5 ways the 'good ol' boy' system screws good troops - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

One of the most common threads among troops wanting to leave a unit (or the military in general) is toxic leadership. Although high ranking officers and senior enlisted have always tried to pluck toxicity out of the system because it goes against every military value, it still rears its head, typically in the form of the “good ol’ boy” system.


The “good ol’ boy” system is when a leader unabashedly chooses favorites among their subordinates.

There are many fair and impartial leaders within the military. I, personally, served under them and would gladly fall on a sword if they asked — even all these years later. These leaders would vehemently agree that their peers and superiors who exhibit obvious favoritism are in the wrong and are, frankly, undeserving of their position. This is why.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
That, or they’ll snap and lose all respect for said leader.
(DoD photo by David Vergun)

 

The cost of not playing is heavy

Superiors that follow the good ol’ boy system rarely make an effort to hide their favoritism. If they do pretend it doesn’t exist, troops will catch on and word will spread quickly through the ranks.

Trying to play by the rules under that “leader” is impossible. Instead, most troops will eventually break down and take the easy route of prioritizing the buttering up of their superiors. Rules are paramount to maintaining order and uniformity in the military. When they play second fiddle to keeping your superiors personally happy, something’s wrong.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
This is the most obvious form because everyone in the formation hears the BS being spewed.
(Photo by Sgt. Jacqueline A. Clifford)

 

Rewards are unearned

Two troops are up for awards: One has worked their ass off, day in and day out. They are a master at what they do and have not just helped others with problems, they’ve taught others how to fix those problems for next time. They don’t get in trouble with command, but they’re not the most people-friendly person you’ve met. The other unimpressively slides through work but goes fishing with the commander on weekends.

Logically speaking, the first troop should get a higher award than the second. Realistically, they probably got the same recognition, despite the difference in effort.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Because a “quiet retirement” is totally the same punishment as actual justice…
(Photo by Sgt. Crystal L. Milton)

 

Justice is not dealt

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is very clear. If someone is accused of wrongdoing, it’s up to a jury of their peers to determine their fate. Simply put: If someone does something wrong, their ass is grass. There aren’t any “ifs, ands, or buts” about it. A problem arises, however, when a leader decides to sweep an issue under the rug.

The law is clear and yet, somehow, different troops aren’t held to the same standard for the same crimes.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
“Nope… All good here.”
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

 

Bubbles are formed

Every good leader should be looking for means to positively improve the unit, no matter how minor the change. If a toxic leader surrounds him or herself with only people that nod, agree, and kiss their ass, they’ll see no need for improvement.

Troops do conduct evaluations of their superiors that get sent higher on the chain of command. In practice, these should give an accurate and fair assessment of a unit. This is an opportunity for troops to vent legitimate problems. However, too often these are disregarded because superiors are told things are fine by the sycophants.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
It’s one team, one fight. We’re all fighting for the same flag.
(Photo by Patrick Buffett)

 

Cliques face off

All troops aren’t always going to get along. That’s just a fact of life. But, when two groups of “good ol’ boys” butt heads, everyone else now needs to play along with their stupid game — no matter how petty.

As long as there’s still a working relationship, rivalries between units are fine. It builds espirt de corps. When there are divisions within a single unit because someone “doesn’t like that guy for something personal,” the unit has a serious problem.

Military Life

4 reasons why troops need to be a little salty

Parents tend to teach their kids that kindness is one of the greatest traits a human can exhibit. When those kids eventually join the military, they’ll learn that they need to drop the niceties before too long.

Troops should show a general politeness toward their peers — after all, the military wouldn’t function if everyone was truly spiteful toward one another. We’d never recommend that you treat others like dirt, but every service member must obtain a certain level of saltiness in order to get through their career.


In a way, military life is the reversal of civilian norms. In the military, kindness is negatively received; being assertive and salty is the only way to get what you want. We’re not saying this is bad or good — it’s just the weird life that troops live.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others out.

(Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)

Your kindness will be perceived as weakness

Before any of this gets twisted, kindness isn’t a weakness and showing genuine empathy toward your fellow troop isn’t going to kill you. In fact, showing your brothers- and sisters-in-arms compassion will take you far and may save a life some day.

