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View Full Version : What do people in the Army do when there isn't a war.



EzzyAlpha
04-29-2012, 07:18 PM
What does someone who is in the Army do when there is no war at the present moment? And I mean someone who's actively in the Army, not like someone who went to boot camp but is working another job.

It's a relatively young (26 years old) character, female and enlisted from 18.

Also, are there some restrictions on what someone in this situation could do in their free time (like they couldn't go to the pool or date or partake in alcohol drinking...)

One more thing, just to be sure, you can be openly gay and serving in the military in the United States now, right?

Al Stevens
04-29-2012, 08:00 PM
There are many non-combat jobs in the military--MPs, cooks, mechanics, musicians, clerks, drivers, laborers, etc.--whose duties do not reflect wartime and peacetime. Some jobs go on after the war is over--defusing land mines, guarding the gates, watching war criminals, etc.

But it's been so long since we haven't been to war, and the world has changed so much, that whatever you dream up will be just as believable as whatever reality will be if we ever do have an extended peacetime.

Buffysquirrel
04-29-2012, 08:07 PM
There's always a war....

They do training exercises, including exercises with allied countries, peace-keeping duties for the UN, missions of humanitarian relief (eg flying in and distributing aid), specialists are sometimes sent to help with finding earthquake or avalanche victims, to defuse bombs, and soldiers in the UK have even been tasked with fire-fighting during strikes. There are sometimes surprising teams within the military, like cave rescue experts, frex.

Don't know about other countries, but here in the UK we have military dog teams that go to shows, and lots of spectacles like Trooping the Colour and the artillery displays and the like.

leahzero
04-29-2012, 08:48 PM
Not to make this political, but as the above posters said: we're (U.S.) pretty much permanently at war. Ever since we started calling wars "police action" or "regime change" or "the war on terror" etc., we have essentially always been in one.

So depending on your character's position in the Army, she could be actively in combat, or in a combat zone.

EzzyAlpha
04-29-2012, 08:56 PM
Oh. Crud.

Do people work in military bases between tours?

auriel
04-29-2012, 08:58 PM
(I work for the Army as a civilian, but I've never been in the military. Just FYI.)

For pretty much every civilian job, there's a military equivalent. Is your character stationed in the States or abroad? That will effect what job she has. (Edited to clarify: her job may also affect where she is stationed.) A foreign post, will have higher security, esp depending on where it's located. Some posts in the States, like where I work, are going to have less security - for example, we don't have MPs working the gates anymore. We did for a while after 9/11, but now they're civilians.

Even when we're not at war, we are still sending soldiers on peace-keeping missions worldwide and maintaining a global presence. Distributing food and aid after disasters, assisting the U.N., etc. There are also lots of support personnel for these missions where your character could play a role, though not in a combat position (as a female.)

Most of the military personnel on our post aren't deployed. They are usually working with government contractors, working on things like missile defense, intelligence, and designing/building/implementing technology. Those are usually of the higher ranks, though - officers.

But if your character enlisted, they will be doing menial jobs. We have military firemen, policemen, cooks, repairmen, etc. When you have generals around, they have also enlisted people attached to them like drivers, attendants, etc. (they have an entourage like celebrities.)

As far as I'm aware you can be openly gay now, but I haven't seen much of an impact of that where I am.

A 26-year-old enlisted doesn't, as far as I know, have any restrictions against dating and so forth. There ARE restrictions when you're in basic training, like they can't own cars, for example. But that shouldn't apply to your character. She just has to follow the law, obey officers and not go AWOL.

Let me know if you have any more questions. If I don't know the answers, I can easily find out at work.

ETA to answer your question: If you're active Army, you're going to be stationed at a post, so yes. Between tours, you're still in the Army, and you still have a job to do. You don't have to live on-post necessarily, depending on the circumstances, but posts are where the army brigades/divisions/battalions/etc work. Your character would be attached to one of these groups and therefore have to report to a post - unless they're in the field for whatever reason.

