MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unwritten rules that all soldiers know

The world is full of unwritten rules. Don't make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:


1. The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant

Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don't know anything yet.

(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)

Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.

Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.

2. Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways

"Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?" "No."

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it's pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.

You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.

(Caveat: If you're overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)

3. All timelines get worse with time

Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It's gonna be a while.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.

Count on it.

4. Don't rely on it being there unless you ruck it in

If it's in your bag and kit, you have it. If it's on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won't have it.

(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)

All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You'll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you're supposed to have more men and weapons.

Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you'll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there's always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won't get through.

5. Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)

Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn't carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant's lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.

And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.

6. Don't steal personal items; don't steal anything from your own unit

Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there's often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)

First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it's off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it's off-limits. You don't shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.

7. Doesn't matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it

The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.

But that unit doesn't care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don't care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.