Read an Excerpt
1001 Things to Love About Military Life
By Crooks, Tara
Center StreetCopyright © 2011 Crooks, Tara
All right reserved.
WORTH JOINING FOR
BE ALL YOU CAN BE
THE FEW. THE PROUD.
DO SOMETHING AMAZING
ACCELERATE YOUR LIFE
AIM HIGH… FLY-FIGHT-WIN
THERE’S STRONG… AND THEN THERE’S ARMY STRONG
BE PART OF THE ACTION
IT’S NOT JUST A JOB. IT’S AN ADVENTURE!
GET AN EDGE ON LIFE
A GLOBAL FORCE FOR GOOD
IT’S NOT SCIENCE FICTION. IT’S WHAT WE DO EVERY DAY.
When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams.
–GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR
1. The opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience that will change your life
Recruiting slogans are created to show possible recruits things they can expect from a career in the military, but to us these slogans reflect the reality of military life.
–STAFF SGT. DAN MCINTOSH, U.S. Army recruiter
2. Pride of service—becoming part of a team that values making a difference by serving others
Ask not what your country can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your country.
–JOHN F. KENNEDY
3. Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), or rating—learning a skill that will transfer into civilian life
4. Devotion to duty
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
–THEODORE ROOSEVELT, “Citizenship in a Republic”
5. Military leadership training, which is often “copied” in the civilian world
A good leader is one who causes or inspires others… to do the job. His worth as a leader is measured by the achievements of the led. This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness.
–GEN. OMAR BRADLEY
6. The opportunity to live in foreign countries
Many Americans plan for years, often waiting for retirement, to take the “trip of their dreams” to Europe or Asia. And if they do manage to go, it’s usually for a week or two, possibly three if they are lucky, racing around from site to site to pack everything they can into that short time. They create memories by snapping photos on the way to the next tourist attraction. “Photo op… you have five minutes” is the common call of tour bus guides.
Compare that to the experience of many military members and their families. When you get to live in a foreign country for a year—or often longer—you experience that country in depth. Not only do you get to visit the country’s highlights as listed in tourist brochures, you can visit these key attractions in off-season to avoid swarms of tourists. Plus, you get to live the life of the locals in many ways.
For example, living in Germany year-round, you can shop in the local butcher shops, cheese stores, and bakeries. You know when the farmers’ markets start up and find your favorite vendors to return to each week. You can enjoy traditional Neu Wein, Zwiebelkuchen, and Spargelsuppe in spring and Kristkindlmarkts, Glühwein, and Lebkuchen in winter. Most important, you get to know the locals, learning about their customs and sharing your own.
What interesting foreign life experiences have you had?
7. A way up and out of a small town, big city, bad situation, or simply a rut
Eight years ago I was living in Philadelphia and I was not exactly heading in the direction I wanted for my life. A friend of mine told me he was going to join the Air Force and after he told me about the college benefits and some of the programs they had, I decided to at least go talk to a recruiter.
My first deployment cemented my love of the Air Force, and showed me that there are a lot of opportunities in my career field. So much has happened. I’ve been coined by two different Secretaries of the Air Force and dozens of Generals. I’ve helped with relief efforts… Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake here in Japan. I had the opportunity to spend two years teaching combat skills to over 1,600 different Airmen across the Air Force who were deploying into dangerous countries. I graduated college with a bachelor’s in Computer Science at almost no cost to me. The Air Force has been nothing but opportunities for me.
–SCOTTY D., I’m Big in Japan blog, MILBloggies’ 2011 Best U.S. Air Force Blog
What is it like to be a military woman?… It’s like never being alone again in your entire life. It’s having a family and discipline that your alcoholic parents could never give you. It’s a chance for a high school dropout to turn her life around and make something of herself… It was an experience I will cherish forever because the military saved my life and gave me the foundation that made me the person I am today.
–ELDONNA LEWIS FERNANDEZ, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant and coauthor of Heart of a Military Woman
8. Developing a work ethic and discipline that sticks with you the rest of your life
I was joining the Marine Corps for challenge and adventure, but everybody kept bringing me back to the fact that the Marine Corps was going to make you a leader… It’s about being disciplined, decisive, and ultimately it’s about being authentic every single day… Who would have thought the Marine Corps would teach me the skill set that would allow me to be a better parent, a better spouse… ultimately, a better civilian.