However, the harsh reality is that there are no brakes on the military train. Slowing down for others and offering a helping hand isn’t always smiled upon. When you pause to help someone who’s stalled, in the eyes of many, there are now two impediments.

It’s not an pleasant circumstance, but that’s how life in the military goes.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

(Photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom)

Your kindness will get pushed to the limits

There’s another side to the compassion coin. Offer your help too readily and others will take advantage. One favor leads to three. “Hey, can you get me…” quickly turns into, “you don’t mind, do you?”

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any toxic leadership in the military. Everyone would take unit morale into consideration, do their part, and ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Unfortunately, when people find it easier to get someone else to their job, they’ll take that road.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

But they’re not mutually exclusive in combat situations.

(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

Your saltiness will get things done

Aggression and anger are not essential traits of great leaders. A first sergeant who never yells still commands the same respect as a first sergeant who barks at everyone. It is entirely possible to be assertive and state your intentions to others without shouting.

…but most people won’t see it that way. The moment you raise your voice, people listen. If you’re of a lower rank, people will assume you’re ready for a leadership position — in actuality, yelling and true leadership skills are apples and oranges.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Troops will rarely give an honest answer if their first sergeant asks them how are they doing, even if it’s meant sincerely.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Your saltiness won’t ever get questioned

Being nice will cause everyone to question your motives. Other troops will think you’re up to something, trying to work them over. Conversely, there’re almost no repercussions for being a dick to everyone.

The higher your rank, the less people will wonder why you’re grouchy. Everyone just accepts it as normal, everyday life. Niceties at that rank set off alarms in the lower ranks or just confuse everyone.

Military Life

13 pictures of military working dogs being good puppies

Military working dogs hold a special place in the hearts of the troops who work with them. In a practical sense, they’re treated with the same honor and respect as any other troop.


They have a ceremony when they receive awards and are buried with military honors. They hold a rank, and as tradition dictates, one higher than their handler. It’s a tongue-in-cheek custom to ensure the handler treats them properly while giving the working dog some leeway to be a dog if they ever disobey an order.

They have very specific skills tailored to each mission. The role of a MWD can range from a mercy dog, assisting in locating wounded on the front lines, military police K-9s sniffing out narcotics, and EOD dogs, sniffing out explosives. Even fighting dogs join troops on raids, scouting missions, and as sentries in guard posts.

These dogs are comrades, allies, battle-buddies, and  – of course –friends.

13. Cpl. Chesty XIV is the current mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is also far more disciplined than nearly every Lance Cpl. in your unit

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dan Hosack)

12. Sgt. Maj. Fosco was the first MWD to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler, 1st Sgt. Chris Lalonde.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Don’t let this dog out-airborne you, leg. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Vince Vander Maarel)

11. Selection and training of MWDs starts the moment they’re born. The more energetic the puppy, the more willing they are to learn.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(DOD photo by Linda Hosek)

10. The training process is a rough 93-day program but positive reinforcement is the key.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

9. As with human troops, nothing can prepare you for a deployment.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez)

8. Many statues and memorials have been dedicated to the commitment and loyalty of the Military Working Dogs.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman)

7. Aeromedical personnel need to learn the basics of veterinary care in case they get the call to evacuate a wounded MWD.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Donnelly, Task Force Marauder)

6. MWDs never complain about spending time with their handlers, even if that means they have to train.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

5. Did you know that tennis balls are a key item in the detection of explosives?

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Gloria Lepko.)

4. MWDs are the only troops who are 110% willing to train constantly and at all times of the day.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan)

3. When they call us “Dogfaced Soldiers,” this isn’t what they had in mind.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Lindsay Cryer)

2. As a handler, it is your solemn duty to love and care for your dog. If they want to play, well, technically, they outrank you.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen)

1. MWDs are given the same respect of an American human troop. Complete with their own canine-version of the battle cross.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Rest easy, Satin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tristin English)

popular

5 insults only troops can say to their comrades

A defining trait among the military community is the ability to completely insult someone one minute and drink with them the next.


