April 20, 2001
5:10 PM   Subscribe

There's a ban on self-linking, but since this is my brother's instead of mine, it must be okay. He's in the Navy and I think this is one of the best descriptions of what military service , and I do mean service, is like. I hope all of you who look down on our military take the time to read it.
posted by CRS (26 comments total)
I don't look down on our military, I look down on people who don't know what they're getting themselves into and then complain about it.

This is pretty standard stuff, and it's what boot camp is all about. Wearing you down until you're just another brain-washed automaton that will travel to foreign lands to march on the backs of the weak.

Anyone who thinks they're going into the military to play guitar in a jazz band or basketball on the flight-deck is sorely misinformed.
posted by perplexed at 6:09 PM on April 20, 2001

I thought people joined to slay giant videogame monsters with their righteous swords, so that shows you what I know.

It's interesting to hear CRS's brother's opinions, since so many military people drink the Kool-Aid without ever questioning.
posted by briank at 6:57 PM on April 20, 2001

Easy there, briank...most of us join the military so that we can serve our nation and try to epitomize the ideals that have made America great. There's very swilling of the Kool-Aid here.

Perplexed: Most (all?) new recruits bitterly complain about the military during & immediately following boot camp; this artificial environment is temporary, however, and most of them quickly realize that service is a noble endeavor and has many more high points than low.

CRS: as a fellow member of the military, I salute your brother. Boot camp sucks, no doubt; I've been through both the enlisted & the officer versions. Looking back on them after several years, however, it tends to become nostalgically nice, so to speak. As evidenced by many posts on MeFi, I'd wager that a majority of posters are either blatantly "un-military" or simply hypercritical of virtually all government entities. I'm critical of many, but the military is one of the very few legitimate functions of a government. Having read several of your other posts, I appreciate your commitment to American principles and ideals. Tip 'o the hat to you, CRS.
posted by davidmsc at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2001

Oops...one comment on CRS's brother's diary: people, don't believe that military members are all underpaid and living on food stamps. Having been in for nearly 14 years (9 enlisted, 4+ officer), I assure you that this is NOT the case. The military tells you upfront exactly how much money you will make, how much more you will make when you earn a promotion, and gives you an incredible number of tools, programs, and benefits to assist all members in managing their money. Trust me - the military adequately compensates the troops.
posted by davidmsc at 7:31 PM on April 20, 2001

As someone who has chosen a military career, davidmsc, clearly your opinion is somewhat biased in this regard. I've known people who joined one branch of the service or another for the extra money to go to college, to learn some technical skills, to escape a shitty life, etc. Not much talk about honor and glory and service to the nation, I gotta tell ya.

I don't consider myself "unmilitary" or hypercritical of the government, but I do think it's important to see things for what they are instead of the romanticized notions that we impose upon them. You are entitled to your own reasons for serving in the military, and if they revolve around loftier ideals, that's fine.
posted by briank at 8:01 PM on April 20, 2001

when you are talking about the institution responsible for one's life and it's continuation thereof, is being too critical really an issue?
posted by mcsweetie at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2001

I hope all of you who look down on our military take the time to read it.

Why, was it supposed to give me more respect for the military? It certainly didn't.

Not that I necessarily look down on the military, but still...
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:50 PM on April 20, 2001

If I had the slightest smidge of faith in the character and morals of those in charge, I might sign up, myself. As it is, though, .... there's too much shadiness.

People who believe in the fantasy of our noble military, are fascinating to me. That depth of willful self-delusion is truly amazing....
posted by TheShovel at 8:57 PM on April 20, 2001

This is kind of why I respect military personnel. They have, in some senses, given their lives for the nation, and that, I can see as noble.
posted by Ravagin at 9:27 PM on April 20, 2001

In times of emergency defending your home is a good idea. Otherwise I wouldn't willingly enter the millitary and have no sympathy for those that join it in such a manner. I don't hate them as some do.

