Guest wrote:But I think you missed Mac's point, DT.
All you have described is the comradery of people working together and having a shared experience.
And all you've fallen back on is, 'you wouldn't know if you weren't there.'
But how is that different from any shared experience, whether military or civilian? You even say it yourself - you wouldn't know if you weren't there. So how do you know it's any different from anyone else's experience of a lifetime?
Mac's point (I think) is that we all have those moments, it doesn't require military experience. The details may differ, but the shared experience is the same. And whether civilian or military we all can experience and therefore know that.
I had to think about that.
WRT peace time military versus civilian, that’s a good point and a good question. Maybe the concept of "you wouldn't know if you weren't there" is unfair. I know most of us have read first hand accounts of combat that give us an idea of what that was like. I agree that peacetime activity should be a little more comprehensible. Let me try. There will definitely be at least one person who will just sniff at it all, I am sure.
First off, I think I have acceptable starting experience in both worlds. I went to a civilian university before I went to a military one and my army career was cut short for medical reasons after 10 years; I had to begin my career anew in my late 20s. That was young enough to be considered young by other engineers, trades people, and even the computer people in the early 1990s.
I can assure you, from my experience, that there is a very big difference. What is it exactly? Hard to quantify so let me touch on three broad areas that, in my experience, that make a major difference.
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The first is the fact that in peace time, you are training to destroy an enemy. Does any other profession do that? Police, perhaps? Not exactly, but I've always admired those fellows because they do get involved with life and death situations far, far more than any peace time soldier. But, that's not about setting out to destroy large numbers of enemy. I think that makes a major difference. There are all kinds of activities that comprise that mission and many of them reflect civilian jobs, which is my second area of consideration.
I won't go into the above in any more detail because I will sound waltish and we don't want any eye muscle roll straining. Let me know if you do want details, but except for the most obtuse, I am quite positive the above should be obvious, surely.
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Yes, there are absolutely many tasks and jobs that reflect exactly the same sort of thing one does in civilian jobs. Often times there ARE no differences in the activities whether you're military or civilian. But for some of those activities, there are differences involving HOW LONG you keep it going without a break and always there is the air of military hierarchy and discipline involved. I can assure you I have not experienced the intensity of the latter in my civilian life. I doubt many of you who have not served (OK, stop it with the Walt accusations) have experienced it either.
I think someone may have mentioned something to the effect of "the only difference is the fancy toys". Well, they are fancy but as I mentioned above, the fanciness is for evading the other side trying to kill you and to help you kill them. It's cool to see night vision cameras, wind and other sensors all over a 70s era tank linking up to an analogue computer under the crew commander seat that takes into account outside temperature, cross wind, powder temperature, range fed by the laxer, type of ammo, and maybe a few other things I can’t recall all in aid of trying to help with achieving a single shot kill on an Armoured vehicle.
As a civilian engineer, I got to interact with a lot of fancy toys too. One of my first design projects was designing the reinforcing bar spacing and placement of a very large concrete lid meant to seal a deep concrete tile into which low level radioactive waste from hospitals and universities (mostly) was stored. The construction process and working with the rebar techs, the concrete guys, all of whom knew what they were doing was so much like an officer/NCO/soldiers relationship that I smiled my way through much of it, especially on pouring day.
Definitely these civil and electrical machines are grand and cool on their own. But if you've had the army experience, none of them is as cool as a tank or other armoured vehicle because none of them have the purpose of killing people. Here's some other differences which I hope don't sound too dramatic.
Unless you're furtively burning down the rain forest in South America somewhere, you don't cam your tractors and trucks with nets and foliage. You don't have someone on radio watch and two people at night way out in front of the wood or town where your tanks/APCs are harboured. I suppose you could wake up in the morning and roar in anger that one of your crew who took a shovel to go #2 during the night left shit on the shovel. LOL. You definitely don't leave your tractors and trucks as filthy at the end of the day, either as we have all seen construction machines - in fact, in the field, there is no end of the day. I think it's fair to say a tractor driver is taken off duty for rest long, long before s/he is so tired that s/he confuses sun-up with sun-down or has to have someone ride on the glacis to keep poking them awake. You don't have "enemy" sneaking around at night waiting to hang a sign saying "This tank destroyed by 20 lbs of C4 on a timer, courtesy of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry". That's kind of fun at first, then gets irritating AF. That's when people from different units who are bone fucking tired after 4 hours of sleep a night for a few weeks to a month start literally beating the shit out of each other and why, on international exercises in West Germany in the Cold War, you did not allow, say American infantry to close within 200 to 400 metres of West German infantry because everyone is tired and pissed off and there is the real danger of people getting hurt. Even strong NCOs can have a hard time preventing fighting.
How about being rousted up at night when you're home, for a call out? No it isn't like being on call, because there's no warning, no "you're on call tonight". And then you have to get hold of your crew commanders, who in turn get hold of their crew. Piss drunk or not, you are responsible for getting yourself to the base safely and legally.
In keeping with my description of my first engineering project, when dealing with a small group of skilled trades in coveralls and their supervisor or a large number of trades men and women, their supervisor and several lead hands, the interaction is the same as it was when I was an officer. Believe it or not, I actually got along very well with soldiers and NCOs and I do the same whether I'm involved with trades people of programmers.
There are a couple of differences with respect to the intensity. The rank divisions are there 24 hours a day and off duty; you don't go up to Sgt X in the bar and say, "how's it going, Malcolm!" if you are a private, corporal, or officer. I've already mentioned the length of time things go on above, civilians are going to be on shifts, 8 or 12 hours, usually. They go home and may be the duty guy with a pager (90s) or cell phone on call, but there's compensation for that and you're not the duty maintenance guy every night.
In a civilian world, you do have the respect thing for leads, supervisors, and managers, (department and faculty heads, team leaders, etc), and extreme violations may result in dismissal, rank reduction, or suspension without pay. Less extreme are handled with a "hey, get with it", or if your HR department has their filthy noses into everything, a formalized progressive discipline system. The same applies for technical screw-ups, not meeting deadlines, lateness for work and so on. What they can't do is make your life miserable (let's put aside really horrible psychotic personalities, which many of us, and I too, have encountered in the civilian world), which is expected in the military, even for minor violations. You'll even get sent to military jail in Edmonton for x number of months. Do I need to get into "awards" of extra duties, confinement to barracks, summary hearings by the officer commanding (company level), or more serious ones, by the commanding officer (battalion)?
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Finally, in the peace time military there is a commonality in shared background and training that you MOSTLY do not get in the civilian world. I remember this at my first seminar in an engineering department where new engineers introduced themselves and gave their background. There were some impressive resume like presentations, but what struck me was that at that level in the armour corps, we would all be saying "My first troop was with A/B/C/D squadron, 8CH/RCD/LdSH/12 RBC, second year was troop leader/liaison/RHQ recce, etc."
I know there are some large organizations that have extensive training programs at different levels and a defined career path, but for the most part, you do not have that sort of commonality. Yes, a newly graduated electrician or other skilled trade is expected to be able to do specific things. But for non-technical jobs, I can't just say "I want a captain, post extra-regimental employment", you end up with a job ad with a lot of required, preferred things.
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Hope that helps.