Advice and Info About Enlisting Into the Marine Corps 

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I never understood why picking either path seems to cause so much confusion for some future Marines. Your first must understand that serving in the reserves versus serving in the active duty side of the Marine Corps will have you experiencing two very different things.
Both paths are identical up to a certain point. You both will graduate from the same boot camp and then it is off to your infantry training and for some you’ll head off to your MOS school soon after. After this the two paths take very different turns. An active duty Marine will be stationed at one of the USMC bases following MOS school while a reservist will head home after MOS school. Basically serving in the reserves is a part-time job and serving on active duty is a full-time job.

As a reservist you cannot expect to live the life of an active duty Marine. You will serve at least one weekend per month and two weeks during the summer. This annual two week training can come at any point during the year, but the summer is a common time but this is not guaranteed. Additional training/duties may come up at any time, so understand you may serve more than the one weekend and two weeks in the summer. Reserve units do get activated from time to time and this can be for any length of time. Be cautious of anyone who tries to tell you that your reserve unit is or isn’t deploying. The only Marines who can answer this question are those in that particular reserve unit. As the war effort draws to an end, less and less reserve units are deploying. During the peak of our most recent two conflicts, many reserve units were activated to support in the war effort. Today this is just not the case. Remember, do not let anyone tell you that a certain reserve unit is or isn’t deploying unless that Marine is in the actual unit.

  • So who should choose the reserve route? Those who don’t want to be full-time Marines, those who have good stable jobs, those who have families and don’t want to be separated for long periods of time, those who want to go to college, those who want to remain close to home, those with many responsibilities at home, and those with similar concerns.

  • You don’t join the reserves if your true desires are to be on active duty. Do not be tricked into picking the reserves. If you’re told that active duty is all full, then don’t enlist. Eventually it will open back up. You may be told that if you join the reserves, you can always move over to the active duty whenever you want. Well this may or may not happen. They do not have to let you switch and if they do, it can take a long time. Don’t think that it is as easy as just asking to change over to active duty because it is not. I have seen this many times. A person wants active duty and is told it is closed at this time. The recruiter then persuades you to go reserves so you can switch over to active duty later on. This is a huge mistake. I have seen reserve Marines get this request denied and I have seen it take up to a year. Trust me on this one: Do not join the reserves with the intention of switching over to active duty.

You can use this example to better understand what it might be like serving in the reserves versus serving on active duty: Let's say that high school lasts all year (365 days). An "active" student would go to school Monday - Friday all year long. A "reserve" student would only go to school two days each month and two straight weeks during the summer. That comes out to 38 days per year unless he requests for more days or is ordered to attend more days. It is very different if you only do something part time compared to doing it full time. As a reservist you will be a Marine, but you are going to live your life more like a civilian then a Marine.

  • Basically active duty Marines give up their home life and agree to live the USMC life on a daily basis for the entire length of their contracts. Reserve Marines will retain their regular life after they finish their MOS school and will return home and do the weekend warrior thing.

  • You do not get paid a lot as a reservist and you do not get the same benefits such as medical, and dental unless you are active. You can not live off of what you get paid as a reserve Marine. You will have to have another job to make ends meet unless you are rich or don't mind being a bum.

  • You do not get your college paid for just because you are a reservist. You have to earn your money by serving some time. You need to clearly understand how your college benefits work if this is why you are wishing to serve and I am not in the position to explain this, so do your research. The best thing you can do in this case is to speak with an actual reservist who is in college. If you are joining the USMC reserves for financial support so you can go to college, then you need to know that when it comes to college aid for reservist, the Marine Corps is the worst branch for this.

  • As a reservist, you may discover that some active duty Marines do not view you as real Marines. You have to look at it from their point of view. Active duty puts in the work year round while reservist don’t. Plus active Marines put up with much more bullshit such as being awoken each day, having to shave each day, field days, PT, standing duties, and many more things on a daily basis.

  • I have noticed that many times reserve Marines seem to get tired of it after a while. Having to report one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer may get in the way of your regular life and can become a pain in the ass.

  • As a reservist it is very easy to forget that you are a Marine and that you must follow many rules despite no one watching over you. You need to be careful who you hang around with and you need to stay out of trouble.

  • Most Marines who choose the reserve route do so because they want to physically attend college while also being Marines. Just understand you will be a part-time Marine.

  • You cannot switch from active duty to reserve duty unless you are exiting active duty. You are allowed to try to switch from reserve duty to active duty. I cannot stress this point enough: Do not pick the reserves if you want to serve in the active duty. Switching over is never guaranteed.

  • Only reserve enlistees can pick their exact job. Active Marines can only pick their job’s field. Not all jobs will be available to reservist. Your job selection will depend on what jobs are offered at your nearest reserve unit or units. As a reservist you will be reporting to the nearest reserve center located nearest where you live unless you live in an area with multiple reserve units to choose from. I am not sure if you are allowed to report to a reserve center that is out of your area (across state lines). And by out of your area I mean hundreds of miles away. Check with your recruiter for the regulations.

  • Yes you do get all the uniforms, military id, and dog tags as a reserve Marine.

  • Keep in mind that as a reservist no one is watching over you when you're not doing the weekend warrior thing. So you need to keep your appearance squared away and you need to stay fit on your own. It is very easy to forget that you're a Marine as a reservist, so remember to show some integrity and never forget that you asked to be a Marine, so conduct yourself as one.

  • I cannot stress this point enough: Many of you pick the reserves for all the wrong reasons and then whine and bitch that you want to go active duty. To avoid this common issue, make sure you pick the right path for the right reasons and don't let anyone persuade you into either path and don't pick either path just because your desired path is not available at that time.

  • Do not let your recruiter or any other Marine tell you which path is best for you. You have to figure this out on your own.