Ever wonder if you picked the wrong military specialty?
Maybe you're a grunt, but you've always wondered what it would be like to drive a tank. Or maybe you're a tanker but find yourself checking out the flight line with a certain sense of what-if.
It's never been easier to find out if the grass really is greener on the other side of the specialty fence line. Or maybe you just want to have some kick-ass fun.
Whatever your motivation, a slew of new military-themed adventure offerings make it possible. Ten of our favorites, from west to east:
1. Undersea submarine tours
Hawaii: It's not exactly life aboard a fast-attack boat, but you'll still get a deeper understanding of life beneath the waves as you dive deep inside one of Atlantis Submarine's 48- or 64-passenger vessels. Launching from three of Hawaii's islands, you'll dive to 100 feet for an up-close-and-personal tour of reefs and shipwrecks. (For a look at Navy undersea living, head to Pearl Harbor's USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.)
Cost: Starts at $99
2. A night on an aircraft carrier
Alameda, Calif.: Put a nautical spin on "Night at the Museum" with your overnight embed aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Hornet. The ship was the first to sting back against the Japanese after the Pearl Harbor attacks — launching Doolittle's famous raid of B-25 bombers — and recovered the first Apollo astronauts, among a slew of other history-making missions. The overnight package aboard the Hornet, now a Southern California Essex-class museum, includes berthing in an original crew bunk deep inside the big deck, as well as flight simulator rides and two squares — dinner and breakfast — from the ship's mess.
Cost: $100 per person
3. Shoot like a sniper
Phoenix: The Arizona-based GPS Defense Sniper School offers basic to advanced sniper programs for civilians and military, as well as a military-only 10-day "Warfighter Course" — the same training package the company uses to hone Ranger and SEAL units before deployments.
Cost: Five-day basic sniper course, $950 (with military discount)
4. Air-to-air dogfighting
Mesa, Ariz.: Go ahead, Ghost Rider, request that flyby. You'll want to after training with Navy F/A-18 Hornet pilot Paul "BJ" Ransbury and his team of ex-military fast-movers at Fighter Combat International. From half-day intros to the five-day Combat Ready Wingman Program, you'll go head-to-head at the dual controls of the high-performance barrel-rolling Extra 300L, equipped with a gun sight, smoke generators for confirmed kills and cockpit cams to record all the action. Yee-ha, Jester's dead!
Cost: Starts at $795
5. Ride in a bomber
Galveston, Texas: If riding shotgun aboard a bomber is on your bucket list, look no further than the Lone Star Flight Museum, which offers regular rides aboard its four-prop B-17 Flying Fortress and twin-engine B-25 Mitchell. Both served as strategic hammers that helped nail the coffin on the original Axis of Evil in World War II. Not in Texas? Not a problem. Check out the Bomber Flight Info website to zero in on a flight near you.
Cost: Starts at $375
6. Drive a tank
Kasota, Minn.: You don't have to dream of epic tank battles to appreciate commanding 16 tons of heavy-metal thunder. Indeed, anyone who's ever raised an angry fist (or finger) on the highway will love the satisfaction that comes from renting the British-made big gun known as the FV433 Abbot. In addition to taking it for a spin through Drive a Tank's combat course, you'll learn firsthand why tankers like to call everyone else on the road "crunchies" when you get to drive over a car.
Cost: Starts at $399
7. HALO jumping
Memphis, Tenn.: When special-ops ninjas want to pop into enemy territory on the sly, one favorite technique is the high-altitude, low-opening parachute jump. High as in higher than Mount Everest; low as in free-falling for two minutes before pulling the rip cord. While HALO school is reserved only for "special" people in the military, anyone can learn how at Tennessee-based HALO Jumper.
Cost: Starts at $375-$3,495
8. Fly in a Cobra gunship
Hampton, Ga.: The two-seat AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter first saw service in Vietnam, but it's still flying strong in the Marine Corps and foreign militaries around the world. It's also still in action at the Georgia-based Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, whose veteran pilots are regulars at air shows across the country and are only too happy to take you up for a spin.
9. Zero-G space training
Oldsmar, Fla.: Space Camp for grown-ups? You bet. If Richard Branson and his crew at Virgin Galactic get their way, we'll all be breaking the gravity barrier soon, but in the meantime, the astronaut trainers at Aurora Aerospace in Florida have the right stuff for a taste of weight-free flying. Sure, you can spend a small fortune diving through the sky in big Russian cargo jets, or you can spend a much smaller fortune in Aurora's smaller planes to get that same lighter-than-air sensation. Packages also include a flight in an L-39 Albatros fighter jet, shown below.
Cost: Starts at $5,000
10. Train like a SEAL
Virginia Beach, Va.: Founded by former SEAL Team 6 operator Don Mann, SEAL Training Adventures is all about answering one question: Do you have what it takes? The 24-hour SEAL Adventure Challenge is designed to be the closest thing to Hell Week outside of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, while the eight-day Special Operations Forces Academy offers real-world certifications in scuba diving, sky diving, basic shooting, combat casualty care and land nav.