EzzyAlpha
04-29-2012, 09:31 PM
Thank you Auriel, that's incredibly helpful :D

auriel
04-29-2012, 09:59 PM
Another tip - go to GoArmy.com and check out all the different careers an Army enlisted has available to them. There's a quiz you can take that shows what jobs they have for different skills or interests. So many of those jobs - chaplain, musician, lawyer - are non-combat, war-or-no-war, Stateside careers. Just because you're a soldier doesn't mean you're going to fight.

KatieJ
04-29-2012, 10:37 PM
Ezzy - I had to laugh at an old memory when I read your question. You see, I come from a family that has always been military. When I was a kid (I think I was six or seven) I asked my parents about a new word I had learned. Civilian. Up until they described it to me - I thought everyone was in the military. All kids were waiting until they were old enough to join, all old people were retired military. I had NO CONCEPT for just a civilian. Even after I found out - I would still ask questions like "What about bakers? Do civilians have bakers?"

The easiest way to think of it is most bases are or were capable of running as independent cities. Any role in a city or town would be done in the military.

blacbird
04-29-2012, 10:41 PM
Drink beer, smoke pot and train. Much like I did most of the time when I was in the Army and there was a war going on. But ordinarily, something like 3/4 of active duty personnel have support jobs, like supply, food services, communication, administrative stuff. And somebody always has to be around to yell at new recruits.

caw

Nymtoc
04-29-2012, 11:16 PM
The above posters have all provided good answers. The Army is a huge organization, and even when we are at war (when are we not?--as previous posters have said :(), most soldiers are not involved in combat. There are millions of technical, administrative, clerical, communications, medical, vehicular, supply, construction, enlistment and other jobs that must be carried on just for the behemoth to operate.

Leisure activities are almost entirely free if you're not in a war zone. There are no restrictions on going to bars, pools, beaches, movies, dances, or whatever else you want to do in your spare time. There is at least one restriction, however: See the threads about Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, who was discharged last week for posting noxious and implicitly threatening statements about the Commander-in-Chief and saying he would not follow orders if he didn't want to. Your words are not censored, but you can't go totally rogue.

If you are in or near a war zone, your commander may issue restrictions about your leisure activities. Certain places may be listed as "off limits to military personnel." The reasons vary but often pertain to drugs, prostitution, etc. In the USA such restrictions are less common.

Just remember that taking off the uniform doesn't transform you into a temporary civilian. You're still in the armed forces when you're at the beach or partying or attending a protest rally or in bed.

Signed: (former) Corporal Nymtoc ;)

jclarkdawe
04-30-2012, 12:55 AM
Although there aren't explicit restrictions on activities beyond the criminal code if you're stateside, implicitly there are restrictions. But first you need to understand that the military frequently is in RIF mode. RIF stands for reduction in force, and if the military is trying to lose some people, something that won't get you in trouble normally, will. It might not be directly, but when you go to re-enlist (approximately every four years), you won't be recommended for re-enlistment. Basically a non-renewal of contract.

Military behavior is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Officers are a little bit clearer with their provision of conduct unbecoming an officer, but there's a similar provision for enlisted. And the military has some non-judicial punishments that can effectively remove your chances for promotion or lead to a recommendation for a discharge.

The military is rather extensively drug tested. Any police contact is supposed to be reported to your command, and police contact that results in your arrest will be reported by the police. But lesser levels of conduct can get you into trouble. If you're senior as an enlisted person to a bunch of drinking buddies, and some of your drinking buddies are under-age, you can be charged with a failure to display leadership and failure to protect subordinates. If you allow someone to drive drunk, or take inappropriate advantage of someone sexually, you can be in trouble. If you make a public spectacle of yourself, you can be in trouble.

And although you can be "openly" gay in the military, you need to remember that the military frowns on public displays of affection, other then in very limited circumstances like returning from a mission.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Brigid Barry
04-30-2012, 01:10 AM
What does someone who is in the Army do when there is no war at the present moment? And I mean someone who's actively in the Army, not like someone who went to boot camp but is working another job.

