Top Reasons Gen Z Should Join The MilitaryUpdated: March 31, 2020
What are the top reasons Generation Z should consider joining the military? Getting new recruits from the next generation of Americans is always a challenge, and there’s sometimes a culture gap between generations.
In the past that had more to do with culture and work ethic, in the 21st century that also means bridging a technological divide between generations growing up as digital natives and those who were early adopters of emerging technology in the 1980s and 1990s.
What are military recruiters offering Generation Z to get them thinking about a life in uniform? There are several aspects, and while specific pay, benefits, and perks may vary depending on the branch of service doing the recruiting, there are advantages common to anyone serving in uniform that are also worth considering.
Defining Generation Z
Before describing what it may take to make a Gen Z recruit ready to take a deeper look at their military options, it’s important to define who we’re discussing.
The group of Americans known as Generation Z are essentially those who were born in the mid 1990s, who grew up with the internet, digital communication, and a bit later, social media as part of their everyday lives. Generation Z grew up in the shadow of 9/11 rather than World War Two and the Vietnam War.
Forbes defines Gen Z as those who were born between 1995 and the year 2010, and describes the typical Generation Z citizen as being more competitive, better at multitasking than Millennials, and ready for independence.
So what are some good reasons this generation should consider serving their country?
Reasons Gen Z Should Join The Military: Education Benefits
Education benefits including the GI Bill, state veteran education grants, military spouse tuition assistance, and even free training (depending on the program) may be available to qualifying service members. Generation Z students are painfully aware of the issues surrounding student loans, repaying them, and the staggering amounts of debt associated with higher education.
Generation Z students benefit greatly from military education programs such as the Forever GI Bill – the average student would be thrilled to have access to the kind of education potential those GI Bill funds unlock.
At a time where military members enjoy the most powerful version of the GI Bill offered since the program’s inception, Generation Z folks who have an eye on college cannot afford to ignore the GI Bill.
What many don’t realize about military education benefits is that you can save your GI Bill for after military service. You may be able to take discounted or paid-for college courses via your branch of service’s professional education programs, the Community College of the Air Force, College of the American Soldier, etc.
You may be able to earn undergraduate degrees while serving, and use your GI Bill for graduate work later on. Gen Z may be able to take advantage of the GI Bill while on duty, but be sure to check with your base Education Office or similar organization to learn what alternatives you have to fund school without using the GI Bill just yet.
The fact that troops have the ability to explore these options at all makes a powerful argument for any education-minded Gen Z’er.
Reasons Gen Z Should Join The Military: Health Care
Military members and their families are provided minimal-cost health care coverage under the TRICARE program. Gen Z recruits may enter military service in perfect health and not ask much for their wellness needs.
But what happens if a Gen Z recruit goes on to have a military career that includes marrying someone, making them a military spouse, and starting a family?
Family health care is costly in the civilian world, and if there are any health complications at all for spouses, children, or the soldier, those bills can add up, too. But in the military health care system, those costs are not the same.
Yes, TRICARE requires co-pays, referrals, and other measures, but the security a military family has in the health care department can’t be underestimated.
Reasons Gen Z Should Join The Military: Technical Training
How much do people pay to be trained in network security admin, help desk support, computer software engineer, or other highly technical fields? How much do people pay to attend medical school, law school, or to become a civil engineer?
Joining the military means the ability to explore career options in highly technical career fields, with free training, on-the-job experience, and the ability to continue training and learning different technical disciplines.
Anyone who wants a highly technical type of job should discuss the military equivalents of those career fields with a recruiter, but it is crucial to remember that recruiters do not have first-hand experience with all career fields (often very little experience with most career fields except for on-paper information) and they can’t speak directly to what your day-to-day experience may be like.
If you want to know what it’s like to train and work in the military version of IT, medicine, law, or any other highly-specialized field, the best thing you can do is to find someone who has worked in the military recently in one of those career fields and ask them to tell you what it’s REALLY like.
Reasons Gen Z Should Join The Military: Financial Stability
In 2019, trade wars and domestic economic concerns have made some sectors of the economy less of a sure thing, and in some cases businesses were hard hit by fears of a recession or other financial bad news.
This kind of uncertainty leads some to look to the military as a career option that provides specific financial stability in the form of predictable pay and allowances, as well as scheduled pay raises, bonuses, and allowances designed to provide financial equity for troops living and serving in more costly areas.
No matter what the future holds for the American economy, the financial stability of military life is one of the most powerful incentives on the table for Gen Z recruits or anyone else, for that matter. And some of those financial perks are not explained well (or at all) to potential new recruits trying to decide whether military service is right for them.
What are those financial perks?
This is something PCSing troops can apply for–a pay advance that is treated like an interest-free loan. Suppose you are permitted to apply for a full month’s salary to be given to you in advance, with that money automatically deducted from your military pay in 12 equal installments.
Advance Pay is a tax-free, interest free loan intended to help military members to PCS to a new military assignment without running into financial difficulties along the way.
Military Clothing Allowances
Military members are expected to purchase, modify, and maintain their own uniforms, but the military does not expect them to pay for it all. An annual military clothing allowance is paid to help offset the costs of upkeep, repair, and replacement of uniform items.
Military Travel Pay
When you are deployed, sent to another base on Temporary Duty (TDY), or have Permanent Change of Station orders, you are also given travel pay to offset the cost of travel. This pay includes a per diem paid to offset food costs.
Those who relocate to the base down the road won’t get as much in travel pay as those who PCS from America to an overseas assignment, but the bottom line is that the government is paying for your travel rather than requiring you to foot the bill.
Military Housing Allowances
Military housing allowances are paid to help service members live on base in privatized housing units, or off-post in rental units or homes troops choose to purchase. Housing allowances are paid based on zip code and rank, as well as the number of dependents for married service members.
Basic Allowance For Subsistence (BAS)
Depending on circumstances, troops may be paid BAS to offset the cost of being required to eat in a military dining facility, or in cases where such facilities are not available and troops must make alternate arrangements.
The requirements for qualifying for this benefit may depend on the base, command, or theater of operations as well as the nature of the mission and other variables.
Family Separation Allowance
Believe it or not, depending on the nature of a deployment, TDY, or PCS move, if a military member is married and taken away from family she or he may qualify for a Family Separation Allowance paid for the duration of the family separation. Each branch of service has its own requirements for this benefit.
Tax-Free Combat Zone Exclusion
Troops deployed to hostile fire zones, combat zones, or on certain kinds of hazardous duty may qualify for their entire military pay to be exempt from taxation for the duration of their deployment. These tax issues can be complicated and it’s crucial to discuss your tax position with a tax professional if you are not sure how to claim this exemption or add it to taxes filed without that being claimed.
Free Space-Available Travel
One financial perk of military service is the ability to travel on military aircraft for free–provided there is space available. This type of travel is common and popular among military families and individuals, especially those assigned overseas. Space-A travel, as it is commonly known, is a process where you can check a roster of flights to and from a military base, see if there are open seats, and add your name to a waiting list similar to a stand-by list at a civilian airport.
Space-A travel has its ups and downs, but it is a very popular feature military people have access to depending on their location, and definitely worth looking into as a money-saving travel perk.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News