–ANGIE MORGAN, entrepreneur and leadership consultant, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, 1997-2006
9. A higher standard
Work to standard, not to time.
10. A well-respected profession
Gallup periodically conducts surveys to determine which professions Americans regard as ethical and which ones they don’t. At the release of its 2010 poll, Gallup compared the results to those from 2004 to the present.
The professions that earn positive ratings from the public are, from top down: nurses, the military, pharmacists, grade school teachers, doctors, police, clergy, judges, and day care providers.
The group whose ratings with the public have risen the most? The military, at plus 8 percent.
When it comes to asking Americans which public institutions they have confidence in, the military has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions list almost every year since the measure was instituted in 1973, and has been No. 1 continuously since 1998—higher than the police, the church/organized religion, the presidency, or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gold is good in its place, but living, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.
11. The opportunity to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian support missions around the globe
Without exception, the CEOs interviewed for the 2006 Korn/Ferry International report The Military and CEOs: Is There a Link? emphasized that the military offers an early opportunity to acquire hands-on leadership experience that cannot be found in the corporate world or at a similarly early stage in civilian careers.
12. Instant responsibility regardless of age
Where else can you fly planes, be the tip of the spear, and save lives, all at such a young age? One Coast Guard slogan says it best:
13. Food and shelter
A single person who joins the military is guaranteed to have a place to sleep and food to eat. It’s great for young men and women who may not have figured out how to budget their money. If they blow their whole paycheck in the first week, they can still survive.
Certainly, one of the most thrilling experiences in a peacetime training environment is detonating explosives. That ranges from pulling the trigger on a bullet launcher, which sets off a controlled explosion in the chamber of a rifle or pistol, to initiating a blasting cap, which starts an explosive chain in demolitions.
One of the larger demolition weapons is the mine-clearing line charge, or MICLIC. Designed to open a vehicle-wide path through a minefield, it is a coiled, thick rope of explosives, which is carried over the minefield by a rocket.
Once launched, approximately a ton of explosives detonate at one time. Any mines in the desired pathway also detonate. This is a huge explosion, incredibly loud, with vivid colors, and accompanied by a powerful blast of waves that rocks even heavy armored vehicles.
–JACK SCHERER, U.S. Army combat engineer
The thrill of flying in helicopters or jumping from planes. Need we say more?
16. Weapons training
Learn to shoot a .50-caliber machine gun, a main tank gun, a 40mm grenade launcher, and/or an anti-tank rocket.
17. Living your own boot camp or basic training stories
When I left Parris Island I walked tall, my shoulders were rolled back, head and eyes straight to the front, and there was nothing in the world I didn’t think I could accomplish when I left the Motivated Island as we call it.
–LT. COL. JERRY CARTER, U.S. Marine Corps, enlisted 1985, awarded a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship, commissioned 1992
18. The opportunity to defend freedom
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
19. Developing self-confidence
Ben is a middle child. He was never needy, always quiet, not very social—very reserved. He wasn’t outgoing, wasn’t really involved in sports, but he was extremely smart. He always made straight As without even trying. He graduated from high school with no plans for college. Two years later his life was at a standstill, so he decided he would join the U.S. Coast Guard.
We were all very shocked and didn’t like the idea. We were very unsure that this was the right path for him. But he always loved the water, boats, airplanes, and helicopters. (One time he saved a friend from drowning in a pool.) He ended up joining, and we supported him.
We think back on that day and wonder why we ever doubted such an intelligent, determined boy. We’re so proud of him for joining the Coast Guard. It was the best thing he has ever done. It helped him become the man he was struggling to become at that time. It gave him confidence in his abilities. He was able to work with his hands in different areas, which fed his hunger for learning. It gave him a role of authority in his life.
The Coast Guard broadened his horizons by carrying him many places in the world that he would have never gotten to see otherwise. Now, he has many stories to tell. He also made TONS of friends—really military “brothers.”
