4 Basic Life Lessons from Basic Training

by A Manly Guest Contributor on February 28, 2012 · 69 comments

in A Man's Life

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Inscho.

If you’ve been a reader of The Art of Manliness for more than a day, you know Brett, Kate, and all of the regular contributors do a fantastic job of searching out and relaying habits of great men to us. Men like Ernest Shackleton, Henry David Thoreau, and Charles Atlas, all set examples that every man can follow.

I haven’t attempted to take 27 men to the South Pole, and, after having my ship become stuck in ice, somehow managed to get them all home alive like Mr. Shackleton. But I am part of a small group (.45% of the total American population) that consistently creates great men and demands that its members be constantly improving.

As an enlisted member of the Army, and now an Officer, I’ve gone through what was essentially two separate stints at basic training. The first as enlisted and the second as an Officer. During the training, it’s difficult to see the lifelong lessons being drilled into you. Now, however, years after finishing, it’s easier to put a finger on those lessons and apply them to everyday life.

1. If You Can’t Carry It, Wear It, or Shoot It, Leave It Behind

When I would travel in high school, my bags were packed with everything that I might need in an encounter. It might get cold…throw in a few hoodies. What about rain? Take the rain jacket. Doing laundry sucks…I’d better take 3 pairs of underwear and socks for every day I’m going to be away just in case. Seven days in the Carolinas required the same amount of baggage as moving to a new house.

Drill Sergeant, in his infinite wisdom, was about to teach me a more efficient way to pack my bags.

One day we were told we were doing a ruck march the next day and were handed a packing list. This packing list was mandatory, and everything on it had to be packed in our ruck sacks or worn on us.

“The stuff on the packing list is more than my ruck sack can hold…how am I supposed to bring the extra gear I might need?!”

After that first ruck march with 10 days worth of gear and change of clothes, my ideas about packing changed drastically.  If it wasn’t 100%, absolutely crucial to my survival, it wasn’t packed.  A uniform, two or three changes of undergarments, a poncho, and some bungee cords were all we used, and therefore, were all we needed. Twelve undershirts is unnecessary when you’re only gone for ten days.  Nobody cares what you smell like and that same space could be used for food or ammunition.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

Do you need a walk-in closet full of dress shirts if your job requires a hard hat and a tool belt? Do you need six different methods of making coffee when you end up just stopping by a coffee shop anyways?  

Take an inventory of everything you use, and donate or sell everything that hasn’t been useful in the last four months. How do you decide what stays and what goes? Do what I do. Twice a year, turn everything you own backwards. When you look in the dresser drawer, you’ll see the backs of your shirts; in the cabinet you’ll see the back of the peanut butter jar. Then, when you use an item, turn it back around so it’s facing you.  If you don’t use it, leave it alone. After four months, everything that is still facing away from you is donated or sold…no questions asked.

2. Run, Shoot, Communicate

Every morning we did PT, and every PT session included some sort of running. If we were ever on a real world mission and had to get to the objective, we knew we could run to it.

Next, if we weren’t on a live range, we were practicing basic rifle marksmanship drills. We knew that if we ever got into a real world firefight, these techniques would be second nature and give us the ability to protect ourselves and our teammates.

After that we communicated. Radios, written orders, hand and arm signals…eventually our squad got to the point that our communication was almost telepathic.

Our Drill Sergeant constantly reminded us that all we needed to be a successful Soldier was to be able to run, shoot, and communicate. If you can do those well and your squad can do them well, all of the extra stuff is icing on the cake.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

What do you need to do to be a successful husband? Provide care, love, and resources to your family. Nothing else should be your focus until these needs are met.

What about a successful bachelor? Grandfather? Boss?

The type of man you want to be can be simplified to a few basic characteristics that, when done successfully, lead you to success. Prioritize your life and focus on the “need to haves” before you even think about the “nice to haves.”

3. Practice Mindfulness

My second round of basic training granted me a bit more freedom and opportunities outside of training. Still, training was the priority, and one day I found myself back on the range to qualify with my weapon.

“I’ve done this a million times. No sweat…BANG! I wonder what they are serving for dinner tonight…BANG! What about the gym…BANG! Are they even open today…BANG!”

