Military Brainwashing: The Upside!

After having been in the Navy for about 14 years, I have a hard time differentiating what is military/Navy culture and what is common to everyone. Sometimes I mull over in my head saying certain things before I say them. I’m not sure if everyone will know what I’m talking about or not. Or if it’ll come off more abrasive than I intend. Common, cultural things you say and do in the military might not translate well to “fragile civilian sensibilities.”

(And when I say “cultural” I do mean that the Navy in itself has a culture, different from the Air Force or Army, but that the military as a whole has cultural norms different from civilian, etc. Every community has a culture of its own, though it may not be hugely different from a similar community next door. Your workplace has a culture. Your group of friends has its own culture, too. There are words and phrases that mean something to all of you that outsiders won’t understand. “Cultural” more often than not has absolutely nothing to do with skin color or religious dogma, just so we’re all on the same page.)

One aspect of Navy culture (and military in general) that stuck out of me recently is that of ownership. Very often, that thing is mine.

My guys are ready to go.”

“Did you finish the maintenance work on my antenna array?”

“That’s not how we do things in my Navy.”

I remember that being instilled in us as early as boot camp. The fifth-week recruits who were doing their service week by working in the galley, they’d say, “Watch my fire lane, there, shipmate!” and “Don’t touch my bright work, shipmate!” (Keeping us in line and keeping the polished metallic stuff shiny.) Five weeks into the Navy and they were already taking ownership of everything around them.

We learn it by mimicking those in charge of us. That’s part of your brainwashing. (And I’m not using that term to mean something negative here. Most military brainwashing is good for you.) Our RDCs (recruit division commanders) in boot camp took ownership of us and everything we came into contact with. The fifth-week recruits used that language three times a day when we were in the chow hall, so, five weeks later, we did too. And it wasn’t just a boot camp thing; that’s just where you first learn it. It’s a Navy thing. (And probably all military branches thing.)

You take ownership of things. If it’s yours, you care about it more. You take greater responsibility for it. You get it done and you treat it right.

That’s something I’d like to see more of in the civilian world. There is some of it, of course, but not enough. It’s not the same. It’s not part of our culture. Especially in America, where personal gain often gets the greater emphasis. I suppose there’s a lot of “that’s mine” or “I’m going to make that mine,” but it’s not in the same spirit…

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