I served in the U.S. Air Force from 2000-2007. My AFSC was 3C0X1 (Communications computer systems operator). My highest rank was E-5 (Staff Sergeant), and I received an honorable discharge.
I separated because I realized nine things about the military that would have kept me from joining in the first place if I had known them in 1999. None of these reasons are derogatory towards the troops. All of these reasons have to do with how the military treats the troops unethically. The purpose of this essay isn’t to defame servicemen and women. The purpose is to raise awareness of how the military system treats its own.
Whether you agree or disagree with me, I encourage you to leave a comment. I don’t censor people who disagree with me, but comments that include personal attacks or insults will be deleted.
1. The military is a death cult that brainwashes you.
The military is painstakingly designed around the cult model, and the two biggest red flags are its unethical indoctrination process and totalitarian, pyramid-shaped caste system. Other warning signs include the use of an inside language, in-group symbols, rituals, in-group socializing, constantly telling you that the military is your family, convincing you that military history is your history and other tactics that convince you to base your identity and purpose in life primarily on the military. Individually, these practices aren’t necessarily sinister, but the military goes to extreme lengths to use every trick in the book every day to convince its members to base their identity on the in-group and devote their life to it. That’s what cults do, and the military does it better than anyone.
Again, I’m not saying this to attack the troops. I’m not saying, “You suck because you’re a brainwashed slave in a cult.” I’m bringing this up to raise objection to the military using unethical brainwashing techniques on its troops. This is a human rights violation on a mass scale, and the only reason the military isn’t shut down by the police for operating a death cult is because the military operates outside the law.
There’s no country in the world that wants to take away America’s freedoms. The only people in the world taking away Americans’ freedoms are the very leaders every active duty soldier swears an oath of allegiance to. The American government took away Americans’ freedoms every year I served in the military. Americans lost freedoms every year I was stationed overseas, and anyone who enlists today will be able to say the same thing after they separate.
America is no longer the land of the free, and it’s also not a representative democracy. It’s a corportocracy controlled by the rich, for the rich. America doesn’t even defend democracy abroad. It’s the only country actively toppling democracies. Look it up. That’s not a conspiracy. It’s common knowledge.
If you join the United States military, you won’t fight for truth, justice or freedom. You’ll fight for a government that crushes public dissent and locks up more people than any other country in the world in a for-profit prison system that uses inmates as slave labor. You won’t fight for peace. You’ll fight for a country that commits human rights violations, spies on its own citizens and locks up whistle blowers, while protecting war criminals. You’ll fight for a country that destabilizes weaker countries to allow multinational businesses to fleece them out of their natural resources and outsource jobs to their sweatshops. The American military might fight against terrorism, but it also engages in terrorism and creates more terrorists every time it kills innocent civilians, which is almost every month.
There are no serious foreign threats to America’s way of life. Possibly the biggest threat to the average American’s quality of life is America’s own industrial war complex, which directs billions of tax dollars every year to killing goat herders while America’s schools crumble from lack of funding.
If you support America’s military mission, you won’t make the world a better place. In the end, your noble sacrifices will make the world a worse place, but don’t take my word for it. If you want to know what America’s military stands for, ask the good people of Diego Garcia.
3. The military cares about you the same way a slave owner cares about his slaves.
The military will convince you to love it so much you’ll get military tattoos, wear military-themed civilian clothing and yell at anyone who criticizes the military, but it doesn’t return that loyalty. Sure, troops are given a lot of perks and bonuses, but like all other cults, the pampering stops the second you start questioning the organization.
If you don’t drink the Koolaid, you’ll get thrown out in the streets for “failure to conform.” If you breach the military’s puritanical code of ethics, it won’t hesitate to throw the book at you as hard as possible to make an example of you. After you separate, you’ll get some veteran benefits, which sound good on paper, yet, but a veteran commits suicide literally every day, and most of America’s homeless population are veterans. The problem isn’t just that the military abandons their veterans. Active duty junior enlisted troops are twice as likely to become alcoholics and heavy smokers during their first enlistment than their civilian peers. These statistics wouldn’t exist unles there were something terribly wrong with the system.