On and on that went for all 40 targets. My mind on the mystery meat that would be served later for dinner. It should have been on the mechanics of marksmanship that were drilled into my mind and body during my first round at basic training.

I finished my ammunition and awaited my score. No doubt it’d be a 28/40…or maybe even a 30/40 because I’d done this a million times, remember?

9. I shot a 9 out of 40. Talk about embarrassing.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

Proficiency does not come from one attempt…not even dozens of attempts. To do something well demands your concentration and for you to practice mindfulness, regardless of how many times you’ve done that task before. If whatever you’re doing isn’t important enough to you to demand your full attention…why do it?

4. Outranking Someone Doesn’t Equal Control of Them

One of the Army Values is Respect, and it’s defined as “treat people as they should be treated.” So even if someone outranks you, if he has shown that he can’t keep track of his equipment, you are well within your rights to treat him like someone who can’t keep track of his equipment. Rank does not automatically mean you get to boss around everyone below you.

Case in point, during Officers Basic Training, myself and 39 other brand new Second Lieutenants made up a platoon that was “advised” by a group of Staff Sergeants and a Sergeant First Class. From the standpoint of the military’s hierarchy, we were being led by people we outranked.

This wasn’t an issue until our field exercise. At times like that everyone’s temper is much, much shorter than usual and the easy way out tends to become the trail most taken.

After we came back from a tactics exercise in the woods, someone realized that he had lost an important piece of equipment. Not something important to him, or assigned to him, but something very important to the entire platoon and the responsibility of our Sergeant First Class advisor.

The search for it was half-assed on our part, and the Sergeant First Class decided we needed punishment.  Except we outranked him and he couldn’t punish us the way it’s normally done in the Army (mass amounts of push-ups and other exotic, and exhausting, types of physical training).

The one thing he could do to us, was hold us in formation for as long as he pleased and wherever he pleased. It was late June, in southern Georgia, and our base was made up entirely of low tents and gravel. Obviously the best place for him to keep us in formation for the next hour was out in the open as the temperature rose to 100+…and that’s exactly what he did.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

If you’re a manager, or a boss, or a leader of any type, you need to realize that your position doesn’t mean your subordinates have to automatically bend to your every desire. They don’t even have to respect you.

You earn the respect you are given.

Wrapping Up

These four basic life lessons are nowhere near a complete guide to being a man. They are, however, things you commonly see many men pay no attention to. Practice these lessons daily, one at a time until each one is mastered, and I’m willing to bet you’ll see all parts of your life from a new perspective, and find yourself closer to winning the battle that every man fights–whether soldier or civilian–of becoming the man you want to be.


Mike Inscho is an Army Officer and aspiring writer. You can find his writing on speed, strength, and power at AlphaMaleFTS.com or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan F. February 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Excellent post! Concise, informative and has real-world application examples.

As for the content, I definitely will take heed to the first point: I have waaaaay too much stuff and I like the method of finding out what you really need in daily life as opposed to what would be nice to have.

2 Josh M. February 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Very well written Mike, I love the points, and they are definitely some things I needed to hear.

3 Dominique jones February 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Hey man you were an officer, im gonna join the marines as soon as i complete r.o.t.c courses, which i wont begin for about 4 yeas as im only 14, but this site has helped me with a lot of shit in life and i am sure that this single post of yours shall do the very same so i will leave you with a few words

pro officii gratia ad gentem magnam faciam ut vitam usui felis

or if you do not speek latin
thank you for both your service to our great nation, as well as the service this post shall do for my life

4 Cliff February 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Wow, what BCT memories. I remember being “evicted” because another soldier didn’t practice “mindfulness:” Having all your gear spread out, while outisde next to all your bunks that DS said to “move out” was eye opening on many levels. Never mind the 102 degree day in Missouri! Basically, don’t be a blue falcon, square yourself away. take care of your gear and your fitness. Lessons everyone should take in their daily lives. Oh yeah, drink water “Hydrate or die, Drill Sgt, Hydrate or die!”

5 Paul February 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

It’s about time someone said this. These are very important lessons. Thanks a million for posting this.

6 andyinsdca February 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm

All good stuff, but the most important one of all: Don’t. Fucking. Quit. You can hump one more click. You can carry that extra ammo. (etc.)

