OK, I'm a Lt. Now What?


10-Year Member
Jan 9, 2008
Great idea by Tac Nuke to start a thread like this. I'm sure that in between the applications, the decisions on where to apply, the physical, the interviews, the WAITING, and the good news that yes, you got an appointment, a LOT of these candidates and their parents have asked the question, "so what exactly will I / he /she be doing when they get out?"

Allow me a few minutes to provide some insight as to what will make you sucessfully transition from worrying about finals to worrying about your career:

1) What is the number one thing you should be worrying about as a newly commisioned officer? Simple Answer: your J.O.B.! For the most part, our young officers need to become the TECHNICAL experts in their career within the first few years of thier career. Be it flyer, tank driver, ship Navigator, platoon leader, whatever. You want to be successful at it? Then work your tails off to know everything about that position there is to know. Better than the people you lead, better than the Major who leads you. The higher ranking guys / gals are worried about the LEADERSHIP / ADMINSTRATION aspects of the position. They already know the technical apsects, but may have been out of it for a few years. They will RELY on you knowing the TECHNICAL aspects.

Of course, there are some careers (like flying) where becoming the technical expert takes YEARS, and you're expected to focus on the TECHNICAL aspects for a lot longer than other career fields to be successful.

2) Get to know your NCOs. They already know the Technical apsects, and are miles ahead of you in most leadership aspects as well. Earn thier respect by treating them WITH respect. Ask for and follow their advise. But remember, the ultimate decision is ALWAYS yours. Don't try to make them your buddies (you have other Lts for that), something that comes off as unprofessional and something they'll ultimately resent (besides, it's against UCMJ). Instead, treat them as your expereinced quarterback while you are the new coach; they are their to help you LEAD the team. LEARN from their insights.

3) Don't worry about the NEXT job. Worry about the job your doing NOW. You keep striving to be the best you can at the job your doing now, and your boss will worry about the next job FOR you. It's their job to identify whom they think will be their services' future leaders, and they will steer them to the positions and future assignements that will get them there. If your goal straight out of Surface Combat school is to become XO of an attack sub, and all you worry about is what do I need to do to get that assignment, your boss will see that attitude right away, and then you can kiss that dream goodbye. Bottom Line: you want test pilot school down the road? Then worry about becoming the best pilot in your squadron NOW.

4) Family and friends. They will be the rock you will cling on to in the storms that will be your career. NO ONEs career is perfect, with everything you do lollipops and candy canes as you skip down the path to One-Star! You wll have bumps, bruises, bad days at the office, and headaches galore. But you know what helped me get through it, everytime? I came home each night (when I could) to someone who would meet me at the door with a smile and a kiss, and a pack of young-uns who would rush into my arms laughing and begging to play! NEVER put them second to your career. Instead, place them on equal footing. If you're lucky, they will understand that sometimes the life you chose will have to come first, and you won't be there for too many special days to count. Spend 24/7 on the job, and that's all you'll have.

And I'll pass on to you all some advise that Pima gave me a long time ago. A long time from now (hopefully), when your maker has finally called you home, there may be a few of your old military buddies and mates standing around your gravesite passing some stories about you. But the ones who will be crying the longest that day, and usually the last to leave, will be your family. And they will be the only ones to visit your grave site with fresh flowers in one hand and tears in their eyes as the years go by...

5) Finances. Someone mentioned this on the first thread in here, but let me give you my advise as well. They said it perfectly: PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Set it up so some of your pay check is automatically set aside in an IRA or savings account EVERY pay period. This way, you won't miss it when you look at your LES (Leave and Earnings Statement, the military pay stub). I'd recommend AT LEAST 15% of your initial pay at first. You don't make much as a brand new Lt, but every two years, you will be getting a significant raise, along with your promotions. I would also piggy back that you should stock away at least 1/3 of each pay raise into savings.

Life Insurance? Well, the military has one of the BEST programs availalble: SGLI. $400K for about $30 a month, automatically deducted from yor pay again so you'll never miss it. When you get married and start a family, you'd be a FOOL not to take this. It will be up to you to decide whether that amount is enough to set your family up comfortably if something should happen to you.

There are multitudes of financial planners and advisors out there that will search you out to become one of their clients. I mean, you're an OFFICER in the military, someone they know is responsible and low risk when it comes to being deliquent in payments. I don't really care if you use thier services or not, the choice is yours. What I will say is DO SOMETHING! Don't fritter your money away on the latest / coolest toys every month. Pay yourself first, place the money in some type of savings plan, and by the time your ready to retire you'll have a nice nest-egg. Keep buying the latest I-phone every six months, and you'll have some nice memeories and perhaps a good I-tunes library (if they even exist in 20 years), and not much more to live on...


Now, I'm sure there are lots of things I missed or didin't emphasize enough. I rely on some of the other posters here who have "been there / done that" to add their perspectives.

