7 Things They Don't Tell You When You Join The Army
So if you read my previous list, you might have an inkling that I have a Military background, and you would be correct. I joined the Army to get out of Florida and begin my journey to...pretty much anywhere else. But my time spent in boots wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, no, more often than not it was a pretty terrible time. Not so much the work, not even the antagonism. See, I was the first to join in my family, so I had no idea what things would be like beyond what movies and television showed me; but even if I did know, you find yourself dealing with things in the Army you never thought you'd have to. For instance...
1. Recruiters are the Scum of the Earth
This one sounds like a no brainer right? Your recruiter screwing you over is the most common thing people hear about the Military. It's not that they do this, it's in how many ways they do that puts them on this list. In order to see what jobs could be available to you in the Military, you have to take the ASVAB, a test that makes you relive the nightmares of all the boring things you learned in school. You need a score of X in order to get the job of Y (Algebra, finally used it in the real world), so taking the ASVAB seriously would behoove you. Fret not however, if you fail, your recruiter might just "assist" you in getting a higher score. Have an allergy or disability that might keep you from joining the Military altogether? Don't worry, your hometown recruiter has a fool-proof plan in place for that too, it's called lying. They'll have you lie about whatever they need you to in order to get you in, they'll falsify documents, records, "lose paperwork," whatever they have to. Some of this might seem beneficial to you, but it really isn't. Those rules are in place for a reason, in order to protect you. When I was entering the Army my recruiter had me lie about my allergy to penicillin because it would "Slow down my recruitment," and I didn't want that so I agreed. Come time for BCT, we had to get a shot with penicillin in it, and without any proof that I had an allergy I had to take it. Not fun. Thanks recruiters of the world.
2. Drill Sergeants Aren't How You'd Think
Ah Drill Sergeants, truly the most nerve-wracking part of entering the force, the stuff of nightmares really. They'll scream in your face, deny you your rights, and straight up beat you to your knees if they have to (or want to). The Army was my ticket to freedom, so I expected all of this and welcomed it with open arms, what I got was not something I expected. First of all, they can't hit you anymore so get that out of your head (some still do, but you can report them for it). Do they yell? Sure, but without the fear of escalation beyond that it's about as intimidating as someone talking trash about you over the internet. Even more surprising was that under their odd choice in hats, they were people. My Drill Sergeants used to end each day by sitting us down and talking to us like people, telling us what the "Real Army" would be like and such. One time I caught one crying because their daughter was sick, sometimes you forget that these are real people with real lives. Once you realize that, the fear is gone, but it's replaced with a respect that works a lot better for leadership.
3. The Rules are Everywhere
See this one was something I had thought of, but gave no attention to. You know there's going to be rules, but you don't expect the quality and quantity you recieve. While I was in Korea, I had a curfew, I had to be back in my bed by 2 am. Is that a big deal? Not at first, but you can't always account for you days, and sometimes it's a buzzkill to know you have to leave whatever awesome activity you're taking part in to go to bed. When we work out in the mornings, we wear a reflective belt, so vehicles will see us. That makes total sense right? Sure, except if you work out at a later schedule (like 5 pm for instance) you still have to have the belt on. If a car hits you in the middle of the day, it probably was less about vision and more about vengeance. The mess hall we ate at in Washington (which you unwillingly pay 300 dollars for each month) would not serve you food unless you said good morning. You run in for some food, you're in a hurry because you have somewhere to be and you only have five minutes to eat, and you're trying to order off what you want as quickly as possible. Then you look up and see your order hasn't begun yet. Why? Because you forgot to say "Good Morning" you ungrateful piece of shit. Think of going to Applebee's and having to deal with something like that. These are just a few examples too. There are so many rules that you sometimes feel incarcerated. In fact...
4. The Whole Thing Feels Like Prison
This one is a joke you here sometimes, until you start really connecting the parallels. A typical day for me went like this: First you wake up and stand outside your room for attendance in uniform, then you conduct personal hygiene, afterwards you change uniforms for PT, where you will have another attendance check before working out, then you break for breakfast and a shower to go back into your first uniform, then it's off to work where you might do your job or you might do whatever needs to be done (including but not limited to: mopping floors, sweeping motor pools, taking out garbage, repairing walls, waxing floors, doing laundry, etc), then it's lunch (but not before another attendance check), then you have an attendance check when you get back to work, afterwards you have one final attendance check and are sent on your way. When you go to the field to train, it's worse, you're literally fenced in by barbed wire you helped set up. Is it to keep the theoretical enemy out? Or you in? The connections don't stop there either, they only get darker I'm afraid.
5. Rape Happens...Like a Lot
This is a subject without jokes, and one no one can really tread upon easily, but it must be touched upon. When I joined I had not considered that rape was as big of an issue in the Military as it is. I mean in theory it makes sense, these are people after all. People get raped in the civilian world, what would make the Military any different? You just expect a certain level of security from them. Then you get leveled with stories. People raped in Basic Training/AIT by their Drill Sergeants, Soldiers getting raped by their superiors in their company, raped in the field while training, raped while deployed, hell there are stories of recruiters raping people before they've even sworn in. One time I was in the field and we had a tent designed for showers, it was pretty nifty. Women showered at one time, men at another, a pretty good system. But that didn't stop a guy in my company from raping another guy in the showers. Does that sound like it's a scene out of MASH, or Prison Break?
6. You Might Actually Find a Family
Here's a much more positive note, and something I most definitely wasn't looking for from the Military: Brothers-in-arms, comrades, friends, family. Whether you're set on the idea or are more of a loner like myself, you will find yourself growing fond of some of those around you. I remember when a Soldier in my company was hit by a car and found himself in the hospital, everyone in the company banded together and sent gifts to him, his platoon paid for dinner for his family every night until he got better. I would never do something like that for just some co-worker. But you inadvertently start to realize that these guys aren't just your co-workers. They're your family, temporary or no, when you get yourself into a good unit you have the support of over a hundred of people. It's a humbling feeling. But of course...
7. There are Exceptions to all of These
This was all based on my experiences after all. I know people whose unit is a toxic cesspool that dooms Soldiers to terrible careers, my first unit was like that. I know people who love their recruiter and still keep in contact. I know Soldiers that love the Army life and wake up every day happy with their job and are prideful of what they do. The Military, like any experience really, can only truly be understood once you've walked through it. So all I ask is that you enter it with an open-mind, and a self-defense course or two.