5 Mistakes I Made as a Young Junior Enlisted Soldier

Many of you know that I enlisted in the Army on my 18th birthday.  Now, some 18 years later it feels like so long ago.  I spent a few years as an enlisted Soldier before doing the Green to Gold Program.

What I want to do in today’s post is share some of the mistakes I made as a young, junior enlisted Soldier. My goal is to help new Soldiers avoid the same mistakes I did.

Before I share the mistakes, it’s important to know that I also did a lot of things right.  And many of mistakes were geared around my immaturity and lack of life experience (I was 18-20 years old).  I wasn’t a bad Soldier by any means, but if I could go back and do things differently, I would have.

# 1 I Picked the Wrong MOS

I put VERY little thought into my MOS.  I had really high ASVAB scores and a great GT score, but I ended up picking 71L (Admin Specialist).  While I enjoyed the MOS somewhat, it created two major problems.  First and foremost, the promotion points (at the time) were always at the MAX to get promoted.  I had tons of E-4 buddies who were getting promoted to E-5 with 400 points or less, yet my MOS never dropped below 798 for promotion to E-5.  Had I stayed enlisted in stayed in that MOS, I’d probably still be an E-4 today!

The second thing wrong with the MOS is that it didn’t give me a very valuable skill that could be used in the OUTSIDE world.  Sure, I could have been a clerk or office assistant somewhere, but the pay wouldn’t have been that good.  My advice to you is to pick your MOS wisely.  Think about it for a few days.  Put a lot of thought into it before you sign the dotted line.  Find a MOS that is valuable in the real world!

# 2 I Partied Way Too Much

I partied like a rock star.  This was really my first time on my own.  I lived in the barracks and everyone was partying like a rock star.  I guess I was a product of my environment.  Looking back, I would have tuned it down A LOT.  Just about every problem that happened to me and my friends resulted around partying and drinking!  My advice to young Soldiers is to do all things in moderation.  And if you are under 21, don’t do it!  Don’t ruin your career over something stupid.  It’s true, nothing good happens in the barracks after 10 p.m.

# 3 I Had an Attitude

As a young Soldier, I had a REALLY BAD attitude.  My motto was “this sucks!”  Knowing me now, that would be hard to believe, but it’s true.  I acted like a know it all.  A punk!  I’m embarrassed to admit this of course, but it’s the truth.  My advice to young Soldiers is to open your mind and learn everything you can.  Soak in the knowledge from your NCOs and Officers.  You will learn a lot from them about the military, leadership and LIFE.  Check your attitude at the door every day!

# 4 I Was Dumb with My Money

The Army was my first full-time job.  Yes, I worked at McDonald’s during high school and had some side businesses (selling apple cider and Christmas wreaths), but this was the first time I had a real PAY CHECK.  And boy was I dumb with it.  I spent every penny that I earned (and then some).  I had a nice car that was way more than I could really afford.  I didn’t build up a savings account or retirement account.  When the money hit my account I spent it!  My advice to young Soldiers is to save at least 10% of your paycheck in a retirement account.  Build up an emergency fund too!  And whatever you do, don’t go buy some brand new expensive car that you can’t afford.  You really have no one to impress.  Just because your buddies are doing it doesn’t mean you should.

# 5 I Had No Goals

This is probably the worst thing I did as a young Soldier.  I really had no goals.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or my career.  I was kind of floating along.  Yes, I was taking college classes and correspondence courses, but I had no career goals and nothing written down on paper.  My advice to young Soldiers is to write down some career goals and personal goals.  Write down where you see yourself in five years, ten years and twenty years.  Then come up with an action plan to help you move closer to your goals.  Share your goals with your boss, or someone you trust, and see if they can share some wisdom with you.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  These are five mistakes that I made as a young junior enlisted Soldier.

What are your thoughts?  What did you do that you regret (or would change) when you were a young Soldier?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on “5 Mistakes I Made as a Young Junior Enlisted Soldier”

  1. Those five things could almost be my first four years. Although I never spent my money in a crazy way (at least to me) when the four years was up I really had nothing financially to show for it. In retrospect, even if I put 5% away I would have been able to start my post active duty life from a better position.

    As for MOS, don't let anyone talk you into a job. Not your recruiter or your buddy or your dad. Pick a job that looks interesting, a job you think you could excel at and hopefully one that has some civilian equivalent.

  2. Chuck, it is good to see that you are being healthy about any prior mistakes, real or imagined, and say that you also did a lot of things right! I did not see anything on your list that the rest of us did not do when we were young. Okay, that those of us who are honest enough to say so. We all made poor choices, did some things that perhaps we should not have done, and blew our money on things that we did not really need. The point is to learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward!

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