Five Things I Did Right as a Junior Enlisted Soldier

Yesterday, I wrote a post “The 5 Mistakes I Made as a Young Junior Enlisted Soldier.”  Today, I want to talk about Five Things I Did Right as a Young Junior Enlisted Soldier.

One thing I really like to do on this website is just share my personal experiences and talk about things I did right and wrong in my military career.  I don’t do any of this to make me look good or make me look bad.  Instead, I simply want you to avoid the mistakes I made and learn from my experience.

That being said, here are five things I did right as a young junior enlisted Soldier.

# 1 CLEP Tests

One day I visited the Education Center at Fort Myer, Virginia and I learned about the CLEP Program.  CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program (read my post about CLEP).  I quickly discovered that I could take a test and get college credit for it.  I ended up taking more than 20 tests and earned somewhere between 50 and 60 college credits for it.  Best of all, it was easy for me, and it didn’t cost me a dime.  If you’re trying to get a degree, this is definitely something you should explore and learn more about.

# 2 Enrolled in College

As soon as I got to my first unit, I enrolled in the local community college: Northern Virginia Community College.  Between my CLEP tests and taking a few classes, I ended up earning my Associate’s Degree pretty quickly.  Yes, I still partied with my buddies every night, but I went to class first!  That two year degree helped me qualify for the Green to Gold Program to become  a commissioned officer.

# 3 I Started Working on Myself

I was a young man when I was an enlisted Soldier (18-21).  I was rough around the edges and had a bad attitude.  But, it was at this point in my life that I started working on myself, albeit very slowly.  I started to read a little bit.  I started to evaluate what I liked, what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to become.  I stared to figure out what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at.  I tried to get a little bit better every day.  I started to believe in myself and gain confidence.  All of this happened because of mentorship from my officers and NCOs.  I had a few key leaders show an interest in me and push me to be better.  I am forever grateful.

# 4 I Admired My Officers and Listened to Them

This might sound weird to some of you.  As a young Soldier, I respected and related more to my Officers than my NCOs.  Yes, I had GREAT NCOs, and I’m not taking away anything from what they did or how they mentored me.  But at the end of the day, there was something about my Officers that I really admired.  They worked on different tasks.  They were more laid back.  They were friendly, but very professional.  Without a doubt, it’s my officers that inspired me take my career to the next level and become an officer myself.  Even though I was a bit rough around the edges, I think they saw the potential in me, and encourage me to apply to the Green to Gold Program.

# 5 I Changed My Career Path to Commissioned Officer

As I mentioned in the other post, I knew I would never get promoted to E-5 in my MOS because the promotion points were always at the max level.  Rather than change my MOS, I decided to become a commissioned officer instead. I researched OCS and ROTC and decided to pursue the Green to Gold Program.  I got my recommendations from my chain-of-command, filled out the paperwork and was accepted into the only school I applied to, Clarkson University ROTC.  This turned out to be a great move for me.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  These are five things that I did right as a young junior enlisted Soldier.

What do you think?  What is your favorite thing on the list?  What did you do right as a young Soldier that you are proud of?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Five Things I Did Right as a Junior Enlisted Soldier”

  1. I cannot agree with you more on taking the CLEP tests. I've had three jobs over my career and each of them required a lot of school. Thanks to CLEP i was able to use those credits and get degrees by only testing out on a few subjects.
    Same goes for the college classes. If you aren't taking mandatory military classes you should try and further your education. The military is willing to pay for it, you'd be foolish not to take advantage of it.

  2. These are wonderful accomplishments, and they all have a common theme: you invested in yourself. You sought out education, self improvement, mentors (or at least positive role models to emulate), and set goals. All of these are stepping stones to success. Hopefully this article will inspire other young enlisted soldiers to also invest in themselves.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Faye. I hope this article inspires a lot of Soldiers too. I did a lot of things wrong in my career, but I also did a bunch of things right. Hindsight is 20-20.

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