The Good Conduct Medal is one of the easiest medals an enlisted troop can earn. It’s an award given to enlisted personnel for every three years of “honorable and faithful service.” During times of war, the GCM can given out at one year of good service and can be posthumously awarded to service members killed in the line of duty.
But the GCM isn’t the same as a service stripe, which is given to soldiers every three years, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen every four years, and is never given to airmen. To earn a GCM, you need to keep your nose clean (or don’t get caught doing something you shouldn’t) for three years. If you’re a solider, boom, that’s an instant 10 promotion points.
The intent behind the GCM is to award outstanding troops who’ve managed to go three years without ever failing to be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform. The disqualifying factor for this medal is if you ever receive an NJP.
Now, what is and isn’t considered eligible for a non-judicial punishment is loosely defined and is entirely at the discretion of the commander. Talking too severely to a subordinate could be considered an NJP-worthy offense by a commander that’s cracking down on hazing, while another unit’s commander may turn a blind eye to horrendous acts that discredit the military.
The moment a troop gets a “Ninja Punch,” their 3-year GCM timer restarts. Three years after a sergeant knifehands a private, that private is once again eligible for a Good Conduct Medal. A scumbag who has brown-nosed the commander or has a commander who “doesn’t want the unit to look bad” will receive this medal every third anniversary of their enlistment. Do you see the discrepancy?
Once again, one unit may make an elaborate ceremony to honor the troop for their three years of good conduct while another may just ask a troop to buy a Good Conduct Knot to add to their ribbon rack. Again, this is at a commander’s discretion.
There is a silver lining to all of this. Fresh young troops who are giving the military their best can feel like their world’s been shattered the first time they screw up. Stern talking-tos and regular bad conduct counseling statements don’t blemish one’s good conduct streak — take the lickings and move on. An offense typically only turns into an NJP when it’s one in a series of misconduct.
The Good Conduct Medal should be awarded to those troops who exemplify the military values. It is a flawed system that sees undeserving scumbags awarded while good troops who make a genuine and innocent mistake aren’t — but the troops that do deserve it and earn it make the military proud.
In the summer of 2012, young Benjamin was born to Pvt. Ashley Shelton in the middle of FOB Shindand, Afghanistan. The story was first broken by Stars and Stripes in October 2012, but details surrounding the birth weren’t released until WTHR 13 Investigates got into contact with the mother recently.
Pvt. Ashley Shelton was assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ansbach, Germany and deployed in the spring. Normally, Army regulations bar pregnant soldiers and those who recently gave birth from deploying. However, due to her pregnancy tests being disregarded as “false-positives,” she was still sent with her unit.
She continued her regular Army duties, even those that would normally be unfit for an expected mother such as physical training and combat duties. There were no normal signs of pregnancy, such as weight gain or a baby bump. Morning sickness or and cramping was mostly written off with a dismissive, “Well, it’s Afghanistan…”
Then, on Aug. 12, she went to the aid station for cramps. The doctor told her to drink fluids and prescribed her bed rest. On her way back, her water broke and she blacked out. Her child, Benjamin, was born. The U.S. Army has yet to clarify what exactly went wrong, but they conducted internal investigations. Army representatives told WTHR 13 Investigates that they can not talk about personal health issues due to federal health privacy laws.
Years later, Benjamin exhibits some congenital birth defects, which may be a result of mishandled pregnancy. His medical records show a small knot in his lower left leg, described as a club foot, and a lower speech level than normal. Ashley Shelton has been struggling the last years with getting attention for her son’s and her own medical conditions.
That hasn’t stopped the fun-loving kid from running around the playground, though. There’s no telling if the kid ends up being a superhero, but that’s a backstory that tops Marvel and DC characters. Even if the kid doesn’t become a superhero, if he serves in the Army like his mother, you can bet that he’ll have a one-up card on everyone. “Where were you born? Some POG civilian hospital not in the middle of combat? That’s cute.”
We Are The Mighty is on the ground in Philadelphia with USAA at the Army-Navy Game. Down in “Military Alley,” some of the game’s alums and VIPs stopped by WATM to talk football, catch us up on their work, and – of course – give their predictions for who will win one of the oldest rivalries in college football.
1. Rob Riggle, Marine Corps Veteran / Actor
Army and Navy are coming into today’s game with winning records. And since both teams bested the Air Force Academy Falcons this season, the winner will go home with the coveted Commander-In-Chief Trophy and wins a trip to the White House.
