Under the Radar

5 Weird Fears That Only Service Members Have

Yeah, yeah, yeah... Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam.

But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren't exactly intuitive.

These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.

1. Changing batteries can be the end

Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring. (USARDEC Tom Faulkner)

It's one of those things that's hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here's the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.

Re-uploaded from a device you probably don't have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You're essentially faced with, "Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck."

Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world's highest-stakes game of Operation.

2. Is this version of the packing list really the final one?

Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3? (U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)

No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it's virtually guaranteed that you're going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That's because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.

If you've been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don't have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won't affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn't know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you're now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.

3. This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.

There's a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

Even when you're relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there's always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You're getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn't answering their phone because they're worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?

Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can't even delay it with sex.

4. Surprise formation? Crap, here's a new training requirement.

This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can't risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery. (U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)

The worst nightmare comes when you're just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That's when you'll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.

And if you're not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)

Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.

5. Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren't great either)

Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting! (U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there's usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.

Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you've never heard before, there's a good chance you're going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.

This message was brought to you by the letter 'C.' 'C' is just glad that you hate it a little less next to 'X,' because 'C' usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).


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