The problem is, the military doesn’t see troops as humans beings. They’re just social security numbers with expiration dates. If the military cared about about troops on a personal level, it wouldn’t strip away their rights and arbitrarily segregated them into a totalitarian caste system.
The military may be full of good people, but the system is soulless. It asks you to give everything and expect nothing. Yet it will turn against you, abandon you, and use you at its mildest convenience.
4. You will lose almost all of your civil rights.
You’ll lose your freedom of speech and the right to assemble.
You’ll lose the right to work at, or even enter businesses the military disagrees with.
You won’t be able to quit your job when you’ve reached the point where you hate it or disagree with it.
Your home life will affect your work life. You can be demoted or even lose your job for legal trouble you get into on your private time.
You can be demoted at work and criminally punished for cheating on your spouse.
There’s a legal limit to the type and amount of tattoos and piercings you can have.
You can’t wear clothing on base that isn’t PG-13.
You can even get charged with destruction of government property for getting a sunburn on your day off.
You can theoretically go to jail for not doing a jumping jack, not buttoning your shirt, talking back to your boss, quitting your job, not taking your hat off when you go inside, walking on the grass, or not saluting the flag.
Article 134 or the Uniform Code of Military Justice says anything can be considered against the law; someone in your chain of command just has to say whatever you did was bad, and that makes it officially against the rules:
“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.“
You’ll lose many more rights listed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that nobody will go out of their way to tell you about until after you’ve signed your soul away, but if you ever complain, you’ll be told, “You knew exactly what you were getting into when you signed up.”
Individually, some of these points may seem trivial to you, but when you add them all up, the end result is the government owns you completely. If you only want to do whatever the government allows you to, then you might not notice losing your freedom and dignity. If you value your rights and freedoms, it will drive you crazy knowing your leaders are holding a metaphorical gun to your head 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and forcing you to accept being treated like second-class citizen.
Once you realize you’re not fighting for anyone else’s freedoms except the robber barons who own your corrupt politicians, the cost/benefit analysis of giving up your rights to a death cult that doesn’t care about you ceases to add up.
5. You will live in a caste system where your worth as a human being is determined by rank.
When you go through basic training you’ll be told that upon graduation you’ll become an adult. In fact, you’ll become more than an adult. You’ll become a member of the most elite echelon of society, and your maturity and responsibility will make you superior to the petty, selfish, undisciplined civilian herd.
However, the reality of life in the military doesn’t reflect the propaganda you’ll be fed in basic training. The reality of your day to day life is comparable to what you experienced in high school. Everyone in the ranks between E-1 to E-4 are treated like children. The ranks of E-5 and E-6 are treated like teachers, and E-7 to E-9 are treated like school administrators.
When you wear the bottom four ranks, superiors will look down on you, talk down to you, bully you, and rub their rank in your face. You’ll be made to do menial chores and the bulk of the work. You’ll be punished severely for any and every infraction possible, and you’ll even be punished for things you didn’t do wrong. You’ll have very little recourse to fight this because your worth is based on your rank, and your rank is that of a slave.
When you reach the middle tier ranks, you’ll finally be treated like a human being. Your job will mainly involve training the lower ranks and managing paperwork. You’ll be less accountable for your actions and will have comfortable leeway to bend the rules.
When you reach the top tiers of the enlisted pyramid, you’ll become a figurehead. You’ll spend most of your days doing paperwork and giving speeches. Since there are very few people above you to hold you accountable, and all of those people are in your club, you’ll be almost unaccountable for your actions and will have to seriously screw up to get in real trouble.
The power dynamic between the officer corps and the enlisted corps is comparable to slave owners and slaves. The slave owners are treated like gods and literally dine on golden plates under golden chandeliers. They have total power over the lower class and can destroy their underlings’ lives with the snap of a finger. They’re trained to believe in their superiority and wear their arrogance on their sleeves. They’re less accountable for their actions. They’ll get in far less trouble for committing the same crimes as enlisted troops, if they get in trouble at all. Being an officer is a very good life to have… and a very immoral one. It is an obsolete class structure that degrades the value of the lives of the human beings who wear enlisted ranks and directly contradicts the idea of human equality.
