8 unanticipated downsides of cool Army jobs
The Army is cool, as any recruiter will happily tell you while sliding a suspiciously thick stack of paperwork your way across the desk. But even the coolest jobs have downsides. The people who get to do the coolest stuff also often have to deal with the crappiest side bits.
Here are eight awesome jobs that sometimes, unexpectedly, suck:
1. Mortarmen lob bombs but carry insane weight
Mortar Soldiers with the 77th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, fire a 120mm mortar round to provide indirect, suppressive fire for infantry Soldiers during a squad live-fire exercise November 3, 2016 at Udari Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Angela Lorden)
On the list of cool jobs, "use rifles and armor to find and fix enemy forces, then bomb them with mortar shells that you launch out of hand-held tubes," ranks pretty highly. But being a mortarman, or "Indirect Fire Infantryman" as it's known, has some drawbacks. The greatest of which is the sheer weight.
Mortarmen can sometimes get close to their firing points with vehicles, but that's far from guaranteed. And planners seem to take a perverse interest in making the 60mm mortar crews march as far as possible. Those crews have to carry a mortar that weighs about 20-40 pounds in addition to mortar shells that weigh about 4 pounds each.
The weight only goes up from there with the 81mm mortar system. The 120mm mortar system obviously weighs the most, but the weapon and its ammo is typically moved by vehicle.
2. Wolfhound operators can listen in on enemy radio transmissions but are always seen as nerds
U.S. Army Sgt. John Leslie, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., completes system setup for the Wolfhound intelligence gathering system during the fielding and training class at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, January 25, 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class E. L. Craig)
There's a class of soldier that can detect the location of enemy transmissions and then listen in on them, translating them instantly if they're a linguist or have one nearby. But, unless the carrier is an infantryman who can absolutely destroy on the Expert Infantry Badge course, they're going to be derided as a nerd.
And that's because they have to learn some nerdy stuff, especially if they're an Electronic Warfare Specialist by MOS. Managing the device requires knowing a bit about radio frequencies and electronic devices used by the enemy, but getting a soldier who can relay the enemy's entire plan to the platoon is worth the occasional Poindexter joke.
3. Public affairs troops get to see many angles of the Army, but are always just tourists
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie, photojournalist with the Hawaii Army National Guard's 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, photographs from the back of a Stryker fighting vehicle during Operation Buffalo Thunder II in Shorabak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 27, 2012.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie)
Want to patrol with the cavalry one day, hit buildings with infantry the next, and clear obstacles with the engineers on the third? Then public affairs is for you! Unfortunately, you will also be considered a tourist for your efforts.
That's because public affairs rarely has the chance to really learn their unit's job on the tactical level since, you know, that's not their job. But they do get to learn a little about all the forces in their unit or — if they're in a public affairs detachment or a high-level office — their entire area of operations. Kind of like how a tourist learns a little about a bunch of things in a city or country.
4. Cav scouts are human eyes and ears for units, but are heckled for their efforts
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Multinational Battle Group-East's Forward Command Post clear a building during a training exercise in Gracanica, Kosovo, May 10, 2017.
(U.S. Army Spc. Adeline Witherspoon)
They go forward in small groups, sneaking as best they can around potentially massive enemy forces. They're outgunned, outnumbered, and using their eyes and ears to call in bigger, badder weapon systems against enemy formations. And they're also widely made fun of, especially by the infantry.
Cavalry scouts have a reputation for being a bit weird, and that leads to all sorts of comparisons to groups considered odd by the internet, like Bronies and Furries. It's not fair, obviously, but the scouts seems happy as long as they still get to crawl around in the mud looking for tanks and yelling, "Scouts out!"
5. Medics are linchpins of combat units, but have to see lots of gross genitals
California Army National Guard Soldiers from the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare simulated casualties to be evacuated by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, 40th CAB, at a tactical combat casualty care lane at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, February 23, 2016.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer)
They're venerated, valued, and skilled. They're de facto members of whatever unit they're part of, even being protected from the "POG" title if they serve with the infantry. Their skills transfer well to the civilian world — they're actually required to maintain their EMT certification, which makes finding employment easy.
But medics are the primary source of medical advice and care in many of their companies and platoons, meaning that they see all the symptoms of disease or injury in their units first. And that includes STDs and genital trauma, which means that most medics have a mental library of nightmare material. They also have to ask things like, "can you describe the discharge for me?"
6. Tank crews roll in thick armor, but draw fire from everything that can kill them
A Soldier for 4th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, ground guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area after his crew qualified during Gunnery Table VI, Fort Carson, Colorado, March 2, 2017.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor)
What could be safer than a tank, with its thick, composite armor, massive gun, and multiple machine guns? Well, in force-on-force warfare, a lot of things. That's because tanks are so powerful that any maneuver force that can take them out needs to do so as quickly as possible. And tanks aren't invulnerable. Even powerful IEDs have destroyed them.
So, when an enemy force sees a body of Abrams tanks, they concentrate artillery and anti-tank fire on them. Now, luckily, tanks do have great defenses and both armored and standard commanders work hard to protect them. But, if you take a tank into a fight against Russia or China, be prepared for your cramped little tank to get rocked all the time.
7. Divers get to swim all day, but have some of the toughest fitness requirements
U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Jeramy Bays, a master diver assigned to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, returns from inspecting a seaplane wreck site in the waters of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll on August 16, 2016.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Markus Castaneda)
Who doesn't love a nice day at the pool, complete with sunshine, warm water, and military salary and benefits? Well, Army divers enjoy all three of those things, but the frequent exposure to chlorine and the constant fitness requirements still make it a tough job.
During training, recruits often spend three hours a day in the pool and have to do tasks like treading water with large weights. Trainees get a few months to build up their skills before graduating, but then they have to maintain or even improve their already-high levels of physical fitness so their bodies can perform and withstand the rigors of living under the water.
8. UAS operators are commonly near the front lines despite the whole "remote" part of their job
Unmanned aerial systems operators prep a drone for launch. While Air Force pilots famously operate from remote stations, Army pilots are typically near the front.
(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Ingram)
Want the title of pilot without all the risk of flying over enemy forces? The unmanned aerial systems operator is the job for you (most people refer to them as "drone pilots)! But, before you start shopping for real estate in the American West, you should know that it's mostly Air Force pilots who can fly drones over the Middle East from the States.
But Army drone pilots are much more likely to be enlisted and to be deployed forward with their birds. Part of their job is actually launching and recovering their aircraft. So, yeah, they're generally within a few dozen miles of the fighting, potentially within range of enemy artillery, close air support, or even enemy drone attack.