Troops can get down right heartless by civilian standards. But what keeps troops and veterans from being just pure assholes is that no one is mocking their brother out of hate. It’s just part of the culture — besides, our buddies are firing their own shots right back.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
You’re a piece of sh*t if you say they’re the lowest of the low. But if you say they eat crayons, well, that’s our joke. (Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

 

Branch stereotypes

The stereotypes are usually that Marines are dumb, airmen are primadonnas, soldiers are fat and lazy, sailors are gay, and Coasties don’t actually exist. Obviously, these aren’t 100% true. They’re jokes even if you have come across a handful dumb Marines or fat soldiers.

Want to know what happens to a civilian if they jump in and call Marines dumb? Ask that former teacher in Pico Rivera, California.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Soon, you f*cking squids. Soon…. (Meme via /r/Military)

 

Interservice “hatred”

You’ll see some outright “hatred” for the other branches, especially when it comes to our Academies playing each other in football. If your service loses the game, your entire formation is screaming, “Oh man! F*ck the [other branch]! At least we don’t focus on playing some stupid game!”

And that’s at it’s most savage. Generally, it’s kept at “Go Army, beat Navy!” and vice-versa. An attack on one branch by an outsider is treated as an attack on all branches.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
And that’s only because Jodie is the most hated fictional person in the military.
(Meme via /r/Military)

 

Deeply personal jabs

If you’ve spent nearly every waking second with the same people for god knows how long, you learn every detail about their personal life. Nothing remains a secret and nothing stays off-limits.

What better cure is there for a terrible personal tragedy, like an unfaithful spouse, than having your best bros mock you for crying?

 

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
This is honestly one of the hardest parts about leaving the service. Letting all of our creative swear words go to waste. (Meme via the Salty Soldier)

Expletive-filled (yet creative) rants

Expletives in conversation are like adding a bit of spice to a meal. It’s how you add some extra “uhmph” to a statement. “I don’t like you” has far less sting than “f*ck you” and it’s a sure way to get your point across to most people. Except vets and troops.

Obscenities lose their magic after you’ve been desensitized to them throughout you’re entire career. Telling your peer to “eat sh*t” just becomes a substitute for “hello!”

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
The age-old “we all bleed red” saying is known best by the troops. And we wouldn’t want anyone else by our side than our brothers. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dan Yarnall)

 

Politically incorrect jokes

Once you’ve spent years in training, months in combat, and nearly a life time of brotherhood with someone, it’s only then can troops tell a joke to each other that would shock the average civilian.

The only reason these kinds of (crass, insensitive, and hilarious) jokes are kept between the two is because there isn’t a shred of hatred in there. Not saying it’s right or even justifiable — only saying that if it’s between two people who’ve been to hell and back, it’s meant with the best of intentions. After what we’ve seen, gallows humor is the perfect coping mechanism.

Military Life

What exactly a Trade War is and why it matters

In On War, Carl von Clausewitz teaches that war is an extension of politics by other means, as emphasized by a balance of power strategies. That’s really what a trade war is — political gamesmanship. But that’s not a very practical definition.


In more concrete terms, it’s where trade-related policies have a negative effect on certain countries. Those countries then retaliate. Then, the original country retaliates, upping the ante. The escalation could, theoretically, go on forever until everyone hates them both.

A trade war doesn’t necessarily happen just between geopolitical adversaries. The United States has sparked trade wars with its democratic, political allies. In 1983, the U.S. placed import tariffs and quota on specialty steel coming from Europe. It cost Europe two percent of its steel market share in the United States. Europeans demanded to be compensated. When that didn’t happen, European markets imposed similar tariffs on chemicals and plastics.

Most of the trade wars involving the U.S. since 1980 were with Europe or Canada — only one was with an ideological rival, like China. In 1985, a quota on Chinese textiles resulted in China suspending agricultural imports from the U.S., a $600-million loss for American farmers.

China wasn’t even as important a trading partner as they are today. Still, experts think the countries most likely to take the brunt of a Trump Steel Tariff are Brazil and Canada. And Canada has no qualms about retaliating. They did in 1993 as a result of duties on Canadian steel products.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

As a matter of fact, the Ottawa Reporter already reported that Canada demanded an exemption and vowed retaliation.