He has great insurance, benefits, and money for college. As a family, witnessing these things firsthand—all the changes he was going through—helped us to let go of him. We could finally let him become his own man. It gave us confidence in him, and we knew he was going to be all right.
–THE WILEY FAMILY
20. Getting your body and mind in great shape so you’ll be ready to face any challenge that comes your way
… it [Marine Corps training] just gives you the mental toughness that it takes… Anything can be accomplished with discipline… I came in an undisciplined eighteen-year-old kid thinking I knew everything… I left there a man with purpose.
–AHMARD HALL, starting fullback for Tennessee Titans, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, 1998-2002
21. Making history while creating your future
22. A fast track to success
Male military officers are almost three times as likely as other American men to become CEOs, according to a 2006 Korn/Ferry International study.
I never heard anything at MIT or Harvard that topped the best lectures I heard at [Fort] Benning.
–WARREN BENNIS, author and pioneer in leadership studies, U.S. Army 1943-1947, awarded Purple Heart and Bronze Star
23. Finding out what you’re capable of
Joining the Army was one of the best things I ever did. I was able to find out who I was. It allowed me to grow and become confident in my own skin. I gained confidence and pride in who I am and what I can do. Being a Soldier and serving your country is an honor and I was glad to be part of such an amazing institution. The best part is once you are in—you are always part of something bigger than yourself.
–CHRISTINA PIPER, Army wife and military brat; her great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and uncles all served; cofounder of
24. A happy place to work
The headline hit the newswires and spread quickly in October 2010: “U.S. military beats out Disney as happy place to work.”
CareerBliss, an online career-guidance tool, used 91,000 independent reviews to evaluate companies based on opportunities for growth, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security, and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.
“It was interesting to see how well the military ranked relative to many top-tier corporations,” said vice president Rick Wainschel. “After reviewing the comments from hundreds of reviews, it was clear our military Service members not only take pride in serving and protecting our country but find a deep sense of personal accomplishment in the important work that they do.”
The Army and National Guard ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the career advancement category, beating out Google for the top spots. The military also ranked high in growth opportunity, benefits, and job security.
Bradley Brummel, a professor of industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Tulsa (Oklahoma) and a member of the CareerBliss advisory board, added, “Despite challenges that may occur when serving our country, including the possibility of going to war, the military provides many of the essential elements to finding happiness at work, including having a meaningful impact on the world, having true camaraderie with your co-workers, and having the opportunities to develop skills.”
25. Making something of yourself
You will become what you make of yourself. And it is that experience of being brought down to the common level, with everyone else, and knowing that everything you do from that point forward is something that you will treasure as your own. You haven’t been given it. You haven’t bought it. It hasn’t been willed to you. You’ve earned it!
–ADAM FIRESTONE, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, 1984-1991
26. ROTC scholarships
27. Paid-for education for certain specialties
The military will pay for education for those who wish to become chaplains, lawyers, optometrists, psychiatrists, dentists, physical therapists, physicians, nurses, and veterinarians. These opportunities are competitive and you incur an obligation of service, usually one-for-one for each year of education. You end up with your professional degree without huge student loans to repay, and you step immediately into work in your field inside the military.
28. Student loan repayments
29. The GI Bill
“A hell of a gift, an opportunity.” “Magnanimous.” “One of the greatest advantages I ever experienced.” These are the voices of World War II veterans, praising the GI Bill, as reported by Suzanne Mettler, author of Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation.
As she discovered from extensive interviews with GI Bill recipients, the educational opportunities provided by the program following WWII transcended boundaries of class and race, enabling so many young men to attain educational degrees and access to professions and opportunities they had never dreamed of.
GI Bill “success stories” abound, from former U.S. Senator Bob Dole to William H. Rehnquist, sixteenth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Frank Lautenberg was born to poor Russian and Polish immigrants. After serving in the Army, he earned an Economics degree from Columbia University on the GI Bill. With two childhood friends, he went on to found ADP, one of the largest computing service companies in the world.
