Like money, time is a currency. Especially in the military, your time can be taken from you in the same way that it can be given to you. When it comes to 72 or 96-hour weekends, troops want to get started as quickly as possible. However, the start of your long weekend is often dependent on the type of safety brief you receive before you and your unit are dismissed. Here are 5 types of briefs that you can expect to hear at some point during your military career.
1. The “don’t do” list
A common belief in the military is that service members need to be told explicitly what to not do. This results in safety briefs that are composed mainly of anything and everything that you should not do over the long weekend. Although these briefs tend to be longer than normal, they can contain some gems. From “Don’t do spice and skateboard naked down the base main street with a samurai sword,” to, “Don’t get caught shoplifting trading cards from the PX,” you’re probably being told not to do these things because someone did it before. Remember, it’s a “don’t do” list, not an idea list.
2. The drive-by
The opposite of the “don’t do” list, the drive-by is arguably too short of a safety brief. Lacking substance, it often leaves no impression on the formation. For most troops, this isn’t a problem. They know how to be responsible while enjoying their weekend: have a designated driver if they drink or sleep at a friend’s place, stick with a buddy in unfamiliar places, avoid all substances that violate the military’s drug policy, etc. However, some service members may genuinely be ignorant to the tips and tricks of how to avoid non-judicial punishment over a long weekend. Fear of not covering all rules and regulations can lead to the aforementioned “don’t do” list.
3. The Goldilocks
A weekend safety brief is like any other public speaking event. It must be short enough so that the audience isn’t bored and loses interest, but substantial enough that the point gets across in a memorable way. For this reason, the perfect brief is a sort of Goldilocks “just right” brief. The commander takes control of the formation and brings everyone in to a huddle. Speaking confidently, but without yelling, they acknowledge that everyone wants to get out of there and start the weekend. First though, a bit of praise about what a great job everyone is doing. Then, the commander lets everyone know how proud they are of the unit and wants to see everyone back in formation safe and sound after the long weekend. Everyone is told to be smart, enjoy their time off responsibly, and maybe a joke is told before the formation is dismissed within a reasonable amount of time. This brief is certainly a crowd-pleaser, but can be tough to master.
4. The piggyback
Few things get an entire formation to groan internally like a leader following the commander’s safety brief and opening with, “Just to piggyback off what the commander said…” You’ve heard it once and now you’re going to hear it again, just in slightly different words. This could be a senior NCO or maybe the XO who wants to hammer home key points made by the commander. However, a piggyback can also take a Goldilocks brief and tack on a “don’t do” list leaving everyone in formation ready to bolt for their cars. If you find yourself asked by the commander if you have anything to add, genuinely add something or simply acknowledge that the commander said it all. No one likes a piggyback.
5. The followup
Technically, a dismissal releases you from your duties until your next report time. However, this isn’t always the case You might get a safety brief from a battalion commander and be dismissed, but you could still get one from your company commander and maybe even your platoon leader (or commander) if they hold you back. Note that the followup can be prevented by the senior commander holding your subordinate commander back. The followup isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. A good followup from a company commander after a drive-by from a battalion commander can save you from a “don’t do” list from the First Sergeant. Additionally, it can allow the unit to bond at a lower level and reinforce the family aspect of the military that veterans often miss.
At the end of the day, unless someone’s weapon goes missing, rest assured that the formation will eventually be dismissed and you’ll be able to start your long weekend. Of course, none of this matters if you’re a Warrant Officer who mysteriously vanishes before any and all formations.