“KEEP OFF THE COMMANDER’S GRASS.”
The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.
But there’s always someone who takes it too far.
1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”
If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.
Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.
But that’s not what this is about.
I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”
The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.
There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.
Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.
2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”
“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”
That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.
You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.
“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”
It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.
Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!
Besides, if it’s good enough for Chesty Puller AND THESE OTHER HEROES, then it’s good enough for me!
Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.
I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.
Which leads me to… yet another dumb rule.
3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”
The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.
This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.
You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.
Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.
So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.
Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.
You know why humans wear sunglasses? To protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If we don’t protect our eyes, we can get cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. Those conditions all impair our vision, if you’re not familiar.
The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.
Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?
The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.
Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”
Final dumb rule of this rant: While walking in uniform, use of personal electronic media devices, including ear pieces, speaker phones, or text messaging, is limited to emergencies or when official notifications are necessary.
I could see the argument for not walking while holding a phone up to your ear — it gets weird with saluting.
I can definitely see why troops deployed to combat zones shouldn’t walk around using their devices — they need to be vigilant and nimble.
But stateside… walking with a headset… come on.
What’s the argument there?
Until someone can give me a good one I’m calling it: DUMB.
This article originally appeared on We Are The Mighty
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