Being in the military and going to college full time is no easy feat. It is no easier when people have incorrect assumptions about your military status and ask questions that some service members might find annoying. But fear not! This list will help answer some of those questions you may want to ask.
1. No, I'm not in ROTC.
One of the biggest peeves of prior service members is fellow classmates asking if you are a cadet in ROTC. Cadets and prior service or current enlisted cannot be any more different. Cadets are college students that want to attempt to pursue a career in the military after school as officers, which are commissioned into whatever branch they have contracted with by the President. Prior service refers to veterans. Current enlisted means that student is more than likely a member of a reserve component of the military, such as the National Guard or Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines Reserves. There are also major differences in training when comparing enlisted basic training and ROTC basic training.
2. Yes, I do things differently.
Military personnel in college might act a little differently than the run-of-the-mill college student. They do not react as heavily to stress or a skyscraper of assignments that need to be done. Some (but not all) military members are also a little older than the average college student, as well. Some prior service members might also be a little more in the party scene than other students. There is a saying in the military - "The military runs on booze, cigarettes, and energy drinks."
3. We love questions about our service.
College provides a common ground for students to interact with one another. A civilian student might find it easier to ask his or her classmate in the National Guard or Reserves questions about what happens in basic training, what jobs the military offers, and how he or she feels about certain policies in place in the military. Service members are usually quick and willing to answer questions of this nature and can provide first-hand replies.
4. We do not want to hear how you "almost joined."
A common annoyance for service members is when someone walks up and says, "Oh you're in (insert military branch here). That's cool, I almost joined." Almost does not mean you took an oath to defend the Constitution. But if you are still thinking about the military, the service member is probably more than happy to take you to a recruiter.
5. We are willing to provide detailed information if you are interested in joining.
If you are really thinking about joining a branch, the best way to figure out what you want to do is by asking questions. The recruiters are busy people, but if you can manage to find a currently enlisted or prior service member and have a nice sit-down over coffee, they are more than suited to help answer as many questions as possible. They can tell you how the enlistment process works, what benefits you may receive, how college affects service, what happens in basic training, et cetera. Most military personnel are willing and able to answer questions of this nature.
6. Not everybody that has worn a military uniform is in the Army.
There are technically five branches of the military with a sixth branch currently in the process of being developed. The Army is the oldest branch and its members are called soldiers. The Army is the home of the Green Berets and Airborne Rangers. The second oldest branch is the Navy. Its members are called seamen and they house the Navy Seals. The next branch is the Marine Corps, which is a subdivision of the Navy. The members are called Marines and are usually intimidating. The Air Force calls its members Airmen and is a break-off of the Army from the 1940s that took to the skies to fight the enemies. The last branch of the military right now is the Coast Guard, but there is some skepticism with the other four branches if this should be considered a legitimate branch of the military. Perhaps in the future, the sixth branch of the military will be called the Space Corps and will be a sub branch of the Air Force, but as of right now it is still in the concept phase.
Ultimately, military members enrich the college experience by providing a diverse insight into how the world works. They are almost always willing to answer questions and provide guidance and assurance and are usually more straightforward and honest about what the military is like than what books or websites describe. If you get a chance, find a National Guard, Reservist, or prior service member, and have a good long talk about experiences entail. It might change perspectives in wonderful ways.