In my 23-year Air Force career, I never once got my first choice (or even my second or third choice) for an assignment. On the other hand, one of my buddies put Hawaii as the first choice on his dream sheet in tech school and got it right off. (I beat him senseless with a coconut shell). He continued on through a 20-year career, getting his first or second choice every single time. Dang those Assignment-Gods.
The Army does have a program which will guarantee some (mostly combat) recruits a guaranteed first duty assignment in a few cases. However, the guarantee is good for only 12 months. After that, the Army can reassign you anywhere it wants to.
Of course, for the Guard and Reserves you will be assigned to a specific location. This is because Guard and Reserve recruiters recruit for specific vacancies in specific Guard/Reserve units.
8. If you spend 20 years in the military you can retire and receive one-half of your pay for the rest of your life.
Truth: Close, but not quite. First of all, we're only talking base pay, here. All of the allowances that you've gotten used to, such as housing allowance and food allowance, aren't included. Second, if you joined the military in 1980 or later, your retirement pay is calculated based on your highest 36 month average of base pay, not your final base pay. In other words, if you are promoted to E-7 then retire a year later with 20 years of service, your retirement pay would be calculated based on two year's average of your E-6 pay, and only one year's average of your E-7 pay. It's still not a bad deal, but not the 50 percent some are promised. More details can be found in Understanding Military Retirement Pay.
Additionally, all of your retirement pay may not belong to you. If you were married at any time during your military service, under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, any state divorce court can treat your current or future retirement pay as "community property" and award a portion of it to your ex-spouse. Considering 50 percent of military marriages end up in divorce, this is something to keep in mind.
You can also retire from the Guard or Reserves if you have 20 or more years of "qualifying service," but can't start receiving your retirement pay until you reach the age of 60. A "qualifying year" doesn't mean a normal year. It's based on earned "retirement points." For details, see my Guard/Reserve Retirement Pay System Information Page.
9. They don't yell in Basic Training anymore.
Truth: After hearing this from his recruiter, one young man emailed me immediately. It almost seemed as if he was disappointed at the thought that nobody would be yelling at him. (Go figure.) The truth is, Drill Instructors don't yell AS MUCH as they did in years gone by. In the old days, if a recruit made a mistake, he/she would get screamed at whether it was the first day of basic or the last day. However, several years of study have shown this is not the most effective teaching method. Don't worry, kiddies. You'll still get to experience plenty of yelling, but mostly during the first part (two or three weeks) of basic. After than, you'll find your Drill Sergeants taking on more of a mentoring (teaching) role. Of course if you screw up big, they very well may remind you that you're in the military with a refresher yelling session.
This does not mean basic training has gone soft. In fact, ever since the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, basic training (in all the branches) have begun to focus more on direct combat training than anytime before. Far less classroom instruction and far more actual combat training and practice "in the field." Instead of learning how to balance checkbooks, recruits are spending their time learning how to deal with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and learning how to shoot. Sound perfectly practical to me.
10. This is the modern military. We don't cut off all of your hair during Basic anymore.
Truth. Okay, don't laugh. I still hear this three or four times a year. I first heard this when I was in Basic Training in 1975. One of my flight-mates became extremely upset when he arrived at basic and saw all those shaved heads running around. His recruiter had told him they didn't cut off all the hair anymore. (As the following weeks showed, this young man was not the brightest crayon on the drill pad.)
Yes, guys they still cut your hair in all the branches during basic training. The Navy is the only branch that also makes women cut their hair in basic (it must be cut so it is above the collar).
Reporting Recruiter Misconduct
So, what do you do if you run into an unethical recruiter? All military commands have senior officers who's job it is to investigate wrong-doings, and the recruiting commands are no exception. If you report it to one of these officers, it will be investigated. While it often comes down to your word against the recruiter's word, if a particular recruiter gets enough complaints against him/her, you can bet his/her bosses are going to start watching the recruiter a little more closely (they just hate answering those queries from those senior officers).
Air Force. Inspector General, Air Force Recruiting Service, HQ AFRS/CVI, Randolph AFB, TX 78150
Army. Inspector General, U.S. Army Recruiting, USAREC, Fort Knox, KY 40121
Navy. Inspector General, COMNAVCRUITCOM Code 001, 5722 Integrity Dr, Bldg 768, Millington, TN 38054
Marine Corps (East Coast). Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), Parris Island, SC 29905
Marine Corps (West Coast). Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), San Diego, CA 92140