Joining the military is a profoundly impactful event for most people. Regardless of the branch, it shapes your first few impressions of the military. As a result, there are handful of things you can do to get more out of the boot camp experience that will positively impact the future of your military experience.
Choose Your Crowd
A common mistake for new recruits of each branch is to fall in with the same crowds they ran with before they joined the military. This isn’t always a bad thing, of course, but depending on your background, moving into a new sect of personalities can have a profound impact on your success in the military.
Don’t mistake the military as being a big social event – it sure as hell isn’t. But as nearly every psychology and self help book written in the last 50 years will tell you:
You become your company.
If you’re coming from a background which greatly enjoyed defying authority and causing trouble, chances are good that those people in the military will continue that kind of behavior. If you enlisted to experience something outside of all that, find associates who focus on something other than acting out – they’ll hold you back.
It’s an awkward experience, being uprooted from what you’re used to, but don’t try to duck out of the unfamiliarity by trying to stick with what you’re used to socially. Embrace the awkwardness and discomfort because it won’t last that long. You may as well start developing new habits while you’re at it.
Volunteer for Any Job You Can Handle
During basic training, there is a lot of marching involved. In some branches, such as the Navy, the person calling out marching orders is not always, in fact, the proverbial drill sergeant or recruit division commander. Instead, that responsibility is given to a recruit. This role is given a measure of respect, and since everyone at that point is on the same playing field, it is on a voluntary basis. The one who strikes the RDC or drill sergeant as both competent and capable of leading gets the job.
Other boot camp jobs are available, and though they’re not pretty, they are important. Volunteering for these positions as jobs are being assigned is an outstanding way to make your mark on your division or company, garner respect, and exercise some measure of additional discipline.
Why is this important? Awards are handed out for performance at the end of basic training, for one. If you’re not interested in this, you may be interested in knowing that some can even result in earlier promotions in the right circumstances. Again, basic can set the stage for the remainder of your military experience.
Be Loyal to Your Colleagues
Sometimes, basic training sucks. Sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, the cutthroat bullshit characterizing Hollywood depictions of the military experience isn’t just unethical, outside of basic, it’s also lethal. Boot camp is an great point in time to start finding things in common with the people you’re serving with, regardless of your personality differences.
There are going to be douchebags in the military. There’s no way around that. Some of them may even be your boss. Some aspects of the military attract incompetence and the type of people obsessed with arbitrarily exercising authority. This is just the nature of it. Nonetheless, find what ways you can be of assistance to your equals, and you’ll find yourself being repaid. In other cases, learn to distinguish between your equals and colleagues and the ones who are more interested in playing the cutthroat game – and avoid them.
Once you’re on the outside of basic, you’re bound to experience a whole new environment – it’s equally important to attempt at least to find common ground with individuals in your day to day company. Doing this makes the entire experience way less unpleasant.
There are literally thousands of people in basic training across each branch on any given day, everyone has a different story, everyone has a different set of motivating circumstances which led them to enlist. Undoubtedly, you’re going to interact with some who have no interest in doing anything other than starting shit and stirring up drama.
Males, females and everything in between are guilty of this. While in basic training, don’t fraternize – which is to say, hit on, flirt with, imply anything which can possibly be taken as ‘unduly familiar’ with a member of the opposite sex. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t work, and there’s more than a pound of flesh to pay if she/he complains about your behavior as being sexual harassment. In other words, it’s not worth it.
Outside of fraternization, avoid anyone who tends to need to complain non stop. On the one hand, everyone in boot camp has to bitch about boot camp. That’s a luxury new recruits enjoy which civilians don’t have, but there’s a line. There’s the bitch and moan sessions everyone participates in as therapy, and then you have the kind of complaining which serves absolutely no purpose, other than to revert everyone listening to a state of negativity which impedes decent performance.