He later dedicated himself to public service, eventually being elected to the United States Senate representing New Jersey and now serving his fifth term. One of the programs he’s helped champion is the modernizing of the GI Bill for military serving today.
[The GI Bill had a] transformative effect on the lives of so many veterans like me.
–SEN. BOB DOLE
30. The possibility of retirement at a relatively young age
What made the military worth joining for you?
ON THE INSIDE
ARMED FORCES OATH OF ENLISTMENT AND REENLISTMENT
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
NATIONAL GUARD (ARMY OR AIR)
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of (STATE NAME) and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.
History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
–GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
31. Oath of Service
Everyone who enlists or re-enlists in the Armed Forces of the United States is required to take the enlistment oath. The oath of enlistment into the U.S. Armed Forces is administered by any commissioned officer to any person enlisting or re-enlisting for a term of service into any branch of the military.
The Officer’s Oath of Office is additional to the Oath of Service and different for each branch.
32. Chain of Command
One great example of the Chain of Command in action is how Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower approached D-Day. He had spent three years planning the invasion. On the day of, as Supreme Commander, he did not issue a single command. The plan and orders were in place, and it was up to those in the “chain” to execute and follow through. His job—trusting his men!
What have you been paid to learn?
“Pilot” is the most commonly searched-for military career on TodaysMilitary.com.
33. Being paid to learn how to
Fly a plane
Jump out of an airplane
34. Your day at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)
Sweating the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), walking like a duck, and raising your right hand: all those things you did to “get in,” “enlist,” or “join up”
35. Commander in Chief
Knowing that our orders come through the people and Congress, and directly from the “buck stops here” position at the White House
36. Being an unofficial ambassador for our country when living overseas
37. Being challenged to perform at your highest level, often way past what you ever thought you were capable of
The difficult we do at once.
The impossible takes a bit longer.
–U.S. NAVY SEABEES
38. Standing in formation on returning from deployment, overwhelmed by gratitude… and impatient to hear the words, “Fall out!”
39. Basking in your parents’ pride and feeling like you’ve lived up to their expectations
I was grateful to the Marines. I was watching my son grow and mature by leaps and bounds. I could only envy this great and life-shaping experience.
–FRANK SCHAEFFER, coauthor of Keeping Faith
40. Greetings of the day
41. Crew cuts: flat tops, high & tights, zero-threes
42. Shower shoes, aka “Jesus slippers”
43. Hospital corners
44. Telling your neighbors you work at the Pentagon and they ask with awe, “What’s it like inside?”
45. Setting a positive example for your children and “being their hero”
46. Dream sheets and the anticipation of where your next duty station will be
POPULAR DREAM SHEET LISTINGS
(Assignment Preference Statements)
Anything in California, even Fort Irwin—You can plan a picnic or a hike any day of the year because you know it’s going to be a beautiful day for being outside.
Air bases, air stations, and Army assignments in Arizona—For its lovely sunshiny temperate climate. With sunshine 85 percent of the time, it’s even brighter than Hawaii.
Fort Carson, Colorado—”Best Hometown in the Army”
Ramstein Air Base, Germany—The biggest military mall and German beer
Hawaii locations—Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Schofield Barracks, U.S. Coast Guard Honolulu, Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base—Military, exotic destinations in the islands. Imagine getting orders to report there. Oh darn! Not Hawaii!
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico—Absolutely breathtaking scenes in your own backyard
Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, or Coast Guard Air Station, Savannah, Georgia—“Southern charm”
Vicenza; Livorno, Italy—Tuscany region, just minutes from Pisa. Mamma mia!
Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada—Las Vegas, Baby!
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska—For its “longest day of sunshine”
What does your dream sheet look like?
47. United States Armed Forces Code of Conduct
The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism.
48. Training instructors
All who ensure you receive the proper military training to advance to the next level: Air Force military training instructors, Army drill sergeants, Coast Guard company commanders, Navy recruit division commanders, and the infamous Marine drill instructors (DIs). If not for them, your preparation and day at MEPS would be for naught.
Pressure makes diamonds.
