We all have an idea of what being in the military would be like, but how realistic is it? As it turns out, there’s a lot you don’t know.

People join the military for a lot of different reasons, whether it’s because they want to go to college for free, they’ve dreamed of doing it all their life, or it was the only lucrative option they had after high school.

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Whatever it may be, anyone joining the military tends to have a certain expectation of what awaits themboot camp, early-morning drills, and possibly a deployment. Sure, those things might happen, but what about all of the unexpected things that you’ll never know about until you’re right in the middle of them?

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Thankfully, former and current military members of Reddit shared all of the things they wish they knew before they joined.

You Shouldn’t Romanticize Military Life

“It’s long periods of boredom culminating in short moments of dangerous situations. Friends get hurt, others pass away, and the first time you attend a ramp side ceremony, listening to Taps as your brothers and sisters are loaded onto a plane amidst flag drapped coffins… It hits you that it’s not a game.”—Ban_Deet

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Medium

We realize this is an incredibly heavy confession, but it’s an important one. The men and women in our military make sacrifices each and every day, and they often see sad, terrible things that some people are never exposed to. As Ban_Deet went on to say, these experiences often follow them out of the military and through the rest of their lives, casting a shadow over other experiences.

“You realize you don’t care if Becky didn’t have time to get her venti three shot, soy latte, with extra foam,” Ban_Deet said. “Last year at this time you were worried you wouldn’t make it home to see the birth of your niece and wondered if you’d ever see your family again at all.”

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Though the people who join the military make the choice to do so, learning about the things they go through as they serve makes something like a missed morning Starbucks run seem pretty small.

Walk Away to Get What You Want

“The military recruits for their needs before your own. However, recruiters need to meet a monthly quota otherwise they have to work longer hours and weekends to meet that quota. They will quickly give you job choice, station of choice, desired enlistment length, and maybe even a bonus if they think they will lose you to another branch.”—Lord_Chud

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Sure, you’ll have to go through basic training just like anyone else, but your fate after that doesn’t have to be in the hands of your military branch of choice. Use every advantage you have when it comes to making sure you’ll end up where you want to.

In 2017, the Army alone planned on recruiting 68,500 new troops in just the last eight months of the year. As Lord_Chud said, recruiters hate to lose recruits to other branches of the military, so pretending like you’re going to talk to another recruiter can help you get exactly what you’re looking for in the branch you want to be in.

Envision Your Future Ahead of Time

“I wish I had focused less on the initial training portion and more on what the rest of my career would be like. People who haven’t joined will agonize about every little detail of the basic training they will have to go to, but just pick a job they will be doing for the 3+ years after on a whim.”—wahtisthisidonteven

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Speaking of ending up where you want to, make sure you do actually think about that! It’s easy to think about joining the military like you would any other job, that you’ll just start and the path will be clear from there, but that’s not always the case.

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Once you join, the military has no obligation to put you where you want to bethey’ll just place you where they need you, and it won’t always be something you’ll enjoy doing. Think of your path beforehand and do what you can to take it there.

You Won’t Know Why Most Things Happen

“You can wait your entire 6 year enlistment to deploy, and it may never happen. At best, you’ll do hard labor tasks, in disgusting weather that you’ll never understand why it matters in the big picture. At worst, you’ll do absolutely f***ing nothing, for hours on end, and still get only 5 hours of sleep a night for an arbitrary reason you’ll never know.”—sixpac_shacoors

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It’s important to remember that no two military experiences will ever be the same, even for two people who have the same job at the same time. Even deployment is no guaranteeyou might be surprised to hear that only 36 percent of all active duty, reserve, and National Guard forces were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between December 2001 and October 2013 following the events of 9/11.

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Don’t join just because a friend told you about an experience they had that made it sound fun or interestingit could never happen for you, and there are plenty of other less-exciting details they are absolutely leaving out.

The Media Is Lying to You

“That with few exceptions, pretty much everything you see in the media about the military, and military life, is either a silly parody or outright lie.”—spiel2001

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IMDb/Getty Images/Black Hawk Down

You know how in every military movie, there’s always one soldier who seems to mess up constantly? In real life, you can multiply that guy by 10.

Oh, and forget about instantly building an unbreakable bond with everyone else around you. It’s not that it doesn’t exist at all, but it’s not on as large of a scale as you’d thinkapparently, there will always be someone who won’t hesitate to point the finger at others.

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Mark Rogers/IMDb/Hacksaw Ridge

You might also be surprised to hear that a lot of your time will likely be spent sitting around, not really doing much of anything you thought you would.

Promotions Don’t Always Go to the Worthy

“The same thing that made me leave after the contract. That in the military as long as you pass your test you can be promoted and put in places of power. Not everyone can handle the responsibility but because they took the test and passed they give orders.”—AMontyPython

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We can imagine few things more frustrating than having to serve under someone who just isn’t meant for leadership. Most people have had experiences with bad managers, but the thought of someone like this being able to make commands within the military is a little more frightening.

Even stranger is the military’s “up-or-out” system, which forces a member of the military out of service if they are passed over twice when it comes to promotion.

The Military Thinks You’re A Child

“Was in intelligence, held a top secret clearance. Can’t be trusted with a toaster in my barracks room.”—GrislyMedic

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In some ways, we imagine that being treated like a child just comes with the territory of joining the military. However, after a certain point in time, you’d expect to be given a little more authority and respect after proving yourself. If you can handle classified information, you can handle toasting bread without burning the whole place down.

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However, each branch tends to be a little different when it comes to the atmosphere they cultivate, so take that into consideration when you first join.

Eating Quickly Is Part of the Job

“That I would never again eat within a normal timeframe. now if I want to finish eating the same as other people I need to spend about 98% of the meal talking.”—massassi

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There are a lot of things that military members have to get used to once they return to civilian life, and we probably don’t think of many of them often. Think about it, though, and eating is probably one of the most common ones.

Being able to eat whatever you want and not within a certain time frame? You’d probably feel like you won the lottery. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see a veteran dousing everything they eat in Tabasco sauceit’s so common in the military that meals even come with miniature bottles of it.

There Aren’t McDonald’s On the Ships

“I had a friend in the Navy who said the recruiters told him there would be McDonald’s on the ships. There were not McDonald’s on the ships.”—SAT0725

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McBarge (Friendship 500)/Facebook

Did he think they repurposed the McBarge into a naval ship? If only he could be so lucky.

We wonder how quickly he wished he hadn’t joined when he found out there were no Big Macs in sight.

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