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Which Military Branch Should You Join?

Updated on July 18, 2015

Choosing a branch of service whether it be Army, Navy,Marine Corps or Coast Guard is a very personal matter and deserves a lot of consideration. This is especially important to anyone entertaining the idea of a military career.

Basically, all four branches offer the same compensation in the way of pay and benefits. And all offer many of the same choice of job specialties. So what’s left to consider…who has the prettiest uniform? I think not.

What you need to look at is what the objectives and mission of each branch are. Obviously, the Air Force guards the countries’ sky. The Army is basically infantry and combat arms orientated. The Navy protects the seas surrounding the nation. The Coast Guard does as well, but their role is expanded to include the nations’waterways. And the Marine Corps is land,sea and air all incorporated into one smaller, specialized branch.

That being said, you may be asking what makes me qualified to advise anyone on these matters. Let’s just say I’ve been around. I was a“military brat”. My dad was a 25 year career Air Force man, so I know this branch is an excellent choice for anyone thinking of having a family.

However, my best qualification is I enlisted and served in two branches of service. I joined the Army first and later on, the Marine Corps which comes under the Department of the Navy. Of course, I realize I’m not the only one to have done this. But you have to admit it’s not every day you run into someone who has served in both.

Here’s a bit of advice for anyone considering serving in more than one branch. If one of the branches you plan to enlist in is the Marines, join them first. I made the mistake of going Army first.

Taking Boot Camp Twice

The Marines don’t consider boot camp training of the other services adequate to serve their needs. Therefore, I had to take boot camp all over again. The reason the Marines require all prior service individuals of other branches to retake boot training is because their objectives and mission are different.

So, I KNOW boot camp. Over the years many people have asked me what the differences are between Army and Marine boot camp. There are many differences in training. The differences are due to each having different goals to accomplish. I benefited from each in different ways.

Remember, these are my opinions and observations. The physical regimens were equally strenuous, but administered differently. For instance the Army had different physical events than the Marines to qualify for graduation. When I went through Army boot camp at Fort Dix, NJ in the latter part of 1970 there were five events a recruit had to pass. Hand grenade throw, low crawl, one mile run with rifle and combat boots on, hand bar rung and rifle range. Grenades were thrown at a post in the center of a series of rings resembling a giant bull’s eye target. The closer you came to hitting the post, the higher your score. The rifle range used pop up head and shoulder targets. The other three were timed events.

The Marines I joined several years later and took boot camp at San Diego, Marine Corps Recruit Depot., CA. They had three events to qualify. Ninety sit-ups in two minutes, pull-ups, twenty pull-ups would net you 100 points and a three mile run with running shoes and no rifle, completed in twenty-six minutes or less. The rifle range was not part of their physical fitness test. The difference was Marines learned known distance target acquisition. Or, it might be better known in some circles as “sniper” training. Targets were fired at from 200, 300 and 500 meters. All positions, prone, kneeling,sitting and off hand were used. The events at each distance were timed and included magazine changes.


However, to graduate in either branch, there were many other things one had to pass. Such as obstacle courses, first aid, compass and map reading and so on required by all the services.

Which one did I prefer? I have to say the Marines. They had something the others seemed to be missing. There was “Es’prit de Corps”. They possessed extreme pride, loyalty, and dedication to duty. This is summed up in their motto “Semper Fidelis”, meaning “always faithful” and are not just meaningless words. Another slogan Marines use may say it better. “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” The bonds formed with fellow Marines follow you for life.

For me, my service in the Corps ended in 1978. But even today when meeting a former Marine there’s still that unspoken bond of brotherhood.

So, OK guys…who wants to follow me down to the Marine Corps recruiting office? Just kidding.


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      Jason 6 years ago

      Thanks for this info.

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      a. alstreim 7 years ago

      The advice you give in this excerpt is top quality. As an aspiring military doctor, everything you say here is truthful and from personal experience. Especially about Marine Corps pride. Nothing is quite like it.