2. Roger Staubach, Navy Veteran and 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner
Navy currently has 15 trophy wins, compared to Army’s six. The last time the Black Knights took the prize back to West Point, they met then-President Bill Clinton on their trip to the White House.
That was 1996.
3. Vice Adm. Walter Carter, 62nd Naval Academy Superintendent,
Army is coming off an upset win in last year’s game and no matter who wins today, both teams are bowl game-bound.
Navy could host the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Military Bowl, while it looks like Army could meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Both games would be in January.
4. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, 59th West Point Superintendent
The 118th Army-Navy Game features a number of heavy-hitting players to watch, including both quarterbacks: Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Navy’s Malcolm Perry. Both players are sure to have a decisive impact on the outcome of today’s game.
5. Rick Neuheisel, CBS Sports College Football Analyst
Going into today’s game, Navy looks to stop Army from extending last year’s win to a two game streak. The all time series has Navy with 60 wins and Army with 50. The teams also tied seven separate times.
A tie is an unlikely outcome of today’s game.
6. Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
Even though the tough talk is fierce and the rivalry doubly so, the two teams take part in a number of joint traditions, both before and after the game. The two schools’ glee clubs join together to sing the National Anthem before the game and will sing each other’s alma mater after the game.
7. Vince “Invincible” Papale, NFL Legend Travis Manion Foundation Supporter
Both teams will join to sing each other’s alma mater, but the big question is who will sing first. The winner of the game will serenade the losing team’s fans in the stands with their alma mater. Then they jointly turn to the winning team’s fans to sing the winner’s alma mater.
The goal is to “sing second.”
8. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Dawkins
The Army-Navy game’s importance in NCAA athletics has declined over the years, but its importance to the nation and to those who serve has definitely not. Army hasn’t been the AP National Champion since 1945 and Navy’s only championship was won in 1926.
9. Boo Corrigan Director of Athletics, West Point
The game continues to exemplify the often-misunderstood rivalries between the branches of the Armed Forces of the United States: taking the smack talk to the very brink of good taste while remaining polite – and always remembering that in the end, they’re all on the same team.
10. Andrew Brennan, Army Veteran Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation Founder
The Golden Knights are based at Fort Bragg and are international ambassadors for the Army, performing at air shows, sporting events and on the international stage where they are the world’s most highly decorated parachute team.
Lt. Col. Carlos Ramos, commander of the Golden Knights, said the team has just started its annual “show season,” meaning they will soon be traveling the nation to perform for millions.
According to officials, the Golden Knights are seen by an estimated one-third of the U.S. population each year.
But Ramos said there was something special about performing in the Golden Knight’s own backyard on Fort Bragg.
“It’s a great honor,” Ramos said. “What better crowd is there than a Fort Bragg crowd?”
The Knights took off from nearby Pope Field and jumped at roughly 2,400 feet.
It was a special treat, said Miriam Breece, principal of Irwin Intermediate.
Breece said the Golden Knights are the latest visitors to the school, after the 82nd Airborne Division Band performed earlier this week.
She said the Month of the Military Child was meant to show the students that while they have unique challenges, they are also special.
“We like to thank them,” Breece said. “We exist to support them.”
No one likes being stuck on a pointless detail. Whether it’s a legitimate task that needs to be done or it’s just a way to stall for time until close-out formation, everyone would much rather be doing nothing. Some troops will try to talk their way out of work — but NCOs have been in long enough to hear each and every excuse troops can imagine. Plus,chances are they tried to use the exact same ones back in the day.
Yes, there are valid excuses out there, but an NCO who’s been around for a while will side-eye even the most honest troop because of the onslaught of lame excuses, like these:
Appointments are known well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get caught off guard. You can’t miss a dental appointment or else the chain of command will get hammered for it. So, most NCOs won’t interrogate a troop if they say they’ve got to see the dentist, but it just so happens to be time for a huge detail and someone just so happens to have a surprise appointment, they might check their slip.
Don’t worry. Motrin fixes everything.
“I’m not feeling too well…”
Getting seen by the medics/Corpsmen is a necessary headache in the military and coming down with some kind of sickness isn’t unheard of among grunts who live in some rough conditions.