7 Adam February 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm

More officers need to heed your “respect is earned” lesson.

Rank commands obedience; it does not command respect.

8 James February 28, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Fort Lost in the Woods, Misery… in the summer. FTX’s in that god forsaken forest. Gettin yelled at for by Drill Sgt. for rat f@*kin’ MRE’s for skittles. The Million Dollar Hole. Hand to hand combat in rubber chip pit. Good times. Awesome post!

9 Noah February 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Thank you for the advice. We need more military-derived articles as many of their core traits and aspects are those that embody manliness.

10 MJH February 29, 2012 at 12:14 am

Run, shoot, communicate, and teach others to do the same. You’ll be a good Soldier, a reliable team leader, and a leader among men.

Great post. Thanks from a fellow brother in arms.

Strength & Honor!

11 Striker Yeoman February 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

One more lesson I learned in boot camp.

Failure is life, life is failure.

You will fail more often then you succeed. From here you have two options. One is to shatter and fall. The better option is to analyze, learn, and be prepared for the next time.

Going into boot camp I wasn’t in the best physical shape, the tests were cake for me but running, marching, and doing push ups were hard. I failed the initial PRT. I didn’t back down. Instead as much as I hated it I worked as hard as I could every PT session, both scheduled and… “unscheduled”. So after failure I had determination. With determination and effort I had not a guarantee of success but simply at chance at it.

12 Lars February 29, 2012 at 5:21 am

Very well written post.
Concise but still very imformative.

Semper fi!

13 Ed February 29, 2012 at 5:41 am

The Lone Sailor persevered with the lessons above. Thanks for the post Mike & thank you for your service to this great nation.

14 doctorrich February 29, 2012 at 6:58 am

From a new Army O-3 and former enlisted man: Thank you for this great article… especially the part on respecting your enlisted personnel. That is a lesson that more officers should learn earlier in their career. The military is run by the NCO cadre; respect them and you’ll go far with their help. Disrespect them at your peril.


15 Tony February 29, 2012 at 7:10 am

Excellent post. I will add the prime lesson I took away from BCT, Keep Moving Forward. Regardless of how difficult life is or how hard a goal is to reach keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually you get where you want to be and the going is easier. That was taught rucking up and down Agony and Misery at Ft Knox, KY. As a side note, if your buddy is having troubles, help him out till he catches his breath.

16 Mike Inscho February 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

To everyone who commented so far…you won’t believe how humbled I am to have gotten this type of response. No words are worth the thanks I want to give you.

Dominique – Thanks for those words, if you’re already looking to become a better man at age 14 you’ll do just fine. Most don’t think like that until 25 or later.

Adam – I’m right there with you. Going enlisted before officer was the best choice I could make. All of the officers I’ve been lucky enough to consider mentors went the same route. Probably not a coincidence.

Noah – I’d be more than happy to contribute a few more! Hopefully Brett and Kate see this….

doctorrich – Crossing my fingers that I’ll be on the O3 list that gets released tomorrow. Luckily I had good NCOs when I was a PFC and when they found out I was going ROTC they made me understand that the commander serves his Soldiers, not the other way around.

Tony – I’m more familiar with Agony and Misery than I would have ever liked to have been. Keep moving forward is most important thing you can do in situations like that…even when that means crawling on all fours because it’s so steep.

17 Jason February 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Great post!! It’s funny you posted this when you did, as I was talking with my grandfather who is a retired Master Sergeant about life lessons we both learned. And while my service wasn’t as long or as decorated as his (he’s retired Special Forces), and I no longer feel my time in truly defines me as the man I am today. I can still say that I use quite a few of those early Ft Benning life lessons. Thanks for sharing!

Follow Me!

18 Eric N February 29, 2012 at 8:25 am

As a proud graduate of Alpha Company, 1/50th Infantry BN, Ft. Benning, Sand Hill, hottest summer I have ever experienced (2004), and currently serving as a Staff CPT, all these are 100% accurate.

Good luck on the list, awaiting the release of one myself!

19 dogbert February 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

good article.

the single biggest single lesson of basic training this:
No matter where you come from, no matter what happened to you, no matter what you are right now, YOU can become a far better man in 2 months. So stand up and get moving.

