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What is the U.S. Army?

The U.S. Army is one of five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is a strategic instrument of national policy that has served our country well in peace and war for over two centuries. Soldiers enable America to fulfill its world leadership responsibilities of safeguarding our national interests, preventing global calamity, and making the world a safer place. We do this by finding peaceful solutions to the frictions between nation states, addressing the problems of human suffering, and when required, fighting and winning our Nation's wars--our nonnegotiable contract with the American people.

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What are the qualifications to join the Army?

The following are the basic requirements for enlisting:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien.
  • Be between the ages of 17-34. Seventeen-year olds need parental consent.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Have no more than two dependents.
  • Take and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
  • Pass a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.

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What's the ASVAB?

The ASVAB is a test that measures your aptitudes. It consists of ten short individual tests covering word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, general science, auto and shop information, mechanical comprehension, electronics information, numerical operations and coding speed. When you take the ASVAB prior to enlisting, not only do you receive scores on each of these individual tests, but several individual test results are combined to yield three academic composite scores: verbal, math and academic ability.

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What are some benefits of joining?

  • Steady Income:  You are paid twice a month, on the 1st and 15th, every month, based on your pay grade and service requirements.
  • Advancement:  You are promoted based on job knowledge, your performance, time in pay grade and service requirements.
  • Paid vacation:  You earn 2.5 days paid vacation per month for a total of 30 days each year up to 60 days. 
  • Training:  You choose your career path based on your aptitude, physical abilities, security clearance, motivation and determination. All specialties are open to women - including combat roles.
  • Health Care:  While on active duty, you will receive complete medical and dental care at no cost.
  • Life Insurance:  Active duty members select up to $200,000 in term life insurance for $18 per month.
  • Allowances:  You may also receive additional tax-free money for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) if government housing is not available; Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), if government food facilities are not available in the area you are stationed; and a uniform allowance (for enlisted personnel only) to help maintain your uniform.
  • Tax Advantage:  Only your basic monthly pay is subject to Federal or State income tax. 
  • GI Bill:  The Montgomery GI Bill will help pay for college education or vocational training. 
  • Tuition Assistance:  While on active duty, you may continue your education, and may be helped in defraying the cost of college-accredited courses.
  • Additional Benefits:  There are exchange and commissary privileges, moving allowances, temporary lodging expenses, travel, survivor benefits, Veterans Administration home loans and more.

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Are there bonuses for enlisting?

The Army is currently offering five cash enlistment bonuses:

  • Select MOS' are worth up to $7,000: For a limited time, qualified applicants can earn an enlistment bonus up to $7,000 by selecting infantry, cannon crew and armor.
  • College students get up to $8,000New enlistees who come in with earned college credit are eligible up to $4,000 for 30-59 semester hours, and up to $8,000 for 60 or more semester credits. The Army's Loan Repayment Program can contribute up to $65,000 more for a four-year enlistment.
  • Airborne is worth $3,000: For enlistees who choose Airborne training, a cash bonus of $3,000 is available.
  • Up to $6,000 for a two-year tour: Qualified enlistees who choose the new two-year enlistment option can now receive up to $4,000 cash bonus for certain MOS choices.
  • $8,000 for a weekend a month, two weeks a year: Choose the Army Reserve and if you qualify for one of five specialties, you'll receive an $8,000 cash bonus.

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Does the Army take people with prior service?

Yes. The Army accepts prior-service people.

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What if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Only U.S. citizens or foreign nationals legally residing in the United States with an Immigration and Naturalization Service Alien Registration Card ("Green Card" -- INS Form I-151/551) may apply. Applicants must speak, write and read English fluently.

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Can the Army help me obtain U.S. citizenship?

No. The U.S. military cannot assist foreign nationals in obtaining admittance into the United States. 

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What if I live overseas?

Regulations prohibit the forwarding of recruiting information through international mail, even to U.S. citizens living in foreign countries. Request more information online.

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How long is boot camp?

Nine weeks.  

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What is boot camp like?

Week 1: During the first week of Basic Training, you'll begin to get used to Army life. You'll get into the best shape of your life. You'll also learn about guard duty, how to prepare for inspections and start on your Basic Rifle Marksmanship Course.

Week 2: The second week continues focus on physical training or PT. You'll learn new exercises, start doing wind sprints and run even longer distances. Marksmanship is a priority as you learn firing positions, range procedures, coaching, steady hold factors and use of scorecards. Finally, you prepare for an inspection of your troop formation.

Week 3: Rifle marksmanship will be your primary concern this week, as you get ready for qualification. You'll practice firing from all positions, rapid reloading, rapid fire, moving with a loaded weapon, sight adjustment, firing at surprise targets and aiming points. PT will move into more practical exercises, as you pair off for hand-to-hand drills. 

Week 4: Time to qualify on your M-16A2. You'll make tactical daylight marches, learn security and dispersion discipline, practice guerrilla exercises, and pair off in simulated hand-to-hand combat.

Week 5:  You'll learn basic first-aid, camouflage, how to take cover and set up defensive positions, and continue to work with your M-16A2, including night firing. Bayonet drills and hand-to-hand combat training are included this week. 

Weeks 6-7: Training intensifies as you prepare for your final proficiency testing. During night training, you'll take a tactical march and possibly an infiltration course. You'll learn about machine guns, grenade launchers and mines, map and compass reading, and how to judge terrain, distance and direction. 

Weeks 8-9: All of your training has been directed toward these final days - and it will all pay off in your proficiency tests. 

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Should I do anything before I go to boot camp?

