Teens face a variety of choices as they prepare to graduate from high school and move into the adult world. For many teens, joining the military provides a way to further their life goals. Teens can engage in several activities to help them make a sound decision about whether to join the military and to prepare them for service should they decide to enlist.
Many high schools offer Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps programs. In most cases, a school will only offer JROTC from one branch of service -- Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force. Encourage your teen to consider joining his school's JROTC program, even if it is sponsored by a different branch of service than your teen wants to join. In JROTC, your teen will learn discipline, leadership and military skills such as marching, first aid, marksmanship and orienteering. If your teen completes two or more years of JROTC, he will be eligible to join the Army, Air Force or Navy one or two ranks -- and pay grades -- higher than those who have not participated in JROTC. Essentially, he will start his military career with one or two promotions. Another good option -- especially for teens interested in the Air Force -- is to join a local Civil Air Patrol unit. The CAP cadet program is similar to Air Force JROTC, but is not directly associated with the school system.
2. Physical Fitness
All branches of the military demand high levels of physical fitness from their members. If your teen is considering enlisting, encourage him to start a physical fitness program. The more your teen practices running, pushups, situps, chinups and other calisthenics, the easier basic training will be for him when he enlists. Team sports can also help your teen develop physical fitness and teamwork, both of which are important skills for military recruits. Supervised shooting sports can also be beneficial for teens who are considering enlistment.
3. Vocational Activities
The decision to join the military is a life-altering decision. One of the factors your teen should consider is what type of job she would like to do in the military. If she isn't sure, have her talk to military recruiters about the possibilities. Once your teen has an idea of what kinds of military jobs she is interested in, encourage her to spend some time learning about or volunteering in the fields in which she is interested. For example, if she is interested in being a medic, she could volunteer at a hospital. If she is interested in being a mechanic, she could take some classes on auto mechanics. Spending some time learning the basics of the military vocation she is considering can help her make a sound decision regarding which military vocation she would like to pursue.
4. Military Camps
If your teen is involved with JROTC or CAP, he will have opportunities to participate in summer camps. Take advantage of them because they will give him a taste of what military life is like. Even if your child is not involved in those programs, many camps around the country provide military-style summer camps. Many of these are sponsored by military schools. If your teen is considering joining the military, but hasn't decided yet, a summer trip to a military camp can be a good way to help him decide whether the military is right for him.
- Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions & Civilian Development: Join AFJROTC
- Kids Camps: Military Camps and Programs
- Civil Air Patrol: FAQs for Teens
- United States Army Junior ROTC: To Motivate Young People to be Better Citizens
- Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps: What Is NJROTC?
- Marine Corps JROTC: Join a Unit
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images