Still, there’s a proper channel for these sorts of things. The military isn’t like some civilian job where you can just “call in sick” whenever you feel like it. The only alibi that might work is to blame MREs for some god-awful movements in your bowels.
Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be ridiculed to the point that you might as well see the medics for burn treatment.
So many people are getting away with driving without a PT belt. I’m disappointed.
(Meme via USAWTFM)
“I didn’t know that…”
Citing your own ignorance is the fastest way to infuriate an NCO. Essentially, the subordinate is trying to forgive their own wrongdoings by hot-potatoing the blame directly onto a superior.
If what you didn’t know actually was niche information, like the location of connex keys, you might catch some slack, but don’t ever think of saying something like, “but I didn’t know that I couldn’t walk on Sergeant Major’s grass!”
Everyone gets creative with the crap in supply.
(Meme via Navy Memes)
“I can’t because we’re all out of…”
This is a catch-all excuse for anything that shifts the blame onto supply, but it’s almost always used in regards to cleaning supplies.
Sure, the cleaning closet may look bone dry, but your average supply room has more bottles of PineSol than they know what to do with. They’d be more than happy to clear some space in their lockers for actual military stuff. Just ask them.
If you’re driving one of these around, we may believe you… but don’t expect sympathy.
“I can’t come in because my car…”
If you’re coming from off-post and your car breaks down, that sucks. Let your superiors know what’s going on. If you report the issue two minutes before formation, you’re in the barracks a few blocks over, and you didn’t ask anyone else for a ride, then good luck keeping your rank.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“But Sgt. Smith told me…”
Don’t ever play the “mommy vs daddy” game between NCOs — you’ll always lose. They won’t just take you at your word. They’ll argue and you’ll be brought in as a witness. If it turns out that you were just saying that to try and weasel your way out of something, well, try not to cry when you get ninja-punched.
Every military branch makes it plain where exactly you stand. It is worn on your uniform, printed on your CAC, you are greeted by it every day. “It” is rank and it plays a significant role as it entails your duties and expectations, job notwithstanding. It seems one rank reigns supreme in every service, though.
Below are 6 of the top reasons why being top of the lower enlisted ranks is the best rank.
25 is the age that many of us have the time of our lives. We are far enough removed from teenage angst and the crap that often associates with it but still a lot more than a few wake-ups away from the big three-oh.
Old enough to get good insurance rates, but young enough to fit in most everywhere.
That is the Air Force’s Senior Airman. That is the Marine’s Lance Corporal. That is the Army’s Specialist. This is the Navy’s Seaman (heh). It’s far enough removed from boot but quite a ways from retirement.
5. Watch and learn
This is the perfect rank to watch and learn.
You may have been mentored and exposed to some supervisory duties earlier (if you weren’t assigned to a POS) but it’s at this level where you are allowed to flex some of what you’ve learned.
Sometimes that power comes in an official supervisory capacity, sometimes as a makeshift assistant to your actual supervisor. It’s like being a Non-Commissioned Officer, but with training wheels.
The opinion of the Senior Airman/Specialist/Lance Corporal is respected. Those beneath the look up to them, or they should anyway, and those who outrank them will look to them as the bridge between the NCO and junior enlisted tiers.
It is literally the best of both worlds.
3. Introductory supervisory roles
As stated above, you may have some actual, official supervisor duties depending on how long you’ve been there and what type of performance you’ve turned in to that point.
Even if you haven’t been granted such access, you are still going to be entrusted with certain responsibilities just based on the necessity for you to grow up and fill the role.
2. You know all the tricks
At this point, you know what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, most of the time. You also know exactly what you’re not supposed to do…and what rules will really get you in trouble.
You know how to maximize your sleep and how to quickly get your uniform together. You can commit large passages of regulation to memory, verbatim. You know what you’re doing and what you want to do.
Good news is you’ve mastered this rank just in time to promote. Now the game changes.
You’ve been in for a some time now and have likely earned a good amount of respect and responsibility and that feels great. Conversely, you’re still junior enlisted yourself and won’t be thrown into the deep end just yet.
How is this better than being an NCO? From my experience in the Air Force, Staff Sergeants are typically viewed in a more infantile manner than the Senior Airman.
I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, it is a fact of life.
Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to create a boot insert prototype to help improve Marines’ health and performance.
The Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation, or MoBILE, technology is handmade by the bioengineering staff members at Lincoln Labs with the Marine in mind. MoBILE helps to detect changes in mobility and agility, which will help MCSC make informed decisions on material composition and format of athletic and protective gear.
Marine Corps-MIT Partnership
“Partnering with MIT has allowed us to create a groundbreaking research tool that will help inform future acquisition decisions and performance of Marines in the field,” said Navy Cmdr. James Balcius, Naval aerospace operational physiologist with the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team.
The team has partnered with MIT since 2012 and coordinates the integration and modernization of everything that is worn, carried, used, or consumed by the Marine Corps rifle squad. It conducts systems engineering, and human factors and integration assessments on equipment from the perspective of the individual Marine.
MIT Lincoln Labs is one of 10 federally funded research and development centers sponsored by the Defense Department. These centers assist the U.S. government with scientific research and analysis, systems development, and systems acquisition to provide novel, cost-effective solutions to complex government problems.
MoBILE has flat, scale-like load sensors that are placed within the boot insole to measure the user’s weight during activities such as standing, walking, and running. The insert sensors are positioned in the heel, toe and arch, and they are capable of capturing data at up to 600 samples per second. When the sensors bend with the foot, the electronics register the bend as a change and send the information back to a master microcontroller for processing.
MoBILE will help users gauge how they are carrying the weight of their equipment and if their normal gait changes during activity, Balcius said. The sensor data provides information on stride, ground reaction forces, foot-to-ground contact time, terrain features, foot contact angle, ankle flexion, and the amount of energy used during an activity.
Ultimately, the sensors will provide operational data that will help Marines gather information on training and rehabilitation effectiveness, combat readiness impact, and route and mission planning optimization.
Technology Leads to Healthier Marines
“MoBILE has been compared to a force-sensitive treadmill which is a gold-standard laboratory measurement,” said Joe Lacirignola, technical staff member in the Bioengineering Systems and Technologies Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “Because MoBILE has a high sampling rate, the accuracy does not degrade with faster walking or running speeds. In the future, this accurate data could help provide early detection of injuries, ultimately leading to healthier Marines.”
Balcius said MoBILE will be tested this summer in a controlled environment on multiple terrains during road marches and other prolonged training events over a variety of distances.
“This tool is basically a biomechanics lab in a boot, which allows us to gather data at a scale we have not had until now,” said Mark Richter, director of MERS. “The resulting data will be useful to inform decisions that will impact the readiness and performance of our Marines.”
When it comes to changing anything with tradition, Marines are quick to give their opinion. Marines like to think of themselves as some of the biggest military history buffs, and boot camp is where this thought processes begins. So when the Corps talked about changing how their rank will be displayed on combat utilities – from metal chevrons to cloth – Marines took to social media to express their displeasure.
What Marines today may not know is the material and placement of the rank was changed only after the Korean War. For the longest time, rank was placed on the sleeve of the utility uniform. This was to keep in line with the other dress uniforms. Some were cloth, others were stenciled on the sleeves.
WWII-era Marines started hand-marking chevrons on their HBT utilities sleeves with ink, but often in the Pacific they did not bother with rank insignia at all – a way to keep the enemy from knowing who was an officer and who was enlisted.
By the start of the Korean War, utilities chevrons were commonly marked on the utilities with stencil kits.
The placement and material of the rank is relatively new, considering the age of the Corps. The change to putting rank on the collar came after the Korean War. Screw in posts were the first type used to attach them. Over the years it changed again to the type secured with pins. Interestingly, the crossed rifles came in 1959, after pinning the rank on the collar. Yes – crossed rifles are new as well.
If Marines are traditionalists at heart, then we should return to our roots when it comes to rank, right? Imagine: no more collarbones writhing in pain from the metal stabbing into it.
Then comes invading someone’s personal space so you can address them, which is still a problem in today’s Marine Corps. The digital pattern camouflage makes it hard to see a black chevron against a black pattern. Commandant of The Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wants to fix this, which has lead Headquarters Marine Corps to start looking into the matter.
