Being “the best” in the military is a weird paradox. Of course, you should always strive to be the best at whatever you do. But, at the same time, you can’t put others down or set yourself to such a high bar that it screws over everyone else. There is a fine line between giving Uncle Sam the best version of yourself and stepping into “Blue Falcon” territory.
You can be an outstanding troop without brown-nosing. You can be a great leader without throwing your troops under the bus. You can be highly motivated without overdoing it — but it’s a tricky balance to strike.
1. They integrate their military gear into their civilian attire
Ask anyone who’s ever rucked more than 24 miles in a single march: The best feeling ever in the military is, after finishing a grueling ruck, taking your gear off and throwing it across the room as hard as you can. Why in the hell would someone willingly wear their uniform after work hours for any reason outside of sheer laziness?
There are only two types of people who wear combat boots with civilian clothes: FNGs who haven’t had a chance to buy civilian shoes and the overly-hooah.
2. They force everyone to do more PT
Morning PT means its just another day in the military. It’s not designed as much for personal improvement as it is for camaraderie-building and sustainment. If you want to improve, the gym is open after work hours.
Do not get this twisted: Everyone should be sweating with everyone else. But remember, there’s a fine line. When you’re overzealousness legitimately breaks your comrade and they’re now on profile, you’re an ass.
3. They always ask for more work
The one phrase every NCO loves hearing from their troops is, “what else should we do?” It’s also, coincidentally, the last phrase lower enlisted want to hear right before close of business.
If the mission is complete, that’s it — shut up and move on.
4. They step on others to get to promotion points
This applies to boards, schools, certifications, medals, badges, etc. They are all in limited supply and can’t be handed out like candy. Remember, it’s not a competition and your battle-buddies are not your enemies.
These things should go to the best and most deserving — not to the person who made everyone else look like sh*t.
5. They parrot NCO sayings unironically
It’s a little bit funny when it’s coming down outside and an NCO turns to their troops and says, jokingly, “if it’s not raining, we’re not training. Am I right?” When a staff officer peaks their head out from behind their PowerPoint presentation and says it to troops who are soaking wet… not so much.
You need the rank and position to make those kinds of jokes. Otherwise, you’ll be glared at with disdain.
6. They have flaws and overcompensate for them
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes or slip up. Regular troops take the hit on the chin, learn from mistakes, and move on. Ultimately, nobody cares if the mistake doesn’t involve the UCMJ.
You don’t need to lose your mind because you accidentally saluted with the wrong hand. The officer will probably laugh at you for your stupid mistake and forget about it. You don’t need to stand outside their office all day to prove you can salute properly.