But one final bit of advise: LOVE what you're doing. Be thrilled with every day you have this opportunity. You keep sweating the small stuff, and your life in the military will be miserable (and there is a LOT of small things to sweat over). Keep the BIG PICTURE: you're getting to do things and see things that most of America would never have the chance to do, and would love the opportunity. Don't ever forget to appreciate that fact everyday. And you get to do this with some of the best people you'll ever have the honor to be associated with.

And when you get to that 20 year High Shcool re-union, and you meet some old aquantiences who start that bragging game of "Im a Doctor" or "I'm a Lawyer" and they ask "So, what do YOU do?" You get to see the jealousy in their eyes when you reply "not much, I'm just a Major / Lt Col in the XXX". And you can walk away saying "I won".
Last edited:
I think he was saying lt's in the army and air force and marine which is equal to ensigns
haha I know I was just trying to give him a hard time...I guess my joke bombed
Well shoot...

After those detailed answers....this forum is about closed! :biggrin:

Oh yeah...remember...you can ONLY use the silent "...he/she's a dumb butter bar...they probably didn't know any better..." get out of jail free card ONCE...then you're done.

Unless you are a REALLY good crud player...but that comes later!
With the present real estate climate, I wonder how many junior officers are not accepting the most career-enhancing orders due to being unable to unload their house at their present duty station?
That could be followed up with, how many junior officers own a house in the first place? Most JOs I know rent (myself included), and those who don't rent, and end up buying, generally rent out the house to other Coasties who are stationed in the area after them. That is a steady flow of renters, and you have an ability to contact their commands if payment becomes an issue.
Well shoot...

After those detailed answers....this forum is about closed! :biggrin:

Oh yeah...remember...you can ONLY use the silent "...he/she's a dumb butter bar...they probably didn't know any better..." get out of jail free card ONCE...then you're done.

Unless you are a REALLY good crud player...but that comes later!

Yes! Maybe I will have a couple extra cards then! :)
Yea; the dumb, I didn't know, get out of jail free card is pretty much a 1 time for anyone in the military. No one has a problem if you don't know something. And they expect mistakes. But when you are confronted about the mistake; most times part of the explanation will be; "If you don't know, then ask". ONCE that is said to you, any future boo boo's will be confronted with; "WHY DIDN'T YOU ASK?" That's a hard one to pull the; "I didn't know" card on again.
Most JOs I know rent (myself included), and those who don't rent, and end up buying, generally rent out the house to other Coasties who are stationed in the area after them. That is a steady flow of renters, and you have an ability to contact their commands if payment becomes an issue.

tpg said:
That is what my wife and I did. We bought a house at three different duty stations and rented them to fellow Marines or Sailors.

This is that to which I was referring. Perhaps, Pima, being a realtor, can weigh in on this. The mortgage climate has, I am almost most positive, eliminated this avenue for many. When one is unable to qualify for a mortgage on an additional second home, it makes ownership less lucrative, and perhaps ties one more closely to the existing location.
I know I didn't buy my first house until I had 14 years in. I always rented or lived in base housing. I knew that I was going to PCS every 3-4 years. As for assignments, I don't really remember having too much of a choice. I got to say what I wanted, but the ultimate decision was the Air Force's. if I said no to their selection, they were pretty good about saying OK; but a NEW assignment was sure to follow very quickly. And if I said no to that one, the answer was quite simple. Be prepared to get out. Of course, that's pretty much what I did on my last assignment. I stayed the "Normal" amount of time and then got my PCS pushed back by volunteering to go back to the sandbox. My children were doing well in school and I didn't really want to move them anymore. I was at a position in my career where they would let me do 2 more years at my existing base after the sandbox; and then I simply retired instead of taking another assignment. Of course, there's also some jobs that don't have a lot of PCS assignments until you move up in the food chain. i.e. Missile officer. Not like there are a lot of missile bases. I didn't have that type of job. But I have seen some that rotate their whole career among just a couple of bases. But then again, these positions don't lend themselves to the ultimate in promotions. But a lot of missile officers do tend to do 5 and dive and similar.
Happy to weigh in.

After yrs of experience in the RE market and being a spouse here are my insights:

1. The best website for any military member is www.militarybyowner.com The owners are typically military (if they are with a realtor, the realtor is very knowledgeable about the military). They have incredible amount of faith and trust with their brethren. They also know what the BAH rate is.

2. The most savvy military member is now buying...they realize that we have hit bottom or are very close to it. With mtg rates at 5% (include taxes on a VA) you are at $6 on a thousand...200K is @ 1200, now you get to itemize (this includes the RE taxes, int., your uniform...and yes your haircuts ...military reg states it must be at certain lengths, unlike corp which states clean)...you could be looking at @3K+ per yr. Multiply that by 3 yrs...your checkbook has 9K+, if we only go up 2% per yr you are at 212K. Now minus 5% in commission and closing and you are at 201, plus the 9K that you got back yrly....Rent you get squat!

