Decisions, Decisions by Grin & Barrett

Updated: September 24, 2009


As a reformed squid, people always ask me why I chose the Army over the Navy when I made the decision to leave behind civilian life and come back to military service. Often, I am left muttering to my other personality, twitching uncontrollably, and wondering the same thing myself. After a few brief moments of self reflection, however, I usually come out of my trance and offer some semblance of a reason. Some folks can’t quite wrap their minds around the idea that I would choose the Army over the Navy, and usually they have some pretty valid reasons why they think I made a huge mistake.

“Why didn’t you go back into the Navy? Army life sucks!”

Typically, the aforementioned “Army life sucks” comments are bracketed by the stuttering that comes with sleeping in the cold, eating cold MREs, and waking up at 0300 for watch. When you are dealing with someone who is currently enduring this level of suck, it’s hard to argue your point. When these comments come from a place like Iraq or Afghanistan, you are fighting a losing battle. It doesn’t help my argument when most Navy bases are surrounded by sun, beach, and bikinis, and there is a very alluring, certain “Hollywood” that goes with being in the Navy. Aircraft carriers, submarines, and Navy SEALs. All very cool.

After three years of civilian life, I had to make a choice. Army vs. Navy. The only real possibilities I had in the Navy were as a Supply Officer or a Navigation Officer, not exactly my first choices. But it wasn’t the branch choices that made my decision so hard; it was the essence of Army life versus Navy life. And so, without further ado, I present to you the top five reasons to “Go Navy” and the top five reasons to “Leave Navy.”

Top Five Reasons to “Go Navy”

1. Port calls. This one is too easy. Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Japan, and Israel. Basically, anywhere awesome. What exotic locals will you visit in the Army? Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. No contest.
2. The JAG factor. The Army has a long way to go to match wits with the Marines and Navy in the media. Coolest military recruitment commercials = Marines. Best recruitment exploitation in the movies and television = Navy. This one really is a no brainer. Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Navy SEALS, JAG, NCIS. Don’t get me wrong, there are some GREAT Army movies, but they don’t seem to become pop culture like the Navy movies do. Who sings, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling?” Is it Tom Cruise or The Righteous Brothers? If you had to think longer than half a second on that one, you just made my point.

3. Everyone wants to visit a carrier. Politicians, athletes, movie stars, and musicians all flock to see Aircraft Carriers when they are in port. They really are that cool. From sitting presidents and mega-stars to that guy from the movie “Speed” whose convertible Keanu Reeves uses while chasing the bus, they all want to visit.
4. Port calls. Did I mention Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Japan, and Israel? Israeli girls are wicked hot. (Side note, Israeli Army chicks = Hot Ranger Up girls, just an idea…)
5. Annual Army/Navy game. I know all the West Point graduates are seething in rage as I say this, but come on, Army football sucks. The only great football player to come from West Point since Pete Dawkins is….wait for it….wait for it….crickets….

Top Five Reasons to “Leave Navy”

1. The Dining Facility. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, segregation still exists in America today. On Navy vessels, you have one chow hall for E-6 and below, the Chief’s Mess for E-7 through E-9, and finally the Officer’s Mess. No mingling allowed, enlisted DO NOT eat with officers, and officers are not allowed in enlisted messes.
2. Staterooms. Cram 120 Sailors into a space that would normally fit 20, stack them in bunks three high, stuff their belongings in the very limited space under their mattresses, and you have the enlisted berthing area. Take a room that w

ould fit about 20 Sailors, provide spacious beds, desks, and wall-lockers, and you have a two-man officer’s room. Things that make you go hmmmmm.
3. Priorities. In the Army, officers and senior NCOs eat last, go on pass last, and are (supposed to anyway) first in when the day starts, and last to leave when the day ends. This is the complete reverse order in the Navy. On port calls, the most junior Sailors on the last one off the ship, and the first ones back on. They have the longest lines for haircuts, PX (NEX) access, and chow. Officers and Chiefs have head of the line privilege for all the aforementioned items.
4. Bathroom segregation. Yeah, back to the segregation thing. Separate bathrooms for enlisted and officers. To completely pour salt in this wound, junior Sailors clean the officer bathrooms.
5. Uniforms. In the Army, I get to wear ACUs and dress blues. In the Navy, I had dungarees and “Cracker Jacks.” This is another one of those no-contest-why-did-I-even-bother-to-compare items.

There you have it, top five reasons to go/stay Navy. If you are ever faced with this situation yourself, please feel free to print out, and use this article for your own decision making process. Or, feel free to simply print out and put on your dart board. Either way, I hope it’s helpful.

Have your own reason to Go Navy, or Go Army? Post it below!