"That a man can take pleasure in marching in fours to the strains of a band is enough to make me depise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; unprotected spinal marrow was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all that loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism-how passionately I hate them!"-Albert Einstein
posted by john at 9:30 PM on April 20, 2001

Speaking as a former drill instructor, combat veteran and war protestor (ie. gulf). I've seen and thought about things from both sides. What was posted here was justified and understandable... rather articulate in fact. I would think that no one seriously looks down on the military anymore. Rather, I would assume that people mostly pity the millitary and it's folk. It's sort of a non-issue today, no current war... no big deal. However, let american boys die... opinions get stronger and more important, in my opinion.

It's not a matter of willful self-illusion, rather a matter of disillusionment. THAT is most common, I can testify to that personally.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 9:54 PM on April 20, 2001

Regarding the foodstamp comment, I would strongly encourage you to look at this pay scale. A new recruit can expect to make a base salary of $930 a month plus free housing, health benefits, and possibly a few additions depending on his/her job. $930/month is only $11,160/yr. That's pre-tax folks.

Now then, working for $5.15/hr for 40 hrs a week yields $824/month. The difference is that the soldier will start his/her day at 6am and probably won't end until 5pm. That doesn't include weekends, late nights, and field problems.
posted by yangwar at 10:17 PM on April 20, 2001

"You have given up your freedom as Americans to protect that right to your people and others. You will defend, fight and possibly die for a freedom you no longer possess. This is what it is meant to be a soldier. To surrender everything you have to defend what you hold dearest. You can and will be taken away from those you love for long periods of time with the possibility of not ever returning. Just so your children will know the freedom you knew. And many of the people you are around that do not serve with you will look down on you or hate you for what you are."

I just felt that deserved repeating.

The military is enslaving oneself to fools. This allows the masses the illusion that they are not enslaved, and also gives the Powers That Be in our world the illusion that they have someone to boss around whenever they feel like it.

It is not the military that most activists truly protest. It is the reasons why the military must still exist. It is the politicians unable to come to a reasonable solution at the negotiating table. It is the individuals who believe violence is a means to an end. It is dated and outmoded concepts which believe a war is a good way to make a profit. It is both the politically motivated and power hungry in modern society that we protest. Those who use intimidation, threats of force, or just the presence of force to frighten others into submission. Those who believe inalienable rights are only for those with power and influence. That is is something to be taken. A priviledge which can be taken away by aristocracy or dictatorship. That with effort, one can become a benevolent ruler or malevolent tyrant, and that this behavior is normal and acceptable. And how dare the masses not just lay down and take it like they should? We who protest make it much more difficult for the rich and powerful.

We don't make it difficult enough.

Those who find themselves in the military either by choice or by circumstance, are stripped of the very things they fight for. They must be. For if one individual bee were to not follow the will of the queen, the entire colony would die. However, that queen is mad. We grant ourselves a life of illusion, but it is still the bullies of this world who rise to power.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:19 PM on April 20, 2001

yangwar, let's face, our military enlistment program isn't the most selective. It seems that every few years they ask to be allowed to increase the amount of people they can enlist that didn't even graduate from HS 'cause they can't meet their quotas.

Personally, I find the figure of $930 to be quite reasonable. Think about it: after taxes and food, it's all disposable income. No rent, better insurance than a lot of people in the private sector, tons of vacation, good early retirement benefits. Adjust it for those factors and their job is financially better than most entry level positions.

That said, I think I'll *try* to go through OCR bootcamp. I think one can do it without any committment, but I haven't looked into it. I think I can deal without sleep and run my ass off for a month. My biggest concern is running. (Even though I'm pretty athletic, I was always a weak runner. )

BTW: aside from all the wastefullness issue, I hold the millitary in very high regards. I'm one of those people that feels the federal govt should be doing very little in addition to defense...
posted by Witold at 11:33 PM on April 20, 2001

interesting, ZachsMind.

CRS, i took the time to read your brother's page. more fool him.
posted by kv at 11:35 PM on April 20, 2001

Mad props to our military folks. The more of you, the less likely I get drafted. And trust me, you don't want that to happen - because we'd all be speaking Russian/Chinese/ Fre-- nah, I could beat the French :)
posted by owillis at 12:39 AM on April 21, 2001

I liked it - I think it's well written and the shift in understanding is portrayed well.

