Author Topic: Should I join the Army as a dentist?  (Read 7197 times)

Offline Amerigo

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Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« on: October 10, 2009, 12:54:51 PM »
I've toyed with the idea of joining the army as a dental student.  I start dental school next fall, but I think the scholarship slots fill pretty quickly so I need to make a decision soon.  As fellow survivalists, I value your opinions because I'm trying to create a survivalist lifestyle for myself - which you all understand.  I'm young (25) and can steer my life in the right direction now, instead of trying to get out of a rut years later.

Let me first tell you a little bit about myself so you can give me advice better suited for me:

I've never considered myself the military "type".  I'm very independent, and my goal in life is to not be anybody's "beeyatch".  This is one of the reasons I'm becoming a dentist in the first place - so I can be my own boss.  I don't have any family or even extended family that I know of that has been in the military.  It's not something I ever considered growing up.  I consider myself somewhat patriotic, but patriotic of a country that I feel has gone very astray.  When asked whether I would die for my country, I would say, "It depends on your definition of dying for my country."  Liberating foreign countries of dictators (only to install new ones), stopping genocides, etc, are great humanitarian missions, but I don't consider them dying for my country.  No, I would not die to give an Iraqi freedom.  Would I die fighting the Taliban?  Probably.  I know I would not die, however, for some cock-brained leader who decides that his political agenda and self-interests require him invading such-and-such country.  I do however support, respect, and honor all troops who fight under the flag of the U.S.A.   I just don't always support the orders coming from on high.  To put it bluntly, I would be joining the army for my own selfish reason (no debt) and not for any patriotic reasons whatsoever.  It sounds bad when I put it like that, but I gotta call it how it is.

With that said...

From my preliminary knowledge about the Army scholarship, I would have my tuition paid throughout my 4 years of dental school.  I am fairly certain I also get a stipend each month.  I also have the option of insurance for myself, but not my wife.  After completing dental school, I am commissioned as an officer.  I "pay back" the Army through 4 years of active duty, after which I am put in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) for another 4 years, which I guess isn't called to duty until the normal reserves are called out (you all probably know a lot more about that than I do - fill me in!).  While I would love to get military training and acquire skills that would help me in a SHTF situation, I don't think as a dentist I will get anything much more than "this is a gun, you aim it like this and pull the trigger".  (I could be wrong - but why would they spend time and money training me on skills I won't use?)  I also can't imagine the army would place me in any imminent danger since they spent $300k on me, but I could be wrong. 


From my perspective, the pros are:
1) No debt from dental school.  The total cost of the schools I applied to are anywhere from $145,000 to $220,000 (w/o factoring in living expenses).  Paying that back over 10 years at ~6.8% interest makes it anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 depending on what school I attend.
2) Debt free means I would have much more money to buy a little homestead and start on some serious prepping.
3) I would be a better dentist after my 4 years of service because I was able to focus 100% on dentistry and not trying to run a business also.
4) Stress free lifestyle during the 4 years of D-school (no tuition payments!) and less stress afterwards knowing I have no debt. 


From my perspective, the cons are:
1) I am Uncle Sam's "beeyatch" for 8 years, and I do his bidding whether I like it or not.
2) My wife would be away from family for the 4 years of D-school and 4 years after (I'm much more of a free bird than she is - she also would not enjoy living in a foreign country, but I would love it).
3) If SHTF before my 8 years of service are up, I can't "bug out" or "bug in".  I'd be called into duty instead of protecting my family!!!   :(
4) Possible increased stress of being in the army and my wife being away from family.
5) If things ever did get really, really bad, I would be part of the "enemy" (the government).  I don't want to be part of the system robbing US citizens of their constitutional rights.  I want to be shooting at them.  Unlikely, but still a possibility.  (I guess I could always go AWOL, but the government better fall during the revolution or I'm screwed!)


This is all assuming my wife agrees to deal with being away from family and such.  I wouldn't go against her wishes.  So with these things in mind, please give me any advice you wish to offer.         