20 Brandon February 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

Thank you for sharing this Mike. Posts like this make me regret not joining when I was younger, but I hope to learn the lessons nonetheless. And thank you for serving your country!

21 DAN February 29, 2012 at 9:25 am


22 uscroger February 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

Marines would simply say, “adapt and overcome.” No offense to you, but there’s a fallacy to each of the 4 points you enumerate both within your military life as an officer and how these apply in real life. As in, if you can’t carry your fallen or wounded leave them behind–that would make no sense. Right away I can see why the Marines are different from the Army’s mind set. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way, but your points miss the most fundamental lesson, that of self-reliance. I’m surprised you don’t mention this since you do mention Thoreau. However, self-reliance seem hardly applicable in the military life-style as one has to depend on teamwork for survival–and, yes, just as in the real world not everyone Aces the PFT or the Rifle Qual. Run, shoot, communicate? I am not sure that even applies in the real world where you have to to constantly assess your every move before you even begin to crawl. You might run and shoot but be KIA and unable to communicate. You also don’t mention discipline. I think this is the biggest lesson to be taken out of the military that translates into any civilian thing you do.
PS: I think that the Sergeant First Class should have trashed everyone or assigned one of the rookie officers in charge to decide their own punishment–nothing to do with controlling, but teaching others to take charge for their own actions. In your example, I believe the Sergeant First Class was wrong and unable to think on his feet to do what he should have done while killing two birds with one stone. IMHO.
Or, perhaps I don’t see things the same way.

23 Nate February 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

Cool post, Mike. Anyone who’s served more than a year in any branch could write an entire book on how the lessons you learn in uniform apply to everyday life. Thanks for bringing back memories of Fort Knox, Fort Benning, sitting sweating in the dirt with my LBE unbuckled & eating cold MREs with my buddies, shivering in a foxhole on a rifle range in Germany…man, I miss it sometimes!

24 mike February 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

Always remember, a young LT is made or broke by his NCOs. Glad to see you’ve got your mind right. I recently had the chance to mentor a group of new LTs and I found it to be a pretty rewarding experience.

25 ICT17D February 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

Great article and right on point! As a prior active duty AF officer and current ANG officer, I 100% agree with the points above.

One more that I would add is “teamwork”. When one falls short we wall fall short. I remember falling into formation during those first couple of days and inevitably there was someone in formation first and someone who showed up without something necessary for the movement or very last. Without fail, our FTO would go directly to the person who fell-in first and let them know that they failed…not the guy who showed up late or wrong. The memory is etched in my mind because I was both of those guys at some point during training.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life: You can be the sharpest, smartest and fastest in your career, but if you don’t support the overall objective of your group (corporation, office, school, etc…), you have failed.

26 Ed K. February 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

Thanks, Mike! As Josh said, definitely something I needed to hear, your first and fourth points particularly hit home.

27 Andres Coral February 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

Thank you for the advice

28 Steven February 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

Excellent post. I was a platoon Sgt. I am now a Project Manager and Husband/Father and I still lead the same way I did as when I was in the Army. Lead by example. I wish all upper management would do the same. That goes for any entity. You follow these simple guidelines and you will be a true man and leader of men.

29 Daniel February 29, 2012 at 11:19 am

Great Post sir, I would like to add one item for new recruits. The official packing list will tell you to bring a single or double bladed razor only. If you are used to a mach 3 or better blade do yourself a favor and pack it. You will end up shaving more than you ever had to before and your face will be raw. Drill Sgts. will not have a problem with your bending the rules on this comfort item (a lufa is a different story)

30 Adam February 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

First off Mike, thank you for your service, and thank you to all the commentors who have served.
Second, Mike, thanks for a well-written article. I like your writing style.
I’m sure there are multitudes of other lessons that could be brought out, but this wasn’t written as a compendium of those lessons. It is just about 4. I appreciate the lessons you picked. I plan to share this, and apply it in my own life as a leader.