It's a relatively young (26 years old) character, female and enlisted from 18.

Also, are there some restrictions on what someone in this situation could do in their free time (like they couldn't go to the pool or date or partake in alcohol drinking...)

One more thing, just to be sure, you can be openly gay and serving in the military in the United States now, right?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed and gay people can serve openly in the military.

UCMJ covers behavior. You can't drink if you are underage, but if you are in a country that is not dry (for example Afghanistan and Iraq are "dry" countries and alcohol is illegal) you are allowed to drink. You can get court martialled if you cheat on your spouse. I do know that recently because of the number of sex abuse cases being thrown out due to the corrupt judicial system within the military that there was talk of contracting outside lawyers for those cases. Just a few things you can do in the military: Services, Cook, Nurse, Doctor, Lawyer, Cop, K-9 cop/dog trainer/kennel master, Recruiter, Drill Sargeant, Aircraft Maintenance, Helicopter Maintenance, Fuels, Transportation, Forensics, Weather Person, Reporter and you can sign up for the military (drum roll please) to play in the band.

When you are not on deployment you train. You do your job stateside or on an overseas base. Whether you are handing out basketballs at the gym or working on F-16s, you are not necessarily sitting around with your thumb up your butt waiting to get deployed.





And although you can be "openly" gay in the military, you need to remember that the military frowns on public displays of affection, other then in very limited circumstances like returning from a mission.


In my experience PDA is only restricted while in uniform. When DH 's unit came back from Afghanistan I think they would have needed a swat team to keep people from pouncing their soldiers - uniform or no. It was a stampede the moment they were released.

EzzyAlpha
04-30-2012, 01:24 AM
Fortunately, my character isn't touchy feely at all so that's one thing I don't have to worry about :D

Thank you all for your help <3

Fins Left
04-30-2012, 01:36 AM
You can get court martialled if you cheat on your spouse.

It used to be that the USMC prohibited dating too far outside of your pay grade and did not allow dating between enlisted and officers. (You especially could not date up or down your own chain of command) I don't know if that was true for all branches, but the USMC took that and adultery seriously and had not problem prosecuting it.

Another oddity of military life is that if a Commanding Officer wanted to be a total crap-head, he could punish people for getting injured while off-duty. I forget the exact UCMJ article used, but it was essentially damaging government property. I've seen it used against guys who go out and get so sun-burned over the weekend that they can't work on Monday.

I was in a situation where the medical staff recommended a foot surgery that I refused. My staff sergeant attempted to threaten me into going through with the treatment calling it disobeying a direct order. The idea was never tested because I held information that made him suddenly less enthusiastic about forcing me to let them hack away at my foot. But, in theory, a superior can pull "disobeying a direct order" against a military member and so has much more power than a typical civilian situation.

Brigid Barry
04-30-2012, 01:49 AM
It used to be that the USMC prohibited dating too far outside of your pay grade and did not allow dating between enlisted and officers. (You especially could not date up or down your own chain of command) I don't know if that was true for all branches, but the USMC took that and adultery seriously and had not problem prosecuting it. Unless there have been some major changed in the last few years fraternization (socializing and dating between enlisted and officers) is still illegal. Then there is further separation between lower enlisted people and NCOs. You will be court martialled for cheating on your spouse. I know this because I had my butt dragged from Maine to Arizona not once but twice to participate in a married recruiter's court martial after it was discovered that he was having sex with his recruits, also not allowed. The whole process was a freaking joke, which is the result of having a Military/Civilian make up at the Court Martial. If you screw over the military they will hand your butt to you. Above all, the military's #1 interest is the military, whatever that means.