So, this all sounds weirdly frightening, even though most of us reading this have no idea how it will actually affect our day-to-day. At worst, it could lead to another Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs were protectionist duties that are said to have exacerbated the global economic downturn. Some even believe the looming threat of the tariffs caused the Depression itself.

More to the point, prices of certain goods related to the war will go up, especially if domestic producers of those products can’t fill the demand.

For example, if aluminum manufacturers can’t meet their needs with U.S. aluminum, products requiring aluminum will still need to be made, they’ll just use the aluminum that costs 10 percent more. The cost will pass on to the consumer.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
President Trump plans to implement a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Moreover, since the customer will be forced to pay a higher price for overseas steel and aluminum products, domestic producers will likely just raise their prices to meet the market price.

Here’s the war part: other countries will slap tariffs on the $2.3 trillion worth of exports from the United States. Suddenly, American companies operating overseas are not as competitive in those markets as they once were.

Related: How the Civil War created the modern US economy

China is the U.S.’ largest debt holder (and owns as much as $1 trillion) and many other countries’ desire to invest in purchasing U.S. debt keeps interest rates here relatively low. They may be less inclined to buy American debt in a trade war and that would drive up interest rates on domestic American purchases.

How does one win a trade war? The same way they win a real war: by not fighting it in the first place. The best outcome of all this trade war talk is that the countries involved re-evaluate their trade relationships in a way that prevents a financial battle.

Military Life

6 unnecessary (but awesome) things you’ll find in the barracks

Life in the barracks blows. You’re crammed into as tight of a space as possible so your superiors can keep an eye on you. There’s always something going on so you never get sleep. And you often have to share a tiny room with someone.


But never underestimate the power of a bored private. If you can think of it, it’s probably going down in the barracks at this moment. While most of the shenanigans aren’t against any rules, they definitely make the lack of BAH worth it.

 

TVs as big as the wall

There are plenty of terrible purchases made by boots when they get their first paycheck. And it’s no different when the boot comes back from deployment with plenty of spending money.

The average barracks room is barely large enough to have a massive 90-inch widescreen 3D TV but that won’t stop most troops who just got back stateside.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Technically, some do allow you to have fish or lizards. All depends on the specific command.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Pets

The barracks is usually a pretty disgusting place as it is. The moment the NCOs leave, it goes back to the same filthy condition that it was in the day before.

Pets are already unclean creatures that require constant maintenance…but troops don’t care!

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

If you’re cool with them, they’ll share.

(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

Some barracks have nearly an entire kitchen

There’s always one person in every barracks that knows how to and will cook for everyone. Sometimes they’re not even an actual chef — doesn’t matter.

Being the barracks chef takes a lot more appliances than just a hot pad and coffee pot. These guys do it all in style.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

If they’re drinking in the barracks, it means they’re not driving back home. No DUIs! Everyone wins!

(Photo by Cpl. Jonah Lovy)

Enough alcohol to cause liver failure in a lesser man

There’s nothing wrong with someone over the age of 21 drinking alcohol on their time off, as long as they do it responsibly.

On average, a single barracks has more alcohol in it than any bar off-installation.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

And we all know how well that usually goes.

(U.S. Army Photo)

Firearms in the barracks? 

It’s your god-given right as an American to keep and bear arms. Only problem is that many units have a “no firearms in the barracks” policy.

That’s not to say that troops living in the barracks can’t own firearms. They just need to store them in the arms room.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Good luck not getting caught during a “random” inspection.

(Photo by Senior Airman Christian Thomas)

Unauthorized guests…

The barracks room isn’t exactly prime real estate for a single person, let alone multiple troops living in a room similar to a studio sized apartment.

And yet, troops will occasionally keep a local they got a thing for in there with them.

Military Life

5 things that every aspiring Marine needs to know

This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.


I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So, here are my top 5 “Tips” that every young recruit should know.

1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!

It might sound like a simple thing, but if I had a dime for every time I heard of a good kid doing something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. Having a good time is one thing, but it’s another to get caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.

I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through, my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
A recruit with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, takes notes during a class for educational benefits Aug. 26, 2015, on Parris Island, SC. Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Bolser.