31 M. Duran February 29, 2012 at 11:44 am

Here’s #5: You don’t need more than 15 minutes to do the 4S’s (sh**, shine, shower and shave). Civvies gape in Awe! :-)

32 Kevin February 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

I agree with all four points. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve(7-80 to 7-83). I enjoyed my service. I have applied the lessons learned from Basic Training in my life today. I am going to go through my things now and get rid of the stuff I don’t need. I’ve seem to gone astray there. I miss my former Army Buddies. Every thing I was in no longer exists today. Basic at Ft McClellan, Alabama, HHC 3AD in Frankfurt, West Germany and 5th Bn, 33d Armor at Ft Knox, Kentucky. While the places may still be there, the units no longer exist. Keep up the good work!

33 JG February 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I don’t normally post comments when a post is good but this one takes the cake and needs a comment.

Excellent post in every way, one of the best I have seen since I started reading this blog in 2008.

34 Erick Widman February 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

There’s a strong case to be made that all Americans should do mandatory military service for a year or two.

Great points – and I like how you made them each practical.

35 claude February 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Great post. Im another one of those guys who wishes he had enlisted after high school. I know Id be a different (better) man today if I had.

Thanks for your service, in and out of the military.

36 Brucifer February 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I’ve always liked work situations when my co-workers also turn-out to be Veterans. Whatever branch, I know they been taught how to work together as a TEAM! The one thing that the military does well, is take an undisciplined, self-centered civilian puke, and teach them that there is more to the world than their own self-involvement.

37 Luke0302 February 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Mike- It’s obvious that something your Army instructors failed to teach you in basic training is humility. I am not sure what would make you assert that you are part of the, “.45% of the total American population that consistently creates great men.” Recommend you save your self-aggrandizement for less manlier blogs. Heed the reality that humility will serve you better as an officer than your ability to shoot, move, communicate and knowing what to pack. Its obvious you have put a little too much stock in the importance of being prior-enlisted. At this point, no one cares. Regarding #2, The practical application of “run, shoot, communicate” is just off. Way off. Recommend re-working it. I’m surprised that slipped past Brett. Regarding #4, “Respect is defined as ‘treat people as they should be treated’” has nothing to do with the situation you described. Whoever lost that piece of gear deserved to be treated like someone who needs to be taught a lesson in gear accountability. Time to put on your thick skin, LT. Hope the next post we see from you is more refined, honest, and mature. Semper Fi.

38 Mole February 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I came out of Basic Training at 24; I’d dropped out of high school and moved out at 17, so I had some years under my belt before I hit Basic. What I took from that experience was very different; I think the important lessons of Basic were 1) Be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there, doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Seriously, that keeps you out of trouble 90% of the time in real life. 2) It doesn’t matter how much or little you like someone, you still have to work with them. We all have had jobs working with THAT guy; getting pissed off only feels good for a minute. Tomorrow you still have to come in and work with that guy. Be professional. 3) Learning how to follow instructions. Amazing how people have to be trained to be able to do that. My job now entails working with the public, and giving simple instructions; it’s mind blowing how little people listen. Half my conversations start with me saying “Hi, I’m David”, and they reply with “Fine, and how are you?” 4) Be respectful, especially if you don’t know that guy in the elevator. Could be your bosses boss. Kinda goes hand in hand with 5) Mind your own business. Sometimes you should jump in to help; sometimes you need to leave it alone.

39 Kevin February 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm

As a manager of a store and having numerous people under my control, I find holdings in this article. Very precise and to the point. The respect is the big thing and to the point.

40 Michael March 1, 2012 at 7:20 am

There’s more to #1 than you realized (or atleast more than you chose to write). Things are one matter but what about habits, addictions, or even people that you have to take inventory of and leave behind.

This is what I gained in the military. A sense that everything and everyone isn’t good for you and somethings need to be 86′ed in order to survive and succeed.

41 Travis Johnson March 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

Great post, thanks for sharing
And Thank You for your service

42 Mike Inscho March 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

Thanks again for everyone who took the time to comment. Pretty excited to see you guys sharing lessons you took away from your service/experiences too.

Jason – Please thank your Grandfather for me. My Grandfather was the reason I joined and the man I modeled my life after. Retired SF is no joke.