Another oddity of military life is that if a Commanding Officer wanted to be a total crap-head, he could punish people for getting injured while off-duty. I forget the exact UCMJ article used, but it was essentially damaging government property. I've seen it used against guys who go out and get so sun-burned over the weekend that they can't work on Monday. People did get an Article 13 for damage to government property for getting piercings or sunburns. I got a 2nd degree sunburn when I was in Texas and sucked it up because I didn't want to get my chops busted. And it simply is "Damage to Government Property". And if you are a civilian and damage someone in the military, you will probably go to jail for damaging government property. Once again - Military's #1 priority is their assets.

I was in a situation where the medical staff recommended a foot surgery that I refused. My staff sergeant attempted to threaten me into going through with the treatment calling it disobeying a direct order. The idea was never tested because I held information that made him suddenly less enthusiastic about forcing me to let them hack away at my foot. But, in theory, a superior can pull "disobeying a direct order" against a military member and so has much more power than a typical civilian situation.

I got honorably discharged when I refused to allow the surgeon to "cut me open and look around" after I jacked my shoulder up while doing egress training. And yes, you have to follow orders, even if those orders are illegal, but then you are supposed to report it up the chain of command.

Military life is like a dystopian government. They OWN you.

Nymtoc
04-30-2012, 01:54 AM
Military life is like a dystopian government. They OWN you.

They sure do. :animal

Drachen Jager
04-30-2012, 03:23 AM
Speaking for the Canadian Forces.

Go afield on exercises, train (at almost anything you can think of, from classroom setting to in the field practical driving, shooting etc.), PT, play cards, vehicle maintenance, sports, drill or parade for some random reason, clean stuff, travel to visit allied countries either in the short-term or as a long-term observer (this is rare, I only did it once in 5 years), Peacekeeping. The list goes on. How much do you need?

chartruscan
04-30-2012, 04:42 AM
I was in the US Army between '96 and '99. Since I was airborne, I didn't get sent to any active conflict zones (had to keep my jump status up, and that meant a select few bases that offered that, which were either stateside or primo Italy).

For me, it was dining facility duty and PT every other day, including weekends and holidays. For the rest of the base, it was really a nine to five job with PT every work day at 6:30am. There were occasional field exercises with war games, several ruck marches per year. Your free time was your own, unless you had a sadistic staff sergeant who learned of your plans to see Phantom of the Opera and decided to schedule you for a jump you didn't need, which got scratched anyway (but still meant you wasted time gearing up, waiting, driving out, waiting, getting on the C-130, flying around, waiting, and oh yeah, cancelled jump.

I took classes at the local community college around my shifts, did a lot of camping and hiking when I got a free weekend. Went out dancing at the local country and western club every week. Had underage drinking parties in the barracks (the company Captain was cool with it, pleased that we wouldn't be driving anywhere - after the soldier on desk duty reported us).

So, while "you are a soldier first, your MOS second", during "peacetime" situations it was fairly routine with the addition of PT in the mornings. And the local movie theatre you had to stand for the pledge of allegiance before you got to watch the show.

We still had deaths through training accidents. Blackhawks are twitchy creatures. We had a billboard that announced how many days since a fatality. If we reached 82 days, we got a three day weekend. If we reached 101 days death-free, we got a four day weekend. In my 2 and a half years at Bragg, we never got a four day weekend, and only a handful of three day weekends. And those that we did get, I was usually scheduled a shift in the kitchen, so it never mattered. I think some of the jobs, like the guys that ended up in the armory, were bored out of their skull and took to f***ing around.

I still remember one girl at graduation from basic who cried because she was "just a secretary" who's reserve unit was shipping out to Bosnia. And at our temp barracks while waiting for permanent duty assignment at Bragg, another girl bitching about why she needed combat gear when was supposed to be at some other office job. The mailmen were the biggest goofs. The medics were kinda awesome. Their PT was separate. They would train jogging with someone in a stretcher.

Also, despite the freetime, going to the beach always carried with it the worry of getting a sunburn, as that would not only be rendering us unfit for duty (can't carry a rucksack because of you day of fun in the sun?) but also the the idea of damaging "US Government Property".

Richard White
04-30-2012, 06:42 AM
OK, to try and answer the OP - based on my experiences in the Army from 1984-1999:

When in garrison - normal training begins usually at 0600 with Physical Training. 0730-0900 was clean up (Shower, shave)/clean the area/get breakfast 0900-1130 duty, 1130-1230 lunch, 1230-1700 duty.

Note all times are flexible due to whatever circumstances come up.

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was doing whatever it was you did. The mechanics worked on vehicles, the infantry guys would either go to the range or out into the back 40 for patrol practice, etc.; the MI guys would go to their secured buildings and do whatever they did there, the tankers would do driving training or gunnery training, etc.

Tuesdays were Motor Stables (in every unit I was in). That meant everyone was in the Motor Pool doing PMCS (Preventive Maintenance and Corrective Services). You would climb over, under and through your vehicle according to the -10 manual, which provided an operator with the basic list of maintenance expected to be done by a non-mechanic. For my particular vehicle, I believe it was the 9-209-2901-10, which is the manual for an M35A2 6x6 2.5 ton truck, cargo with winch - more affectionately known as a deuce and a half.

(Now remember, I've been out of the Army almost 13 years now and I still recall the manual - that's how often I had to PMCS that darn truck. ;) )

Friday afternoons were usually spent on area beautification. Each platoon would have an area they were supposed to maintain - mow, weed, paint, rake, whatever. You did NOT want the Sergeant Major to find something on his walk through. Otherwise, you might not be going home for quite a while on Fridays. Apparently Sergeants Major feel no need to see their families. :(

Depending on your unit, you could spend a lot of time out on the back 40 doing exercises. This means you'll get a phone call at 0400 and have to report to your unit with full gear by 0500. Once everyone's assembled, you'll hustle down to the motor pool, load up your assigned vehicles, get everyone settled in and then drive to the training area (or hike, or take a helicopter or however you get there). Once there, you set up your area, dig your fox holes, set up a guard roster and then continue doing what you do in garrison, only under "field conditions". At least once during the exercise, expect to be aggressed by OPFOR (opposing forces) and at least one tear gas attack.

When not on regular duty and not in the field, the soldiers were pretty much left on their own devices unless they had evening duty (guard, charge of quarters, staff duty). Some hung out at the gym, some at the rec center, some in the TV rooms, some at the local clubs (on and off base). The married soldiers would live with their families (either on or off base) and the single soldiers primarily lived in the barracks, but some would pool their money to rent a house/apt. off post.

When I became a Sergeant and higher, I also got to participate in such exciting things as health and welfare inspections (usually at 0500 in the morning when we searched the barracks for contraband and unauthorized visitors) and/or the WizQuiz (urinalysis), where we got to watch people pee in a bottle. (Oh, now that was fun, let me tell you.)

Also, when available, you could go TDY (temporary duty) for training at other posts or even on your own post. I went to 14 schools while I was in the Army - some as short as a week, the longest being 18 months.

I hope this helps a bit.

fdesrochers
04-30-2012, 05:33 PM
And yes, you have to follow orders, even if those orders are illegal, but then you are supposed to report it up the chain of command.

Military life is like a dystopian government. They OWN you.

As a member of the Canadian Forces, I'll have to call this one out. We've (by that I mean most Western militaries) have gone a long way in terms of dealing with illegal orders. There will certainly be some flak to deal with at the level the conflict occurs (person issuing order and person refusing to action); more drastic as we get closer to the pointy end of the stick, so to speak. This may or may not have much to do with the OP, but an illegal order simply ain't followed (ideally wouldn't be spoken to begin with). Sr NCO's will typically keep the jr officers in line. There are, of course, enough instances in the media to show the results otherwise.

As for the OP: It really depends on what trade and where the person is working/posted. It also depends on the country we're talking about. The US Army and the Canadian Army are slightly different beasts.

