How is it possible that two members of the same military service branch are so different? Like so many other behavioral traits, it all has to do with upbringing.
Enlisted troops go straight from the recruiter’s office and into active service while officers study to get a bachelor’s degree, go through officer leadership training, and learn a service-specific career field.
Neither is better than the other, but there are a few old tropes that make each easy to identify — even out of uniform. But sometimes, the lines start to blur…
1. Having gray hair in civilian attire
Every so often a Marine will have the blessing (and the curse) of naturally gray hair. Sometimes the cause is hereditary, other times it’s because they’re the only one with common sense. When I was in the Corps, one platoon would send a particular gray-haired Marine to the Postal Exchange because nobody would stop this distinguished-looking man from cutting to the front of the line. In the case of acquiring energy drinks and tobacco before a month-long field operation, the ends justify the means.
2. Saying things like ‘outstanding’ instead of ‘great work’
Officers are notorious for saying this unironically. It’s succinct and professional, but if used enough, it will spread faster than that “cold” everyone got before pre-deployment leave.
3. Never helping when you see others struggle
If you ever see an officer lend a hand in loading or unloading gear, report them to the nearest law enforcement agency because that person is a spy.
4. Walking around with a green log book and clipboard
If you want to be left alone, these two items will render you invisible. Troops will avoid you because it’s safer to assume you’re doing something important than to find out for certain. Even senior enlisted will about-face if the words ‘staff duty’ are overheard in conversation.
5. Getting lost during land navigation
Land navigation is an important skill to master because a GPS will not always work in-country. The sheer weight of a lieutenant’s butter bar will offset the azimuth of even the strongest compass.
6. Marrying for love, not BAH
Barracks life can become so unbearable that you’ll be willing to sign another contract. Some Marines will roll the dice with just about anyone to escape the bullsh*t on base. Officers have had time to nurture their relationships prior to their service, before the green weenie tries to break them up.
7. When you get in trouble, the command has your back
Rank has its privileges and officers are often given the benefit of the doubt or a slap on the wrist. If you receive the same courtesy, you’re in danger of promotion.
8. Thinking your opinion matters
Freedom of speech is for civilians.