03 January 2011

Army Stuff I Will/Will Not Miss Now That I'm Retired

Army Stuff I Will Miss, Now that I am Retired:
  • Grits for breakfast. Even the Army can't mess up grits.
  • Weapons-qualification weekends. "This is my rifle: There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without it, weapons-qual weekend would be much, much harder ..."
  • Foot lockers. And being able to fit everything I own into one.
  • Never worrying about what to wear. Army uniforms are like Garanimals for adults. Everything matches. "These boots go with these trousers, which goes with this belt." You can even get dressed in the dark.
  • Working in a Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"). Twelve-hour shifts of either pure boredom or high-grade adrenalin that all comes down to getting the right resources to the right people at the right time. "Who else needs to know what I know?"
  • Sergeants major. The useless ones will keep soldiers "safe" by enforcing silly rules. The good ones will save soldiers' lives. Soldiers will not always be able to tell the difference. That's because they are not sergeants major themselves.
  • Annual Training: Two weeks of mandatory lessons on country-western music appreciation, listening to NASCAR on the radio, and secondhand-smoking while being and becoming all that I can be.
  • Leaving my combat boots by the door. This always made me feel like a Minuteman, and didn't scare the neighbors as much as did leaving my musket propped up in a corner.
  • Buddies. You don't go to war for God or country, you go for the guys in the foxholes next to you. Even if the "foxholes" are actually comfy briefing-room chairs.
  • Briefing-room chairs. Get there early to get yours.

Army Stuff I Will NOT Miss:
  • Berets--aka "floor buffers" aka "toilet seat covers" aka "Most-useless. Headgear. Ever." Here's a suggestion: If there is no conceivable way in which a piece of Army equipment can be used to improve my effectiveness, my survivability, or my lethality, then don't issue it.
  • Changing passwords on Army Knowledge Online (A.K.O.). I'm a National Guard soldier. I do not have a Common Access Card ("CAC," pronounced "kack"--which is also allegedly the sound of choking on a beret) smart-card reader at home. If you want me to have a CAC-reader at home, you'd better issue me one. And one that works, too. And issue me a computer while you're at it, because you can't require soldiers to supply their own must-have Army tools. Otherwise, congratulations: You have made the Army's "primary communications system with soldiers" so secure and obtuse that no one can use it. Send the supposedly classified unit-newsletter to my Hotmail account instead.
  • Suicide-prevention briefings (Yes, it's an important topic, but distill the hour-after-hour "death by Powerpoint" training down to this: "Look out for your buddy. Ask him/her if they're OK. If they aren't, don't leave them and escort them to get help. Here's who to call and where to go ...")
  • Accident-avoidance briefings ("Don't drive stupid or drunk, or any combination thereof. Don't let your buddy drive stupid or drunk. Always wear your safety belt.")
  • Intelligence-oversight briefings ("Don't spy on U.S. persons. You ain't law enforcement, you ain't the National Security Agency, and you ain't Facebook.")
  • Changing passwords on Army Knowledge Online (A.K.O.). Why is it asking me my favorite color again? And my high-school girlfriend's most-annoying habit?
  • Washing Army Combat Uniforms (A.C.U.) on "delicate" to prevent hook-and-loop fastener failure.
  • Leaving the family to fend for themselves in the middle of tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, and floods during snowstorms. And the occasional overseas deployment, too.
  • Four-day drill weekends. Train to standard, not to time.
  • Changing passwords on Army Knowledge Online (A.K.O.). Again ? So soon?


  1. *snorfles at your description of Berets*... now if only your army had sexy hats! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Australian_Army_ceremonial_slouch_hat.png)


  2. I totally feel you on the AKO thing. Hahah! It's so old. I can't even figure out what my last 10 passwords were, but apparently I keep trying ot use them.

  3. @ Paxford: I still need to find that photo of me wearing my peacekeeper "stetson" headgear all Australian and cool. Mil-geek factoid follows: The closest thing that Uncle Sam has to the Australian ceremonial slouch hat is the headgear worn by female drill sergeants:


    @ Riley: Roger that! And multiply the frustration by the "One Login to Rule Them All" factor, plus the number of computers/networks on my Army desk (3 and counting ...)

    I am totally going to borrow your "10 passwords" line, by the way.


  4. ahhhhh...it's nice. You can add:
    *not having to check AKO 5 times a day to see of the AGRs or the CO put out something that must be done by COB today!
    *not having to check AKO 5 times a day to see if you now have to teach one of the mandatory classes like suicide prevention, because the soldier who was supposed to do it killed his computer.

  5. im actually kinda thankful for the suicide prevention briefings. one year we skipped them, and 75% of my unit went out and killed themselves, so yeah, they sure are life savers... ;)

  6. @ CI-Roller Dude: FIRE FOR EFFECT! You are right on the "funny" target with that.

    @ Benjamin: Roger that on the necessity of such topics. In 2009-2010, our division was trending higher than even Army averages in post-deployment suicides. (That's even without factoring in the problem of determining what's "deployment-related.")

    Still, when soldiers are subjected to the same briefings month after month (no kidding--we logged hour-plus briefings 5 out of 6 drills during one run), I'd hope to find new ways of presenting the same information. Maybe PowerPoint isn't/wasn't working?

    Good topic--one with which I plan to gain more familiarity in 2011. I'm hoping to be a small and more active part of a solution, at least locally ...

  7. If it makes you feel any better, as the Household-6 of my family, I have to change my password to the TriWest website about every four days, too. Luckily I bypass the need for a CAC card, but I do spy what I believe to be a CAC-reader gathering dust behind my monitor. *shrug*

  8. Bravo! Add to things you will enjoy looking forward to: Watching a 50 year old writer sigh when she realizes the Army is the rest of her life...

    Congratulations on your retirement. However, we know as a writer, you'll just keep plugging along. Looking forward to seeing what you have to share!

  9. "•Washing Army Combat Uniforms (A.C.U.) on "delicate" to prevent hook-and-loop fastener failure."
    Chuckle, chuckle. Hopefully you didn't have to "hang to dry".

    Good luck with the post-retirement writing. It has been a highly informative pleasure reading here thus far.

  10. Oh, no--hanging to dry is absolutely essential! I'm convinced that drying with heat is just as hard on Velcro(tm) as is hot water. Seriously. The average lifespan of a set of ACU is 6 months. I've gotten them to last much, much longer than that.

    The washing with Woolite(tm) or similar non-brightening detergent, however? That's actually specified in the ACU's "directions." Apparently, you're supposed to look like a dull and dusty plant while wearing your camouflage, rather than the brightest cactus in all the land ..


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