2. Stay In School!

When I finished the 10th grade, I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join, they laughed (for several reasons, one of which was my GED). I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits, which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.

Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this, you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military, including Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Photo from public domain.

3. Don’t Do Drugs!

I know what you are saying.. “But Nick, It’s just a little weed or a beer or two.” Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. What it comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is, then you are not ready for the commitment of being a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it; your personal beliefs don’t matter: The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for “experimental use” that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift… Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don’t let a little peer pressure ruin your life.

Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (in a state that it is legal of course).

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis.

4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!

This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit, just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young, I read an article in Men’s Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold’s Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now, I would have trained completely differently and become a motherf’n beast! I did good at the time, but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.

Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it can also affect a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start-over, or return home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you or your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friend’s parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a warfighting machine and when you’re in it, you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depend on it.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
The Spartans are known for their excellence in combat. Learn from them.

5. Know Your History!

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is truer to me now after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again, I would’ve read every military campaign book starting with the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire — all the way up to current events. As I said, the Marine Corps is America’s fighting force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization, then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.

My favorite MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was knowledge — not knowing was not an excuse! That being said, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy, then that is what you need to do! We, as warfighters, take every advantage we can take because, at the end of the day, it’s us against them — and I’m going home to have a steak and beer when this is done.

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. –George S. Patton

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey.

Now, you might say, “yea, yea, yea, Nick. That’s all simple stuff.” Well, then I say to you, “why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things.?” Truth is, common sense is not a common virtue. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things, so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!

Semper Fi

Military Life

Why leaving the wire for a MEDCAP unarmed is absolutely terrifying

Being deployed to a war zone can sometimes mean intense firefights, well-concealed IEDs, and the overall fear of the unknown. These are just a few of the many dangers many of our service members face on a daily basis.


When our troops gear up to leave the wire they put on their armor, chamber a round into their rifles and some quietly recite a prayer to themselves before heading out.

But sometimes these presumably calm foot patrols can go south in a matter of moments.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Marines depart their entry control point on a foot patrol heading toward the bazaar in Now Zad district, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Source: USMC Life)

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

So imagine leaving the outpost unarmed in the face of this uncertainty. That’s what happens on so-called MEDCAP missions.

MEDCAP — which stands for “medical civil action program” — is a process where allied medical personnel exit the semi-safe confines of their FOBs and treat the local populous of their sickly alignments and injuries.

In hopes of gaining the locals’ trust, the medical staff typically don’t wear their protective body armor or carry their side arms to the events.

In several cases, the medical team ends up treating the enemy’s wounds which they may have sustained while battling allied forces — not cool.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Hundreds of local Afghani local nationals gather for a MEDCAP treatment.

Going out unarmed is one thing, but sitting in the same place — sometimes for hours — unprotected in a combat zone is downright terrifying. And one of the biggest dangers comes from suicide bombers, who can sometimes get close enough to detonate themselves or even fire their weapon before getting checked by the guards.

It happens more than you’d like to think.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
U.S. Navy doctor, Lt. Cdr. Ashby, conducts a medical procedure on a local man.

Also Read: 4 gross non-battle injuries medics have to look at

Unfortunately, MEDCAPs usually take place in an open landscape to draw the locals in, but that can make them vulnerable to snipers who crave such a clear shot.

At any moment, a calm situation can go deadly in a world where violence is second nature.

Articles

This simple exercise will help determine if you really want to be a sniper

Quora is the ultimate resource for crowdsourcing knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar, you ask the Quora world a question and anyone with expertise (and some without it) will respond. One user asked the world what service he should join if he wanted to be a sniper. One Marine veteran gave him some necessary information.

Choosing what branch to join can be tough for anyone. Different branches have different lifestyles, they come with different job opportunities, and they each have their own difficulties. If you’re 100-percent sure you want to be a sniper, that doesn’t narrow your selection. At all.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Yes, the Air Force has snipers.

To be fair, the asker asked, “Which branch is better?” Many users thoughtfully answered his question with answers ranging from the Coast Guard’s HITRON precision marksmen to arguing the finer points about why Army snipers are superior to SEALs and Marine Scout Snipers (go ahead and debate that amongst yourselves).


