However, there's questions that I pop on folks in effort to guide them to the answers themselves. Been awhile since someone popped this on me, but I'll put up the questions that I can remember off the top of my head. If any other soldiers/veterans want to put their 2 cents in as well, please do.
Also, please realize that everything I'm posting is from my experience in the USA's military, in particular the US Army, and assuming you are considering volunteering.
Question #1: Why do you want to enlist?
For money? To get out of the ghetto? For college money? Because COD (no lie, I had some idiot give that as an answer once) is cool ? Family tradition? Want to serve your country? Because your buddy is doing it? Because you think (insert MOS (military job) here) is awesome or is something you want to do?
I've seen people enlist for all sorts of reasons. I enlisted because of 9-11(and to get out of Detroit, and a few other minor reasons), and a lot of other guys I was in IET with enlisted for much of the same reason. I've seen a lot of people enlist just for the college money, and honestly unless they actually get a job that really suits the career they want to go for, they seem to hate the military in short order. Others who join out of family tradition tend to do better. An even bigger impact however is how much time and effort you've put into your choice in enlisting. The more effort you put into researching your options and getting a bit of an idea what its like, the better you'll do.
Question #2: (pardon my French) How well do you handle bullshit?
Basic, Boot, whatever you want to call it, is going to slam a lot of it on you right off the bat. Unless you join the US Air Force, where the Drills are all sorts of kind and gentle people who want to be your friend and all that...
you are going to be fucked with. This is but a taste of what is to come. You might think once you get out of training you are off to bigger and better things, that you will be treated like an adult again, but the madness never really ends. Even in positions of leadership chaos can and will find you. Maybe you'll be lucky like I was once and have a unit where the leadership and soldiers were great, and for just under a year and a half the shenanigans were minimal and things actually flowed like they should, but please believe me, you are going to deal with bullshit, and more often than you would in civilian life.
How well do you handle taking instructions from someone you (and possibly many others) view as a total idiot? What is your tolerance for stupidity? How well can you keep rolling with it on a constant basis? How do you vent your frustrations? You *WILL* need to vent, believe me, you will, and you have to know how to do it in a constructive manner. Pro-tip, the bottom of a bottle isn't the best way to do it, and it wrecks a lot of military careers.
Remember, just when you think the military has thrown enough shenanigans at you...
Then it'll surprise you again.
Question #3: How healthy are you?
There's a reason why the US military screens people, its to try to weed out those who would simply break under the physical demands. If you enlist, and get to Basic? You'll see that the screening process isn't perfect, and see half a dozen if not more people wash out and sent home for various odd reasons. You get through training, you'll see people who are politely termed "sick call rangers" in the US Army...
Some of them are just shammers, others because they hid stuff from the screening process and are breaking down, or better yet, some come in knowingly hiding their issues, have the military fix them, then chapter out. Some are just lazy scum and want to do as little as possible. Assuming you really want to serve honorably, are you in good health? How much exercise did you do growing up? Any sports? I hope you actually work out regularly, because otherwise its going to hurt you in the long run.
There's whispers going around about the Call of Duty generation of kids enlisting into the military nowadays, at least from what I hear in NCO groups I keep in touch with. Normal guys who enlist that didn't play any sports at all, or heavy work (like farm work or whatever), who just did school and play a lot of COD, are proving to be very brittle and unreliable soldiers. Some female (and a few male) medics are laughing because it's balancing the gap between males and females in the military.
If you want to serve, I suggest you take stock of your health and your physical ability and gauge what you need to do from there. If you have serious health issues, and the screening process doesn't catch you, do you really want to try to slip through the cracks just to get thrown out later? Do you really want to have a health issue catch up with you at a very bad time? Some people can work through their issues, some adapt well, but it is a risk you have to weigh for yourself.
Question #4: How much of a people person are you? What is your personality like?
I'm a loner by heart who keeps to himself, and yet here I'm asking this question, heh. Was amusing when I got to my first unit after training and was dragged kicking and screaming out of my shell. Good times. Anyways, you are going to be living in pretty close quarters with a lot of other people. Depending on the military you serve in, the branch, the job you take, experiences may vary. A lot. Regardless though, you are going to be working closely with a bunch of people for extended periods of time.
You are also going to be dealing with all sorts of colorful individuals.
The US military in particular recruits from an extremely diverse range of people. I'm a northern boy, but after being in Germany for a year, I picked up a bit of a southern twang and verbiage (got a lot of weird looks when I first said "yall" and "grits" during leave back in the day), and later on ended up with a bit of the Cali "duuuude" accent because of who I was stuck with on my 2nd deployment.
