Unusual Military CareersUpdated: July 22, 2020
What is the most unusual military career you can think of? Directors John Houston and Russ Meyer both documented World War Two in uniform, and there are plenty of other examples of famous people doing unusual jobs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, etc.
But it’s a two way street–for every Adrian “Good Morning Vietnam” Cronauer (the First Class Airman who became famous for his military radio presence and later became the subject of the famous film of the same name starring Robin Williams) there are plenty of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and other uniformed service members working unusual jobs that don’t get the spotlight.
The goal of this article is to help people think creatively about their military career choices–some want to be dental technicians or IT support troops, anticipating post-military career options or just exploring an area they always wanted to learn about.
But others may be interested in finding a career that isn’t typical, has unique challenges, or is something altogether new from the applicant’s perspective. Thinking creatively about your job options and asking to see more obscure military career fields could lead you to a totally different experience than some have in uniform.
Typical Military Jobs
Comparing the different types of military jobs, you start to notice a pattern. There are jobs “on the front lines” which include pilots, ground troops, security forces, medical, long-haul communications, and more, Then there are the jobs that support all these functions–the support staff, maintenance techs, supply, and more.
You’ll also find the administrative functions, the logistical operations, etc. Here’s a list (see below) of jobs from just one branch of service–the United States Army.
The Army recruiting site breaks certain jobs down into specific categories: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math–all the STEM areas are covered prominently there. But the list of jobs goes far beyond STEM:
- Aeromedical Evacuations Officer (67J)
- AH-64 Armament/Electrical/Avionic Systems Repairer (15Y)
- AH-64 Attack Helicopter Repairer (15R)
- Air and Missile Defense (AMD) Crewmember (14P)
- Air Defense Artillery Officer (14A)
- Air Defense Battle Management System Operator (14G)
- Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning System Operator (14H)
- Air Traffic Control (ATC) Operator (15Q)
- Air Traffic Control Equipment Repairer (94D)
- Aircraft Electrician (15F)
- Aircraft Structural Repairer (15G)
- Allergist, Clinical Immunologist (60M)
- Allied Trade Specialist (91E)
- Ammunition Specialist (89B)
- Ammunition Stock Control and Accounting Specialist (89A)
- Anesthesiologist (60N)
- Animal Care Specialist (68T)
Of this very short list (certainly not a comprehensive group of Army specialties, just a small portion of the “A” section of the list) we see a few unusual jobs–those who forget the Army has its own pilots might be confused by the Air Traffic Control and Air Defense positions.
And the Animal Care Specialist is one type of off-the-beaten-track military job that intrigues some right away. What are animal care professionals doing working in uniform?
In this particular job, you’ll find that Security Forces K-9 handlers rely on them rather heavily. Any military operation that requires the training, housing, and care of bomb sniffing dogs, drug dogs, and airport security dogs would need an animal care professional such as the Army 68T job listed in the list above.
Unusual Military Careers
What follows are a few descriptions of unusual military careers. This is NOT a comprehensive list and you should be aware that each branch of military service handles its career assignment processes differently.
The Marine Corps may call their military journalists something different than Air Force officials do but in many cases the jobs are very similar. You will find support staff and technicians operating under different names or in differently-titled jobs, but many of these positions have similar responsibilities, best practices, etc.
Audiology is, in the context of military careers, a science required for a variety of troop support functions including determining the extent of service-connected hearing injuries from combat, training, or day-to-day job functions. Audiologists work in base clinics and hospitals, and there may be audiology related jobs (including enlisted positions for techs and assistants) in all branches of military service.
If you are interested in a highly specialized career in a specific aspect of military medicine like audiology, ask a recruiter what options exist and what training is required.
Each branch of service has military bands that work in the service of military recruiting, morale, and public relations. These bands require trained musicians who can pass an audition.
The Army official site says of its own Army band requirements, “While not required, the majority of Army Musicians have completed a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in music and have previous professional experience.”
Playing in a military band requires military service, and this is definitely a high-visibility job that provides much opportunity for the same kind of travel and service that other military specialties do.
Each branch of service recruits for these jobs differently, so you’ll need to talk to a detailer or recruiter to learn more.
Yes, it’s true that enlisted military members have the option to work at the Chow Hall (the preferred term varies by branch of service, but the generic “dining facility” works for most scenarios) but the training and logistics of food service is much more than chopping potatoes and insuring the food cooking assembly line functions as intended.
Military food service is a crucial part of deployments, overseas military base operations, even disaster relief, depending on circumstances. These jobs are often listed under keywords such as “culinary” or “culinary specialist,” but you may also need to search for “food service” just in case.
Each branch of the military has its own marketing requirements including the creation of lithographs, special documents, marketing materials, recruiting documents, and more. Then there are the base-level needs for media including base newspapers and other publications, training manuals, and much more.
Illustrators are often used at the Headquarters level, but may also have opportunities at overseas bases (especially in marketing departments and public-facing jobs such as Public Affairs).
Public Affairs Specialists
Once upon a time, the Department of Defense had different jobs for Public Affairs specialists and military broadcasters. But over time these two jobs have merged and those working in military public affairs as officers or enlisted members may find themselves doing video reports one month, base tours the next, and dealing with the press for base events and programs all the while.
There are many sub-jobs available within military public affairs including writing for the base newspaper, working with the base historian to preserve and present military history to the public, etc.
Public Affairs has in the past been viewed separately from another military job commonly called Combat Camera but some Combat Camera work began winding down for some branches of military service, being folded into other missions or being dropped altogether depending on circumstances.
That was the fate of some Air Force Combat Camera units, but the Army still recruits for Combat Camera-type jobs. The branch of service you join may or may not have this career option.
Did you know there are a small number of retail positions that can be filled by United States Marines? The official name for this Marine Corps job is “Marine Corps 4133 Community Services” and features the following job description courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps official site:
“Community Services Marines…provide direct customer service and support; perform daily administrative tasking; provide managerial and custodial supervision of personnel, funds, property and merchandise;” as well as a wide range of other functions.
Some Jobs Require More Specialization Than Others
What kind of jobs? For every fighter pilot, there is a team of people responsible for maintaining that aircraft, making sure everything is right from weapons loading to parachute packing. That isn’t so unusual–every military in the world has flight crews, maintenance techs, and support staff.
But if you look at the nature of this work, you begin to see some jobs stand out from the rest–they are unusual, require specialized training, and not everyone is cut out for such work.
In the context of that fighter pilot’s world, the rare and unusual job is most likely that of the base weather forecaster. Every military flight operation requires accurate and timely weather information to inform takeoffs, in-air operations, and much more.
The role of Base Weather Operations, as these departments are sometimes called, are crucial to the success of any flying mission.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News