Many answering users wondered if the original asker really wanted to be a sniper. Some answers were condescending, some were went as far as accusing him of simply wanting to kill people (this is still the internet, after all). But one Marine veteran gave the young asker an exercise. One that would help him see if it was something he really wanted to do.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Gunny Hathcock approves.
(Hathcock Family photo)

That Marine was a trucker, an artilleryman, and a Desert Storm veteran. He “wasn’t a sniper, but I served with them, and listened in awe to how they train.” He then gave the asker a 15-step exercise to see if sniper training was something he really wanted to do:

  1. Wait until the middle of summer.
  2. Get a wool blanket and three quart-size ziplock bags.
  3. Fill the bags with small meals.
  4. Get two one-quart canteens and plenty of water purification tablets.
  5. Locate a swamp that is adjacent to a field of tall grass
  6. Before the sun comes up on day one, wrap yourself in the wool blanket.
  7. Crawl through the swamp, never raising any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  8. Lay all day in the field with the sun bearing down on you.
  9. Eat your food while never moving faster than a sloth.
  10. If you need water, crawl back to the swamp, fill the canteens, and use your water purification tablets to hopefully not get sick.
  11. Put any bodily waste in the zip-lock bags as you empty them of food. This includes any vomit if you didn’t decontaminate your water well enough.
  12. Bees, fire ants, and any predatory animals are not a reason to move faster than a sloth or move any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  13. Sleep there through the night.
  14. When the sun rises crawl back through the swamp.
  15. Just before you stand up and go home, ask yourself if you want to be a sniper.

Always remember: If you use the Quora world for advice, be sure to consider your source.

Military Life

7 little ways to be an effective radio operator

Every combat arms unit needs a radio operator. Whether they enlisted as one or they were “voluntold” to be one, someone’s gotta do it. There’s a steep learning curve between being a guy with a radio pack and being the go-to radio operator. If you can manage to be the best, your unit will cherish you.

To be the best, you need to master your equipment. Learning the ins and outs of the radio takes years of hands-on training that you won’t find in any schoolhouse — you can only find it by volunteering during every field op.

That being said, there are some tips and tricks that anyone can pick up to make as a radio operator a whole lot easier.


5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
The radio operator in the TOC may be better at their job than you…
(Photo by Ensign Rixon Fletcher)

Never place the blame on the distant end for comm problems

Want to know the fastest and easiest way to lose all credibility as a radio operator? Blame the distant end.

It might actually be the other radio operator’s fault — too bad your squad won’t look at it that way. Instead, just say that you’ve done everything you can and continue to try and make it right.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
And if basic math is too hard for you, just get a second watch.
(Photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

The problem with the radio is probably the time

The way that frequency hop works, broken down Barney style, is that a radio is given a sequence of radio frequencies to hop around to depending on the time of day. If you’ve loaded the COMSEC fill into a radio and you’re not able to talk to anyone, the time is probably wrong.

All COMSEC uses Greenwich Mean Time, so it might be easier to just set your watch to London time, regardless of where you are in the world.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Just don’t get violent with it — or toss it around the room.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Rivard)

Drop tests totally work

Don’t question why or how it works, it just does.

Realistically, if you pick up any piece of electronics and drop it from about a foot off the ground, it could shatter or break. A SINCGARS and some of the older radio systems, however, can handle the abuse.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Just stop licking the damn cable. That’s f*cking nasty.
(Photo by Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Carry an eraser or chapstick

W4 cables are used to transmit audio and fill between a radio and whatever. Getting these damn cables to attach properly will be the bane of your existence.

