Here, we will dwell over one such career option - the Armed Forces. It is a matter of honour and pride to join the Armed Forces as these personnel are looked upon as saviours or defenders of nations and its people. It is one of the few noble professions left today.
The Armed Forces comprise three arms or services, that of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Apart from defending the borders from external threats, the Armed Forces are often involved in humanitarian missions like the UN Peacekeeping forces and in disaster management. In the event of earthquakes, floods or avalanches, the Army, Navy and Air Force are the first to reach the disaster-prone areas for search and rescue missions. In the recent tsunami disaster, the Indian Navy did yeomen service in sending its ships and its men with food and medicines to Sri Lanka for relief operations.
The Indian Military Academy's Chetwood Hall bears an inscription, which reads: "The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command, come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time." That truly epitomizes what a solider stands for and what he should be. Selfless service for the nation and its people is a soldier's brief, which he is trained to follow unfailingly.
But, apart from that, the military also offers a great opportunity for growth and a good life. Today, even women are welcome in the Armed Forces in education, logistics, air traffic control and legal branches. Let us see what you stand to gain by joining the Armed Forces.
1) Head start
In the Armed Forces, you get to begin your career early in life. Candidates begin their career and training when they are anywhere between 15 - 20 years of age, of course, eligibility varies from country to country. Some countries have conscription or compulsory enrolment, but most modern democracies do not have such a provision.
The training period can be anywhere from one to three years, again depending on your nationality. Aspirants can join as officers or in non-officer cadres as ratings, but both follow different career patterns. The officers, of course, are entitled to greater privileges and perks. An advantage of this early head start in career is that after 10 -15 years of service, you are still young enough to choose a career outside the Armed Forces, if you so desire. Moreover, the military training and service, by its very nature highly equips you for other jobs, say in managerial positions. Naval personnel can make a smooth transition to Merchant Navy and Air Force pilots can shift to commercial airlines without much ado.
Training and education in most defence academies is free or, at least, highly subsidized. Considering the prohibitive costs of education in other streams, this is quite a scream. Academies around the world have tie-ups with university programs and along with military training you stand to get a graduate degree or a diploma.
Military training lays great emphasis on physical fitness and discipline. In India's National Defence Academy, every cadet's study table has Rudyard Kipling's inspirational poem, 'If' framed. That singularly epitomizes what the academy training seeks to achieve.
As part of the training, you will get to indulge in a wide variety of sports - from sailing and mountaineering to horse-riding and rifle shooting. Later, into the service you can continue with the adventure sports either as a hobby or take it up seriously as a profession. The silver medalist in shooting in Olympics 2003, Major Raghvendra Singh Rathore is a professional archer apart from being an Army officer. Indeed, it was his Army training and coaching which has been instrumental in his success.
3) Leadership skills
Soldiering is all about facing situations whether it is waging wars, encountering militants or going on humanitarian missions. Soldiers have to rise up to difficult challenges, offer succour and battle with life and death - all this amidst great expectations from people. If you relish challenges and like to live on the edge of life, then this is the job for you.
Life in the Armed Forces also gears you to rise above individual aspirations, forget differences and work as a team towards a common aim. It calls for great leadership skills and fosters the spirit of camaraderie which shall stand in good stead in any walk of life.
4) Broadening of horizons (Lateral education)
Armed Force personnel get posted in a variety of places - islands, forests, mountains and even deserts. They come in contact with varied flora and fauna, heritage, cuisines, people and culture - which is like lateral education for their children and families. They get to dine with the kings and sup with the commoners, so to say. Such kind of living makes them truly cosmopolitan. After a while, the distinction of race, caste and creed disappears and they assume truly homogenous identities.
In a country like India, with its diversities, inter-caste marriages in the Armed Forces are rampant and you get to see national integration at its best, here.
While they get posted in interesting and remote places, the personnel also get great opportunities to travel. The Indian Navy's motto has been: "Join the navy and see the world". But that holds true of all the three services of the Armed Forces. Today, as the world is shrinking, there is a lot of interaction and as such the military personnel are constantly touring foreign countries for expositions or exercises, whether it is air shows, fleet reviews or peacekeeping missions. Many go on diplomatic postings or are sent for undergoing certain formal courses.
6) Pay and perks
The pay scales in the Armed Forces are fairly competitive and in most cases, the perks include accommodation. The living quarters - the cantonment areas or the designated townships - invariably have good surroundings and are ordered. The officers are the cream of society, and they have an unmistakably enhanced quality of life.
Contrary to some notions, the Armed Force personnel are not war-mongers; they are simply conscientious soldiers carrying out the duty of defending their nation against external threats. But there are facets to their work which many of us do not know. A career in the Armed Forces makes for a wholesome personality, and indeed, a wholesome life.