U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade participate in a basic airborne refresher course on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, Oct. 9, 2019. (Army/Henry Villarama)

Wisdom from the Community: Top Five Pieces of Advice for New Paratroopers

Wisdom from the Community: Top Five Pieces of Advice for New Paratroopers

Hear ye, hear ye! Young paratroopers, we believe you deserve some valuable advice because you are at a stage where you need it to shape your military career. Because we care, we reached out to our community to ask for some words of wisdom for our young paratroopers. The feedback was amazing, and everyone is concerned about the next generation of paratroopers. So, take your time to read and digest this wisdom from the community. @br0nz3d_bvddhx, @yeahjepp, and countless other paratroopers, “have been there and done that," and America can vouch that they would never lead you astray!

1. Education Will Set You Free!

As a young paratrooper, you are serving your country with courage and honor. Now, you have the opportunity to pursue your educational and career goals with the help of the GI Bill. @frw556 and The GI Bill offers many benefits to help you pay for college, graduate school, or training programs. Depending on your eligibility, you may receive money to cover tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses. You may also get access to counseling, tutoring, and other support services.

To make the best use of your GI Bill benefits, you should first explore your options and compare different programs that interest you. You can use the GI Bill Comparison Tool or talk to someone in your unit to find out what benefits you can get at different schools or institutions.

@mpmjr0 thinks you should also apply for your benefits as soon as possible, preferably before you enroll in a program. This can be done via phone or a website. Regardless of the program or the field you are interested in, everyone in the WETSU Community agrees that it is one of the best things the Army has to offer. Enroll in it, pick a program, and off you go!

2. Travel, Travel, Travel!

Traveling is one of the best ways to enrich your life as a young paratrooper. You have the chance to explore different places, meet new people, and learn new things. However, traveling also requires you to be open-minded and respectful of the diversity and complexity of the world. @gongwar and many other veteran paratroopers at the WETSU community have compiled a list of tips to help you travel with a cultural perspective while you are in service:

While you travel, try to immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle. You can do this by learning some basic phrases in the local language, trying the local cuisine, visiting the local landmarks and museums, and joining the local events and festivals.

When you are traveling, reflect on your own identity and values, and how they are influenced by your culture and environment. You can do this by keeping a journal, taking photos, or making a scrapbook of your travel memories.

Traveling is a wonderful opportunity that you can enjoy while you are young and in service. By following these tips, you can travel with purpose and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the world.

Oh, before we forget, when you're out and about traveling around the world, make sure you wear your favorite MMA shirt, put on your Oakleys, and wear your Under Armour fleece with pride! This is just to ensure you don't stand out!

Please don't, that was a joke! Happy travels!

3. Save and Invest Your Money Before It's Too Late!

As a soldier or paratrooper, you have access to some fantastic retirement saving and investing options in America. You should take advantage of these programs and start planning for your future as soon as possible. @br0nz3d_bvddhx suggest to start saving money now and we are in total agreement with him.

One of the most important programs is the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a federal retirement plan that allows you to contribute a percentage of your pay to a tax-advantaged account. Depending on your retirement system, you may also receive matching contributions from the government. The TSP offers different investment funds that you can choose from, depending on your risk tolerance and time horizon.

Another program you should consider is the Savings Deposit Program (SDP), which is a savings account that pays 10% annual interest while you are deployed in a combat zone. You can deposit up to $10,000 per deployment and withdraw your money when you leave the combat zone. The SDP is a great way to boost your savings while earning a high return. 

To make the most of your retirement savings and investing options, you should also try to save or invest the difference between your current and subsequent promotion pay. Whenever you get a pay raise due to a promotion, you should increase your TSP contribution by the same amount or put the extra money into another investment account. This way, you can grow your wealth without affecting your lifestyle. By following these tips, you can build a secure and comfortable retirement for yourself and your family. Start now!

4. Take Care of Your Body and Get Checked Out Early!

As a paratrooper, you are continuously exposed to risks and injuries that come with the job. These injuries can be caused by your unit's physical training, but the most dangerous ones can occur during jumps. While injuries are a part of the Airborne life and they will never go away, everyone in the Community agrees that they should have done a better job of reporting and recording injuries.

@dscalloway, @eightydeucebag, @mbenjamin911, @wold3026 and many others had some perfect advice when it came to documenting injuries so we better hear them out. If you get injured at work, make sure to report it and ensure it is recorded in your file. This will certainly come in handy when you are leaving the army. At the end of the day, G1 will only submit the documents in your file, and telling them, "I was injured in jump #56," won't solve anything! 

Also, as @warmetalforge points out, don't fall into the trap of thinking "you're a wuss if you go on sick call." The injury reporting system is in place for a reason, and when you have an injury, make sure you report it. Fearing what others will say if you report an ACTUAL injury is a foolish thing to do. Make sure that, in addition to reporting the injury, you take the necessary time to bounce back to your airborne routine. You can serve your unit and country better if you are fully fit.

Take care of your body! Take care of your knees! @saracam_fit,   we hear ya!

5. Maximize Your Army School Opportunities and Earn More Badges!

Many of us look back and wish we had made the most of our time in the army. When we spoke to veterans, a common thread emerged: we should have attended more schools and invested more in personal development.

One effective way to navigate this journey is to find a mentor. They can provide valuable advice on which MOS-specific courses you should consider. Keep in mind that these courses not only enhance your proficiency and skills but can also pave the way for promotions, @alexmyers1367 was spot on with this advice. Moreover, they offer a valuable opportunity for personal growth. It's the sweet spot when you discover courses that align with your career development and passion – that's where magic happens. And let's not forget how sharp those extra badges and tags look on your uniform. 

Your personal growth is equally crucial as you strive toward a higher purpose and continuous improvement. Achieving this, demands setting clear objectives and devising a concrete development plan. Many seasoned paratroopers wished they had invested more time in their growth journey. @drews_shenaningans rightly points out that time flies by quickly. So, seize the moment and sit down with your mentor or leader to create a personalized plan for your development. The rewards are not just possible; they're guaranteed.

A final piece of wisdom from your predecessors: Army schools and personal development are not about merely ticking off boxes. They are your path to becoming a better person and, as a result, a superior soldier. Set your sights on your objectives, stay laser-focused, and hit that target! You've got this!