Some people recommend licking the end to get it to work, but that’s just nasty. You can get the same result by just cleaning the prongs and removing gunk with an eraser. You can also use chapstick to lube it up. Sure, that might damage the cable, but since W4 cables are a dime a dozen, it doesn’t really matter.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Toss the bug-out bag in the vehicle — or just anywhere close by, really.
(Photo by Spc. Jesse Gross)

Extra batteries are worth the weight

Every good radio operator has a bug-out bag filled with extra crap. This bag includes the radio system itself, maybe cheat-sheets for the nine-line and everyone’s call signs, an extra hand mic, and a few spare W4s. I know they get heavy after a while, but bring some extra batteries, too.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Just remember to pack it back up before driving off.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters)

SatCom antenneas work best on the roof of a vehicle

Unlike most line-of-sight antennas, a SatCom antennae works by, as the name implies, communicating to satellites. Just because you’ve pointed the antennae toward the other hill doesn’t mean you’ll be able to talk.

Giant metal vehicles disrupt the relatively weak signal, so placing it on the ground next to an MRAP is a terrible idea — but don’t be afraid to climb on top and place it up there if you’re not planning on moving soon. Oh, and point the antennae towards the Equator. That’s around where the satellite is supposed to be.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Another pro-tip: Tennis balls with holes cut in them work far better than the standard-issue tips.
(U.S. Army)

OE-254s still work if the antenna is a bit wonky

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen new radio operators and uptight NCOs waste plenty of time trying to get their OE-254 antenna to stand up perfectly straight. The actual pole doesn’t matter. As long as the head of the antenna isn’t broken and is connected, it’ll work just fine.

Now, don’t misinterpret that. This is just meant to say that it’ll be operational. Hell, you could duct-tape it to the top of a tree and it’ll still work (trust me, I know). This doesn’t mean you should half-ass setting up an OE-254 just because you think it’ll be fine. You better be damn sure that it’s secure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you definitively rank challenge coins

Challenge coins have a special place in the hearts of many. Enlisted troops keep them as souvenirs to commemorate a specific moment while officers display them at every opportunity to build clout. It’s like a hardened war-fighter’s version of collecting trading cards.


But not all challenge coins are created equally. This is especially important when it comes to the military’s drinking game. If two troops or vets are in a bar and someone calls, “coin check,” whoever doesn’t have one must buy the drinks. If you want to take it to the next level (or if everyone pulls a coin), have the person with the worst coin buy while the troop with the best coin chooses what the group is drinking.

There isn’t a clearly defined ranking system, but here’s the generally accepted hierarchy if you want to call someone out.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Think of these are having a pair of twos in a game of poker.

(Coinsfornothing.com)

8. Any store-bought coin

At the very bottom are the “at-least-I-have-it” coins. There’s no challenge involved in getting these coins. There’s nothing unique about them and they cost a couple of bucks at the Exchange.

They often have just an installation marking, regimental crest, or a generic rank on them. But, hey, they’re better than nothing.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

It only counts if it was given on a military installation, at any military event, or from a military-related company.

(Gregory Ripps)

7. Promotional coins

An obvious but effective marketing gimmick popular among companies who’ve done their homework is to make a branded military challenge coin. Companies will often give these to troops and vets on a whim and it’s more about spreading brand recognition than displaying individual achievement.

Nonetheless, they’re usually pretty nice and we rank them slightly higher than a store-bought coin because you have to be at the right place at the right time to get one.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Some commanders put plenty of thought into their coins. See the exceptions below.

(Photo by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle)

6. Unit coins

This is the category under which most coins fall. Each unit commander can commission their own coin to be made with the unit insignia alongside the names of the senior enlisted and hand them to deserving troops.

Determining where each coin falls within this level is easy. Battalion coins beat company coins. Brigade coins beat battalion. Divisional coins beat brigade. Branch coins may beat divisional coins if and only if they weren’t just bought at a store and were actually given at the Pentagon level.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Some are generic, some are spectacular — hence why they’re in the middle of the list.

(Photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulvada Torres)

5. General officer coins

Each general officer has a coin made specifically for them. Fun side note: Officers who have coins made almost always pay out-of-pocket to have something to give to troops. Since generals have a nicer paycheck than captains, their coins are nicer and more prestigious.

To get a general officer coin, you have to do something outstanding enough to warrant a nice coin. This could be in addition to an official military decoration or officers may just feel like handing them out like candy. It depends on the general officer.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

And a coin from that school’s commandant is higher than just attending that school.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Eugene Christ)

4. School coins

Many military schools also hand a nice challenge coin to each graduate along with their diploma. The troop worked hard to get through it and the diploma will oftentimes end up forgotten in an “I-love-me” book.