This is a strange way to live, but other than being degrading to the lowest ranking troops, it might not seem like a compelling reason not to join the military. What new recruits need to be aware of is that after you’ve been indoctrinated to base your identity on your rank, that indoctrination doesn’t always go away after you leave the military. If you spend 4 years as a low ranking enlisted troop and then separate, you’re likely to go back out into the real world with a subservient mindset. But If you spend 4 years as an officer and then separate, you’re likely to go back out into the real world believing the human population is divided into those who deserve to be obeyed/served and those who deserve to obey/serve, and you’re one of the gods among men who deserve to be obeyed and served. These delusions of grandeur may feel empowering, but it’s indoctrinated insanity. Leaders who think this way tend to act more like dictators than mentors.
Theoretically, veterans are supposed to get preference when applying for federal jobs. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. In the public sector, military experience can sometimes hurt your chances of getting hired because many civilians see veterans as dumb grunts with PTSD.
You won’t get much, if any, VA medical help unless you were injured while in the military or you retired through the military. Even then, the VA system is famous for being a nightmare. Don’t take my word for it. Visit a VA hospital before you join the military and see what you’re signing up for.
You can retire in 20 years, but a large portion of troops’ paychecks are itemized as housing pay, cost of living adjustments and other side-benefits they don’t pay taxes on. This looks great at the time, but the military bases retirement pay on taxable income. For enlisted troops, this is only enough to live well on in the Philippines.
The MGI Bill has finally become usable, and it’s a really good deal. The VA will also vouch for the down payment on your house, which is a really, really good deal. But no matter how good the monetary benefits of joining the military are, you’re still spending blood money.
7. Life in the military sucks…but don’t take my word for it.
I’m sorry that it has come to this- A soldier’s last words
The conversation about war and our veterans we refuse to have
A special report/feature about suicides by a military newspaper
Article about veterans struggling to get help for post traumatic stress disorder
A documentary about rape in the military
A military chat forum discussing how common sexual harassment is in the military
A blog about the serious flaws in the Marine Corps, written by Marine veterans
The most gruesome moments in the CIA torture report
A good summary of what American soldiers are sent to fight for
A rant by an Army vet about how he lost faith in America’s military mission
8. Military culture is devolving into a maniacally politically correct, anal-retentive bureaucratic snowflake office Hell.
I’ll explain what life is like in the Air Force, and you can just subtract a few degrees for each of the other branches: Cussing at all is frowned up, and in a lot of offices it’s banned. The only kind of music you can listen to at work are Pop and Christian. You can’t make crude jokes. You can be court-martialed for sexual harassment for saying the word, “vagina.” You can’t smoke anywhere but at isolated, designated smoking areas, and you can’t smoke at all on some bases. You can’t put your hands in your pockets. You can’t walk and talk on your cell phone. You can’t walk on the grass. You have to wear standard-issue reflective clothing when walking at night. You’ll get yelled at for wearing any article of civilian clothing on base that you wouldn’t wear to church. You generally have to act like Ned Flanders or you’ll get yelled at for being unprofessional… and you can theoretically go to jail and have the rest of your life destroyed with a dishonorable discharge if you don’t conform quietly.
There is some validity to some of these rules, but when you add all of them up (and the many others not mentioned) and continue to make more and more rules that force everyone to act like a neutered youth pastors, you create an environment that’s less like the adventure advertised on recruiting commercials and more like the embodiment of everything the movie “Office Space” was satirizing. I’m just saying, life in the military isn’t the grand summer camp dream-adventure recruitment posters advertise it to be. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare.
People who can’t conform to life in a soulless system end up leaving the military willingly or unwillingly. Those who act the most whitewashed and sanitized rise to the top. So that’s who you work for, and that’s who you work with. That’s the environment you eat, sleep and breathe in. If the puritanical lifestyle appeals to you, and you don’t mind being complicit in the deaths of hundreds of civilians every year, then join the Air Force.
9. You’ll be indoctrinated with battered person syndrome.
“When Battered Person Syndrome (BPS) manifests as PTSD, it consists of the following symptoms: (a) re-experiencing the battering as if it were recurring even when it is not, (b) attempts to avoid the psychological impact of battering by avoiding activities, people, and emotions, (c) hyperarousal or hypervigilance, (d) disrupted interpersonal relationships, (e) body image distortion or other somatic concerns, and (f) sexuality and intimacy issues.
