Troops are known for discipline, but they have a pretty great side hustle going in debauchery, pranking their way to laughs and the occasional non-judicial punishments. Here are a few of the pranks that members of the military are uniquely positioned to do.
The military exists by its own rules, both the stated ones like the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the cultural ones like "First sergeants have to use knife hands and the word 'behoove' as often as possible." Some of these rules are frustrating, bone-grinding distractions. But some of them create openings for a little fun:
1. Reacting to outgoing fire in front of the new guy
"We gotta run, man. Otherwise, these artillery simulators may start to bracket us."
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Overson)
For those who didn't spend much time on forward operating bases or similar, there are two kinds of artillery, mortar, rocket, etc. fire. There is incoming fire, where the enemy is trying to kill you, or outgoing, where your guns are trying to kill the enemy.
After just a few days of casual listening, an attentive person can get a feeling for what outgoing sounds like, and they know not to jump or dive when the boom is just the guns firing. But, savvy customers can then scare the new guys by reacting like an attack is in progress whenever a boom goes off.
Hear a boom? Dive to the ground, into a bunker, or behind a barrier. (Bonus points if you can get your hands on artillery simulators and make your own incoming artillery fire.)
2. Put classification stickers on someone's device
Do not drop classified poops into this toilet. This is not a classified medium.
The military has to label data storage and processing systems with stickers that say what level of classification it is. These stickers should only be placed appropriately on government equipment (usually electronics like computers and printers). But, with the right communications security guy to work with, you can stick those adhesive squares on anything, like, say, a buddy's phone.
Then, the communications security guy can show up before the sticker is taken off and take possession of the phone, ordering that it must go through the full process of being turned from government property to civilian possession. But uh, a little warning here: don't use the red stickers, and don't do this near comms guys who aren't in on the joke. Otherwise, that phone really might become government property.
3. Light assault right before a drill sergeant or officer enters
When certain noncommissioned officers or officers enter a room, personnel inside are required to call the room to "attention" or "at ease." (This is usually the commander or the senior NCO of a unit, but is also often done in training units with cadre.)
So, if you really want to mess with a buddy and see one of those peeps coming, hurt 'em just a little right before the superior person enters. In my training time, this was often a "ball tap," but be sure your buddy is cool with games like that before you flick their crotch. Otherwise, a quick kidney jab or Charlie horse will do the trick without generating a SHARP complaint.
4. Making up imminent inspections (and hiding stuff they need)
"You don't understand, man, the petty officer is going to look INSIDE your faucet."
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)
Speaking of inspections, at the barracks level you can also just make up inspections and then hide things that they'll need. If you get new leadership, this gets especially fun. The platoon sergeant may hold off on inspections to bond with the team, but you can definitely convince some of the Joes that he's coming to the barracks. In an hour. And everything should be perfect.
And, whoops, looks like the floor wax has gone missing. Sure Joe can figure out something in an hour. Maybe use the lube from your jerk stash.
5. Sealing off the shack they sleep in
Speaking of jerk stashes, there's a tactic on deployment to help troops sleep and, ya know, do other things, by hanging sheets, blankets, or towels from their bunks for a little privacy and some shade if the lights in the barracks are kept on.
But with a couple of strips of tape, that Jack Shack can become a very confusing prison. Wait for them to pass out, preferably after a few cans of O'Doul's and bottles of water. Then, quietly and carefully, stretch tape along the spots where sheets and towels meet, turning them into seams instead of openings. Then videotape them trying to get out.
6. Swapping identical gear before property inventories
Imagine that it's your job to inventory all this property. Now imagine that some jerk has scrambled the placement of each item so you don't know where any individual item is. But now imagine you're the jerk. You could be that jerk!
(U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Stewart)
Every month, some officer gets tasked with inventorying property. At a minimum, they're walking through the headquarters trying to ensure that 10 percent or more of the unit's property is there, serial number and all.
And that's what gives the prankster an opening for chaos. It's not enough for the officer to see that the operations shop has eight monitors. The operations shop has to prove that it has eight specific monitors, by serial number. So, if you're comfortable throwing a wrench in the works, start shifting monitors around.
Shifting within an office will confuse the people in that shop and get some chuckles, but shifting otherwise identical gear between shops is where it gets fun. As the officer and members of the shop run around confused, finding none of the serial numbers where they're supposed to be, you can use the time to reflect on how service in the military is often a Kafka-esque nightmare.
7. Hide lost ID cards or weapons
This one's pretty common. ID cards and personal weapons are supposed to never leave a soldier's possession unless they're being handed over for a specific reason like giving up the ID card for a urinalysis or turning in a weapon to the armorer.
So, when you find one that was left behind, there are a few options of what to do next. You could turn everything in to a responsible adult. Or, you could hide the weapons and freeze the ID card in a block of ice. You can also wrap the contraband in concertina wire, create a treasure hunt that ends with the location of the ID or weapon, or even "pass it up the chain."
Passing it up the chain is where everyone gives the card or weapon to someone who outranks them, even slightly outranking like someone who made sergeant the month before the previous holder. Then, when the sergeant goes looking for the missing item, every person makes them do 10-50 pushups before saying, "I gave it to so-and-so." Done right, this can guarantee the soldier will never lose the item again and will definitely pass their next PT test.
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