The military is its own beast. Many of the things we do while enlisted would seem weird to civilians. Well, the door swings both ways.
The following things seem perfectly normal before you join up, but might net you a few odd looks when you join the service.
8. Not embracing the silly
Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.
At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.
Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time.
7. Wanting personal space
One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.
Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)
6. Mentioning it’s your birthday
For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!
If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.
5. Being gentle
To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.
We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.
4. Asking questions
Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.
This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.
3. Taking care of your body
Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.
All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?
2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things
If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.
Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.
1. Showering without flip-flops on
Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.
You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?