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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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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