After Service, Then What? A Soldier Wants To Know

Here and there, I have gone. Some of those experiences have shaped me, but none of those experiences have defined me. All right. Three sentences about me are enough. Context is established. Moving on, but only sort of.

The Army describes its leadership competencies as “Be, Know, Do.” That makes sense. Internalize and act the part, know your profession within your field to the highest levels of competency, and act accordingly.

But what about life outside of the Army? What should you be, and what are the standards for being that person? What should you know to be a valuable member of a civilian society? How do you know if you know enough? (Notice, I did not ask how you know if you know the right things, giving value-judgement to others.) What should or can you do to still be a servant and hopefully a leader?

In the Army, the institution assigns you to a position. If they assign you to a leadership position, you lead. The result of your leadership style and philosophy will determine whether your team loves your or hates your — or is just waiting for the next guy with enough character to make them love him or hate him. There are really 3 options, not just two.

But it is a shake-and-bake team. You are assigned as the leader or in a leadership role. The subordinates are assigned to be followers or in subordinate leadership roles. It is up to you to build that into something that is more than shake-and-bake. Bore than trope. More than technicalities.

Once you’re no longer in the Army, no one is under orders to give you a chance at leadership. No one is mandated to decide whether to follow you or frag you (a reference to a long ago practice that I think is non-existent in today’s Army; just making a hyperbolic point!)

There is no structure. There is no avenue of advance. There certainly is not a direction of attack. It is all ambiguous. It is a bit of cultural competency, reading the tea leaves about the environment surrounding you, but also a bit of MSU — Making **** Up.

This is not where I expected this thought pattern to go. Here is where I wanted it to go: I have been many places, but none of them have been home. I have loved aspects of all of those places, but never internalized them as my own. I was once asked if I was going to “go native.” No. Frankly, I won’t fit in with them anymore than I fit in with you. Here is not home. There is not home. There is no home.

There has only been duty and shake-and-bake units. There have been a couple exceptions to that. In 2-47 IN, that was the first place and the first time I felt I belonged in my life. I had a leader back then who took his shake-and-bake unit, and turned it into a real team. Not the first leader who did that for the team, but the first leader who let me feel included in that.

When I was a leader, I tried to bring in the “unwashed.” I don’t know how successful I was. I have some datapoints that would suggest that I was quite successful. I also have some datapoints that would suggest that I failed. Not for me to judge.

But ultimately, what value is there to going lots of places, if only to escape the place that you are? If the “grass is always greener on the other side of the hill,” and if you take a lap around the hill to find where the grass is greenest, and if you still do not find a place / community to which you truly belong, then what does that say?

It is either an indictment of the world, or it is an indictment of you. And I am not in a position to judge which one is real, if not both.

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1 thought on “After Service, Then What? A Soldier Wants To Know”

  1. The first day you actually get to choose what to wear is quite fun. After that everything sorts itself out as you make your way into civilian life. You will find all kinds of folks you recognize and many types you may have never seen before. Some are leaders some are followers. Some are competent some are not. Just like the military, except you get to go home at the end of the day and almost never have the risk of losing your life.

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