I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which is about are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So here are my top 5 "Tips" that every young man or women need to know.
1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!
It might sound like a simple thing but if I had a dime every time I heard of a good kid do something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for a vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. I'm not saying not to have a good time but getting caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.
I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. Which I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.
2. Stay In School!
When I finished the 10th grade I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join they laughed (for several reasons) one of which was my GED. I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.
Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military to include Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.
3. Don't Do Drugs!
I know what you are saying.. "But Nick, It's just a little weed or a beer or two." Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. It comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is not then you are not ready for the commitment to be a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it, or any of your other personal beliefs don't matter. The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for "experimental use" that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift.... Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don't let a little peer pressure ruin your life.
Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (In a state that it is legal of course).
4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!
This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young I read an article in Men's Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold's Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now I would have trained completely differently and became a mother fn beast! I did good at the time but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.
Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it also can be a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start over, or return to home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you are your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friends parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a Warfighting Machine and when you in it you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depends on it.
5. Know Your History!
George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is truer to me know after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again I would have read every military campaign book starting back from the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Greek, and Roman Empire all the way up to current events. As I said the Marine Corps is America's Fighting Force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.
My favorite PltSgt MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was "Knowledge". That not knowing was not an excuse! That being said I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy by reading a book than that is what you need to do! We as warfighters take every advantage point we can take because it is us against them and I'm going home to have a steak and beer.
Now you might say, yea yea yea Nick, that's all simple stuff. Well, then I say to you why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things. "Common sense is not a common virtue." Not sure who said it but it's true. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!