Here Are The 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined The Military

Joining the Military
Photo by Sgt. Caitlin Brink

My military career is complete. I’ve done some good things and some not so good things. I’ve done some things to make the military, and in a tiny way, the world, a better place. At the same time, I can’t say accomplished everything I wish I would have in the military.

The problem with experience is that you only get it after you really need it. I’m a cynic by nature, so I won’t waste your time with B.S. inspirational tropes you’ve heard before. You don’t need yet another person to tell you to work hard and be a team player. I’m sure you can find Successories posters to fill your inspiration quota for the day. Here are a few things I’d wished I’d known when I started my adventure in the Big Green Gun Club.

1. An hour a day is the difference between average and excellent.

Too many people just get their daily tasks done and go home. Being the best doesn’t require staying at work until midnight. It just requires sustained effort over time — a marathon, not a sprint. As Lt. Col. Chris Raible once said in his commander’s guidance, “If you average one hour per workday studying, 6 months from now you will be brilliant.” Know your craft. The military is a profession, not just a job.

2. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

That’s really true anywhere. The military is no exception. Being good gets you in the stadium. Talking good (or “well” if you’re a grammar nerd) gets you in the end zone. Cultivate relationships. You never know who you’ll run into, or when that person you almost didn’t notice will be a critical actor in the play that’s your life. Remember names and keep in touch.

Related: I Wrote A Letter To My 18-Year-Old Self About Joining The Military »

3. Insist on feedback.

The same people who will land planes on ships, face gunfire, or lead armies are just as afraid and awkward as anyone else when providing honest and timely feedback. Oddly, this gets worse the further up you go. So, as a subordinate, you need to force your boss to show his cards. Ask for a sit down when you check in. Agree on a billet description that actually answers the question, “What would you say you do here?” Midway through an evaluation period, ask your boss to give it to you straight on what you can do to improve. When preparing paperwork for that evaluation, ask for another conference to talk about what happened during that period. By doing that, you give yourself both the best chance to meet your boss’ expectations and also help ensure that your evaluation is based on your performance in meeting his expectations, not his gut feelings.

4. You are your own best advocate.

You may think you’re turning water into wine in your corner of the military and that of course your boss is seeing that — because you’re awesome, that’s why. But there are lots of other awesome people in the military, and some of them are salesmen as well as tacticians. Your boss is busy, or at least pretending to be. You don’t have to be obsequious about it, but don’t be afraid to blow your own horn from time to time.

5. Make your own luck.

The military is a big institution. It’s not malicious, but it is going to look out for itself, not for you. At one time, I had the choice of executing orders anytime during a one-year window. My receiving command told me that the earlier I checked in the better, so I could get started on my training. Better for them, as it turned out. As a young hard-charger, I jumped on that gig like it was a grenade in a fighting hole. I spent the better part of a year standing more duty than I ever thought possible. They didn’t need someone to fly a plane. They needed someone to fly a desk. As in the X-Files, “Trust no one.” Do your research and do what’s best for you, not for them.

6. Figure out your priorities.

As legendary military theorist John Boyd said, “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do?” Do you want to be a unit commander or a sergeant major? The military needs people to fill those jobs. On the other hand, would you rather be the resident expert in your particular field? Those people are essential as well. Different services and even branches within services have different career paths, and I can’t cover all of them, but you have to make a decision. If you drift in the river, just accepting assignments as they come, you will drown, having gone nowhere. After your first tour, you need to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do, and then manage your career accordingly.

Life is tough. Wear a cup. The military is neither uniquely great nor uniquely dysfunctional. It’s a group of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, people who have the same strengths and weaknesses as anyone else. Learn how to navigate them, and both you and the military will be better off for it.

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departure that he planned to meet the families, a duty which he said "might be the toughest thing I have to do as president."

He was greeted by military staff at Dover Air Force Base after a short flight from Joint Base Andrews, but did not speak to reporters before entering his motorcade.

Flanked by military officials, Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan filed up a ramp leading onto a military transport aircraft, where a prayer was given to honor the memory of Scott Wirtz, a civilian Department of Defense employee from St. Louis.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump filed down the plank and saluted while six service members clad in fatigues and white gloves carried an American flag-draped casket carrying Wirtz to a waiting gray van.

The Dover base is a traditional hub for returning the remains of American troops abroad.

The United States believes the attack that killed the Americans was the work of Islamic State militants.

Trump announced last month that he planned to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has since said it does not need to go quickly as he tries to ensure safety of Kurdish allies in northern Syria who are at risk of attack from neighboring Turkey.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that his Syria policy has made progress but that some work remained in destroying Islamic State targets. He defended his plans for a withdrawal.

"It's moving along very well, but when I took over it was a total mess. But you do have to ask yourself, we're killing ISIS for Russia, for Iran, for Syria, for Iraq, for a lot of other places. At some point you want to bring our people back home," he said.

In addition to Wirtz, those who died during the Wednesday attack in Manbij, Syria, were Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, identified as being from upstate New York, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Pentagon did not identify the fourth person killed, a contractor working for a private company. U.S. media identified her as Ghadir Taher, a 27-year-old employee of defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)

A low-flying C-17 gave Nashville residents a fright on Friday when the aircraft made several unannounced passes over the city's bustling downtown.

Read More Show Less
George W. Bush/Instagram

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.

In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less