3. The VA allows you to take yor 1st loan at 1% orig fee which is rolled into the loan. Most people put down 1% for escrow. If you went rental you would be req. to put 1st mo. rent down (about the same) with no quarantee that you will see it...thus same amt. Have a pet...look at putting a heck of a lot more down...pet fee plus tick and flea reqs. The 1% is tax deductible your rent deposit is not. Subsequent use of VA is 3% orig fee...still in todays market i tis better because you will not pay PMI

4. Certain places are better to endure base housing...i.e. Mt Home, SJAFB, Ft.Bragg...as a Lt. you will have very few belongings, thus living in a 1500 sqft home is worth it...you can walk to work, or at least be able to survive on 1 car (hard to do in NoVA)...the town lives or dies by the existence of the base...if it is hit on a BRAC than your investment is going to take a hit.

5. Military members are never pd enough and they know that it is not a forever deal...they live in the fear of what if...if you chose to purchase make sure you can rent it out...i.e. pick the best school district and neighborhood. In NC the pool community will rent faster than the non-pool...stay as close to base. ALWAYS, ALWAYS...TAKE THE SMALLER HOME IN THE BETTER NEIGHBORHOOD

6. DON'T BE STUPID your mortgage is tax deductible...the wear and tear on your car to live 30 miles out isn't...always think about the buyer behind you...you might not mind the 45 minute commute, that doesn't mean that everybod else feels that way.

7. BUY THE HANDYMAN...CAVEAT...make sure that you feel comfortable...i.e. don't buy the one that needs a new roof...buy the one that needs paint, floors, kitchen, landscaping. Bullet and I had a rule...he would buy whatever tool was needed to complete the job and I wouldn't argue with it...DIY can make a huge difference...remove vinyl floors and put in ceramic = the cost of the tool, suppiles and more money in your pocket. Bullet now has compound mitre saws, wet saws, and bench saws, which we get to keep using for the next home.

VERY FUNNY STORY...we move into our home and he immediately removes carpet out of the powder room, we put in a new floor that needs special glue...2 in the am I hear HONEY...HONEY...HONEY! I get off the air mattress and walk into the room...his jeans were glued to the floor and I had to help him out:eek:

I still have a large percentage of military members, Ft Belvoir is expanding by 20K, so we are seeing an amazing increase. Military members are now buying again...they are putting their own sweat equity in.

A home will always be a money pit, my best advice is: live on base when you are young...as you move up than buy...renting means you are paying somebody's mtg (and their tax deductions...as an owner you also get to depreciate the home as a rental property). ALWAYS ALWAYS BUY THE SMALLEST OR CHEAPEST IN THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD.
Last edited:
As for assignments, I don't really remember having too much of a choice. I got to say what I wanted, but the ultimate decision was the Air Force's. if I said no to their selection, they were pretty good about saying OK; but a NEW assignment was sure to follow very quickly.

I don't recall Bullet ever having a choice...take it or leave it was what we faced. The only time we were given an option was when he did the bad juju...jumping with the 82nd.

The DREAM SHEET is a dream sheet!

You serve at the luxury...that sums it up!
The only time Bullet got his dream assignment was after 2 yrs of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. I am just thankful we never had to see Cannon New Mexico...when we were driving from NC to AK, Bullet asked me if I wanted to drive through Cannon. I told him that it would be quite alright with me if that is 1 place we never visited.

As far as tools, you and Bullet should get together. He has become very handy in putting in any type of floor from wood to ceramic. Don't you just love when we come up with designs...I think Bullet still curses the day I made him put in an in-laid wood floor, but then again it might be the bookcased ceramic floor on a diagonal:biggrin:

NOTE TO NEW LTS...Fill out the dream sheet, you'll know when they are processing it because you will hear the laughter from AFPC or whatever personnel branch. I always wanted Bullet to get a job there...just thought these people must laugh their butts off everyday...hey guys come here look what this one asked for:yllol: I also wondered if it was their way to get their own anger issues out...so you want Eglin Florida...okay you get Eilson Alaska...they both begin with E's...close enough right!
When I first came in, I was in the AFCS (Air Force Communications Service). That next became the Air Force Communications COMMAND. Being we had our own command, we had an idea of what bases were available. Therefor, we knew what to try and choose. Choices; while not guaranteed; was likely being you knew where the vacancies were prior to applying. However; I do remember my first real PCS assignment. I volunteered for korea, turkey, germany, england, japan, and I even put in the code for overseas volunteer for ANYPLACE. Somehow; with all their military intelligence; they put me (On the map I was looking at) exactly 2.5 inches from the west coast; 2.5 inches from the east coast; and directly in the middle from North to South. (McConnell AFB, Wichita Kansas). How do you pull that off? Oh well, I stayed there a whole couple of weeks until I learned the system. I found someone to swap with me who was from Kansas.
Also don't forget to add in the dreaded phone call...YOU'RE NUMBER 1 ON THE HOT LIST = REMOTE:eek:

