There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation.
Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.
1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.
You're at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. "Oh, are you a soldier?" she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn't give it away. "What rank are you?"
Just run away. Now.
2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.
Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn't always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.
And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.
3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.
The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don't really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect "USMC" in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.
4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.
The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone's throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read "E-1 and Up!" along with "We Support our Troops!" Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.
"Oh hey, I'm a former Marine too, so I'll definitely hook you up, brother," is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don't end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.
5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week.
You may have heard the phrase "gear adrift, gear a gift." As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.
6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn't cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.
You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn't a good strategy.
Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.
What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.