Tag Archives: Military Culture

Adjutant Advice #2: Ask What the Acronyms Mean

This is the second in a series of posts aimed at answering some of the most frequent questions or issues new officers would have when I was a battalion S1/adjutant.


Today’s “Adjutant Advice” is less advice from an adjutant and more advice as an adjutant. AG soldiers rarely find themselves assigned to an AG or HR (human resources) unit, so very often we are permanent party visitors to a different branch within the Army, each with its own individual identity, doctrine, and set of acronyms.

This scenario is also true of many branches besides AG, including intelligence, logistics, signal, medical, and ministry soldiers, among others. And the further you advance in your career, the greater chance you stand of being assigned to a unit as the sole member of your own branch. To be an effective member of the team, you have to put the effort into learning your operating environment. Continue reading Adjutant Advice #2: Ask What the Acronyms Mean

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Adjutant Advice #1: Write Your Boss an Introductory Letter

This is the first in a new series of posts aimed at answering some of the most frequent questions or issues new officers would have when I was a battalion S1/adjutant. They don’t represent any official guidance, just pointers and advice. I welcome any input about each topic from those wiser and more experienced in the comments and/or on social media. I also welcome your own questions if you’re a new lieutenant or cadet curious about personnel, military courtesy, or protocol-type things.


When you are a brand new lieutenant, your focus and training is usually about being the best platoon leader you can be. That doesn’t leave much room for protocol and traditional formalities, especially when text messages and emails are the norm these days.

So it isn’t surprising that lieutenants at their respective Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) would often email or call me to ask: should I write an introductory letter to the battalion commander. The answer is always yes. Continue reading Adjutant Advice #1: Write Your Boss an Introductory Letter

On Partisan Bubbles and Military Nonpartisanism

If retired Marine Corps Reserve veteran Rob Riggle taught us anything about the city of Berkeley, California, it was that it is a “bastion of liberal thought.”

Riggle’s Daily Show satire piece wasn’t too far from the truth. And while Berkeley the city is a whole lot more crazy-left than Berkeley the university, where the Army has graciously allowed me to matriculate for its Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program, we’re still talking about dark shades of blue.

On another end of the spectrum, there is a military culture typically characterized as conservative (although some would argue that it is not as conservative as might be expected). Like outspoken liberals in Berkeley, emboldened conservatives affiliated with the military (active duty, separated, retired, or even family members) are just as likely to righteously preach partisan politics from the soapbox, particularly on social media. Continue reading On Partisan Bubbles and Military Nonpartisanism

Garrison Tips for the 21st Century Army Leader!

Today’s Army is one of innovation and technological marvels. While we continue to fight the battles of our day, Army leaders must ensure that troops stay in tiptop readiness form while in garrison.

Follow these tips to be on the cutting edge of our fighting force! Continue reading Garrison Tips for the 21st Century Army Leader!

The U.S. Army in 1927

My summer 2016 reading list was anchored by a fascinating micro pop-history treatment of the summer of 1927 in the United States. Although it’s a bit on the long side, Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927 is a fascinating cross-section that bottles the culture, historical events, and personalities of a very short period of time, painting a context for the reader that so many histories fail to achieve.

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Bryson regales readers with the achievement of Charles Lindbergh and his transatlantic flight, with Babe Ruth’s place on the Yankees’ Murderer’s Row, with Henry Ford’s failed venture in Brazil, with the idiosyncrasies of public figures like Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover (and the latter’s almost clinical handling of the great floods of 1927), with the rise of boxing as a nationwide spectacle, with the challenges of Prohibition, with the sentencing and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, and with so much more.

Given such a richly developed context, I couldn’t help but wonder what the U.S. Army was doing in 1927. Smack in the middle of the so-called “Interwar Years” and well before pre-WWII growth, one might assume that the Army was small and relatively dormant, but there was actually plenty going on.

Here are five things the United States Army was up to in 1927, further enriching the context of a very fascinating year:

Continue reading The U.S. Army in 1927

Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

Today’s guest post is written by Oren Hammerquist, an Active Duty Army NCO who’s bringing a much-needed enlisted perspective to B&B’s ongoing musings on Army culture.


I grew my mustache on leave and a whim. In fact, wear of a mustache has a much longer tradition in my family than military service. I see it as a hobby and a way to maintain some facial hair. As expected, I returned to both compliment and ridicule. Opinions on mustaches vary widely. Perhaps one day my hobby will grow old. At a minimum, I must wait until people have forgotten I did not used to wear a mustache so they will ask what changed. But this time has not been wasted. I never expected my military mustache would teach me a valuable lesson. Now I know the truth: mustaches make better NCOs. Here are five reasons why.

Continue reading Guest Post: Why Mustaches Make Better NCOs

Translating Corporate Jargon for the Military Audience

During my summertime internship adventure in nonprofit land, I’ve found myself working at what may be the most corporate NPO in existence. This post’s featured photo with the sticky notes on the glass wall? I attended a meeting where we actually did that!

In addition to this clichéd “brainstorm” meeting, I started noticing all of the corporate buzzwords and jargon, writing them down both for my own education and amusement at the fact that the Army isn’t the only workplace enamored with trendy terminology.

What follows are a handful of those terms accompanied by what I think are more-or-less equivalent Army phrases.

Continue reading Translating Corporate Jargon for the Military Audience

6 Slow Realizations of the Headquarters Company Commander

Few jobs in the Army inspire the phrase “better you than me” than that of a headquarters company command. There are paths to success if you find yourself in that gig, especially if you follow good advice like that offered by Captain Scott Nusom in his article “Surviving Headquarters Company Command” published at From the Green Notebook.

But along the way to completing a successful headquarters command, there are a handful of slow—sometimes painful, sometimes cathartic—realizations that change the way you perceive the job, for better or worse. Continue reading 6 Slow Realizations of the Headquarters Company Commander

Lessons from a First Year in ACS

About five months ago, around the time I started this still-young blog, I shared my lessons from a first semester in ACS – the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program. It didn’t seem like there were many firsthand experiences shared, so I decided to pitch my voice into that void on the off chance that I might help someone out or at least get them to think about ACS.

One semester later, I feel like there are a few more lessons worthy of sharing as I wrap up my first of two years in grad school. The overarching lesson? Grad school isn’t that different from many things I’ve learned in the Army: Continue reading Lessons from a First Year in ACS

On Administration and Leadership: Wisdom from 1942

Once upon a time while working on a history project about US Army casualty operations since World War II, I collected a bunch of old Adjutant General Corps-related documents. One of my favorite eBay scores was Technical Manual (TM) 12-250, the War Department Technical Manual for Administration, dated October 10, 1942.

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Captain Phillipps failed miserably at making sure this thing wasn’t removed from Headquarters.

Continue reading On Administration and Leadership: Wisdom from 1942