School coins rank as high as they do because it takes far more effort to get one than just giving a proper salute to a general.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Impressing the most impressive men in military history at least gets you a beer.

3. Medal of Honor recipient coins

Not all, but many Medal of Honor recipients also have challenge coins that they can give to troops and vets.

Just shaking hands with one of America’s greatest is impressive enough. Getting a coin from one of them means that you will always choose the drink during a coin check.

There are also two exceptions to this ranking system that should also be taken into account should there ever be a tie or an appeal. A really cool unit coin can still beat a school coin if everyone in the group can agree that it meets these two criteria:

• Best design

If the coin is well-crafted and you can tell that the designer put plenty of heart into making such an outstanding coin, that person gets the boost.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
I’m personally a sucker for bottle opener coins, so if I had to pick… you know where my vote is going.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

• Best backstory

Every coin should have a story to tell. If your story is something lame like, “I met this person and they gave me a coin,” you don’t lose points but it certainly doesn’t earn you any.

If the coin has some major significance, then you’re clearly the winner.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops
Being a soldier in the 101st and receiving a coin from the commanding general is great. Being a Marine and receiving one from him is far more impressive.
(Photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy)

Military Life

5 reasons why the deployment guitarist is so phenomenal

There’s always at least one person in every deployed unit who brings their guitar with them. Sometimes it’s because they want to learn how to play and decide their down time as the perfect opportunity to practice. Sometimes they just can’t part with their baby for 12 months.


Either way, you’ll find them hanging around the smoke shack playing for the masses. If they’re at the point where they’re willing to play for their squad in between missions, they’re probably pretty good at it. Here’s why:

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

If you start playing, others will stop what they’re doing — giving you even more free time. Just saying.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They’ve got plenty of time to practice.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually is down time on a deployment. Which unit you’re serving in will determine how much time that is, but everyone can at least have a moment to breathe.

If the guitarist brought an acoustic guitar, they can play it whenever and wherever they feel like it.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

But thankfully they’ll stop caring before the guitar solo comes up.

(Photo by Pfc. Nathan Goodall

They learn to take requests.

There’s a handful of songs everyone who first picks up a guitar has to learn how to play. Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, Seven Nation Army, and eventually Stairway to Heaven. They’re kind of ‘rite of passage’ songs.

But not everyone on the deployment gets that and everyone will always request Free Bird.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

It’s always a great time when other musicians get together.

(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

They play all genres.

When you first pick up a guitar, you’ll play what you know and play what you like. But the deployment guitarist, after taking requests from everyone, learns to play all sorts of genres of music. Especially if they find other gifted musicians or singers in the unit.

Rock guys learn to play gospel. Country guys learn to play pop. And everything in between. As long as you’ve got someone to play with, you’ll learn their style too.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

And I’m just saying, from personal experience, it’s also very common in the aid station since the guitarist is often times a corpsman or medic.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

They’ll play to the battalion or just a handful of smokers.

An odd thing happens when command teams find artists in their unit. They’ll single them out and voluntell them to share their art with the unit. Normally, this never bothers them because they just love playing.

But more often than not, they’re usually in the smoke pit — just strumming away at whatever comes to mind.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

If they brought an electric guitar, oh yeah…they have passion.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)

They really do have the passion in their art.

A good guitar isn’t cheap. A beginner’s guitar can run you around 0 but the ones our semi-pros play on are up in the 0-00 range.

If they’re willing to risk losing that money by having their guitar get damaged though out a deployment, play in front of their brothers-in-arms, risk ridicule if they suck, and still get out there and perform — they’ve got as much passion as any recording artist out there.

popular

7 helpful habits that veterans forget

Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.

Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.


5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.

(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit

The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.

When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)

Exercising daily

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.

The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.

(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits

If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.

When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

15 minutes prior

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.

Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.

(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break

Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.

The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.

(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)

Putting in extra effort

Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.

However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.

5 ways the ‘good ol’ boy’ system screws good troops

In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.

(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)

Sympathy toward coworkers

A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.

Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.

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