BY DAVID NYE — WEARETHEMIGHTY.COM
Screwing up in the military is a given. Sometimes a person is just trying to sham, sometimes they get drunk at the wrong time, and occasionally they even make an honest mistake. Service members who have been in a while know how to avoid getting caught. New guys are making these nine mistakes.
1. Bad risk management
Leaders do composite risk management for missions. Smart shammers do CRM for everything else. Every entry on this list can be chalked up to a failure of composite risk management. Shamming during work? Plan on how to avoid snitchs’ eyes. Headed off base to get plastered? Plan for how to get to a recall formation.
2. New guys are too stupid to play dumb
Privates like to seem like they have it all together. This is huge mistake. Sergeants love taking a soldier under their wing and “teaching” them things. When they play dumb, their mistake will become a “teachable moment” instead of a counseling statement.
“Private! Why weren’t you at PT formation?”
“Sergeant, I got lost and couldn’t use my cell phone to call you because I was in uniform.”
“Couldn’t use your cell –? Oh. No. You can use it. You just can’t walk and talk, private. Here, I’ll explain …”
3. They don’t think of good cover stories
Most of the time, new guys will get through shenanigans without seeing a single senior noncommissioned officer, but too many new guys fail to prepare a cover story to throw leaders off the scent, just in case. The cover story should match the environment. For instance, smart soldiers bring plastic bags when shamming in the motor pool. If caught , they just say: “Well, my sergeant sent me to get an exhaust sample in this bag from truck ID-10-T, but I can’t find that bumper number anywhere.” Again, new guys get to play dumb.
4. They don’t get organized
The reason old hands in the barracks are more organized than new guys has nothing to do with inspections. It’s because they need their stuff handy when they screw up. If they’re getting drunk while there’s a chance first sergeant will call everyone in, they’re prepared to rapidly brush their teeth, put on a uniform, get to formation, and be dress-right-dress by the time the squad leader starts taking accountability. Less organized troops would still be hazily looking for their uniform top and boots.
5. New guys don’t work as a team
New guys try to get away with stuff by hiding all the evidence from everyone, rather than selecting members of their squad and platoon they can trust to help them in a crisis. Instead of shamming alone, smart troops designate roles to each other. For smoking in the woods while assigned to a cleanup detail, two people should be in charge of collecting cigarettes and dropping them in an energy drink can, two people should be in charge of immediately looking at the ground like they’re hunting for trash, and someone should be standing lookout.
6. Failure to stage supplies
Photo: US Army
That can in number 5 and the trash bag in number 2 don’t magically happen. They’re staged supplies. Electric razors can be placed in cars for use while driving to a recall formation, military publications can be opened to make it look like someone is studying doctrine rather than sleeping, and cans of dip are handy for bribing squad leaders.
7. They need better escape routes
Photo by: US Army
Never slack off in an area with only one exit. Always be prepared to make a quick exit on an unexpected route.
8. They don’t get representation in the Terminal Lance Underground/E-4 Mafia
Different services have different versions of the junior enlisted league, but everyone should join theirs. The sergeants and petty officers of the world are working together to catch the junior enlisted, the junior enlisted must band together in defense. New guys don’t always have an advocate in one of these fine organizations to help them distract NCOs, lose files, or text them ahead of a crisis. They should get one.
9. They forget to stand at parade rest
Seriously, do it every time. Parade rest is like stealth camouflage for privates. Troops should stand at parade rest every chance they get. It makes NCOs think they’re too afraid to break the rules.
David is a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.
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