Look. We all had a choice to make when we signed up for the military: we could defend freedom and democracy in high-pressure missions with global ramifications using elite skillsets… or we could be officers.
I’m joking, except… not really.
In a loose summary, officers are there to lead units and oversee the (enlisted) personnel that execute the mission. There are, of course, many careers fields that require officers to get their hands dirty, but overall, the officer force is trained to ensure the mission is complete and the enlisted force is trained to get the work done.
Related: How to not be a dirtbag officer
As a result, there are a few ways that officers are set apart from the rest of the military (and I’m not just talking about the bachelor’s degree required for commissioning):
1. You’re kind of a snob
I commissioned through Air Force ROTC at a liberal arts university in Southern California, so the only officers who are even bigger snobs than I were Ivy League graduates, and that’s saying something. I spent four years being taught to lead men and women toward a noble purpose. I was set up for success and given tests that I passed with aplomb and then I was praised spectacularly, increasing my confidence and morale to holy levels.
Then I went to MEPS and I saw a glimpse of what enlisted endure throughout their training. Holy sh*t, you guys. I’m sorry that happened to you.
But you were trained to follow orders. We were trained to give them.
2. You drink liquor or craft beer
I mean, we had enough disposable income to afford the good stuff, so why wouldn’t we? You can keep your PBR and hangover — I’ll be over here sipping whatever the mixologist alchemized during happy hour.
3. You know what “crud” is
I don’t care what you heathens do at your barracks parties or whatever. Crud is for dignified folk and it’s effing fun and you’ll never change my mind about that.
I’m willing to acknowledge that playing with hot pilots may have influenced my opinion about this matter.
Anyway, crud is a sophisticated game involving the corner pockets of the pool table and a lot of body-checking. The details are complicated — but trust me, they’re worth it.
4. You know all your enlisted people’s darkest secrets
The trick is to not let your chain of command know them. Now go be a good little sh*t shield.
5. Everyone stops laughing and talking when you approach
It’s lonely at the top, and, as we’ve established, you’re a snob and probably also a nerd, and there are fewer of your kind, so, yeah, they’re all talking about you. But if you’ve done your job right, they’re doing it in a good-natured way?
6. You utilize an exorbitant passel of buzzwords
Phrases like “force multiplier” and “interoperability” belong in your powerpoint presentation for the 2-star. Stop using them around your friends, or you won’t have anyone left to love.
7. When you’re the first to arrive and the last to leave but still accused of doing nothing
When I signed up for the military, I did it because I wanted to kick down doors and be a super hero. I had no idea that’s not what
the Air Force an officer does. Then on active duty I found out that I basically put in four years of training to become a souped-up babysitter responsible for a sh*t ton of paperwork who everyone makes fun of in perpetuity.
But here’s the thing: someone had to do that job. I did my best to make my troops’ lives easier, to take care of them, and to empower them so they could carry out critical missions.
It meant long hours, a lot of powerpoint presentations, and, just, so much paperwork.
The military is a machine and we’re all parts that keep the machine running.