Eric N – Good luck with the list too! I keep hitting “refresh” hoping to see it.

uscroger – All the services have their little differences and we wouldn’t be considered warriors unless we were confident in the way we did things. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Luke 0302 – The .45% refers to the amount of the American population who is now serving in any branch of the Armed Forces. In no way implying that the Armed Forces is the only place great men come from, but given the nature of the job and sacrifices it still creates its fair share. Thanks for replying.

Michael – I absolutely agree with what you would add to point #1. It would have been too easy to create a list of “101 lessons” and not expand on any of them. My goal when writing this post was to share what I’ve seen as the most useful lessons I’ve learned. By all means, as a group, we could fill 1000s of pages with lessons.

43 Bruce West March 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Solid article, Sir. I feel I could revisit some of the lessons I learned at basic.
Simplicity in the home – I could use more of that. I was a medic, so when I got to AIT minimalism went out the window and I started learning what I could get away with carrying: the more supplies the better. In Iraq I carried a very large medic bag weighing in at almost 60 pounds, and it was packed so tight I had to repair the zippers once or twice. I had it loaded for mass-cal, so the burden on my shoulders during our daily foot patrols was more than worth it. If we encountered a major crap-storm I would need those supplies.
Now I’m living in a place where I’m sick of all I have crammed into it. I could stand to start turning things around.

44 mattoomba March 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Good article. I learned many things from the military (such as “Navy” is actually an acronym for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself”). But during basic training, the one thing that stuck with me was the usefulness of the “1000 yard stare.” No matter who is in your face, yelling and spitting about your ancestry or your general uselessness, just stay focused on a point 1,000 yards in the distance, remain nonplussed, and remember that nothing said is personal. You’re just a cog in a machine, and when the yelling is over, put the diatribe behind you and just go back to doing your best to help your unit do what it needs to do.

45 Brian March 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I’ve been currently paring down my civilian accumulation of crap, remembering like you, what i can get by with.

Even when I was in, i did tend to overpack somewhat, out of personal experience, sometimes, the required items list was ‘not’ enough. That falls under personal judgement and decision making, the required lists keep the new kids out of trouble.

I’ve had far too many officers want instant respect. The good ones earned it through their actions, not by throwing rank in your face. One of the three or four best NCOs i’ve ever known personally was an instructor, MSgt Saveedra. Upon being awarded our berets and badges (USAF Security Forces) I chose to ask him to pin it on, and said so only he could hear it, “You are the NCO that I one day aspire to be.”

He was an absolute professional and treated everyone with respect, and got it himself without demanding it by his actions.

46 Chris March 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Sir, good article. Could you have added more to it? Sure you could have, but you made your point and that is what it is about. Hope you made the O-3 list. I didn’t respect many officers during my 21 years in because they didn’t deserve it but I have a strong feeling you would have earned my respect.
“De Oppresso Liber”

47 Ryan March 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I was in basic at Knox from late July to Oct. 1st… Don’t be first, don’t be last, don’t volunteer for anything… That last one always got everyone smoked since no one wanted to volunteer. Great article btw.

48 Ryan March 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm

July to Oct. 1st 2009 I might add that crucial bit of info…

49 Jordan March 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

I agree with everything you said but would like to add one thing. While I was in the army (2001-2006) it was customary to be hazed rather harshly if you were the “new guy”..real embarrassing things. Hating this right-of-passage I vowed to never put anyone subordinate to myself in that position. So I didn’t. Several months later I was handing out orders for mundane daily details and started getting lip from these guys. Turns out that the hazing is a form of dominance and that without it people don’t learn to respect you. If you treat subordinates like friends or equals from the beginning…that is what you will get when you want them to actually work for you or listen to you. Why should they? I mean, after all you are the same….just pals. So consistency and discipline are necessary for all subordinates and respect is given to the title first no questions…and then the man earns it from his actions. That’s what I learned.

50 Racheal March 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

comment on #2
oh yeah? what about that cliche saying of an army running on its stomach? or is that a fallacy dreamed up by the military? I’ve never heard military strategy worded quite this way, but run, shoot, and communicate is sound advice. I think, however, making sure you eat and take the best care of yourself with the resources available needs to be added to the author’s original statement.

