I knew when I saw your name you are a soldier. My husband was Active but now National Guard. So first off Thank you for your service.
Secondly, I used larger needles and worsted yarn to start out (been knitting for about two months now). I am an avid crocheter and have had a very hard time learning to knit. To me one hook is better than two needles at least that's what I thought. I'm now hooked on knitting. I also have problems with fine motor skills so knitting is even harder because of that and I'm doing fine.
If you have a hobby lobby near you I would suggest their in house brand (softer than red heart). Also, don't let the guys rib you. You will...are in charge so make them learn to. LOL Call it punishment. HAHA. Laughing at the image in my head. A bunch of soldiers in uniform in a knitting circle.