02. September 2013 · Comments Off on Dealing With Politics and Bureaucracy While in the Military · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Dealing With Politics and Bureaucracy While in the Military

This is a warning post regarding something everyone in the military deals with, but is rarely discussed prior to enlistment – military politics. The aim of this post shouldn’t be confused with what was discussed in BJtM’s last post, which talked at length about national political concerns and how it affects people in the military. Here, we’re discussing how life in the military will expose you to some concepts, behaviors, and personalities you may not otherwise come across as a civilian.

Politics in the military is a pretty vague notion, so it makes sense to narrow it down a bit. When joining the military, you subject yourself to one of the oldest hierarchies still in use. This system of authority has its place and comes with a number of positives, but it also subjects you to a few negatives that you may not have thought to consider as a civilian. Decisions will be made in spite of your contributions, and at levels where your voice may be completely drowned out, regardless of how logical your input may be. This is the nature of the military hierarchy.

Generally speaking, when you ship off to basic training, most of us know enough to expect to be treated like the lowest man on the totem pole. A lot of times, however, recruits leave basic training for the fleet or the field expecting different treatment. Very often meeting with a rather disappointing reality. For some time after BMT (basic military training), you can expect your opinion to be ignored and occasionally (or constantly) criticized. This is also deeply written into the nature of the military and shouldn’t be taken personally. However, once you spend a little time in the trenches or out at sea or wherever, you’ll begin to notice your expertise is taken a little more seriously and as you advance, you can expect to experience what it means to be a leader.

While many books have been written about these topics, what you don’t find are many discussions about the politics that come with that leadership. Many of us joined, worked to be promoted, worked our asses off to earn the respect of colleagues and subordinates only to discover a whole different aspect of leadership that had never been mentioned. Again, politics – which is generally short for dealing with the personal/professional agendas of your peers or seniors – is all but inevitable, and it makes sense to at least be aware of it.

As a junior military member, you’re bound to be on the brunt end of any number of political agendas – from your immediate ‘supervisor’ to your senior enlisted leadership to your executive officer and commanding officer and beyond. There are only a handful of approaches to dealing with this sort of game, and if you’ve worked in a corporate setting prior to enlisting, this all may seem quite familiar.

 

1) Be flexible.

In basic training, you’re pretty much at the mercy of your division commander/drill sergeant/etc – now is certainly not the time to try to play games.

Once you’re on the other side of boot camp, things change a bit, but this advice is still sound. Historically, you’re not customarily in control of when and if you’re deployed. Times are changing though, and it appears that even this is up for debate. Nonetheless, it’s wise to manage your expectations when it comes to your military experience. Your time will largely be spoken for, and the best practice when planning thing like college plans, leave/furlough, second jobs, and the like is to not be discouraged (irritated is fine) when your command’s needs take precedence over your agendas.

 

2) Be resilient.

You’re in it for the long haul. Ultimately, persistence will get you what you want, assuming it’s not in opposition to your command’s mission.

A hypothetical – your immediate supervisor claims that you will be busy with exercises/training/mess cranking and refuses to approve a vital part of your Tuition Assistance. You can get mad, get discouraged, bitch to your colleagues about how big of prick he is or whatever. Or you can adopt the more sound, rational strategy:

1) demonstrate how you’re capable of handling the responsibilities of school in addition to your job duties and

2) don’t be afraid to negotiate with his supervisor. The chain of command is there for this reason. More on this type of scenario at a later date, but for the time being, this illustrates how a situation requiring these attributes might play out.

 

The higher up the food chain you get, the more political your professional career becomes. On the brighter side, there are more approaches you can take. It’s also wise to acquire knowledge about how and why some of these games are played. for reference, I strongly suggest picking up a copy of Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power

07. March 2013 · Comments Off on The Military and Politics – What Incoming Enlistees Should Consider · Categories: Politics · Tags:

Disclosure: This post is more than borderline opinionated.

Before Joining the Military is not by any means a political sounding board for my own political affiliation, so don’t get the wrong idea. But by its very nature, people who join the military are directly affected by politics, in 100% of cases. Regardless of your personal feelings about the political climate of the country, if you’re considering enlistment as a viable career option, then your life is more subject to the leanings of these creatures we call ‘representatives’.

Like I said, though, this is not a political sounding board.

During the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, it was considered civic duty to get educated, stay educated, and participate in politics – it was widely regarded as something citizens just did. Today, so many of us have been lulled into complacency because we’re so incredibly comfortable. And as civilians, we can sort of afford to be complacent. At least, the ones who are okay with keeping their mouths shut can.

When you join the military, while you’re in it and once you’re out, that whole “whatever, politics is boring” goes out the window for a lot of veterans. In fact, for a lot of us, being in the military changes how you see politics completely. Democrats turn into Republicans, Republicans into Democrats, and both may turn into Libertarians. The point is that once you sweat, bleed, and bathe four (or two, or twenty) years of military service, you may begin to relate to the Renaissance mentality of regarding it as civic duty. What was once incredibly boring horseshit your high school teachers tried desperately to get you to relate to is now somehow relatable.

To put it briefly, the Commander in Chief is who he is for four to eight years. It’s widely debated how valuable your vote is or isn’t, but none of that is really the point. The point is that while you’re considering enlistment, you’re in the process of considering a move that will likely shape and reshape the outlook of how you regard politics. As a matter of advice, there’s not a whole lot a veteran can give to someone pre-enlistment when it comes to big politics on the grand scale, other than this:

Start paying attention.

Like I said, politics isn’t the most interesting thing in the world, all the time. It becomes more interesting the more you consider how you’re liable to be affected by it, though. Most of us in the civilian sector care very little because there’s a prevailing mentality that “oh this election won’t affect my life much” – and we choose instead to waste the next three hours watching the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo instead of watching a presidential debate or having a consequential discussion with your dad about what’s changed in his political party in the last 10 years or so… One way is squandering the hours of your life, and the other is not. The point is that if you’re thinking about joining, your life will be 10 times more affected than your college-bound, future frat housed buddies. As such, it makes a great deal of sense to plan accordingly.

I say all this, but have yet to give any real starting point for someone who may agree. It’s like this, first and foremost:

Read the Constitution.

Regardless of what political party you choose to agree with, if you’re joining the Armed Forces, you’re going to be swearing to defend this document. Read it, learn it, study it, and the rest is bound to follow. You may even notice that quite a bit of it really needs defending.

Then:

Decide where you stand on major issues like foreign policy, overseas occupation, and the not so recent abuse of military prisoners.  

Ask yourself primitive, basic questions like ‘why do I agree/disagree with our current foreign policy’. And write down why. Tweet it. Post it on Facebook.

Consider why it may have been such an ugly, illegal, terrible thing for U.S. troops to beat and piss on POWs. Then try the hat on reverse. What would you do if the guy you’re babysitting detonated an IED that blew off your best friends legs, you haven’t seen home for 9 months, and haven’t slept in 18 hours?

 

Again, BJtM is not a political sounding board. But it’s vitally important for any citizen – civilian or military – to be asking such questions.