Yes. For tips on how to prepare yourself physically and mentally for boot camp, see military fitness guru Stew Smith's articles.

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How do I become an officer?

You can become an officer through the U.S. Military Academy, Army ROTC, OCS or Direct Commissioning programs.  If you have or will soon have a 4-year college degree, you may consider enlisting in the U.S. Army with the intention of becoming an officer. Graduates of the Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) are commissioned as Second Lieutenants (O-1) and earn Sergeant (E-5) pay while in the school. This program is available to qualified applicants, with or without any prior military service, who enlist for a period of 3 years. 

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What is the U.S. Military  Academy?

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., trains Army officers.  Its mission is to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country; professional growth throughout a career as an officer in the United States Army; and a lifetime of selfless service to the nation.

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How do I apply to the academy?

There are six steps: knowing the basic application requirements for a nomination, completing a candidate questionnaire, completing the candidate kit, securing nomination from congressman or other qualifying authorities and completing testing.

General qualifications include:

  • Between 17 but not yet 23 years of age by July 1 of year admitted.
  • A U.S. citizen at time of enrollment (exception: foreign students nominated by agreement between U.S. and another country).
  • Unmarried.
  • Not pregnant or legally obligated to support a child.
  • An above-average high school or college academic record.
  • Strong performance on the standardized American College Testing (ACT) Assessment Program Exam or the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
  • Be in good physical and mental health.
  • Pass a Medical Exam.
  • Above-average strength, endurance and agility.
  • Adequate performance on USMA Physical Aptitude Exam.

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What is Officer Candidate School?

Army Officer Candidate School trains selected personnel in leadership fundamentals;and basic military skills; instills professional ethics; evaluates leadership potential; and commissions those who qualify as second lieutenants in all sixteen basic branches of the Army. 

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How do I qualify for OCS?

In general terms, an officer must be a college or university graduate prior to commissioning (Except for enlisted soldiers on active duty), is trained by the Army to lead and manage, and can voluntarily leave the military if not under any officer service obligation at the time. Officers do not "enlist" in the Army and Army Reserve in the pure sense of the word, but individuals can compete for an enlistment option to go to Officers Candidate School to become a commissioned officer.  To qualify you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States.
  • Score 110 or higher on the ASVAB.
  • Pass the Army Physical Fitness Test.
  • Score at least 850 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or 19 on the American College Test (ACT).
  • Have at least 90 college credits (if enlisted).
  • Score of 80 or higher on the English Comprehension Level Test (ECLT) if English is a second language.
  • Be at least 18 years old and less than 30. 
  • Have a complete physical exam six months prior to application.

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What about Direct Commissions?

As a professional lawyer, engineer, member of the clergy or doctor, you may also qualify for a Direct Commission. Request more information online.

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Does the Army promote enlistees to the officer ranks?


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What if I'm a physician or dentist?

The Army is also seeking qualified health professionals. For more information about the medical programs.  You can have someone contact you about applying your medical trade in the service by completing this form

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Does the Army have Reserve opportunities?

Yes. You can request more information online. For more detailed information on the Reserves, you can also check the Army Reserves section.

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What are the qualifications to join the Reserve?

You must be between 17 and 40 years old.  You must not be employed in a civilian occupation essential to U.S. interests during times of war.  You must not have served more than 13 years of active military duty. 

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What is a drill?

This applies to Reserve and Guard service. Drills are periods of Inactive Duty Training (IDT), under orders, scheduled to augment training. No more than two drills can be performed on one calendar day, and each drill must be at least four hours long. Most units schedule multiple drills over one weekend each month (two drills Saturday and two drills Sunday).

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What training will I receive?

Depending on the Reserve or Guard program, you will receive boot camp and maybe A-school training. Weekend or weekday drills are considered training. Active Duty for Training (ADT) is 12 days of active duty at a Coast Guard unit or Coast Guard school and is required annually.

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What if I have a problem getting time off from my employer to fulfill my Reserve military service obligations?

By law, as a member of the Reserve, you must, upon request, be granted a leave of absence to satisfy a requirement for military training. The Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires employers to provide Reservists with time away from their jobs to perform military duty. However, you must notify your employer that you intend to take military leave. You must be reemployed after completion of your military duty and return to your job within a reasonable time. You must be treated as though you had never left employment, including scheduled pay raises, promotions or credit for longevity or vacation. Your employer only has to hold a job open for 60 months if you accept voluntary orders.  

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How do I choose my school?

Generally, you can attend any school you qualify for. The results of your ASVAB determine what schools you qualify for.  

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Is technical training like boot camp?

No. This is training for a specialty you have chosen. It may involve work details and duty, but the main focus is on technical and professional training.

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Will I be paid while in training?

Yes, you will be paid for every day you serve according to published pay schedules for your pay grade, in addition to any Temporary Duty or travel allowances.

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Can I talk to someone in the service now?

Sure.  Visit the Recruiting Discussion Board.

What should I ask my recruiter?

Recruiters must present an accurate picture of service. You should be aware of all aspects of the military. Be sure you fully understand the enlistment contract. You should ask about:

  • Details and qualifications for each specialty.
  • Films or videos about training and duties. 
  • Boot camp.
  • Length and location of training.
  • Special enlistment programs.
  • Overseas assignments, remote and long duty.
  • Haircut and grooming standards.
  • Off-duty education and educational benefits.
  • Guaranteed training programs.

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Where do I get more information?

Complete this form and receive more information about the serivce you're interested in -- no obligations, no strings attached.

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What's next?

See what other recruits and veterans are saying.

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