  1. Pat

    September 24, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I admit, in the Navy we do have an ass-backwards mentality with regards to officer and enlisted status. Even the Marines have their officers eat last. I think the Navy’s view on officer privilege is rooted in the fact that prior to Vietnam, most of our officers were pulled from the upper class of American society. Service as a Naval Officer carried with it a certain level of respectability and social privilege(JFK, RFK, George Bush, John Kerry, and of course Montel). When you look at how long we clung to certain customs and courtesies (calling cards, dining in/dining out) it’s a little more painfully obvious.
    By the way, I always liked the cracker jacks, it’s one of the reasons why I enlisted in the first place. And now because you went over to the dark side, you’re missing out on our sweet new ‘aquaflage’ uniforms. Let’s see you try to disappear into the waves in ACU’s.

    • Monika

      June 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Why would you want to disappear into the waves? I think the uniform is kind of nice looking. But, if I went overboard or something, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be wearing that!

  2. Barrett

    September 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Okay, I can’t really defend the ACU. I can’t dissapear into anything in those bad boys. If we ever have a conflict on a badly patterned couch, then the ACUs will really give us the upper hand. Other than that….

  3. Katie Mac

    September 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Earlier this year, I decided to leave the Navy for the Army. When I’m asked why, I say it’s because I wanted something more physically challenging or because of the opportunities the Army has to offer. While that’s absolutely true, it definitely glosses over the underlying problems I’ve met with in the Navy such as lack of leadership and indifference. I know the Army won’t be all rainbows and unicorns, and maybe I’m just lucky that the Army NCOs I’ve met so far have been helpful and supportive, but I still get the feeling I’ll be much happier there.

  4. Linda

    September 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I, ummm. Well, umm. Guess I shouldn’t point out you never even gave a side note to the Air Force. I guess those of us who were in for the “intellectual” side of the military, ahem, aren’t going to be recognized, however briefly. Say, you never mentioned the part about having your tidy whiteys washed in salt water. I’d say that would be a definite reason for switching to the dark side.

    • The Rhino

      September 28, 2009 at 5:44 am

      Linda – unfortunately, Barrett hasn’t had the chance to try three branches of the military. When he gets the chance to try out the Air Force, we’ll have him shoot out his thoughts, as well.

      – Garrett

    • Thomas

      June 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      There’s still not much “intellectual” about the majority of the Air Force. It’s honestly the same BS everywhere you go, just with different flavored sprinkles on top.

  5. Barrett

    September 28, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Guess that’s just one more thing on my to-do list. Anyone know a good recruiter?

  6. Matthew P.

    September 28, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Reason why the Army is better than Navy.

    Rounds down range. In the first two weeks after arriving at my first duty station I had done one of the largest demo ranges on Fort Hood. I mean we are talking C-4, cratering charges, shaped charges, bangalore’s, AT-mines, and claymores. Shortly after that it was light and medium machine guns with movement to contact (which you do not get to do in basic, at least with live rounds). CALFEX or Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, with a heavy infantry company that included all of the good individual weapons at the disposal of the infantry as well as four Bradley Fighting Vehicles fully loaded with 25mm, TOW’s, and coax. Let me tell you there is nothing quite like personally clearing a mined wire obstacle with bangalore’s, under the covering fire of 240-Bravos and 25MM’s!

    Well unless you are in the Navy, then you can spend all day loading ordinance on jets and then listen to the officers’ stories while you clean their latrines…Oops sorry, I mean “heads”.

    Go Army!

  7. Linda

    September 28, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I know the recruiter, same one who convinced one in my flight to take cocktail dresses to boot camp because of all the parties, or the one who convinced (same) that the “facilities” in the old men’s barracks, where we were housed, were actually hair shampooers. Hooah, maybe I should have gone Army!

  8. GjerkPfist

    September 28, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    One and only reason to join the military: To engage the enemy in close combat and squeeze the last breath out of his/her body with your bare hands. When I was young I played Army all the time and it evolved into playing paintball and airsoft and eventually playing OIF/OEF. Now we have people who grow up THEN start to play Army and decide to play cook or mechanic thier whole career. They probably played like they were in the Navy when they were young then wanted something more physically demanding when they grew smarter. Air Force is a great place for women who want to play Army and for badass pilots but that’s about it. Anyone looking for some profound reason to join any branch other than the Army, Marines or Aviation is misguided. Why was the military invented? To kill enemies. If that sounds fun to you than join. If you have nothing better to do with your life the military is also a good solution, just know that it is because you have nothing better to do with your life, Not because God or your grandfather or Barack Obama would have wanted you to join. P.S. Linda, do you think that the only way to be “intellectual” in the military is be in the Air Force? If you believe that you are about as closed minded as the character I chose to portray while I wrote this comment.

