Active Duty: FAQs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 24, 2020 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated November 24, 2020

Published February 4, 2020

Active duty soldiers are key in advancing the US Army's missions at home and abroad. If you're thinking of joining the military, understanding the main aspects of active duty can help you make the most appropriate decision for your career. In this article, we'll describe what active duty is and provide answers to some common questions about active military duty.

What is active duty?

Active duty is when a soldier serves in the military full-time, unlike reservists or members of the National Guard who serve part-time. Typically, an active duty soldier will get time off but even during these periods, they need to be available and may be asked to report for duty. This continual availability means that the Army always has the personnel it needs to perform at capacity for any situation.

FAQs about active duty

Here are the answers to some common questions that many people have about active duty.

  • How long is a tour in the military?

  • What work will I do as a soldier on active duty?

  • How do I find out what work I can do?

  • How do I train for my specialty?

  • Where will I live while I'm on active duty?

How long is a tour in the military ?

Active duty is a term of service in the Armed Forces that may be as short as two years or as long as six, depending on your unit's mission. The military may extend your deployment if your unit is engaged in important work and needs your skills. After six months of deployment on active duty, you will typically be eligible for a two-week period of rest and relaxation leave.

What work will I do as a soldier on active duty?

There are many specialties open to an Army soldier. With more than 150 different jobs, there are plenty of opportunities. Infantry is one of the better known roles but you could also train to become an interpreter/translator or a paralegal specialist. If you have an aptitude for engineering or construction, you could take a role in the Army Corps of Engineers.

How do I find out what work I can do?

If you decide that a career in the Army is right for you, an important step is to take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). This is a detailed and thorough test administered by the federal government that evaluates your abilities and aptitudes. You will usually complete the ASVAB in a school or a similar facility.

If you can't get to any of the venues where the ASVAB is administered or are unable to sit for the exam for another reason, you can take an alternative computerized test called the Pending Internet Computerized Adaptive Test or PICAT. It covers the same topics as the ASVAB and can be administered remotely.

There are four critical areas in the ASVAB that count toward your AFQT (Armed Forces Qualifying Test) score. These are 1) Arithmetic Reasoning, 2) Mathematics Knowledge, 3) Word Knowledge and 4) Paragraph Comprehension. If your AFQT score is too low, you will not qualify for enlistment. However, if you get good scores in other areas, you can qualify for more specialties and jobs. Good scores on the ASVAB can also affect your signing bonus. Once you've taken the test and found out your results, you will receive a list of possible roles called Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that match your skills and qualifications.

How do I train for my specialty?

Before you can begin working in your chosen specialty, you will need to complete BCT (Basic Combat Training). After BCT, you will progress to AIT (Advanced Individual Training). During AIT, you will train in your chosen MOS. AIT is like a technical school but aimed specifically at training Army soldiers. You will become an expert in your field, gaining in-depth knowledge and skills relating to your MOS. Once you have completed your training, you'll graduate from your school and receive orders to proceed to your next duty station. Equipped with your new skill set, you will join your unit and begin working in your new role.

Where will I live while I'm on active duty?

Particularly within the US, soldiers with families may live off base in an ordinary civilian home. In most cases, a soldier on active duty will live on a base, either in the US or overseas. The Army offers accommodations for single soldiers as well as for couples and families with children.

The majority of bases have a variety of facilities that soldiers on active duty can use when they're not at work. These can include parks, campgrounds and trails for walking or biking. There may also be a fitness center and a swimming pool. Modern bases include playgrounds and other facilities for children living on the base. Depending on your situation, you may be able to participate in activities like football, basketball and soccer with other soldiers and their families, either from your unit or in intramural competitions. Some bases may also organize sports tournaments for children.

Most bases will also have a Post Exchange (PX). This is a store on the base that stocks discounted items at special prices for soldiers. Originally, a Post Exchange would have been like an old-time trading post. Today, the base PX is more like a large department store or a shopping mall. You can find the same products you're used to buying in the civilian world but at much cheaper prices.

Explore more articles