02. August 2012 · Comments Off on The Two Fundamental Reasons People Join the Military · Categories: Joining the Military · Tags: , ,

Admittedly, I am not a psychologist. But I do habitually break down peoples’ motivation for doing, saying, or thinking different things. In some cases, it pays off, but mostly, it’s just habit. Joining the military, and all that goes into it is fertile ground for a lot of that kind of analysis, and therefore I find it pretty entertaining trying to break down why people consider joining.

To be clear-everyone, without exception-joins the military for their own selfish, personal reasons. Sometimes, they’ll express those reasons, but in many cases when you’re asked, you’re more likely to give a reason that’s mostly palatable to the person you’re talking about:

“I want to see the world”

“I want the job security”

“I want to ultimately get a degree and the military will pay for it”

“I love boys/girls”

Or whatever… There are millions upon millions of these reasons, and there are rarely more than a handful that truly apply to each person.

To me, what’s the most interesting is the commonalities. Meaning, while the reasons are diverse, the driving elements behind the reasons are bound to be similar, in principle. As with all methods, there are many, but principles are few.


A person considering joining the military is either:

1) Trying to get away from something, or

2) Is going after something

Based on what I’ve seen, you can determine which type of service person you’re dealing with if you know what to look for. Personally, I left for the military eager to get out of a small town and experience “the real world” (which I’m still not entirely convinced exists) the way my imagination depicted it. Incidentally, expectation and reality are often two different things, and certainly was for me and most likely will be for anyone else joining the military in the same way.

Saying that to say that joining the military to get away from something isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and gone are the days where you can join the military successfully trying to duck out of legal issues. The process has changed, and such things don’t happen much anymore. Getting out from under a bad financial situation, rough family background, area with awful job prospects, etc are examples of situations where getting away by joining the service can be a decidedly positive move.


Those who join with a highly developed sense of ambition, and clearly defined goals of what to set their sights on while in the military are often the ones you see being promoted ahead of the rest. Currently, legit psychologists are more convinced that positive stimuli serve as better motivators than negative stimuli. Put another way, if you say, study for this exam, you will be given an 8% pay raise vs. if you don’t study for this exam, you’ll stay at your current pay grade and take home the same paycheck.

I can’t count how many great examples of this persona, but there are many. Incidentally, and I’m not sure if there’s a connection or not, but a great many of the examples that come to mind are guys from my ship who weren’t natural-born U.S. citizens. They came from the likes of Nigeria, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. On the other hand, I saw many men and women from the states excel as well.


The moral of the story here is that you should dedicate some time figuring out your own motivation for joining the service. If you’re enlisting to get out of dodge in hopes that what’s on the other side of the fence is more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and just better, then that’s fine. But rarely is it enough to simply be against something (like staying in your hometown). It’s equally, or more important to be for something as well, should you choose to join. While there isn’t anything wrong with leaving where you are (contrary to what your family and friends may say), don’t get through the enlistment process, only to find yourself saying “I’m here… but it’s not much better than where I was.”

While it’s within the aim of this site to provide some clarity for those interested in aspiring to great things while in the military, you’re bound to come across many, many opportunities once you’re on active duty. Figuring out in advance how far you want to go in your military career and what how much you’re willing to exert to get there will provide clarity that no number of how-to’s can.

29. July 2012 · Comments Off on The 3 Best Ways to Make Enemies During Basic Training (aka the Three Boot Camp Screw Ups) ) · Categories: Before Joining the Military Blog, Joining the Military, The Military Boot Camp Experience · Tags: , , , ,

You can expect boot camp to be somewhat challenging, and to what extent depends on your personality, stress threshold, physical and mental fortitude, and a slew of other things that are hard as hell to accurately measure. No boot camp experiences are the same, at the individual level. But over time, there are trends you can pick up on based on the experiences of the masses.

One of the more interesting and somewhat preventable trends to observe is the tendency of recruits and trainees to make the basic training period unnecessarily difficult. In spite of the different training practices between branches, the different degrees of intensity, and the differences in drill instructors, there are universal tendencies adopted by recruits that make life harder for both himself and those around him.

If you’re interested in being that guy, simply do the following, starting from the time you get to boot camp, to the time you leave. This will guarantee that you and the people you’re working most closely with get your asses kicked as often as possible. If you don’t want to be, just do what you’re supposed to do and contribute as well as you can.When you ship out, you’re likely to run into at least one of each of these people. Keep it in mind, and you’ll be able to spot them immediately.


1) Be a volunteer DI (i.e. be a tyrant)

Or basically, mirror the behavior of your drill instructor. Doing this will make sure you’re the splinter in whatever unity your group achieves. As if the DIs weren’t capable of doing their jobs, you can go the extra mile and make sure that what they’ve failed to do gets done.

In reality, you’re painting a target on your back. In fact, you’re painting two targets on your back: one will be for the drill instructors, because you’re acting out. You’re asserting yourself and your opinion as being the one to acknowledge over theirs. They do not like this, by the way.

The second target is for the recruits who have to pay for your ego trip. They are the guys who will have to do pushups for your screw ups and incidentally, the ones who will throw you under the bus because you have no idea how to be a team player. The name of the game in basic training is teamwork. If you assume the role of the drill instructor’s mini-me, then you’re doing it wrong.


2) Be Gomer Pyle.

Every division in history has had one of these. If it is or was you when you went through, then you’re most likely now a better man or woman than you were before, and quite feasibly better than me. I’m not sure I could handle that role.

This persona also earns you a target during BMT (basic military training), and a large one at that. It’s most frequently reserved for the first person who blatantly, though unintentionally, screws up the easy stuff. Be this guy, and the DI will call you out, have you stand where everyone can see, and make an example out of you. Theoretically, which is to say “officially”, the military has eliminated this type of treatment in favor of training practices that better align with current pop psychology.

In fact, your recruiter may tell you, reassuringly, that this is a thing of the past, and DIs neither “make examples” of recruits or curse at them anymore.


Not so long ago, my RDCs reenacted a scene right out of Full Metal Jacket. During this session, my division’s seaman recruit Pyle stood on a chair, being forced to eat doughnuts, while 4 more RDCs were called in to oversee a beat down session. This was called an “ice cream social”, and lasted the better part of 90 minutes where we IT’d while one guy stuffed his face. We weren’t happy about this.

The trick is to let someone else be that guy.


3) Be a Shit Bag 

This is the apathetic, know-it-all version of the first guy. Sure, you graduated college, your daddy is a Senator, you’ve got a trust fund and make more outside the military than inside of it, you drive a Cadillac. Expect everyone else to do everything while you sit back and criticize. You’re a big picture person, after all, and if you felt like it, you could do it better.

No one cares.

You may not be targeted by the drill instructors (because you’re not doing anything that garners their attention), but you’re sure to annoy and slow down the progress of the group. By providing copious non-constructive input and sarcastic wit, you hinder, slow, and distract your colleagues who are working to contribute to the division’s success.

If this role tempts you, but want to avoid it, force yourself to overcome your petty insecurities figure out a way to contribute positively. No one needs destructive criticism, as there’s enough coming from the guys who are being paid to dish it out. The difference, of course, between theirs and yours, is theirs is to achieve a sense of uniformity and purpose in pushing other recruits. If you assume this role, you’re just demonstrating a fear of failure by tearing others down. Solution: keep your mouth shut unless it’s helpful.



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One of the questions I’m hearing quite a bit is “how do I deal with leaving for boot camp?”, as it applies to leaving your family and friends. On the one hand, leaving for basic training- or hell, leaving home at all for any indetermined stretch of time- without some sense of certainty can really suck.

Wives lose their husbands, husbands may lose their wives, girls lose their boyfriends, etc. to some uncertain, though occassionally promising fate. In some cases, getting out of dodge comes not a moment too soon, and you roll out without a second look.

Other times, it’s not all that simple.

Since we’re social creatures, we have a strong tendency to develop, cultivate, and even the basest, most uneducated of us build these things called relationships, albeit that they take on a multitude of different forms. Some of these relationships are hard as hell to “walk away” from, although in many cases, it’s for a cause that you’re pursuing with the best intentions.

There are two sides to any separation, and both of them have the potential to bring with them a considerable amount of grief, frustration, argumentation, etc as the day of departure approaches. Very often the day of departure is devoid of these arguments, and is often characterized by the sobering realization that “it’s actually happening.”

