An invitation to military service
Having spent a good portion of my life in the military, I try to be a good ambassador to the Armed Forces. Peel away the veneer of servicemen and women being part of a special family or whatever other melodramatic rhetoric that seems to be thrown around these days and I’ll tell you a simple truth: The Armed Forces provides unparalleled opportunity. Serve your country, learn a skill, travel the world and get paid for it. More and more men and women enter the service with a degree already in hand and the job pool has kept with the times.
So when I recently wrote about coding camps and the plethora of men and women all over the world taking part I had to ask myself if the military is keeping pace. I will venture a “Yes” and a “No.” Don’t take what I say as gospel but I think you can connect the dots and come up with a suitable answer.
IT and beyond
The Air Force in particular has remained pretty much on the cutting edge. Some of the current jobs, in particular cyber-security and computer systems programmer will get you pretty deep in to the IT scheme of things. Will you learn and write code? Check out this Air Force job skill description for Computer Systems Programmer:
[You will] “Write, analyze, design and develop programs that are critical to our war-fighting capabilities. From maintenance tracking programs to programs that organize and display intelligence data, they ensure we have the software and programs needed to complete our missions efficiently and effectively.”
The Army has a similar career track for an Information Technology Specialist. The job description reads as follows:
“Information technology specialists are responsible for maintaining, processing and troubleshooting military computer systems/operations. Job duties include maintenance of networks, hardware and software. Provide customer and network administration services in addition to constructing, editing and testing computer programs.”
Keep in mind that you are going to be sent to school to learn the things that you can immediately use to contribute to the Air Force mission at hand.
Once you are on the job you will continue to learn in order to stay up-to-date on current trends. You can take classes, and if that means pursuing a degree with a career track in coding and programming, then you’ll have that opportunity. No one is going to hand it to you. But the opportunity is there. You won’t work 24/7 regardless of what some people may have you believe, and if you choose to go back to your room or home or wherever and enroll in coding camp, that is your decision. I knew several individuals over the years who freelanced on the side in addition to their military jobs.
After you serve
Sooner or later you will get out of the military. After you contract ends, you have at your disposal the Post 9/11 GI Bill to go to school full time and study – in this case – computer science. As long as you go to a state college (many have good CS programs) and live frugally, you should be able to concentrate on school / internships for the three or four years it will take you to finish your Bachelor’s degree.
It’s easy to misconstrue the facts that the military is not living on the coding cutting edge. I’m fully convinced that they are. The problem, if you even want to call it that, is that this particular career track is not promoted nearly enough.
The opportunity is there whether you are active duty, or veteran, or even a spouse.
And one more thing
Some people get nervous about joining the active duty military, but I say don’t sweat it. You’ll make some of the best friends you’ve ever had, and you’ll get to see the world and learn how to operate in a large enterprise environment. The military teaches you a lot of intangibles that are hard to get elsewhere, as well as the obvious jobs skills. Until you sign on the dotted line, keep it in perspective.