Lesson 14: Do as I say, not as I do

I heard and encountered this one long before I ever even considered enlisting.  I held two different jobs and had already spent a few years in college before I signed a four-year commitment to the Air Force.  I have seen it done by parents (mine and others), managers, supervisors, teachers, professors, doctors, dentists, you name it.  No matter the circumstances, no matter who the offender, I always found this to be among the most frustrating concepts.  The hypocrisy involved never gets any easier to accept.  When you are dealing with any kind of hierarchy or rank structure, you will undoubtedly be exposed to this mentality.

This was a daily occurrence during my time in the military and it was unlike any other experience.  The thing about most jobs is you can walk away at any point.  If you don’t like what you see or hear, you are free to remove yourself of the situation.  The consequence in most cases involves quitting, being unemployed, losing your income, embarrassment, shame, pride, etc.  While some of these may seem difficult, the fact of the matter is the options are yours.  The reasons are yours.  The responsibility for your choices is yours.  Some of those outcomes may not be ideal, but you have a choice.  You can say or do what you are told, or you can walk away.  Whatever you do, you are in control.

The same cannot be said for the military.  At least, not in most cases.  Among the first things you learn when you get to training is that your pride, sense of individuality, and freedom of choice, are all not welcome.  The first order of business is to remove all that and replace it with a sense of purpose.  While a lot of what you will encounter during your time in the military will test your pride and humility, most of it will fall within ethical and legal parameters.  You are most likely never going to be told to do something that is illegal and if you are, there are proper channels you can go through to address them. 

The things I am talking about are things like performing janitorial functions or work that is comparable to being someone else’s secretary.  A lot of these are simple things that damage nothing more than your ego and pride.  There are also several punishments you will endure for reasons that may or may not make any sense to you.  Cleaning large object or areas using small cleaning tools, such as a toothbrush, are not uncommon.  I once encountered a situation where a service member had something in their duty bags they shouldn’t have had and as punishment, the individual was ordered to come in on their day off and wash ALL of the squadron’s vehicles without any assistance.

Best of all, it was not common for those in higher ranking positions to join in the punishments.  Trouble in never far away and it was rare to see leadership partake in the punishments, even if they were the offenders.  For some reason, punishments tended to go down the chain, rather than up.  This will vary from unit to unit, obviously depending on leadership styles and who is in charge but the most common idea you will encounter is that they had to do it at some point in their career and now it is your turn.  Sound like a scape goat to you too?  Rank will always be the ultimate cop-out.  While there are plenty of men and woman that lead by example, if you intend to join the military, you best be ready to take a very large bite of humble pie.

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