If Marines really want to keep with tradition, then they should accept wearing rank on the sleeves of utilities – keeping with the oldest traditions of the Marine Corps.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, sits in the cockpit of an F-35A Lightning II while Norwegian Major “Taz” Amdal, Project Test Pilot for F-35 Drag Chute Program, tells him about controls Oct. 12, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-35A is here to conduct cold weather testing to ensure the fifth generation multi-role fighter aircraft runs at peak performance for its scheduled 2020 arrival.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Sinclair, a member of the 101st Air Refueling Wing (101 ARW) Communications Flight, installs phone connections at the 101 ARW, Bangor, ME, Oct 10, 2017. Cyber Transport Systems Specialists deploy, sustain, troubleshoot, and repair standard voice, data and video network infrastructure systems, IP detection systems, and cryptographic equipment.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Randall Ledoux of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) 173rd Airborne Brigade transmits his position while conducting defensive operations during exercise Swift Response 17 at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 12, 2017. Swift Response 17, Phase II is an annual, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise focused on allied airborne forces’ ability to quickly and effectively respond to crisis situations as an interoperable multi-national team. The exercise takes place at the JMRC in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 2-20, 2017 and includes approximately 7,000 participants from 10 NATO nations.
Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, return greetings to the residents in the sector of Las Palmas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 12, 2017. The Soldiers distributed water and Meals, Ready-To-Eat, to the residents. The full force of the federal government continues to make progress towards recovery, working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico officials, municipalities, businesses, and voluntary agencies on the islands.
Happy Birthday, Navy!
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Thomas Rodriguez, from Los Angeles, prepares for flight quarters aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), Oct. 12, 2017. James E. Williams, homeported in Norfolk, is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) (Gold) pulls into the pier of Republic of Korea’s Busan Naval Base as part of a routine port visit. The visit is to strengthen the already strong relationship between the U.S. Navy and the people of the Republic of Korea.
U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), disembark the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) via MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft also with VMM 162 (REIN), in the Caribbean Sea, Oct. 12, 2017. The 26th MEU is supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.
Cpl. Caleb Bastille, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, assists in landing a UH-1Y Huey during a simulated tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) mission at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 11. TRAP missions allow pilots and crew chiefs to directly integrate with ground troops, simulating potential scenarios that could take place when forward deployed.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear, a 270 foot, medium endurance cutter, arrives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to deliver supplies, Oct. 9, 2017. The supplies included donations collected by Customs and Border Patrol members.
A Coast Guard Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew assists in mooring the 34-foot fishing vessel Nata Ella in Refuge Cove, Ketchikan, Alaska Oct. 7, 2017. The Nata Ella crew reported they were taking on water on the southwest side of Bold Island, and the Station Ketchikan RB-M crew provided a dewatering pump and towed the fishing vessel to Ketchikan.
Every recruit needs to make it through Basic Training before they earn the right to be called Soldiers. Drill sergeants have just two goals: to break the civilian out of their platoon and to give recruits a crash course in military lifestyle.
Some drill sergeants may impart all of their knowledge onto recruits in as short a time as possible. Others may humorously scold their platoon. Others still may take their anger out on their platoon. It’s impossible to say exactly which kind of experience is in store for recruits because each drill sergeant is different.
But what is near universal is their commitment to maintaining order and discipline. When they say any of the following, you know heads are about to roll.
Don’t worry about not being physically fit… The drill sergeant has a plan for that.
(Photo by Sgt. First Class Lisa M. Litchfield)
“Half right, face.”
The command “Half right, face” means that you shift your current facing 45 degrees to the right. This opens up the formation for some, uh, “remedial training.”
And I don’t mean the standard “front-leaning rest position, move!” (translation: push-ups). That gets old after a while. No, instead, drill sergeants will come up with the most off-the-wall exercises that will make you question your physical limits.
Their vulgar vocabulary is astounding. You’ll hear so many new variations on expletives that Merriam and Webster can’t even keep up.
(Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart)
“Toe the f*cking line”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about “toeing the line.” Everyone in the bay stands to receive the next command from drill sergeants.
What sets this one apart is when they sprinkle some flavorful expletives in there. This means, specifically, that someone just became the reason that everyone’s about to feel some wrath.
If you make them repeat themselves, they’ll have to make EVERYONE can hear it.
(Photo by Spc. Darius Davis)
“…I said,” followed by whatever they previously said
Drill sergeants shouldn’t have to repeat themselves. There’s a general understanding that everything needs to be broken down so simply that even a fresh-out-of-high-school kid can comprehend.
If the drill sergeant tells you to raise your duffel bag above your head, do not hesitate and make them repeat the order. The outcome is never pretty.
They’re just helping you on your PT test, really. How nice of them?
(Photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato)
The military moves at an insane pace. Run here, run there. Be there 30 minutes prior to being 30 minutes early. There is no escaping this pace.
Drill sergeants know that recruits are given near-impossible timelines to achieve a given goal, like eating an entire plate of chow in five seconds. It’s not about making it within time, though. It’s about getting recruits as close to that impossible goal as possible. Continually practice until every possible second is shaved off a task. If a drill sergeant is reminding you to hurry up, you’re taking too long.
There are few joys in being a drill sergeant — laughing at stupidity is one of them.
(Photo by Capt. Loyal Auterson)
“Hey, battle! Come here!”
On the rarest of occasions, a recruit may do something so impressive that one drill sergeant will gloat to another and, if the stars have aligned, praise may be given to that recruit.
More often than not, when a drill sergeant calls for another drill sergeant, it’s to laugh at how foolish a recruit was. Now, both drill sergeants will take turns smoking the stupid out of said reruit.
If they find it, fess up quickly and save everyone the headache. Others may still get smoked for “letting you lose it,” but hey, at least you’re honest.
(Photo by Sgt. First Class Lisa M. Litchfield)
“Whose ____ is this?”
Every other Soldier knows that “gear adrift is a gift.” Every other Soldier knows that “there’s only one thief in the Army.” Later on down the road, it sucks when your gear gets “tactically re-purposed,” but it’s just part of the lifestyle.
But recruits do not have the luxury of taking it on the chin and buying a replacement. If the drill sergeant finds anything left alone, like an unsecured wall locker, they will teach everyone the importance of proper gear security.
Many years down the line, if you ever run into them again outside of training, then (and only then) might you get that chance of receiving a friendly hello — but don’t hold your breath.
“Are we friends now?”
Don’t ever lose your military bearing — the drill sergeant won’t. Never forget that in order to stand in front of your wide-eyed platoon, a drill sergeant must have achieved their current rank, earned a selection to drill-sergeant school (which usually requires multiple combat deployments), gone through the rigors of said school, and have endured many cycles before you.
So, you shot 37/40 on your first try. This does not impress them to the point of friendship.
We all know we ought to save, but the idea of saving when we don’t feel like we have anything left in our bank account at the end of the month can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to get your savings on track when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Start with an emergency fund.
Confused about where to start your savings journey? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to prioritize. What should we save for first – our retirement, our kids’ education or should we pay down debt?
Why not start with an emergency fund? It can be a lifesaver – literally. A rainy-day fund can stand between you and financial ruin.
An emergency fund should be at least $500-1,000 that is set aside in a separate savings account, one that you can access if necessary, but is not the same account you pay bills from.
Save automatically each pay period.
This is the quickest – and most painless – way to save. By setting aside an amount to be deducted from either your paycheck or transferred from your bank account each pay period, you can steadily build up your savings. You won’t miss it because you won’t ever “see” it or be able to spend it. Even saving $20 each pay period will get you to a $500 emergency fund in less than a year. Once you’ve built up your emergency fund, move on to other goals and not worry about living paycheck to paycheck.
Cut back whenever and wherever you can and REALLY transfer that money to your savings account.
There are dozens of ways to cut back on your spending: you can start by ordering out less often and doing away with unnecessary subscription services and memberships. But the key is once you have reduced that expense, transfer those savings to your savings account. Otherwise, the extra money is way too tempting to spend!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Finances are super personal, and for some reason are seen as a taboo subject. We have all struggled with saving, and we all need help sometimes. The good thing is that military families have lots of resources available to them. Every military installation has a financial counselor and there’s free, confidential financial counseling available through Military OneSource and when you take the Military Saves Pledge, the start of a simple savings plan.
The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.
This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:
One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.
Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.
In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.
I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.
At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.
Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.
We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.
I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.
My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.
The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”
I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:
“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.“
That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.
Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.
I accepted the job on the spot.
It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?
Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.
Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.
This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.
As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.
The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.
Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.
The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.
“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”
“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”
I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.
What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.
“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.
“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”
We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.
“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.
“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”
“What about them?”
“Won’t they ricochet into us?”
“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”
Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”
Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.
It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.
As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.
“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”
“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”
“But that’s where the shed was!”
This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.
But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”
“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.
“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”
As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.
The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.
“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.
I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:
“What’s your job again?”
He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.
“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”
“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon