06. December 2013 · Comments Off on Basic Training (And After!) Best Practices · Categories: Leaving for Boot Camp · Tags: ,

Basic Training Overview

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.

 

Avoid Drama

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.

 

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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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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