Military Life

6 ways to avoid being 'that guy' in your unit

There are key distinctions between the names that exist in the plethora of military insults. For example, a "blue falcon" is the buddy f*cker who will intentionally throw their comrade under the bus, while a "sh*tbag" is the troop who will get in trouble and bring everyone else down with them. "Boots" are the young and dumb new troops who haven't yet learned the ropes.


Then there's the mix of the three... known only as "that guy." This is someone who's been in long enough to know better, screws over their brothers, and is often on the borderline of UCMJ action.

This is a brief guide on how to avoid being that guy.

6. Drop the "Army of One" mentality

For five years, the U.S. Army used the recruitment slogan, "army of one." It was dropped unceremoniously because it suggested that that guy doesn't need a battle buddy. The phrase started in the Army, but the mentality is military-wide.

The more accurate-to-military-life phrase is, "one team, one fight." You don't need to become best friends with everyone in your unit, but you damn sure need to be able to work with them professionally.

But it doesn't hurt to make friends. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Samuel Brusseau.)

5. Actually know your job

Troops each play a special and vital role in the grander military. Not to sound like a high ranking officer talking to lower enlisted they've never met, but it also means that not everyone is going to cover for your ass. They have their own "special and vital role" to worry about.

If you're an infantryman, know infantry stuff. If you're a radio operator, know radio stuff. If you're the only armorer in the unit and it's time for you to do armorer stuff, know armorer stuff. There's nothing worse than everyone counting on a single person for a single, specific task when that one person is a complete idiot.

But they'll assume that anyways if you're an armorer and you kick back their weapons over and over. Sorry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Dylan Chagnon)

4. Don't get kicked out of a school

Schools are one of the sweetest rewards a troop can get. When a unit is told that they have a set amount of slots open to attend a school, they'll go down the roster and see who needs it or earned it. The troops that are selected may have a heavy physical barrier or steep learning curve to overcome. They need to give it their all anyway; the entire unit is counting on them.

Related: 7 military nicknames that are definitely not compliments

It sucks if they fall flat on their face, but it'll be forgiven if they tried their hardest. Don't be that guy who gets kicked out for dumb sh*t. For whatever reason units always give that guy a second shot, but if they get kicked out again — that's the final straw.

You'll never live it down if you fall out on day one. (U.S. Army photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)

3. Don't do ridiculously dumb things

You can tell how well-disciplined a unit is by the brevity of their safety brief. You know things are good when the First Sergeant just says something to the effect of, "if you drink, don't drive. If you drive, don't drink. And never mix sex with either of the two. Fall out!" They're just checking the box on things they have to say military-wide, and chances are no one has done anything wrong in a while.

When the First Sergeant says something like, "don't get caught fishing without a license," that means someone in the unit probably got caught fishing without a license. When they start saying something like, "don't keep wild animals you found in the barracks," you know they're side-eyeing that guy who did.

"This goes for the ones in the field and downtown." (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

2. Right time, right place, right uniform

For lower enlisted, there are only three responsibilities to worry about. Be where they were told to be, be there at the right time, and wear the proper uniform.

If the boot who's only a few weeks removed from living in mama's basement can follow these guidelines, someone who's been in the military for a while should know this. Genuine mistakes are made, unforeseen circumstances occur, or words get misinterpreted — sh*t happens. The moment it becomes a pattern instead of a one-time thing...

Just stand at parade rest and wait. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Aiyana Paschal)

1. Just say "roger" and move on

Don't like an order? That sucks. Do it anyways. Is a task inconvenient to your personal schedule? That sucks. Do it anyways. Unless the order is illegal or unsafe, that guy doesn't have any room to complain. If they cry, "but why do we have to sweep the motor pool?" the only answer they need to be given is, "because it needs to be swept. The broom is over there."

Nobody likes doing dull and menial tasks. Spoiler alert: Leaders aren't monsters who enjoy making their troops do dull and menial tasks (if they do, they're not a leader). You're being told to do something because the task just needs to be done, it's an easy task to kill time until CoB, or it's a creative, corrective punishment. Regardless, crying isn't going to make the job go faster.

"Because the rocks are too big. That's why."(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)