Naturally, everyone experiences manifestations of anxiety in different ways. Most guys I know just ignore it, but make the mistake of allowing is to affect their relationships in ways the could be prevented by the acknowledgement of its existence. That said, I’ll cover what I understand of anxiety, leaving for boot camp/deployment, and a bit about the complexity of the phenomenon.

As the one packing up and leaving, you’re pretty well acquainted with what you’re experiencing, be it anxiety, excitement, dread, or whatever. If you’re sensitive to these kinds of emotions, then relax, you’re normal. If you don’t experience these emotions as the day to leave for boot camp approaches, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not normal. We all have differing levels of sensitivity, so if you’re stoically watching the days on the calendar get marked off, don’t sweat it. Looking back, I remember being mildly excited when I thought about all the uncertainty, but not enough to make me bounce off the walls. To be fair, though, I was very young, single, and didn’t have kids to think about.

On the flip side, there are circumstances where you may not feel anxious about the day, but your interaction with people may be changing. Specifically you may be:

-Detaching from your social groups

-Irritated with petty matters

-Unmotivated and unproductive

-Mildly depressed

-Experiencing loss of appetite

-Scatterbrained, and have trouble focusing


In my opinion, separation anxiety, even without the transparency of feeling anxious, is your unconsciousness acknowledging an upcoming, significant change. In addition to being social, we tend also to be creatures of habit. In habits, we find a sense of security and safety. When the routine is threatened, both the subconscious and consciousness are effected, and they don’t always respond simultaneously.

Anyway this is getting a bit lofty, so I’ll get back to the point.

Both sides-the one leaving or the one staying behind- may experience any or all of the above symptoms, and being conscious to the fact that things are about to change may offset some of the rawness that accompanies pending separation. Beyond being aware of it, it almost goes without saying that being open and frank about (I hate saying this) feelings goes a long way at making the last few days/weeks/months more fulfilling, as well as preserving the integrity of those relationships once the separation is underway.

I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days, but I’ve recently experienced the whole separation thing myself, so I’m compelled to elaborate before I actually do any of the work involved in writing at length about it.



(Photo by Russell Sellers)

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04. July 2012 · Comments Off on Explaining to People What BJtM Is and Joining the Military the Dumb Way · Categories: Before Joining the Military Blog, Joining the Military · Tags: ,

With this site gaining a little bit of traction, I’m hearing from different people a variety of opinions why I’m wasting my time providing information about joining the military while there are people who are paid to do the same thing (i.e. recruiters). To me it seems like it’s helpful, so I have no difficulty disregarding the detractors.

I joined the military as a dumb kid. I had no idea about what was involved in joining, what happened on the inside, and sure as hell had no idea what would come after. On top of all this, I was desperate to do something that seemed substantial, useful, and noble. Ergo, the military was appealing.

Before joining, I did what research I could. But alas, the Internet was still in its early years and we had the likes of myspace, Altavista, and askJeeves. I was under the impression that the military would be something entirely different than what it turned out to be. I can’t say I had a tool of a recruiter. He was honest enough and walked the line very, very well. It’s their job to minimize the negatives of the military, and highlight (inordinately so) the positives. He did his job and I can’t fault him for that.

Looking back, the military was a great experience, but more information about what reality was like in the military would have gone a long way in making it an incredible experience.

Naturally there are questions like “what qualifies you to talk about this?”. My answer is pretty consistent: I have no idea. Other than the fact that I spent four years in it, I have no idea what ‘qualifies’ me because I have no idea what a ‘qualified’ person looks like. Looking back, I wouldn’t care about someone’s qualifications as much as the validity of the information they were giving me, if it were available back then.

At this point, I’m mostly interested in illustrating some of the details that recruiters may overlook, and questions that recruits would ask if they knew enough to ask them. The point of this site is to tear the veil as much as possible between pre military and military life and give you at least one honest look into it before making a thoughtless, mindless decision that you may later regret. If it helps, then cool. If it’s useless to you, that’s fine too.

Joining the armed forces just happened to be a good thing for me, but only in retrospect. At the time, I was immature, defiant, and unprepared for the demands of the military. The first two, well, haven’t gone anywhere, but eventually I conformed to the military’s demands as it applied to my job and general conduct, though not without a fight.