Offline Steve W

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2009, 01:05:09 PM »
I have a high school friend who did what you are considering and says he'd never look back. (Air Force in his case, the Army didn't offer him as good of a deal back then).

In fact he's just retired with his 20 years in.

We also know a Major who just finished his Army Surgeon commitment, and again says he'd do it again.

In such a specialist role you are likely to have a quite different Army Experience than most soldiers.  You'd likely have to request combat or Airborne is that was your sort of thing.

I have family who has decided to do the ROTC thing as an Engineer, and I am an Army Vet who used the Army to help fund my Undergraduate and Graduate education, so perhaps I am biased, but I'd sure look long and hard at the opportunity - but not long and hard enough that I would miss the opportunity!

In the end you have to be happy with your choice.  Having your spouse happy will greatly affect if you are happy or not! 

Good Luck!



Offline ZedHead

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2009, 01:31:34 PM »
My dad did and would not have if he could go back. Yea it was fun to travel around and all, but once you are in for 5 years it starts to hit you on how much real $ you are missing out in private practice.

Offline fratermus

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2009, 01:33:40 PM »
Warrant officers and commissioned officers in technical specialties are IN the army but basically get the best of both worlds, IMO.  I'd go for it.  Even IRR shouldn't be a big deal; you would be unlikely to be in danger of being in combat areas.

And by the way:  my army dentist was the best dentist I have ever had in my 40+ yrs.  He was amazing, gentle, and walked the patient through everything he was going to do.  He might have just been thinking out loud (or guiding his assistants) but it was comforting nonetheless.


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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2009, 01:52:14 PM »
I would jump on this.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2009, 02:09:12 PM »
I'm with most of the others.  I think that the benefits far out weigh the negatives.

Personally, I'd go into the Navy or Air Force, but that's a personal choice.  My thinking is that even though you are in a very specialised field, you will be a soldier first.

As for the difference in pay, when you figure in the cost of the loans it isn't quite as big a difference.

Offline Sister Wolf

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2009, 02:12:37 PM »
I've seriously considered the same thing with veterinary school.  Even after all of the negatives you've posted, Amerigo, it seems like everybody seems to think that the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Hmmmm....

Of course, my family is chalk full of soldiers.  But then again, I'm not a guy.  So I don't know.  I love the thought of serving my country as a soldier.  But the thought of being away from my husband... I don't know.

Offline TXChikk

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2009, 02:31:04 PM »
In retrospect I too would go for it. In fact I recently looked into the National Guard for the very reasons you mentioned but I'm too old....  :-\ I choose to live without regrets but the only one I really have is not joining the military after high school.

I think 8 years is well worth not having school loans when completed. It will take 8 years of major cuts in my lifestyle/prepping to get my student loans paid off, in fact if I were to follow the conventional path it will take double the time. Of course I have a plan to pay them off by 8 years but anything can happen between now & then. So from my perspective on money I would jump at the chance. You will also gain so much more from becoming an American soldier and the many experiences you simply cannot gain elsewhere.

Good Luck

Offline Steve W

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2009, 03:15:05 PM »
My thinking is that even though you are in a very specialised field, you will be a soldier first.

The life of an 11B (Infantryman, aka "Grunt") is quite different than the typical Army Dentist.

They are all soldiers first, then specialists.  Unless an Officer Dentist asks for a command, the military is more likely to put him to work in dentistry than infantry.

My MOS was specialist enough that if I had wanted to I could have avoided most "Soldiering" but chose otherwise.

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2009, 04:50:25 PM »
It sounds like an excellent opportunity.

I have a friend who retired several years ago that was a surgeon in the Army.  He speaks of it with fondness when our conversations stray that way.  He wasn't a career Army doctor though, he did his time & then went into surgery in the private sector.

Imagine being able to start your life after with skills to provide for yourself, & no debt to hold you back.  Were I young enough to do something like that, I'd jump at the chance.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2009, 05:17:05 PM »
It sounds good to me, too. Think of it this way... instead of finishing up dental school with a huge amount of debt plus the need to have capital to invest in becoming a businessman, you will have no debt, the opportunity to practice for four years without any of the stress of a business owner...

and, you can sock savings away over the four years service so that you don't have to go into debt to start your business once your commitment is finished.

Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2009, 05:29:58 PM »
Think long term.  Yes, eight years sounds like a long time, but 10 years, after you graduate, paying back school loans, sounds like an even longer time. 

Good luck with dental school either way.

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2009, 06:30:00 PM »
I have a couple different ways that I'm looking at this.
I often joke about being a bad Quaker because I'm a bad pacifist, but it true. I am a Quaker and am suppose to be a pacifist. Its the one aspect of being a Quaker that I'm not comfortable with and yet most Quakers I meet are comfortable with my position.
That said, as a Quaker I could see myself serving my country by being in the dentistry field. Sounds like a good way to help our military without killing some tribesman that just wants to be left alone. So a clear conscious and a good military record can be obtained at the same time.

Now for debt.
You make a trade to serve the nation's military for a specified time frame and they cover your education costs.
Sounds like everyone wins.


Downside:
The spouse is often the one who suffers the most in a military situation.
Everyone would need to have a very realistic view of the sacrifice involved and the spouse would need to be fully on board.

The swearing of oaths.
Back to the Quaker thing, I cannot swear an oath of any kind under any circumstances. But you likely don't have that restriction. So that probably doesn't apply.

Offline Steve W

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2009, 09:01:18 PM »
The swearing of oaths.
Back to the Quaker thing, I cannot swear an oath of any kind under any circumstances. But you likely don't have that restriction. So that probably doesn't apply.

Is that were the "affirm" option comes in?

We have a family friend who spent WWII as a British Military Censor to fulfill what they felt was their obligation obligation while being true to being a Quaker.  She turned 101 this week BTW and spent the war doing her duty in the BVI.

Always admired her patriotism and faith driven values.

Historically their have been many combat ready & active Friends.  Sometimes they were chided at Meetings, but as often it has been recognized as a duty needing to be done.  I am not qualified to discuss or argue any point about Friends in combat, but will say I would rather fight alongside a highly faith driven principled man who objected to violence any day.

Back to the thread, there historically have been more non-combative faiths in Medical and Chaplin Corps, including Dentists.  I even met one who had been a Pigeoneer in WWII. 



Offline Jack Crabb

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2009, 11:44:51 PM »
Don't do it.  The fact that the number one pro on your list was not "military service" shows you have not thought this through.  The fact that you equate being a soldier in the Army of the United States as Uncle Sam's "beeyatch" shows you are not ready.  From what you described in your posting, you would be another self-serving opportunist.  Do yourself and the Army a favor and let the Army put someone else in the slot.

When you muster at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gas chamber, you will be whining that you are a dentist and why do I have to do this "solder stuff."  When you do a formation run, you will griping the whole time that you don't need to be physically fit because you are a dentist.  And when you are standing duty all night, you'll be complaining that you are going to be sleepy when you start seeing patients in the morning.

If your wife is not prepared to sit at home alone with the kids in B.F. North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, or Germany while you do a year in Afghanistan, you are not in a position to join.

A Navy Captain I worked for once noted that he went to the Naval Academy for a "free education" that was jammed up his posterior a nickle at a time.  Don't join for the "free education."  I say this as a former Marine infantryman who paid for his undergrad degree out of pocket, got commissioned, and later paid for law school out of pocket to then serve over 7 years as a judge advocate.

Join the military because you first want to be a soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman.  The job you get or do is secondary.

You need to want to join because you want to demonstrate what it is to be a commissioned officer, you want to be a leader for your enlisted members, and you seek the privilege to provide medical care for the finest sons and daughters this nation produces.

Dental readiness is one of the toughest challenges a commander faces.  You need to want to be there to support your commander to achieve operational effectiveness and get your soldiers deployable, not because you can hang out for a couple years doing dental stuff and not having to worry about the business of running a practice that you would otherwise face on the civilian side.

I don't mean this as a personal attack.  You are obviously a fine, upstanding person to be accepted to dental school and consider military service.  But, the key word in military service is service, i.e., being overworked, underpaid, and loving it because of the other service members you get to serve with.

