28. July 2012 · Comments Off on Why Boot Camp Makes You OCD About How Your Underwear Is Folded · Categories: Leaving for Boot Camp, The Military Boot Camp Experience · Tags: , , , , , ,

Point of fact: in boot camp, you do a lot of seemingly stupid stuff. Remember back in school when you asked “when am I going to have to do this in real life?” Chances are good you’ll be doing that in basic training a few times, too.

The list of things that may contribute to this line of questioning may go something like this:

-effectively ironing t-shirts and uniform items

-shining boots and dress shoes

-ENORMOUS amounts of cleaning. Seriously, down on the ground, wiping dust off the floor to your quarters with a cloth or sock, taking a toothbrush to the communal sinks, toilets (aka, the head, latrine, etc), and showers. The list goes on and on.

-“properly” folding uniform items

-“properly” making a bed

-aligning your belt buckle according to uniform standards


In addition to having to do all of the above with enthusiasm that no rational person would ever actually apply to these things, you’ll also be inspected, and probably ‘punished’ for how effectively or ineffectively you did them. Boot camp instructors undergo an enormous amount of similar, and more intense training in order to get qualified for their job, and a part of that training is picking your performance apart, regardless of the quality of your work in order to drive home a point.

Make no mistake, your execution may be spot on, but if there’s anything lacking whatsoever, you will be called out on it. Gone are the days, though, that you’ll be physically beaten or anything like that (no one is allowed to lay a hand on you), and officially, Navy and Air Force boot camp instructors “don’t even curse at recruits anymore” (LOL). By beaten, I simply mean IT’d (intensive training’d, or rather, intensively trained) by way of pushups, lunges, or whatever the instructors decide.

I suppose one could bitch all day about the absurdity of these practices, but rest assured it wouldn’t do any good whatsoever. Let me be clear, if an instructor steps out of line (shit happens) by sexually harassing or causing unauthorized physical harm to a recruit/trainee, that’s a different story and he/she should absolutely be held accountable. But in most cases, these seemingly sadistic Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen are some of the most motivated, admirable service members you’ll ever meet with enormously high ethical standards, albeit INCREDIBLY rough around the edges…

All that considered, the basis for this behavior is twofold.

-First, you’re the FNGs (F*@#ing New Guys). The Big Military isn’t going to let you carry a gun the first day. So goes the theory, at least, that you have to earn the privilege of greater responsibilities. In the meantime, the FNG has to first prove that he/she is capable of properly handling an iron before being given those privileges.

-Second, the devil is in the details. So, as goes the theory, is effectiveness. Focusing on the details ensures that the job is done properly the first time. A prevalent fact in the private sector, people frequently manage to fill the time they’re given, regardless of the task’s significance. Often, in the private sector, the quality of the work hinges on how that person feels about how they’re paid or how they perceive the significance of that job. In the military, you’re forced to observe the details are ‘ironed out’ (sorry, that was low hanging fruit) before moving on.

These approaches eliminate feelings of entitlement that recruits show up with from wherever it is they’re coming from. You might say that recruit life is the great equalizer of the enlisted man. If you came from the hood, you’re on par with the trust fund baby across the room, you both get equal opportunity to prove yourself regardless of your feelings about it.

Second is 60-90 days of focusing on details gets you used to paying attention to aspects of tasks most people on the outside ignore or don’t even notice. This habit, long after boot camp, is something you will be glad to have learned when it comes to finding work as a civilian. Eventually, you’ll probably stop caring how to properly fold you underwear, but the principle and habit is still in place. Even if you lose it for a while, old habits return without much effort.


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