Military Life

Here are the top 5 ‘half-stepper’ moves

Though close order drill is no longer used to move troop formations around the battlefield, it is still very much a part of military culture.
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close order drill
U.S. Marine Corps officer candidates participate in a close order drill competition at Officer Candidates School on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Aug. 5, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gumchol Cho)

Though close-order drill is no longer used to move troop formations around the battlefield, it is still very much a part of military culture. Marching begins with taking a full thirty inches. Phrases such as “placing your best foot forward,” “keep marching” and “step it out” are all derived from the imagery of close order drill. There’s a movement called the half-step, which is to march with a 15-inch step. It’s from this context that a unique military term for slacker emerged: the half-stepper. A half-stepper is characterized by doing the bare minimum and applying great effort to avoid meeting obligations.

Here are the top 5 half-stepper moves in close-order drill

Produces a light duty chit for PT

Physical fitness is a necessary component to military readiness. In addition to maintaining fitness, unit PT serves to build cohesion amongst troops. It can be challenging and even grueling at times. Everyone who joins the military knows these things, including the half-stepper; however the half-stepper has a tried-and-true technique for getting out of PT. He produces a light duty chit. Chit is Naval slang defined as “a short official note, such as a receipt, an order or a memo, usually signed by someone in authority.” Light duty can entail several prohibitions, the chief of which is running. Being on light duty in the Navy and Marine Corps is similar to having a profile in the Army. The half-stepper often gains a light duty chit through malingering and detracts credibility from individuals with legitimate injuries. One method of this technique is to communicate an ailment at morning formation and request permission to be relieved from PT in order to report to sick call.

Produces a dry-cleaning receipt for uniform inspection

Uniform inspections are part of military life. Preparing for them requires attention to detail. Attributes include pressed, creased clothing and shined shoes. Ribbons, badges and rank insignia must be displayed with precise placement and measurements. Proper fit of the uniform is also required. Modern conveniences such as dry cleaners allow service members to forgo the tedious ironing and starching of yesteryear. Use of these services requires planning to have the items back in time for inspection. The half-stepper deliberately times the drop-off of uniforms to ensure they are not ready for the inspection. While the rest of the platoon is looking sharp in their service uniforms the half-stepper appears in wrinkled cammies with a receipt from the cleaners. “They didn’t have my stuff ready, Staff Sergeant.”

Produces a speeding ticket for being late

This may sound extreme, but a half-stepper operates from a different worldview. He wakes up late, has no sense of urgency and holds skewed priorities. Most military folks learned the adage five minutes early is 10 minutes late, but not this guy. He knows by showing up late for formation he will be considered UA (unauthorized absence), so he needs an excuse, and one that is verifiable. He thinks a speeding ticket will show proof that his delay was the result of an authority figure. He will deliberately fly through an area known to be monitored by the police. Traffic offenses are minor and common, so he reasons it has less consequences than being charged with article 86 (absent without leave).

marine corps close order drill
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, march to chow on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Aug. 13, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Colin Harper)

Schedules leave for day of the hike

In the Marines (especially in the grunts) hiking is common. Hike does not mean a scenic walk in the Appalachians. Marines refer to a hike as humping or going on a hump. Forced march is probably the appropriate term. Though the military has a plethora of transportation modes available, the ability to cover terrain on foot, under load, is still necessary. More than simply moving people and gear from point A to point B, humping builds mental toughness. Yes, it is physically challenging, but more so mentally. As the old Company Gunny used to say, “You have to build calluses on your feet and your heart”. The half-stepper is lacking in the fortitude department, so he submits a leave request well in advance. He schedules it for the day of the hike, generally associating it with a fictional family event.

Produces a fake Red Cross message

The aforementioned half-stepper moves are shady and reflect a lack of character, but the lowest thing a half-stepper may do is plotting a fake Red Cross message. Red Cross messages are the medium by which family members “back home” communicate family emergencies or tragedies to the service member’s chain of command. A Red Cross message is often required to release a service member on Emergency Leave, especially if they are on a deployment. The self-serving half-stepper will conspire with family members to conjure up a scenario, submit a Red Cross message, and request the service member’s presence at home in order to skip out on a deployment. The other members of the unit then must pick up extra duties now that they’re undermanned.

If you wear a uniform and have taken an oath, then you have duties and responsibilities. You may feel like you have it worse than others, but many people have gone through the exact same circumstances. The half-stepper above all else is selfish. They pull shenanigans like the top 5 half-stepper moves listed above, which often result in the rest of the unit picking up their slack. Unsat.