In the insitutional Army, you're looking at tool-benders (mechanics, drivers, plumbers, band members, cooks, other technical trades), paper-pushers (clerks of all sorts, finance sections, recruiting, etc), and bin-rats (supply personnel, quartermaster, etc). For the most part, these functions carry on regardless of war. Tanks need repairing, equipment upgrades (electronics, comunications, etc), people still need to get paid, get trained, etc.

In the field forces, you are either doing

A. Work-up training to go to war;
B. At war; or,
C. Reconstitution.

(Canadian Army context but largely extant to US Army)

I believe reconstitution is largely what you are thinking of. While in A or B, trained Privates and junior Corporals are likely single-mindedly trained for the purposes of B. In C, they start looking to upgrade their skills, get additional training they had no time or ability to take and largely get them out of A and B modes. NCO's and officers get professional development, courses and organize/supervise requirements to train the junior ranks. There may be some field exercises to ensure training is practised and allows newly trained supervisors (jr NCM or officer) to lead their unit/sub-unit. Some pers will be assigned to more instutional Army type work, and field force units typically have integral personnel that cover basic institutional tasks (company clerks, etc) that will deploy with the unit as well.

It's really hard to give you a film reference because most are largely geared towards recruitment/training or in-theatre actions. The closest I can come is the beginning on We Were Soldiers, which falls in between C and into A. They start as C, learning their weapons and skills sets into a new platform (including the helos) and then quickly move through A and into B for the rest of the film.

If you live near a military base, you may be able to arrange a meeting with someone more in line with what you are looking for (dependant on the base's visitor/outside request policy). It also largely depends on what you want your plot to entail. Are you covering more socio-political issues (eg. reaction to gays in the military after DADT, or from their perspective)? Is it looking at the policy of going to war? The socio-psychological impact on the family/member going to war? Those not going to the war but indirectly supporting (institutional Army)? At the age level referred, the character may be a Sgt (depending on trade and unit), which is a different context than a Cpl.

Brigid Barry
04-30-2012, 08:10 PM
As a member of the Canadian Forces, I'll have to call this one out. We've (by that I mean most Western militaries) have gone a long way in terms of dealing with illegal orders. There will certainly be some flak to deal with at the level the conflict occurs (person issuing order and person refusing to action); more drastic as we get closer to the pointy end of the stick, so to speak. This may or may not have much to do with the OP, but an illegal order simply ain't followed (ideally wouldn't be spoken to begin with). Sr NCO's will typically keep the jr officers in line. There are, of course, enough instances in the media to show the results otherwise.


DH had the opportunity to train with the Canadian Army before he deployed to Afghanistan. He thought the food was amazing - definitely a step up from what he was used to - and told me that there's beer in the chow hall.

There are probably a few differences between Canadian and United States Military, the only information I have is from DH (USARNG) and my own experience (USAF). If you are given an order and refuse to follow it, it's insubordination. Basically if something is going to cause damage either physical or metaphorical (such as damaging the reputation of the military) it's supposedly an unlawful order. If an order is objectionable it can be reported through the chain of command. The area between what is "lawful" or "unlawful" might be gray.

chartruscan
05-01-2012, 04:27 AM
I would also say that at the age of 26, your character should be a sergeant of some sort. I was 20 when I got out, and had been toying with the idea of going through the courses to become a sergeant before I decided to let my active duty expire and got an early college drop (people, don't enlist in September!). I was a specialist at that point (we didn't have corporals. Corporals had a sergeants responsibilities and a specialists paycheck). I even went so far as to get my secrets clearance (FBI agents at my friends and family's houses, asking about me, they were so excited!) as I considered changing my MOS to something that required it.

One of the other things that was required once or twice a year was going out to the range for weapons training and retesting. We could have stood to do this more often as my aim went from sharpshooter to marksman.

There was one soldier who kept asking me to marry him so we could get a stipend and have enough money to get an apartment outside the barracks.