Offline ozarked

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2009, 05:45:29 PM »
You're facing a tough decision.  In an effort to help, I'd like to share a couple of thoughts:

Someone mentioned the money you would be losing serving in the Army vs private practice.  Believe me, if you're money-motivated, the U.S military is no place for you.  You'll never get rich taking care of the men and women who keep America free.

If you decide to join, for whatever reason, then be prepared to do whatever you are asked.  those that take the money and training, and then suddenly decide they "cannot support this (war, intervention, peacekeeping action, etc.) or are "for peace and against war", are the worst sort of scoundrels.  If you sign on the dotted line and take the money, then be prepared to step out smartly (and proudly) when the balloon goes up.  300 million Americans depend on you.

When debating whether to re-up during the Vietnam conflict, my mother wrote me and said, "Son, make up your mind, then don't ever look back.  Don't waste you time thinking of what might have been if you'd made a different decision".  After nearly thirty years of service, this was the best advice I ever received.

Good luck and God bless


Offline CdnGuy

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2009, 11:24:26 PM »
You are obviously a fine, upstanding person to be accepted to dental school and consider military service.  But, the key word in military service is service, i.e., being overworked, underpaid, and loving it because of the other service members you get to serve with.

I agree with Jack. One of the reasons I enlisted was to serve my country and set an example for my son. Even though I felt very strongly about that, it wasn't enough to carry me through the divorce that started happening while I was away at basic training. I released voluntarily. I'm glad I did, even though I feel that part of my life was left unfinished. I didn't totally honour my word in joining. Be ready to do that no matter what.

Offline bushidorobb

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2009, 09:10:24 AM »
Being in the military is a sacrifice,, not just for you but for your family as well.  It is hard on families and I have seen many service friends families not make it.  Make sure they are on board completely first.
 As others have said you must want to "serve", if that is not you,  the trade off may not be worth it.
That being said...  my service is one of the things in my life that I am the most proud of.

Offline Cacinok

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2009, 09:58:17 AM »
Think long term.  Yes, eight years sounds like a long time, but 10 years, after you graduate, paying back school loans, sounds like an even longer time. 

Good luck with dental school either way.
try 20 or 30 years, depending on the dental school.  i have easily 30 years worth of law school loans. :-\

OP, i know two people who have gone this route, one army and one air force both have said they'd do it again in a heartbeat.  i would be all over the deal.  i kick myself for not doing something similar w/ JAG.

Offline Stein

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2009, 10:54:57 AM »
Personally, I wouldn't borrow a dime to go to school.  We finally paid my wife's student loans and can say that school debt sucks.  Don't confuse the benefit of the degree with how it was paid for.

If I was going to be a dentist, I would be looking at ways for other people to pay for the degree or finding a way to pay for it myself.  Since we are talking $200k, the latter is out of the question in the near future.

If my choice was to go into the army and come out in 4 or 8 years doing what I love and making solid six figures with no debt or to not go into school, the choice would be simple.

The other benefit of the army is that it is easy to live for next to nothing as they provide the basics.

Think about where you want to be in ten years and then work backwards and the answer will become obvious for your specific situation.

Offline USA83

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2009, 10:56:19 AM »
Seriously Don't miss the opportunity to do this You will never regret it and you will probably retire there when you realize how great of a deal your being offered.

Butch

Offline schild

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2009, 03:54:37 PM »
Tomorrow afternoon I see my dentist, he started out as a Navy dentist.

Offline fred.greek

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2009, 08:46:56 PM »
We need our military, our government, to have as many good people as possible.

As a dentist, you will likely have opportunity to engage in idle chatter with everyone from the new recruit, to some relatively senior folks.  It never hurts (if the novocane is working...) to remind them of the Constitution, and that the military and the government overall exists to protect the folks at home, not enslave them.



Offline mash

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Re: Should I join the Army as a dentist?
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2009, 05:37:04 PM »
It never hurts (if the novocane is working...)

 ;D