Photo Credit: Creative Commons
Military service forever changes most of us. Our change starts with day one of basic training, where our drill sergeants begin to shape our minds and bodies with qualities such as pride, discipline, respect, honor and integrity. These qualities are what help soldiers becoming successful civilians.
Some veterans shared their sometimes comical habits with me:
- “I still drive like I’m the lead vehicle in a convoy.” (Chris Wilson, veteran, Army)
- “I catch myself saying ‘roger that’ still.” (Clayton Irby, veteran, Coast Guard)
- “Situational awareness – I always sit where I can watch the door and people closely!” (Don Bechtal, retired, Army)
- “Eating fast, can sleep anywhere, able to drink really bad coffee…” (Ken Daniels, Army Reserve)
- “Getting up earlier, more physical exercise and being socially versatile.” (Maggie Hudson, veteran, Army)
- “Unintentionally walking at the same pace as someone next to me…” (Luis Perez, veteran, Army)
- “Everything in my dresser drawers is folded neatly…still having the mentality of an NCO…” (Christopher Miller, veteran, Army)
- “I still make my bed with hospital corners like in basic…” (Mike Keating, veteran, Army)
Several veterans were unknowingly in agreement regarding habits that often define us as civilians.
- Punctuality – Retired SFC David Chamness is always early because, “you are late if you are on time!” Most veterans I spoke with told me they are at least five to 15 minutes early to work.
- Appearance – Manny Flores spent eight years in the Army and now works as a crime scene investigator for the San Antonio Police Department. When I asked him about military habits in the civilian world, he responded with, “…first thing I can think of is I still spit shine my work boots.” Pride in oneself spreads into other outlets.
- Planning – Flores and Chamness were unwittingly in agreement in regard to always planning ahead. Military experience taught Flores to, “…carry gear with the mentality that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Chamness retired after 21 years of service and shared with me that he still, “…has a plan for everything – I have a Plan A, B and C – and then I try to have a backup plan for it all.” Henrik Kramer served in the Royal Danish Military Police and finds that having a prioritized “to-do list” is part of his daily life as a civilian.
- Respect for chain of command – Retired SFC Robert Clawson was my platoon sergeant for awhile and he instilled a respect for chain of command in me. Clawson was one of the greatest people I have ever worked for – his standards were extremely high but he led by example. Clawson now works as a senior police officer for the City of Austin. Clawson and Chamness don’t know each other, but these retired veterans are in sound agreement that there is a purpose behind a chain of command and that things flow better when it is adhered to. Clawson finds “…lack of respect for the chain of command, people of importance and elders…” to be frustrating in the civilian workforce. He models respect for others and the chain of command in his civilian job.
These are just a few of the many habits that seamlessly carry over into civilian life. Successful soldiers, successful civilians – military experience and discipline helps create natural leaders in the civilian workforce.