51 Don March 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm

This article was perfect…

52 Will March 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Two things I learned in boot camp were “You don’t always have to be first, just don’t let yourself be last.” and “Never fear any man.”

53 Chris March 3, 2012 at 4:19 am

You’re kidding yourself if you think an enlisted man cannot give appropriate punishment to an officer.

What’s a lieutenant? The lowest and least experienced rank on the ladder.


54 Steve March 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Great stuff. I may have forgotten the lessons of #4. Thanks for the reminder

55 Dale R. Wilson March 3, 2012 at 11:17 pm

All four very well presented by one who certainly knows. We didn’t know what all of the reasons were for some of the things we had to endure, but throughout our military experience, it all came together. What seemed such a waste of time or energy, or unimportant, became some of the best lessons and tools necessary to be organized, successful and clean (mentally, physically, spiritually) in the military.

56 Steven March 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

@USRoger. He was speaking of “equipment”, not people. You might want to relax a little about the whole Marine versus Army thing. It’s lame.

Nice article Mike. Good job.

57 Ryan March 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I really appreciate the wisdom and advice that comes from men of military background. Thanks for sharing. My family has a rich history of Military service and I have definitely considered enlisting, but for now college is for me. I’ve often thought to myself that if I don’t enlist, I should at least learn what recruits go through, and more importantly, practice what they come out with… discipline, servitude, leadership, selflessness.

58 Daniel Rojas March 5, 2012 at 10:20 am

Great post!

59 Wil Kelley March 6, 2012 at 6:02 am

Well done Sir. You understand your target audience and stated your thoughts in a concise manner. I would appreciate more from you.

60 Crespo March 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

These are very important lessons.

61 Wolfman March 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

Well said, sir. There are a lot of life lessons you can take away from military service life. The four you mentioned are really good ones. I still miss it (especially the jump drills!) Airborne!

62 Dave March 14, 2012 at 8:53 am

Respect: As stated, it is earned, not given. I worked for a Brigadier General for time and I would stand up when he entered the room. He said, I appreciate that, however, are you standing up because of me or because of the star? I said because of the star. He said, good answer. You have to respect the rank, but not the man. Respect is earned. He had mine from that day on.

63 Ryan March 15, 2012 at 8:46 am


I’m currently in Army OCS at Ft, Benning. These are very true. Thank you for the insight.

64 Alex March 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Simple pieces of advice, but that simplicity doesn’t make them wrong or any less powerful.

This was the last post I’m reading tonight, and I think it was time well spent. Thanks!

65 Gareth March 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Point 4 reminds me of a favoured maxim of our Company Sergeant Majors in the British Army when addressing junior officers, which I think about sums up the relationship: “I, Sir, will call you ‘Sir’. And you, Sir, will call me ‘Sir’. The difference is, Sir, that you will MEAN IT!”.

66 JDB March 25, 2012 at 10:51 am

Sand Hill will run you through it, that is for sure. The Stairway to Heaven being placed in the middle of a 20 click jog “march” was always a blast.

Shoot Move Communicate is the Army’s doctrine, well applied and very appropriate.

Saying none of your NCO’s care if an officer is prior enlisted is ignorant to the utmost, though most of us won’t have to be told, WE can generally pick them out 5minutes after we meet them. Some butter-bars with common sense (HA!) listen to their Noncoms from the start and they’re all better leaders for it, but there are those who wouldn’t survive in Combat Arms, but get away with it because they’re staff and support pukes.

Anyway, good article, I learned many many many things about myself and the real world outside of the American Bubble through my time in the military and I believe trying to pass it on to those who chose not to experience it for themselves is a worthwhile effort, Airborne.

-Sky Soldiers

67 Tim Cole February 27, 2013 at 10:00 am

Mike, thank you for your post. I’m proud to say i also spent time in the army, Something i learned was how to carry yourself with pride. I’m raising a young man of my own and the things you talk about in your post, i believe these thing can carry over to the “real world”. I cover some things with my own son, more Men of today could use alot of this knowledge! Thanks again “hooah” !

68 jerry February 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

Semper Fidelis to simplicity.

69 Phil February 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Simper Fi Jerry. I always made sure I had the required equipment for the task at hand. In the Military I made sure I had stuff I need to accomplish the mission.

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