–COMMAND SGT. MAJOR TERESA KING, first female commandant of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School, whose Soldiers call her “No Slack” and whose mission is “teaching them how to bring troops home alive”
49. Fire guard
50. KP or Mess duty
Kitchen police—you either love it or hate it.
52. Chow hall, aka Mess hall, aka Dining Facility or D-Fac (D-Fack)
53. Knowing immediately what your “last four” are
54. Your unforgettable times in the squad bay or ready room
55. Pass in review
Your family may not pick you out of a crowd, but they’ll sure try.
56. Guidon bearers
Straight and tall with impeccable military bearing
57. Skill training or Advanced Individual Training (AIT)
It’s where you learn what you “signed up” to do.
UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES CODE OF CONDUCT
ARTICLE I: I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
ARTICLE II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
ARTICLE III: If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
ARTICLE IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
ARTICLE V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
ARTICLE VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
58. Mail call and mail drops
An AP photo in my local paper shows a Soldier, with a tank in the background, holding a letter to his nose. The caption reads, “Army Specialist inhales deeply before opening a perfume-laden letter from his wife.” The photo tugs at my heart. The article goes on to say, "he ripped into it with an ear-to-ear grin"—one of the many happy Soldiers of the 3d Infantry Division, surprised and delighted by an unexpected mail call as they moved forward in Iraq.
Mail call. In today’s world of instant messaging, cell phones, texting, tweeting, and electronic greeting cards, handwritten mail is almost an anachronism. But during a deployment, and especially in war, handwritten letters connect you to home and can be carried along to read and reread.
When my husband was deployed in Bosnia as part of the United Nations forces during that war, the only communication we had was very erratic snail mail—no e-mail, no Skype, no telephone connection.
I wrote letters every few days. And sent care packages. The writing was therapeutic for me as was putting together care packages, adding the strawberry Twizzlers and sunflower seeds he enjoys. I felt like I was doing something at least and connecting in the only way possible.
I remember vividly what mail call felt like when I was in my own initial Army basic training many years ago. The anticipation as we all gathered round. And the heart-centered tweak of exhilaration when you heard your name called. I can recall viscerally my sigh and quick turning away from the crowd when my name was not called.
I wanted my husband to be on the “got mail” side as often as possible during deployments.
59. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
60. Buck slips
61. Big black footlockers
62. Rank-and-file formations that are dress-right-dress
63. Military schooling—free training in marketable skills
You can come into the military with no training and they will train you. Very few civilian companies will do that.
64. Geographic Bachelor Quarters
Sure beats somebody’s couch.
65. Staff duty
Extra great when you’re on staff duty the night the XO’s wife has a big party and you get all the leftovers!
66. Additional duties
“With great knowledge comes great responsibility.”
67. Hand receipts
68. Preventative Maintenance Checks and Service (PMCS)
69. Safety campaigns
71. Health and Welfare inspections
Barracks are buildings structured to be permanent military housing. Most commonly, “barracks” is defined as a building or group of buildings designed for the lodging of Service members. Barracks are typically found in garrison environments—in layman’s terms that means that they are structures that reside on the installation (or with a permanent military presence nearby). Many believe that the original objective of barracks was to separate the Service members from the civilian population, thus reinforcing discipline and training. Barracks are definitely not the most elaborate of buildings. They are large, plain, and usually concrete or brick structures that resemble a motel or very simple apartment complex. This intent, combined with their distinct “look,” earned barracks the term “discipline factories.”
As times changed, there was a movement in military life that led to separate housing for different ranks and the development of married quarters. Thus, today, you’ll generally find unmarried, junior enlisted Service members in the barracks as well as those serving an unaccompanied, dependent-restricted assignment; noncommissioned and commissioned officer ranks might also be required to live in barracks.
What is there to love about barracks? The fact that the military has provided housing. The housing is on the installation, which makes it convenient for the Service members to travel and utilize all of the installation services. Senior military members appreciate having all of their Service members in one area—sure does make it easier when it comes to training. But perhaps the most widely agreed-upon thing to love about the barracks suggests that the environment is similar to dormitory living at college—the esprit de corps and memories one builds while “roughing it in the barracks.”
