By Jay Kirell
In my book, (which I have yet to start) I’m going to explain in great detail the cast of characters I came across in my time in Afghanistan as well as in the military in general. They all have unique aspects of their life stories and personalities that shaped how they appeared to me.
Meet a small group of people for a short period of time and you walk away impressed with the surface-level diversity of America’s armed forces. You see Blacks and Whites, Asians and Hispanics, city folk and rural folk, men who’ve been through five deployments and kids just out of high school.
However, if you meet a large number of people and live in and around them for years, and you begin to see familiar patterns emerge and the fundamental aspects of human character become more clearly separated.
The following are, as best as I could separate them, the 14 “types” of soldiers I met in my time in the Army, which I believe, best represent the essence of the Army, much more deeply than regular statistics like race, religion, or income.
Note: Keep in mind, though, these only apply to males in the Army, as I was not around enough female soldiers to observe them beyond second-hand stereotypes, which I refuse to lend any credence to.
14. The Athlete
The guy looks forward to the 8-mile runs on Monday morning. He looks forward to it because it would compliment the two-hours of crossfit he just did the day prior. Oh, and on Saturday morning he went rock-climbing. He gets a 350 on his Physical Fitness test and complains if his watch wasn’t off he probably could have done the run 15 seconds faster.
13. The Muscle-head
This guy thinks the purpose of his time in the service is to treat it like a free gym that charges a membership fee of possible death or injury, but otherwise is a good soldier to have around for things that require heavy-lifting, like tossing sand bags, lifting heavy equipment and protecting you in a bar fight. On a Physical Fitness test he maxes out his pushups and does pretty well on his sit-ups, but needs a really strong breeze at his back to do well on a run.
12. The Snarky computer geek
The complete opposite of the muscle-head. This guy would rather be inside playing World of Warcraft than in a gym. He usually does just enough to pass a PFT, and would prefer to sit at a desk all day than be at a range or out in the field anywhere, for that matter. When he is out in the field he usually has as many electronic gadgets as he’s allowed to take with him.
11. The Partier
Monday through Friday the guy is the model soldier. Shows up to work at the right place, at the right time, and in the right uniform. But approximately 15 minutes after his Friday afternoon “Safety Brief”* he’s already either drunk, on his way out to get drunk, or making plans to go out and get drunk. Sometimes he’ll show up Monday morning smelling like booze, but he’s there. Sometimes he’ll show up Wednesday morning smelling like booze as well.
10. The Ladies man
He’s the one you’ll see with a parade of local women coming out of his barracks room from Friday night through Monday morning. He’s the one with a girl back home (or a wife) who is a very good husband and father, who just ran off for two hours at the Forward Operating Base to have a quickie with the first willing pair of boots he could find.
9. The Family man
He’s the one who didn’t. The one who wouldn’t do that because he loves his girl, loves his wife, loves his kids. He doesn’t go out on Friday nights with the guys. He stays home and plays “dad” after spending the last five days playing “soldier.” Between the Ladies man and the Family man, the family man is much more common. That doesn’t mean the family man isn’t occasionally…
8. The Porn addict
He likes pornography. He really likes pornography. Like, two terabytes on his hard-drive worth or pornography. He’s been deployed a lot and met a lot of guys who shared their porn with him. (note – sharing in general is a thing you do on a deployment, but porn-sharing is nearly a requirement if you have something new). He wouldn’t cheat on anyone, but porn isn’t cheating, right? And hey, most of the time he was thinking of you.
7. The Career enlisted
He got in when he was 18 and he’s been in way too long to deal with the same problems over and over again. Think of a high school teacher who’s been on the job forever and rapidly approaching retirement. Imagine how bitter and angry and frustrated that teacher is with knuckle-head students. Now imagine that teacher can call an assembly in the gym and make all students, the knuckle-heads and the good one’s, to do push-ups. That’s the career enlisted man. A bitter, angry underpaid school teacher with the limited power to inflict actual punishment on students.
6. The Career commissioned
He might have also started when he was just out of school, except it was military college and he hasn’t dealt much with knuckleheads the past two decades, merely other high-ranking officers. [insert joke here] He’s the royalty of the Army, who maybe got his uniform dirty a few times, but had the political savvy to leverage that into a quick rise up the chain and now has entire brigades stand at attention for him. Glimpsing these people as a regular Joe in the Army are like witnessing a grizzly bear-unicorn hybrid. You put your head down and keep your mouth shut and hope it doesn’t notice you, but you still want to stare at them. These are the people you see on CNN as commentators.
5. The Over-educated
This guy reads a lot and could probably get a job just about anywhere outside of the Army, but life lead him into it anyway. He’s too smart for most of the simplistic tasks usually done on a day-to-day basis, but also not dumb enough to ignore the enormous benefits the government offers soldiers, so he sticks with his job for as long as his enlistment is for and maybe re-enlists once because he’s not ready to go back to being a civilian right now, and he probably just got promoted to some mid-level rank, but doesn’t plan on making it a career.
4. The Under-educated
He didn’t know a lot coming into the Army, and he struggles to pick up the most simplistic tasks while he is in. He probably won’t rise up the ranks very high, but if he’s lucky he’ll settle into an easy career where he doesn’t have to do anything more than be the “give me one” guy. This guy doesn’t realize or take advantage of the benefits the government offers him.
3. The Naïve
The guy who just joined recently. He has absolutely no idea what’s going on. Everybody hates him. Everybody. He is not necessarily dumb, just completely unaware of all the phrases, locations, techniques and protocol that other people in the military have been dealing with for years. He is also the reason every Friday there are things called “safety briefs” – *end-of-week meetings between the higher-ups and the lower-enlisted where the higher-ups repeat – verbatim – the same speech about not drinking and driving, having unprotected sex and not using drugs. These meetings can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes.
2. The “it’s a job” part-timer
Probably the most common type, just in sheer numbers, you’ll run across. He isn’t Rambo. He can’t shoot expert. He can’t run two miles in under 10 minutes. And really, as long as it doesn’t cost him his job, he doesn’t care. He shows up every Monday morning at 5:45 for first formation. He gives a good enough effort at his job to rise at a moderate pace. He’s not looking to be in a leadership position, but if one is offered he probably wouldn’t turn it down. He has no illusions about being a hero. It’s just a job to him.
1. The hunter
The exact opposite of the “it’s a job” guy. To him, his entire career in the military is defined by those minutes of actual, live combat where he gets to put all his training to use. He loves every aspect of combat – the sounds, the smell, the adrenalin. He is the living embodiment of “the dogs of war” and will admit honestly he functions better on deployment than he does back home. These are the people who knock down doors, not knowing what’s on the other side – but also don’t give a shit.