto Crafts shops, there are usually arts centers where you can learn to hand-make pottery, work with wood or metal, and frame photos and art. No excuse for being bored!

  2. Thanks for the additional info! I'll pass it on to my nephew

  3. Best personal advice I ever got from a Commanding Officer: Be in bed by midnight. Nothing good ever happens to a sailor (soldier, airman, marine...) after midnight unless it's in bed.
    Best medical advice I got in the service: find and take advantage of the military's programs for corrective eye surgery. 20-20 vision for free is a life changer.
    Best career advice I ever got: Pick your rate and choose your fate. Find out what you like, what you want to do and what will give you the most opportunity and freedom in the long term. It may seem easy to just be a regular guy. But the training and work it takes to get into one of the technical fields (signals, computers, mechanical/electrical systems) will carry you a lifetime.
    Best spiritual advice: Find a near-by church, join and go. Meet your priest/pastor/minister. You want support when times are tough at home? You want somebody to raise your spirits when you're deployed? There's nothing like a faith community to keep you grounded.
    Best professional advice I ever got in the military: be good at your job and always keep getting better. Never make work for somebody else because you didn't do your job. Always be humble when you do it right; always apologize and do your very best to fix it if you mess up.
    Best leadership advice I ever learned: after 27 years, the credit goes all to the troops. I just got lucky enough to serve with them.

  4. I did six years in the Navy, a long time ago, wish I had done the same thing as you had advised. Great advice.

  5. Thanks for the info on the BOSS program, I'll pass it on!


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