You Know You Are a Military Spouse When…
You save an especially stinky shirt to get you through a deployment
73. PTs—those smelly PT shirts
74. That regular physical fitness test… an incentive to stay in shape
75. PT—“I’ll count the cadence. You count the repetitions!”
One two three ONE! One two three TWO!
76. Reflective PT outfits
77. Passing the fitness test—even better, getting a perfect score
78. Military tattoos—the skin art kind
79. Making weight
80. Post-wide runs
82. Road marches or ruck marches
83. The honor of being a standard-bearer, akin to a “record holder”
84. Drill teams
85. Promotion points
86. Promotion boards
87. Professional development—formal and informal
88. Terrain walks—terrain analysis “on the ground”
89. Being saluted
90. “I Love Me” books or the old “201 file”
91. “I Love Me” walls
Full of military guidons, poems, plaques, and photographs from units you’ve served
92. Getting “coined” by someone you admire and adding to your collection
93. “Attitude Adjustments”
Pain is just weakness leaving your body!
Front Leaning Rest
Drop and give me 20
USN fashion shows
94. An outstanding evaluation report
95. Sergeants’ time
96. Having “top cover”
97. Individual, collective, and virtual training
98. Obstacle/Confidence/Conditioning courses
99. Pull-up bar
100. Flight decks and flight lines
101. Being “volun-told”
If it moves, salute it; if it doesn’t move, pick it up; and if you can’t pick it up, paint it.
–ANONYMOUS 1940S SAYING
102. “Man Overboard” drills
103. Slide for Life
A three-cable slide from a tower to the ground, usually over a pool of water
104. Temporary Duty (TDY)—an acceptable separation
Relative to deployments, a six-week separation is short, no matter what civilian friends say.
105. Operations Orders (OPORDs)
106. “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance”
107. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”
In reality, it’s the things like the unexpected—weather and otherwise—that make training “real.”
108. Basic rifle marksmanship training
109. The range
110. Field time
No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.
–GEN. GEORGE S. PATTON JR.
“Some people’s heroes wear capes, mine wears Kevlar.”
112. SureFire lights
113. Clothing Sales Store
You Know You Are a Service Member When…
Most of your possessions are military issue
114. Camouflage or war paint
115. Crooked-neck or L-shaped flashlights
116. Night vision goggles (NVGs)
117. Chem lights
118. Anything Gore-Tex
119. Silk-weight long underwear, aka “the Ninja Suit”
121. Under Armour performance clothing
122. Poncho liners, fondly referred to by some as “woobies”
123. 100-mile-an-hour (mph) tape
124. Zip ties
125. 550 cord
126. Camelbak hydration system
128. Rite in the Rain notebooks
129. KA-BAR knives
130. Camo netting
131. Water buffalo
132. Tactical or combat field gear—ammo pouches, first-aid pack, gas mask, and cat eyes
What are your favorite gear items?
133. Ammo boxes
134. Tents and tent cities
135. Concertina wire
136. Challenge and password
137. Navy or field showers
138. Clear skies
139. Call signs—think Maverick, Iceman, and Goose
I feel the need, the need for speed.
140. The feeling of freedom on that first jump out of the plane and the rush as you pray the chute will open
141. Coming out of the field earns a cold beer, hot chow at home, long hot showers, and rest
142. The salt spray on your face as the ship speeds through the water
143. The beauty of a sunrise or sunset from a naval ship at sea, and the beauty of the stars at sea
Benji often talks about how pretty the sunsets are on the boat when he is out for three months at a time. Also, about how they’ve watched movies on the deck while the sun was setting on the Caribbean and how beautiful the stars were.
–THE WILEY FAMILY
144. Mobile kitchen trailers (MKTs)—meals on wheels
145. Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and A-rations
MREs—Got to love them with nicknames like “Mr. E” (mystery) and “meals rejected by everyone”
A-rations—Commonly known as “bag nasty” boxed meals by the Marines
What is your favorite MRE and why?