  9. Katie Mac

    September 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Barrett, I don’t think you’re pretty enough to be in the Air Force.

  10. Barrett

    September 30, 2009 at 2:52 am

    In my best Ali voice, with all the confident bravado and swagger I can muster….

    “I’m soooooo pretty!”

  11. Sapper John

    October 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    You know…West Point has three Heisman winners, Annapolis has only two. Granted, Staubach was the last Heisman Trophy winner from either Academy, which was in the early ’60s, but still, three is more than two.

    And, there has never been a Heisman winner from the Air Force Academy…

  12. Steve Chargois

    October 14, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Great article. I know most people would think you’re nuts for choosing the Army over the Navy, and maybe in some way you are, but I completely understand your decision. OK….maybe I don’t, but it sounded good. I think I did even better. I enlisted in the Air Force right out of High School. Spent four years (the first two of those being stationed in the Philippines. Boy, what a time that was), living in luxury and having my every need catered to like I was some sort of celebrity. Maids in the barracks, food cooked to order in the dining facility, flying commercial and staying in the best hotels any time we had to go someplace, working “bankers” hours, and not having to learn any-one’s rank or last name because we were all on a first-name basis. Deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for Operation Desert Shield/Storm and spent the war launching my airplane on missions and kicking back and watching things unfold on CNN from the comfort of my plush air-conditioned room in the Khobar Towers (which would be bombed a few years later). Four years of living like a king and I gave it all up to do something that still has me shaking my head. I gave up the commercial flights for a packed C-130 or CH-53, the gourmet meals for tasty MRE’s, the 5-star hotels for an E-tool and a patch of dirt to dig in, and oh yeah….I had to go to boot camp all over again. I hung up my Air Force uniform and decided I wanted to wear something that was more of a chick-magnet. I signed my name yet again on the dotted line and became a United States Marine. How’s that for doing things Bass Ackwards? Keep up the great writing fellas!

  13. Linda

    November 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Well! Now that my time in the AF has been reduced to nothing, I’d better shut up, go home, and cry.

    • Josh

      June 11, 2013 at 5:21 am

      I am not in the AF, but I have had the distinct pleasure of serving with some CCTs and PJs, and those guys are the real deal. In fact, they are so good at what they do, I would take them over some of my Army compadres any day. Thanks for doing what you did.

  14. PFC L

    April 13, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I think I’ve got it really ass-backwards: grew up Navy (32nd Street Naval Base), went to Army Basic Training (Fort Jackson), then got sent to an Air Force Base for AIT (Goodfellow AFB). Looking back, AF had the best food, Army has the best toys (Ma Deuce keeps your kids safe at night), and navy has the coolest stuff to drive around in (again, Aircraft Carriers are kick-ass).

    Yeah, Navy on-ship quarters blow sticky chunks compared to Army barracks. I’d have fun fitting my six-foot frame into a 68-inch bunk. Way I count it, you have six cubic feet to fit in a nine-month-deployment’s worth of crap to keep you occupied … no wonder they had the Wog Rebellion (oops, did I mention that out loud?).

    The Navy has port calls, but the Army has itself. We don’t need some exotic port-of-call to have a wild-ass party with loose women and toxic amounts of alcohol, thank you very much. That’s what we have the Air Force for in the first place (ever notice there is almost always an AFB next to every Fort?).

    I am jealous of the Air Force for two things: their female officers and their dining facilities. My AIT was on the same base as the Air Force Intelligence Officer Basic Course (mouthful, I know). Us junior enlisted would walk out of our classrooms and see a horde of incredibly attractive female officers in ABU/Class B walking past us. We’d all salute as they walked by, but felt jealous we would never get a shot at any of them. And yes, Air Force food is way, way, way, way, way, way better than anything the Army has to offer. The breakfast menu was pretty damn good for an AFB in bum-fuck-nowhere West Texas, and by far outclasses any DFAC the Army runs that I’ve dined at. I’m surprised my arteries haven’t hardened over completely from the eggs there.

  15. Squid

    June 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Go Navy! Beat Army!

    Honestly, the Navy does have it’s advantages and disadvantages. Do I regret my time served? No and I give much respect to the Army. Without them, I’d have to go pound sand. Just kidding.

  16. Jumpin Jack Flash

    June 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I’m a former Marine, but having over 2.5 years of sea time in a 5 year enlistment gave me a pretty good idea of what Navy sea life is like, and it sucks.

    When people ask me what being on ship is like, I tell them it’s like prison. Everything is grey, you can only go outside for an hour every day (if you’re lucky), the food sucks, and you do the same thing every day for months on end. Sure, they have port stops, but you are only there for a couple days and you will probably have duty for at least one of them… It doesn’t make up for all the BS you had to go through to get there.

