Just last Friday, I traveled from a meeting location to the airport with three military spouses. We had an interesting discussion that got cut short by our arrival curbside at the departure drop-off. One of the spouses suggested we reunite at the United Services Organization (USO) Lounge so we could continue the conversation and enjoy all the amenities. We all agreed to meet there.

I arrived at the USO first. When I peeked in, a Lady shouted, "I need to see your Military I.D. sir!"

"I'm no longer serving ma'am. But, I'm supposed to meet some people here that are."

Several text messages, phone calls, and blog posts later - still no way in. Those military folks looked like they were having a great time in that USO Lounge too. The game was on and they had food! A World War II veteran was telling funny stories. Nostalgia with memories of the camaraderie set in.

ACCESS DENIED! I could only get a peek behind the military curtain. So, I moved out smartly and sat down outside the USO and started thinking how current military folks might feel once the realities of civilian life hit them?

So, here's a comparison of MILITARY LIFE vs. CIVILIAN LIFE:

MILITARY LIFE: The USO is free for anyone with a Military I.D. Card.

CIVILIAN LIFE: The lounges from major airlines cost anywhere from about $325 - $500 per year to join (additional fees apply for spouses). Or you can get a 1-day pass for about 50 bucks!

MILITARY LIFE: Your pay is found on a Pay Scale that's available for all the world to see.

CIVILIAN LIFE: Your pay varies and depends on a lot of factors. Oftentimes you can negotiate for higher pay if you're savvy enough. You also need to consider things such as; stock options, money-match, and other things that resemble compensation. Civilians speak of "a pay in the range of $____ and $____" or about "total compensation".

MILITARY LIFE: Promotions typically happen on an established schedule and involve a measurable system that's spelled out in great detail. For example, for the E-5/E-6 promotion point process, the US Army measures Commander's Points, Board Points, Awards, Military Education, and Civilian Education. All Branches of the Military handle Officer promotions be relying on selection boards comprised of senior officers and these boards are convened by the Secretary of Defense (or Secretary of Homeland Security for the Coast Guard).

CIVILIAN LIFE: Promotions can sometimes be vague and ambiguous. In other words, there may or may not be an established system for promotions. Every civilian company is different. See store for details!

MILITARY LIFE: 30 days paid vacation or leave.

CIVILIAN LIFE: Most companies give 2-3 weeks per year plus some holidays off. Some even let you accumulate vacation days.

MILITARY LIFE: Commissary and exchange shopping privileges.

CIVILIAN LIFE: Compare prices! Surf the 'net! Click that mouse! Go to the store! Shop til you drop!

If you want to take a longer peek behind the civilian curtain, find someone who has access to it.

Why wonder when you can know for sure?


United Services Organization (USO)
The Military Advantage 2011 Edition by Terry Howell

New Member
Chazz, I am still in the military and planning on transitioning out in the next few years. But I always think about all of these perk that you mentioned and I will lose becoming a civilian. Although I am mostly reminded at the airport of the special privileges, there are unlimited amount of other benefits with special discounts for buying things such as tickets to movie theaters and so on that I will also be losing. Excellent article!
Community Manager
Community Manager

SirRobIV: Apologies for not responding sooner, but I believe there's been some technical difficulty. I'm convinced that a lot of what you get in civilian life is what you negotiate. There seem to be no hard & fast rules within some industries and career fields when it comes to perks.


Some companies have gone to the extent of creating a work environment and corporate culture that creates many perks. If you do an internet search for "Best Companies to Work For" you'll find lists of cool perks.


But, most importantly, it is about finding the right fit for both you adn the company. And, don't be afraid to ask for benefits and perks especially if you've done your homework on the front end and discover what might be available. Then you can choose your perks and benefits like a buffet. For example, you may choose to fill the gaps of some of your civilian employer benefits with those bennies you get as a Veteran, and vice versa.


All the best to you!