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So You Want To Be A Soldier?

I frequently get emails from people who are curious about enlisting in the military. While I will never claim to be an expert on all aspects of our armed forces, I did spend some time in and have no problem sharing what I do know about.

I left active duty in early 2001 and I was only in PSYOP. I will answer every question to the best of my abilities, but it has been a while and my experience was limited to only one area. Please take that into account when reading my responses and feel free to pipe in if you have any specific knowledge that you think will be helpful.

Man, the Army should so be paying me for this.
For the first question we have two very similar ones, so I’ll just put them both on here.

Bryan writes:
“So would Skippy recommend the army to those that find his experiences humorous?”

While Jordan writes:
“…I’m going to be shipped to get my G.E.D. (I’ve had a rough history) then I’ll be off to basics.
Any pointers to have everyone there in stitches?”

Well, I think my site has demonstrated that you can join the military and still keep a sense of humor. As to whether I would recommend the Army, it depends on what you are hoping to get out of the military. If you think that it will be 4 to 8 years of non-stop comedy, then no, you probably won’t like it much. If you’re looking for specific job training, or college assistance, or even just a place to be productive while you figure out what you want to do with you life, then there are worse places to go. If you are looking for adventure or combat, then there are few places that are better.

But as to being funny in basic training, I would try to avoid any serious attempts to keep people in stitches while you are there. Because if you try to be funny, then your Drill Sergeant will probably become inspired by your example. And then he will try to be funny. I promise that you will not appreciate his sense of humor. And Drill Sergeants like to be funny with large groups of recruits at the same time. The resulting bit of improvisational comedy will probably make you very unpopular with your platoon.

Basic sucks, but it’s supposed to. Don’t go out of the way to draw attention or be a smart-ass. (Trust me on this one, this is a case were you very much would rather learn from the mistakes of others.) Just suck it up until it’s over, and save up the comedy for AIT. They love it there.

Matthew writes:

“I was asking my recruiter about Psyop and he recommended your list to me, first I would like to say that it was funny as hell. The stories, particularly the one about the inflatable sheep, were hilarious as well. I was wondering what it is like to be in Psyop. I have read web pages about joining and things like that but they had little in the way of personal experience. I grew up on Bragg, so I don’t need any info there. I would like to know just what the day to day is like. Is it just a desk-job, or is there more to it? I read that you were deployed in Bosnia and also that Psyop is highly deployed. What is deployment in Psyop like? If that info was on your site and I just missed it I apologize. Thanks in advance for any answers you can give me.”

Day-to-day in PSYOP depends on what particular part of PSYOP you go to.  If you go to a Strategic unit, then it’s a desk job, at least as much of one as you can get in the Army.  If you go to a Tactical unit it’s a lot more work in the field and a lot more training.  I have been led to believe that this is still less than what more traditional units experience.

On deployment:

In a strategic unit it was like working in a graphic design studio.  Just for ridiculous hours.  I actually enjoy that sort of work so I didn’t mind that much.  Since propaganda production doesn’t need to happen on the front lines, we were living in a fairly nice area, with access to good food and regular running water.

On my deployment with 9th POB (which is a Tactical PSYOP unit) we lived in tents, and spent most of our time driving around interacting with the locals.  We’d find out what issues they were facing, try to identify key communicators, and pass out fliers and posters that tried to get the natives onboard with the US military goals in the region.  In Kosovo this was mainly variations or “Please stop shooting each other”, “Please stop shooting the peacekeeping forces”, and “We’ve spent all day removing landmines from this area.  Please stop putting them back”.  The general BS level tended to be way lower however.

In both cases the main drawback was losing any semblance or privacy, and being separated from nearly everything you care about for a long time.

Kurt writes:

Hey Skippy,
“Although it is not a funny story I feel I have an e-mail I feel I should send you. Throughout the years I have always been told I can do more, be a doctor a lawyer, yadda yadda yadda. I was never a good student when I was in school, in fact I took time off to try and make sense of life. It always seems that the more I learn the more people expect the world of me. My whole life I have valued new and exciting experiences. When I was but a my parents whisked me off to foreign lands and I embraced the life and culture. I have worked as a carny, a cook, a stock boy, and a bartender among other things. The more I learn the more I want to experience, I am all for going to school but I still feel restless. I have a feeling that the army can help me work out this stint of restlessness. Can it? Can the army help me find what I’m looking for? Can any adventures they wish to send me upon help me realize what is important? I am inclined to say yes, but I look to someone who appears to have been there for a few words of wisdom.”

That was my experience, when I was 20, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  It might be worth a shot for you, but think it through before you try, as you’re looking a a four to eight year commitment.