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

01. April 2013 · Comments Off on Post 9/11 GI Bill Basics for the Incoming Recruit · Categories: Military Benefits, Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , ,

Obviously, education has become arguably more expensive than it’s actually worth. Contrary to many traditional arguments, a college education seems to be going the way of exceeding it’s marketplace value – at least when you consider student loan interest rates, the cost of tuition, and the likelihood of picking up a job right out of school.

This is undoubtedly one of the most compelling aspects of enlisting in the military – the enormous number benefits associated with education while in the service and after you’re discharged. A great many of the factors that non-military college goers have to consider are minimized or go out the window entirely.

There are quite a few military education programs in place – Tuition Assistance (making an appearance in the news quite recently for being eliminated, then brought back almost immediately), scholarships, Montgomery GI Bill (aka, MGIB), VEAP, and to say nothing of credits for school while you’re in the military – more on all these a bit later.

In short, GI Bill (both the MGIB and Post 9/11) programs pay for you to go to school. Both programs are markedly different from one another, and it’s very important to decide which one is better for you and your education goals. Here, we’ll just glimpse briefly at the most popular GI Bill program known as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which you may have heard something about – it’s easily one of the biggest recruitment selling points.

 

The Post 9/11 GI Bill

Easily one of the best things to happen to active duty and veterans in a long time just shy of coming home from a deployment. This program has changed the way we pursue and pay for education, in my opinion, for the objective better. Here are a few facts to keep in mind.

-100% of tuition is paid up to $17,500/year for private facilities. State schools? It’s even better – 100% tuition is covered. If you do attend a private school that will end up exceeding $17,500 a year, though, many are called “Yellow Ribbon” schools, which have opted to continue allowing you to take classes and GI Bill funds even after exceeding the maximum. Which is pretty cool.

-Payments are made directly to the school, so you don’t even have to worry about bothering with much of the administrative stuff. Take it from me, this is a good thing.

-Book and education expenses stipend (i.e. book payments, etc.). This is paid directly to you once you get enrolled and happens several times per year. It caps out at $1,000 each year you’re doing the college thing. (I can’t overstate how helpful this is, as colleges are world renowned for nickel and diming students at nearly every opportunity all in the name of “it’s part of your educational investment!”)

-Living stipend. Possibly one of the coolest aspects to the New GI Bill is the fact that you’ll be paid an additional monthly amount (during months when classes are going on – Christmas time, for example, usually only renders about 50% because classes usually wrap up halfway through the month) to cover rent, meal, time not spent working, etc. This money isn’t monitored and it’s not a loan, so you can spend it wherever it needs to be spent!