You are going to love and hate them, but that's the military for you. I wouldn't say that being an introvert is a bad thing, I did well during my service in Combat Arms (with some assistance in that matter, heh). However, if you are a negative person, the military is not going to be good for you. Hell, when I realized that I was starting to become negative, I knew it was time for me to get out. Having to leave Combat Arms and get into the other side of the US Army, ie Combat Support, was just not for me. It was breaking me, I couldn't handle it, and despite a lot of different people try to poke me into staying in, I knew it was time for me to go. If you come in from the get go with a bad attitude, your military career is going to be pure hell.
Question #5: What do you want to do in the military?
I see people who enlist and just do whatever their buddy told them to pick, or whatever had the best bonus, etc etc, and they hated it. Figure out what you really want to do in life or as a career and find something in the military that matches it. You really want a challenge? Go infantry and then try for Rangers or special forces or whatever. You want to fly? Aviation then. Going to medical school after the military? Get into a medical field.
Biggest thing is simply this: Do your research and know yourself before you decide on what you want to do in the military.
Question #6: How well do you handle boredom?
Idle time is the devil's workshop. This is especially true in the US military.
You are going to be bored, and often, and you will discover the true meaning of boredom. Be thankful for smart phones, they help give you something to do when you have signal and can play with them, but otherwise? Prepare to embrace the suck of boredom beyond your wildest imagination. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster have pity on you if you get stuck with the worst duty ever, ie guard duty...
You think this is bad?
The struggle is real when you are fighting the Z Monster.
Also, if you enlist, you will definitely meet a lot of those who get downright destructive when they are bored. There's a lot of hilarity to be had when your fellow Joes get bored to their wits ends, but some take it way too far. Don't be That Guy.
Seriously, fuck That Guy. If you are the type who gets really stupid when you are bored, please do my fellow Brothers and Sisters-in-Arms a favor and stay out. Thanks in advance.
Edit: Can't believe I didn't put this in the first time:
Question #7: How thick is your skin?
From my experience in the US military, and from my limited experience at being around the Brits, there's one thing I've noticed, trash talk is a regular and constant part of military life. If not trash talk, its the ass chewings that come up messing up on a regular basis. Of course, there's also Basic/Boot, where your Drills will be... well...
They are not that bad nowadays, but they are still the masters of with messing with your head. Even if Drills have been toned down in what they can do to you, some can still Jedi Master you.
You can watch Full Metal Jacket's first half as much as you like, or see all the vids on Youtub about Drills messing with recruits, but it can't really prepare you for experiencing it for yourself. Also, FMJ only shows you one Drill messing with everyone. Its worse than that, there's usually at least 2 who will be on you, sometimes more if you make the wonderful mistake of drawing their attention. If you are the hyper sensitive type, the military may well not be for you, as Basic/Boot will crush you. I know I saw enough of those types when I went through.
After training, trash talk, and even smack talk tend to be a regular part of the deal. Remember the part I said about being bored? Well, before smart phones took over trash talk, smack talk, and fighting and brawling were some of the favorite methods of passing the time, followed closely by playing pranks and causing general shenanigans. It only gets worse on a slow day in the barracks when everyone is hanging out drinking. Often the trash talk isn't really anything personal, its just done out of the boredom that fills military life. It's a way to spice things up, to just do something. Considering all the alpha male types (real and fake, especially the fake) you will be around, count on it happening a lot. If you are the type that takes everything seriously, you might want to fix that before you enlist.
There's also the fun filled experience of messing up and getting "blasted" for it. No one is perfect, so you will mess up. Depending on your leadership and the scale of your mistake, you could get anything from a lecture to a soul crushing punishment that is the talk of post/base/FOB for days to come. Maybe you didn't even mess up, but there's this wonderful thing in the military called mass punishment. Being able to roll with the crap that rolls downhill is part of military life. I've seen weekends wasted for hundreds of soldiers at once, all because of one person. How is that possible you ask? Well, because its the military, and higher ups do not like dealing with certain mistakes happening repeatedly, especially DUIs.
edit again, this one is pretty big as well
Question #8: How well do you handle authority figures?
When I enlisted, my little brother often talked about following me into the Army. He thought about being a combat engineer and a couple other things. After 2 years I came home on leave, and he came up to me excited about how he was talking to a recruiter. In response I told him, point blank, do not enlist. Why? Because he's horrible with authority figures, especially when they don't fit his super naive and idealistic view of the world. Fast forward over a decade and its only gotten worse.
Remember Question #2? Just imagine having people you think of as total idiots in total control of your life. I'm not kidding, they can and will make things hell for you if you get stupid with them. I've personally dealt out some harsh punishments myself, and dealt with trash soldiers who never should have enlisted.
My little brother didn't take it well, but after my dad and uncle (my uncle is a Vietnam veteran) listened to me break it down to him like that, suddenly they both realized how right I was, and agreed that he shouldn't join up. With all his incidents with the police, and how he draws attention from them in the dumbest ways, the military service would be a nightmare for him unless he was lucky.