However, I also find it worrying - it seems to me that he ends not by focussing on the honour, but by despising the very people he is supposed to be protecting. This is the kind of arrogance - we're the good guys doing the hard, unthanked, honest work - that leads (although hopefully not in the US!) to military coups.

It's difficult, when you're being treated like shit, to not resort to this kind of thinking to boost your own self esteem. But he's not serving great ideals - he's serving the people, whatever their opinions or political views. And he shouldn't forget that.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:23 AM on April 21, 2001

I remember the trip I took many years ago from the East Coast to Calif, in army uniform, with a train loaded with soldiers in uniform. A small kid turned to his mother and said (loud enough for me to hear): Mommy. There's more soldiers than people on this train.
Right. But during a war.....things and attitudes change.
One of the truly wonderful things this nation did for our servicemen was make available the G.I. Bill. this allowed many to go on to college, which in turn gave them entrance into better jobs and careers. And that in turn helped the nation. But then that was socialism: the govt paid for college.
I am surprised no one posts about how the sons of connected (mostly political figures) manage to avoid the military and later get put in charge--Clinton, Cheney, Bush et al. Two countries, again.
posted by Postroad at 5:33 AM on April 21, 2001

My point wasn't that the military aren't people (and if it sounds that way, I apologise), but that he isn't defending freedom or the American Way or capitalism or what he believes in etc etc. Hopefully in practice those all coincide - and in a country like the US this is almost always the case - but an army in a democratic country shouldn't forget that, above all, it exists to serve the democracy. And if that democracy moves against freedom or the American Way or capitalism or whatever an individual soldier, or the whole army, believes in well - that's part of the job.

Maybe it's an obscure point and hardly relevant here. If I explain that my partner is Chilean, and that I have lived in Chile, it may make more sense - the attitude near the end of the article seemed to indicate that he would have been quite sympathetic to the military coup there (and it's understandable - wherever you go, common soldiers tend to come from poorer backgrounds and have right-of-centre authoritarian views. That's fair enough - I'm not criticising them for that, just scared that the people holding the guns (1) don't think like me and (2) might believe that *I* am not a person, because I don't think like them...).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:56 AM on April 21, 2001

Like his mentor, Fulbright, Clinton won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. During his two years at Oxford Clinton's opposition to the Vietnam War came into conflict with his political aspirations. When he received a draft notice in 1969 he enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Arkansas Law School. He made himself available for the draft but was never called up because he received a high number in the draft lottery held that year.

Not to nitpick here, Postroad, but this is not a "connected" family. Love him or hate him, but in his pre-politics life Clinton exemplified the ideal of meritocracy that we supposedly aspire to in this country.
posted by gimli at 6:21 AM on April 21, 2001

I don't know where that pay scale came from, but I didn't start getting paychecks in the $930 range until I had already had 4 years in service. My pay as a new recruit in 1994 was more like $640 a month.

As for the foodstamps issue, it is more prevalent than I had ever thought. Sure, there are ways to get promoted quicker and make more money, but the time-in-service requirement for most promotions make the promotions hard to get.

I knew several married soldiers who had to rely on food stamps. The severe lack of military housing on larger posts (Ft. Campbell and Ft. Hood, both of which have waiting lists long enough so that it takes 2 years or more to get housing on post) force many married soldiers to live off post, where the housing allowance doesn't even come close to paying their rent.

I joined the military personally for the education benefits. I knew that it was the only way for me to able to afford an education. While I was in the army, I hated every minute of it. It was by far the longest 4 years of my life thus far. Now that I have been out for nearly 3 years, I look back and realize that it was a positive experience that let me experience alot of what I wouldn't have been able to experience otherwise.

It makes me upset to think that some people do not understand and look down on our military. The media portrays them as violent people who have read way to many issues of 'Soldier of Fortune'. I never met a single enlisted person like that in my four years. People that I worked with were just like anybody else.On the other hand, I had more than one officer tell me that they wished there was a war so that they could get promoted.