  17. Stephanie Veselka

    June 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Don’t forget about the NEX prefered officer parking. Can’t even park at the exchange without that segregation. The other thing is in my experience, Navy housing just sucked. You couldn’t even call for a pizza delivery at night, the areas were that bad. Air Force housing gave me a three bedroom for my 2 dependents because my BAH was enough in the eyes of the AF. Navy housing ? 900 square feet 2 bedroom shithole.

  18. Greg

    June 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    You forgot duty stations. The thing about the Navy is, you’re pretty much always gonna live by the beach. Granted, Ingleside, TX and Groton, CT aren’t exactly paradise, but In the Nav you’ll never have to worry about being stationed in Oklahoma or Kanas or South Dakota or Fayettnam. Pretty much all of the Fleet Concentration Areas are decent places to live, and I challenge any service to match a place like San Diego (not counting the Marines in Pendelton ad Miramar, obviously).

    • Josh

      June 11, 2013 at 5:29 am

      I’ll call your San Diego, and raise you a Schofeild Barracks, Hawaii; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and for the really lucky Okinawa with the 1st SFG. All three of those are some pretty nice place to live. I didn’t even mention Germany, or Vincenza, Italy.

  19. doc Steve

    June 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Why didn’t you join the Corps? YOu could have had it all; berthing areas worse than a sailors, equipment older than the army’s, the worst duty stations, the longest and toughest basic…
    …okay, not great selling points, but nobody questions your truculence as a Marine.

  20. Dirt Sailor

    June 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    The part of the Navy everyone always forgets about is the Seabees- you get some of the suck of Army life but all the benefits of Navy life. Dress uniforms are a rarity and our new digital uniforms actually blend in (unlike NWU type 1s or ACUs). Not to mention we tend to get along with both the Army and Marines since chances are at some point in a Soldier or Marine’s career a Seabee built something for them, and they watched our back while we did it.

  21. ThePickle

    June 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I did four years as a squid, had a pretty good time overall. There were a few things that made my decision to seperate and go back to school a lot easier. As mentioned above, there were severe leadership issues, going all the way up to POTUS (I was in ’05-’09). I believe these issues are caused by the fact that the Fleet hasn’t been in a shooting war since Japan surrendered. Oh, our pilots and dirt sailors have gotten their hands dirty, but there hasn’t been “naval combat” in almost 70 years! This has produced officers and NCO’s who train for promotions and inspections, not combat.
    The Navy’s “frocking” system of promotion was also a factor when I decided to leave. I was promoted to Second Class PO, with all the rank, responsibilty and duty that entailed (the responsability and duty I’d had since I was a Third, but that was my idea so I can’t complain) but not the pay. I didn’t make E5 until I’d been “frocked” for 9 months, despite my outstanding eval, and the fact that I scored in the top 1% of the entire Navy for my rate. The reason? I don’t know because I never got one. In fact, when I went to my Chief and asked him when I was going to get my pay raise (at the 6 month point) he couldn’t even find out when it was going to happen. So not only was I not getting paid for the rank I held, nobody could even tell me why not or when I would! If that’s not enough, if I had messed up bad enough to get busted down a rank, I would have gone down two, since they reduce you by pay-grade, not what’s on your sleeve.
    Chow wasn’t bad, I’ve had MRE’s and I’ll take undercooked rice +ketchup and noodles from the ship’s store anyday. The berthing isn’t too bad underway, if you’re in the right spot on the ship. The place to be is right over the screws, best sleep I ever had was when the ship would be cruising at about 25 knots, hitting the waves just so. It was like a magic fingers water bed, and the noise from the cavitation drowned out most of the snoring.
    That being said, we had pretty nice barracks on my base (bremerton, blegh) but there was a waiting list to get into them that was obviously designed to confuse enemy spies. Guys in Ops or some of the smaller divisions could get one right away, while engineers (like me) had to wait. Add into that a COC that could not seem to write and maintain a simple list of “who needs a room” and I spent more than 18 months sleeping on the ship, even in port, while sailors who just checked in got rooms. Yes, I know I sound butthurt about this, because I still am :'(
    The segregation that many of you have mentioned is for real, but goes back way further than WWII. That’s left over from the days of sail, and actually makes sense when you understand the history of it and the different mission and culture of the Navy. That being said, my first day on the ship I slept in an open rack that smelled like piss (because the previous occupant had pissed all over it) with no sheets, blankets or a pillow because nobody from my division could be bothered to check me in on a sunday. When we onloaded our Air Wing in San Diego, the squadron officers were met in the hanger bay with punch, chocolate chip cookies and E3’s to carry their luggage up to their 2-4 person staterooms. So really the lesson here is, join the Navy but be smart and join as an officer.

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