Well then…

Forewarning – this may be a bit long-winded……

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I am censored by my work uniform. Self-expression is unacceptable, and individualism is a nonexistent concept. Expressing thoughts and feelings is frowned upon. That is fact. 

Also, a fact – I am not good at my job.

My job: “Soldiering

I am not good at soldiering.

Before I say that though and explain the reason behind such a statement, let me say first that I do indeed love the military. In the most basic and fundamental state, the military is honorable, respectable, and commendable. It is easy. In my opinion, being in the military is significantly easier than the civilian world and I say this because of a few things:

  • The nobility is commendable. The military asks you for service to country, and you in return offer to lay down your life so that other do not have to.
  • In the military (again at its most basic level) you have 3 rules to follow: 1) be at the right place, 2) be there at the right time, 3) be there in the right uniform.
  • It is easy to rank up if you simply “soldier” (I cannot speak for the ranking systems of other branches) well.
  • The military supplies you and your family every need you could possibly have, from finances, to housing, to family advocacy programs, and health care. You even get more funding for having more children.
  • The military is an unparalleled adventure – you will never see the places you see in the military as a civilian (I don’t just mean traveling to a location), and you will never have those experiences had in the military as a civilian.
  • The military is noble. The Army is full of people willing to die for their fellow service member – battle buddies make you reconsider just what it means to care for and look out for someone.
  • The military offers in believable incentives, like college tuition, pay bonuses, and unmatched job training/resources.
  • The military is an honored history. Truly, I am proud when I wear my uniform, and when out and about, I wear it with pride and dignity. I still appreciate the people who say thank you for your service, because they are a part of what makes it worth the sacrifices service-members and their families endure.

At its CORE, the military is an amazing organization – it is an amazing concept. If left to operate on those fundamentals, it would be an amazing organization.

But my experience has unfortunately soured my opinion of the army (I say army, not the entire military but the army), or maybe just my job series. Unpleasant experiences are to be expected in everything you do, but sometimes it is not worth your sanity… either way it has not always been great in my opinion.

So, what brought this rant on? Well…… (checks attitude at the keyboard so as not to violate any regulations – written or suddenly thought up, disrespect any aspects of organization, or offend any of the people who are likely to never even see this *crosses fingers*)

(In my opinion – my opinion based on my personal experiences – let’s remember that part)

I was listening to a conversation amongst some leadership and lower listed NCOs. It was an interesting conversation………….. to say the least……

And my input was not appreciated.

I was honest though – I did not conform to the group think happening around me. I took a few keys things away from the conversation though (after a while I just stopped talking and observed) ….

I am not good a soldiering: the exact statement that got me dirty looks. The person that I am – I would have asked, “why do you say that?”, but I like understanding people’s perspectives and expanding my own – many people don’t. I said what I said though for a reason… soldiers are good at following orders, abiding by regulations, they are athletes to a certain degree, they are military-minded, and (in my opinion) they are good at group think, even if they are faking it. I follow orders, but I question them if I don’t understand or agree with them. I have been in violation of the same regulation since the day I joined the military… actually the same two, I am overweight by army standards (I’m over it at this point, I have 30% body fat on me according to the bodpod so whatever) and my hair is too big (I appreciate my THICK as hell afro even if others don’t), I hate working out and I am old and cracking in odd places, I am Ashleigh minded – I am a person first, I am not soldier or “last name” or specialist or “hey”, I am an adult, an individual, I am Ashleigh before anything else. I despise conformity. Rise Above the Fray.

I am not good at respecting a rank. Good Lord, I am terrible at keeping a straight face or keeping my head and neck still…. you are told to respect ranks no matter how you feel about the person wearing it… but how am I expected to follow a leader or trust a NCO without following or trusting the person behind the rank. I cannot respect a rank, I respect people, and if I can’t respect a person, their rank means nothing to me – it gets them avoided or a quick “parade rest – Roger rank – Roger rank – didn’t even look at their face while they were talking”. I see the person behind the rank.  

I am not good at not placing responsibility on responsible parties. Junior enlisted often seem to be scapegoats. Recently, I was caught between two high-ranking service members who both wanted me to do something… I ended up doing what I assumed was correct which was follow the instruction of the person I’d been communicating with the most and working with consistently, and the other party got pissy. I was blamed in the end. Now… I could have accepted blame and played the good soldier… instead I have a detailed accounting of what transpired the day of and the two weeks leading up to the event and I have names, times, and locations. I am not the only party who is responsible for the instructions I followed. I have no qualms about telling people what part they played in a situation. 

I am not good at pretending that things are “all’s well” in my unit…………. I’ll just leave that right there.

I am not good at repressing thoughts that need to be shared, aka – biting my tongue… it either comes out or my facial expression become severely distorted. I’m not good at listening to foolishness and smiling about it. I am not good at saying everything is going great…… No sergeant, sir, ma’am, I don’t understand, I don’t know what is going on or expected, I am not tracking, and no I do not think life is grand under your leadership. I don’t even know what platoon I am in sergeant, sir, ma’am… I’ve never even seen you before. 

I am not good at faking compliments so that someone else feels good about themselves when they have done nothing worthy of my praise………………… leaving this one here too.

I am a person not an E4. I am not “lower” than you. I am not less qualified than you. I am not less deserving than you. I am not your “slacky” and I am not striving to be like you. I am not afraid of you. I am not cowering because you pull rank over me as opposed to correcting your superiors. Your higher rank over my specialist status is not telling or revealing. I am in fact smarter, more qualified, more accomplished, more experienced, more people-oriented, more kind/caring/understanding/motivating, have better leadership skills and significantly more common sense than many of the NCOs and officers I have met, served under, or even just had an acquaintance with.          *** And this, this is not conceitedness or vanity or arrogance – it is observation. 1) In fact, I am older than some of my NCOs have been and have experienced more in life per conversations had with them, 2) I have more formal education, 3) have heard some of the things they say in terms of what they assume is fact and they were wrong, 4) I have studied the concept and applications of leadership and applied it in real life, 5) I’m a freaking people person! ***

I enjoy letting people be great……. I’ll leave that as well. 

The conversation continued with opinions expressing ideas that every soldier joined the army to be a soldier – false……………. that our unit is a cake walk – for people in admin jobs perhaps………… that you must rank up, it is law – ridiculous and precisely why so many NCOs are poor leaders, they were not ready to be leaders.

Listening to everyone in that office hang off every word our leadership said and agree with everything he said, even amplify some of his statements… it made me think of the terms group-think and brown-nosing (nicer version – the Lord is working on me!). I think its ok to not agree. I think leadership can be wrong. Sorry.

My husband made a valid point recently: many soldiers join the army with high motivation, high expectations, and/or at a super “high-speed”, but after a while they are just… over it. They see through their own eyes what the army really is, be it what they expected or not, and from their own experiences they find that it is not for them; sometimes they don’t want to do it anymore. What people don’t realize though, is that the army is not a “job”. You cannot give a 2-week notice and leave when you are ready to go, you can’t just take your life into your own hands – you made a commitment and you must stick it out, and this is why many people complain so much. They are stuck. They are not happy. They need an outlet – thus they complain. 

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