14 things only people working at the Pentagon understand

The Pentagon. That big, awkwardly shaped building that is the epicenter of all military goings-on in our country. Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal, the Pentagon is not some cool, dimly-lit operations center filled with military folks perpetually in the middle of a life or death operation. Well, I’m sure they have those rooms; I’m just not allowed in them.

No, for the average Pentagon person it’s a really big office building with lots of cipher locks and meeting rooms where policy is laid out and then dissected in excruciating detail, a place where the art of the blind copy on email has no equal. It’s a must tour/assignment for many hoping to advance in their field and, though technically a military installation, it’s miles away from the experience you’ll have when assigned to Ft. Bragg or any other military base.

26,000 people, 17.5 miles of corridors and a rich (and sometimes tragic) history are all a part of what it means to work in “The Building.”

1. When you come off the metro escalator but are not yet in the building.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Regie

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Regie

Some are covered, some are not—it’s a saluting no man’s land where anything goes…until a gung-ho Lieutenant Colonel decides to call you out right before the guard podium because you didn’t salute. Busted.

2. Those hallways, those polished floors.


The burning desire when in the Pentagon early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to run through the halls à la Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club” singing “I wanna be an Airborne Ranger!” at the top of your lungs.

3. The mirage of the uniform shop on the fifth deck.

Photo: Youtube

Photo: Youtube

Sometimes you can find it, sometimes you can’t…usually when you are in desperate need of a frog or a new ribbon rack.

4. The old food service versus the new food service. 

Photo: Wikipedia/Moe

Photo: Wikipedia/Moe

Remember when one Burger King had to feed like 5000 people? 

5. The Escher-like hallways.

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Walk the same way every day and at some point you will find your corridor blocked with a temporary wall because of construction.

6. Flight suits in the Pentagon.

I will never get used to this sight; unless they start parking jets and helos in the parking lot.

7. The sweet, sweet freedom of the “no cover, no salute” center courtyard.

Photo: Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Photo: Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

It’s like we’re all equal!

8. Floor-Ring-Corridor-Room. 

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Essential first-day-in-the-Pentagon guidance.

9. The eeriness of accidentally running into an official tour guide practicing in civilian clothes.

Photo: US Navy Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Cynthia Z. DeLeon

Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Cynthia Z. DeLeon

Because it’s just weird to see a guy walking backwards talking to himself about military history.

10. The planes.

For anyone who was there on September 11th, the inability to ever get over how low the planes fly when taking off from Reagan.

11. Sigh.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

Photo: Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

The look of defeated resignation on the faces of all those folks who would rather be out to sea/in the field/operational.

12. Your first day, when you saw a four star!

Photo: Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Photo: Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

And your last day when you barely register that the SECDEF just chatted you up in the line at Starbucks.

13. Ouch.

Photo: Pentagon Athletic Center

Photo: Pentagon Athletic Center

Getting a knee injury from having to lean in on the constant curve when running around the teeny-tiny-itty-bitty track at the Pentagon Athletic Center. How many laps around for the PT test? 45 you say? Okay awesome.

14. Forgetting your ID when going to the Pentagon Athletic Center.

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jay M. Chu

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jay M. Chu

(Cue ominous music). Now walk the 20 miles back to your office space to get it out of your computer; unless those ninja-like CAC police have found it first…

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