I think Bullet is probably the only person we know that didn't get hit with one...the funny thing is when he put in his retirement papers (he hit the retirement button on the 1st day available to him)...AFPC(a friend) called him and asked if it was true that he was seperating...he said YES, Why? Because you were number 1 in the entire Strike community for Remote. :eek: Oh well, whoever got nailed only has a few more months to endure:frown:
I've loved the phone calls from my brand new LT living on his own for the first time -- they have forgotten a lot after living in an institutional envirornment for four years! My favorite phone call began "Hey Mom, what would you do if you ran out of dishwasher stuff, and just put some of the dish soap in and turned it on?"... after I stopped laughing I sent him to the commissary for lots of salt and vinegar!! He did say the kitchen floor looked terrific afterwards!

Here's one for all you old timers like us-- as a brand new single infantry 2LT reporting to Fort Benning for basic he was eligible for quarters! They let him sign for a 3-bedroom set of quarters, which he then shared with two other LT's -- both of them still drew their BAH and they split the cost -- everyone actually made money for the 9 months they were there! Privitazation has certainly changed things -- his dad told him in the same circumstances 30 years ago he had a BOQ room with a mini fridge!

His luck has held as he reported in last week to Fort Campbell, newly married, and walked straight into a set of 2 bedroom quarters with no wait! Her folks are also retired military, and both Mom's have told them that their luck has been completely depleted, and they will NEVER have less than a 6-month wait for quarter again :shake:. (Did I mention the quarters have a brand new kitchen -- cabinets, counter tops, and appliances?).
Brand new LTs/ENSs benefit from some financial classes, including paying rent, setting up join accounts and paying bills....that was a bit of a hurdle for us.
This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. You must now prove yourself to both the people under you command and to your commanding officer.

Marine Corps Leadership Principles

• Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
• Be technically and tactically proficient.
• Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates.
• Make sound and timely decisions.
• Set the example.
• Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.
• Keep your Marines informed.
• Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
• Ensure assigned tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished.
• Train your Marines as a team.
• Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities.

Tpg's principles are true for all of the services.
Bottom line for what to expect as a brand new 2LT: you are not in college anymore! Lot's of brand new 2LT's from all sources- USMA - Military Colleges, ROTC, get themselves in trouble because they don't understand that they are no longer "playing a game" but are now in it for real, which means that all of your actions are under a microscope and that they actually mean something. In fact in this day and age you very quickly can find yourself as a platoon leader in very hard places. So prior preparation, listening and learning Rapidly from your commander and your NCO's is a key- as is your ability to be personnally organized so that you are not overwhelmed by the myriad of things that you are responsible for planning, executing or delegating and checking. Leaving things to the last minute and bolting into formation is a no go from the day you show up to Ft Benning or Quantico or wherever- if you aren't organized and haven't really dug into the meat of the mission whatever that may be- you will be playing catch up. You will discover that if something should take an hour to accomplish- plan on 3x that as something always comes up or something didn't work as you planned. And since something alway's comes up- some new addition to the mission, if you waited to the last minute to accomplish something- you are now badly behind.
Your NCO's and the Company Commander know that you have zero experience in the real world- it's their job to give it to you- but if you aren't busting your hump to learn fast, be prepared and be responsible then you are going to be a liability rather than a growing asset to the unit.
A couple of other points- your word is your bond and nobody is going to be policing up after you to see if you really did what you said- no time and no people to do that. But - your failure to perform your piece of the operation might unhinge the operation in ways you don't know and leave you or another unit vulnerable as a result.
As my first brigade commander told me and the other 4 new Lt's in the brigade (This was a very long time ago but still true) he knew that we were all brand new and "expected very little of brand new 2LTs other than hard work, honesty, and that they didn't keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again" (ie... learn from your mistakes QUICKLY!).

The last 7 years or so have been challenges for junior officers. Because of the nature of the conflict we've been in- Lts and Captains have had far more independent responsibility than was generally true in the past. Scary and rewarding prospect simultaneously. The cynicism about the system that you displayed as a jaded first classman at USMA or USNA or VMI or the Citadel or ROTC needs to be a thing of the past and you need to understand that this time it's for real and guys lives can very well depend on you.
Last edited:
This is something I was sort of curious about. As far as being stationed in the Air Force, say if i wanted to be stationed in europe and i put down on my dream sheet bases that are all in europe what would be my chances of that happening? I realize that there are many nuts and bolts to this system such as your career and that the needs of the Air Force come first.