You Know You Are a Service Member When…
You keep a box of MREs at home and in the trunk of your car in case of emergency
146. Home port and being homeported
147. Mandatory “fun”
148. Noncommissioned officer (NCO) calls
149. Officer calls
150. The “fun” of measuring exactly where to put your brass on your uniform and hoping the holes from the last time survived dry cleaning to make it easier for you
151. Shiny brass
152. Spurs and Stetsons
153. The humor that ranks combined with certain names results in—Major Payne, Major Minor
Some Soldiers have the right name for the job. Who better than Chaplain Hart to spread the gospel message of love and forgiveness? There was also a Chaplain Meek, who was destined to inherit the earth. Once I met Private Love, who was, of all things, a chaplain’s assistant. He and his buddy, Private Eye, couldn’t wait to get promoted because they were sick of all the smart comments. You just can’t make this stuff up.
– MARNA A. KRAJESKI, Household Baggage: The Moving Life of a Military Wife. (For a very funny essay on this subject, read the entire chapter “Major Major” in Krajeski’s book.)
Our friend Heino Klinck. Ever since he made Colonel… he’s probably ribbed to death: Colonel Klink, “I know nosink, nosink.” And in my basic Quartermaster Course, we had a guy named Bowe, whose first name was Colonel. So, as a lieutenant he could truthfully introduce himself as Lieutenant Colonel Bowe.
154. Looking at the view out the open door of a helicopter
155. Gig lines
We always told our husbands it wasn’t fair. They had it so much easier using the gig line to line up all their uniform items and get things pinned in the right places. When we used the same gig line and then put on our uniform jackets, very often our body shape threw off the correct placement and we had to eyeball everything again with the jacket on. Not so easy or exact.
–KATHIE AND STAR
You Know You Are a Service Member When…
You tell your son to check his “gig line” while at the bus stop
156. Seeing the ladies “dressed to the nines” more often than you would in civilian life (at the balls and dining-outs)
157. Dining-in or Mess Night humor and shenanigans
158. The humor that arises from certain titles
Rear Admiral: Official title given to backseat drivers in the Navy
I always loved introducing my husband when he was the Professor of Military Science, the title for those in charge of ROTC programs at universities. “Meet my husband, Mr. PMS.”
159. Learning to think “outside the box” as circumstances change
It’s almost funny. So many civilians think of the military as being rigid, inflexible, and trained only to follow orders. The reality is that in wartime especially, as circumstances change constantly, you have to be able to think on your feet and find solutions quickly.
Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan present an example. In countries where women are so segregated from men, the U.S. military has had to find new ways to interact with the Iraqi and Afghan women. It’s something the male military members cannot do because it’s wrong in the Iraqi and Afghan cultures for unrelated men to even look at the women, much less engage them in conversation.
One innovative approach, begun by the Marines and adopted by all the services, is the Female Engagement Teams or FETs. A typical FET numbers from two to four female military members, though they can be larger depending on the mission. These teams of female military members get permission from the male elders in a village or area to communicate with the women, asking what they need, providing help and resources.
One Marine FET in the Nawa District of Afghanistan, for example, has convinced locals to start girls’ schools, helped the women start their own poultry businesses, and provided sewing equipment to communities, so the women can sell clothes to increase their families’ incomes.
As Marine Corporal Sara Bryant said in a Marine Corps Times article, “Fifty-one percent of the population in Afghanistan is women. These teams are just another foot in the door to prove to them that we’re not there to be an occupying force, but that we’re there to rid that country of the Taliban.” Plus, the women have such an important influence on their children, at least into their teens, so their views will greatly affect future relations.
The FETs are one way to reach out to Afghan communities in a culturally sensitive way. And just one example of how the military adjusts to conditions, finding new solutions for new problems. Not rigid at all.
160. DANTES—Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support
161. Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC)
For both military members and their spouses, to help make a “traveling” degree program possible. The 1,900 schools offer reduced academic residency requirements, credit for non-traditional learning, and reasonable transfer of credit with minimal duplication of courses, so you don’t have to constantly start over as was so often the case in years past.
162. Tuition assistance for the Service member, even for graduate degrees
163. College credit for military experience
Excerpted from 1001 Things to Love About Military Life by Crooks, Tara Copyright © 2011 by Crooks, Tara. Excerpted by permission.
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