10 Army Lessons All Men Can Learn From


(Editor’s note: In honor of the brave men and women who have defended our country this Memorial Day, please view “A Soldier’s Pledge.” As a West Point graduate, Iraq War Veteran, and Hawaii Army National Guardsman, I am grateful to those that I have served with! This article I posted below is a great way to look at the benefits our servicemen and women get from joining the military and how it can help them in the civilian world. But why limit it to just veterans? I believe the article is an excellent observation on how we can all learn from life in the military! Please feel free to comment on things you learned in the military that help you in the civilian world!)

By Patrick Hennessy

“How much can you know about yourself” asked Tyler Durden in Fight Club, “if you’ve never been in a fight?” I joined the army in 2004, an overly confident, comfy and bored university graduate who wanted to know the answer to that question. A year of training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst taught me a thing or two about the army, but nothing that felt quite like when your grandfather used to say he’d learned everything he ever needed to know during the war.

Five years later, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I certainly wasn’t bored. Like all soldiers, I’d grown up a lot and learned some pretty hard and important truths along the way, lessons about myself and about other people, lessons that applied as much at home as they did in combat — and perhaps why our grandfathers were right all along.

Here are the top 10 military lessons that all men can learn from.

No.10 Appearance matters

I spent most of the first few months of my training learning how to iron my new uniform and polish my boots, not to mention having my haircut shorter than it ever had been and shaving twice a day (as if I could have grown a beard if I’d wanted). The military’s apparent obsession with appearance is something that baffles outsiders, but it’s not as silly as it sometimes seems.

Leaving the military and interviewing for civilian jobs, I couldn’t believe how inappropriately some people dressed. It’s not a question of fashion, but of self-respect and situational awareness — what you’d wear in the desert, you wouldn’t wear at home. I’ve worked with a few different Armies, good and bad, and there’s truth to the old saying that a smart soldier is a good soldier and that when you look the part, you act the part.

No.9 You are what you eat (and drink)

Soldiers have a complex relationship with food and drink; as Napoleon knew, an army marches on its stomach. In training, I ate more than I ever have in my life and still lost weight. Out in the desert we would drink liters and liters of water a day and still lose guys to dehydration. On operations, a decent meal in a rear base might be the only thing a squad can look forward to in weeks.

Soldiers learn a great respect for food as fuel and how your body responds to what you put in it. Those who have ever spent months on end eating cardboard-tasting rations also value good cooking and real food with real flavors as well. Guys at home eating trash have no excuses — cook well, eat well, live well.

No.8 You can’t do everything on your own

More of us live on our own and work for ourselves than at any other time in history, but all soldiers know that there are just some things you can’t do on your own. At the most basic level, the “buddy system” keeps you alive in a fight, but understanding that there are times when the individual is less than the team is an important life lesson.

As a soldier, you’re always a small cog in a bigger machine, trusting invisible comrades to your flanks, in the air, even back in base watching over you on GPS and drone live-feeds. I’ve seen civilian mates get frustrated when there’s a specific problem they can’t solve themselves or get uncomfortable trusting others with important stuff — learn to be a team player and everything runs more smoothly.

No.7 Value your sleep

In training, it sometimes felt like you’d barely closed your eyes after an exhausting day before you were being woken at 4:00 a.m. by a screaming sergeant for a room inspection. Out on operations the tempo is high and the enemy is no respecter of fatigue, and months can pass when more than four uninterrupted hours of sleep can seem a distant and luxurious memory. However, anyone who’s worked in the army has seen firsthand how sleep deprivation degrades performance, how quickly tired soldiers make the wrong choices and lose their edge.

I’ve noticed a macho culture among civilian friends, particularly in high-powered office jobs, boasting about working 36 hours straight on a deal as if it’s a good thing; however, someone that tired, or jittery on caffeine, can’t perform and is no good to anyone. Soldiers know sleep is the ultimate restorative, which is why they try to get their heads down whenever they can — we should all try to do the same more often.

No.6 Confidence is king – be decisive

There’s as fine a line between arrogance and confidence as there is between stupidity and bravery, but there’s no place for uncertainty or hesitancy on the battlefield. Individuals and teams get in trouble when they get caught in the middle ground; out in the open in a vulnerable position or not exactly certain of their objectives or location.

As a leader at any level, having confidence in your decisions is crucial and at any level once you’ve decided on a course of action, carrying it out to the best of your abilities is invariably the way to get it done.

No.5 Learn from the experience of others

Old hands often say there’s nothing new in war, just stuff you haven’t yet learned. When you’re young and ambitious, the grizzled old timer telling you how he did it may seem prehistoric, but he’s seen and knows a lot more than you. In the army, you quickly learn to listen to and respect the opinions of senior guys — those opinions often save your life.

No.4 There are worse things than being bored

Most soldiers join the military for a bit of excitement, and nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like being in contact with others. However, an adrenaline high has a bad come down and after a while soldiers who were keen to get out and see some “action” would be quiet and happy back in a rear base.

We live in a society relentlessly chasing the next thrill, where being bored is the ultimate sin. Guys coming back off a hard tour will tell you that just sitting around and relaxing is actually a luxury to be enjoyed from time to time — the alternative could always be a lot worse.

No.3 You can’t rely on technology

We live in a technology-driven age and nowhere more so than on the battlefield: drones overhead, thermal-imaging systems, advanced weapons, and virtually indestructible vehicles. But a wise man once said that to take a town, some bastard still has to crawl into the middle of it and raise a flag. Iraq and Afghanistan have reminded those who had forgotten that soldiering still requires face-to-face interaction and boots on the ground and, what is more, that technology can always fail you. To the guys who couldn’t find the party because their iPhone map app wasn’t working: Next time check a real map!

No.2 You always have something more to give

I think it would be fair to say that before I joined the army, I didn’t really know my limits. These days, very few of us have ever been really uncomfortable, really tired or really in pain. The mind starts to play tricks on you when you get to extremes — it tells you that you can’t go faster, can’t keep running, can’t push through the barrier, but you almost always can. Knowing that you have that capacity somewhere inside you not only gives you confidence in whatever it is you’re doing, it’s the difference between success and failure and, for soldiers, often life and death. Dig deeper into your reserves, you’ll be surprised what you have in there.

No.1 Appreciate your friends

Most servicemen are patriots, a few may be religious, but none of them die and get injured for their country or their God; they do it for the men on either side of them. We live in an age when “buddy movies” suggest the height of male friendship is getting a friend out of trouble with a stripper in Vegas. I’ve seen men dead on their feet with exhaustion and knowing the threat outside the gate, stand up and volunteer to go straight back out on patrol because their mates were in trouble — that’s true ”bromance,” and it’s a precious thing.

Patrick Hennessey’s memoir, The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars, was a bestseller in England. Hennessey joined the British Army and completed officer training at Sandhurst (Britain’s West Point), where he was awarded the Queen’s Medal, shortly after completing his English degree at Oxford in 2004. He served in the Balkans, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan, where he became one of the youngest captains in the army and was commended for gallantry. Patrick currently lives in London.

Read more: http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/top-10-army-lessons-that-all-men-can-learn-from_1.html#ixzz2UX4Ya4mS

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