Back to the pay, that $930(which, by the way, breaks down to roughly $4.10 an hour during garrison duty) a month sounds great if it's all disposable income, but it's not. The barracks and mess halls are underfunded. I spent 2 years living in a 10' by 12' room without any heat or air conditioning. To top that off, I also had a gargantuan water leak down the south wall that would flood my room when a strong storm went through. I would wake up nightly with roaches crawling over me due to the water leaks and heat. The window only opened 3'', so even a fan didn't help to cool off. The only way to stay cool was to put the fan in front of an opened refrigerator.

As for the food, we had many weeks where we ate the exact same thing for every meal. On one occasion, all the mess hall had left were corn dogs. We ate corn dogs for 5 days and all of them had been cookeed on the first day.

After a while, you try to get out of these situations and start either looking for an off-post apartment you can afford, buying and cooking your own food, or both. That 'disposable income' of $640 a month doesn't go too far.

The single thing that disgusts me is that the military does not take care of its people any more. These people are sacrificing their own rights to defend that of the country, but are subjected to low pay, substandard housing and food, and the idiotic whims of the officers.
posted by ttrendel at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2001

I hope all of you who look down on our military take the time to read it.

My take on the military notwithstanding, this "you people" approach leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. It's patronizing and it barely holds its contempt in check.
posted by jbushnell at 9:06 AM on April 21, 2001

I'm in the Navy, and have been for 12 years (enlisted).

As for CRS's brother's negative attitude:

Everyone goes through that. In and shortly after boot camp everyone has a bad attitude.

It goes away after a while, and then comes back after a few years.
And keeps recurring at few year intervals, forever.

If people in the community around your base hate you, it's because
many of your peers ARE the stereotypical moron squid.

As for the pay:
My tax statement shows my pay last year was about 50k. That's including special pays like submarine pay, sea pay, housing allowance, etc.

Could I make more doing what I do in the private sector? Most likely. Consider though, that I live in a pretty decent house, in a quiet neighborhood nearly for free. The only thing I pay is phone and cable. Also, what kind of bite would health and dental insurance, and associated copayments take out of my civilian paycheck?

And is job security important? I can't get fired or laid off (barring serious criminal behavior).

As for being led by idiots: after a while you get positions of more responsibility and are able to change things more to the way you like them. Then you find out both that it's not as easy as it looks to make everyone happy, and that your ideas aren't as great as you thought.

And who thinks the corporate world is free of being led by idiots?
(raise your hand)

In two more years, I'll have to decide again whether to stay in or get out, and it won't be an easy choice. Sorry for being a military apologist, but anyone who thinks the real world is heaven by comparison is lucky or misinformed.
posted by flestrin at 3:33 PM on April 21, 2001

ttrendel: My pay as a new recruit in 1994 was more like $640 a month
Sorry, ttrendel, but according to the official military pay chart for 1994, the lowest-ranking recruit (following basic training) earned $832 per month. Add to that either free food in the chow hall, or a monthly "food pay" of $180; free room, or housing allowance of at least $450 per month; comprehensive medical/dental/vision care (est value: $200/month); 20% savings at military commissaries; annual uniform allowance ($200-$300); free fitness centers, etc. Overall, you're looking at a pretty good package, particularly for (not necessarily in your case, but certainly the majority) an 18-year old with no higher education and few job skills. And, of course, GI bill for college after your tour of duty, and 75% of tuition paid while on active duty. Gross monthly compensation: at least $1500 per month to start, with incredible opportunities for advancement. My point: military service, for whatever the reason (honor, education, pay, cool uniform, escape psycho ex-girlfriend), is an attractive option for young kids fresh out of school.
flestrin: thanks for some straight talk - I salute your service.
posted by davidmsc at 8:51 PM on April 21, 2001

$832 a month could easily end up as $640 take-home pay.
posted by rodii at 9:26 PM on April 21, 2001

rodii, did you not read my last post? That $832, or even $640 after taxes, is almost all disposable income! Room & board are already paid for.
posted by davidmsc at 11:06 PM on September 14, 2001

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