Additionally, repeated cycles of violence and reconciliation can result in the following beliefs and attitudes:
- The abused thinks that the violence was his or her fault.
- The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
- The abused fears for his/her life and/or the lives of his/her children (if present).
- The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.
The syndrome develops in response to a three-stage cycle found in domestic violence situations. First, tension builds in the relationship. Second, the abusive partner releases tension via violence while blaming the victim for having caused the violence. Third, the violent partner makes gestures of contrition. However, the partner does not find solutions to avoid another phase of tension building and release so the cycle repeats. The repetition of the violence despite the abuser’s attempts to “make nice” results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing a repeat cycle of violence. However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser’s need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment. The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence leads in turn to depression and passivity. This learned depression and passivity makes it difficult for the abused partner to marshal the resources and support system needed to leave.” (Source: Wikipedia)
This is how the military conditions you to see the world. The military no longer physically beats the troops, but it can accomplish the same result without leaving a physical mark by yelling, threatening, publicly shaming, imprisoning you, giving you additional duties, and paperwork. If all else fails, they can send you to remedial military training to reinforce your “military bearing,” which is an unambiguous form of brainwashing used by cults to re-orientate their victim’s identity on the in-group.
The end result is you’ll feel guilty for breaking meaningless rules, and you’ll attack anyone else you see breaking meaningless rules. And anytime anyone criticizes your masters or their agenda; you’ll defend them to the death oblivious to the fact that you’re defending your abuser and attacking anyone who tries to free you from the people who have manipulated you into celebrating and defending your own oppression.
My responses to common criticisms of this post:
1. The military is not a cult! I served in the military and never knew anyone who was brainwashed!
No Scientologist ever met a Scientologist who was brainwashed either. There’s no point arguing whether or not the military is a cult without referencing a checklist of cult practices. Read any book on cults and brainwashing techniques. The more you know about cults, brainwashing techniques and military culture, customs and courtesies, the more obvious it will be that the military is deliberately designed using every mind control technique used by cults.
2. You were in the Air Force and never saw combat. So you don’t know what you’re talking about.
You can say I’m not a hero because I never saw combat, and I won’t argue with that. But my role in the military has no bearing on whether or not the military is a cult. It has no bearing on the fact that the United States government has consistently eliminated more and more rights of its citizens, spied on on its citizens, persecuted whistleblowers, knowingly killed civilians and committed deliberate war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are all facts that can be verified by anyone, even people who never served in the military or saw combat at all.
3. You were probably just a dirtbag Airman who wasn’t cut out for the military, and that’s why you’re bitter and wrong about everything.
I was a student leader (green rope) in tech school. I received many awards and squadron coins. I was told on many occasions that I was “a credit to myself and the United States Air Force.” I was frequently put in leadership positions above my pay grade. I wasn’t the most gung-ho super troop, but I was a model troop. So if you’re going to base the truth of my words on the quality of my character, then you should believe what I have to say about the United States military. But you don’t have to take my word on anything. Do your own research, and you’ll find everything I’ve said here is true, and it still would be even if I was a dirt bag Airman.
I didn’t reverse engineer my conclusions from bitter emotions. I came out of basic training bursting with esprit de corpse and kept it long enough to reenlist. I only very reluctantly gave up my faith in the military after seven years of seeing evidence that contradicted my beliefs. This post isn’t a hit-piece. It’s a eulogy, and its call to action is to respect the troops.
I understand why you’re angry. I’m challenging your most deeply held beliefs. You’re supposed to react by getting defensive and lashing back when that happens. It’s human nature, but you’re also supposed to question your own beliefs. I wouldn’t have so many strong things to say about the military if it had been more self-critical of itself to begin with.
4. All the questionable training methods and rules the military has are necessary because they weed out the weak and prepare the strong for war. At worst, it’s a necessary evil, but it keeps you free. So enjoy your self-righteous freedom to whine on the internet while real men keep you safe.
No sane person would charge a beach under heavy gunfire, but somebody theoretically has to do it. So the military takes sane civilians and reprograms their minds to turn them into zealous, suicidal killers, and it does this using the exact same brainwashing techniques used by death cults. I can accept that it requires extreme training techniques to prepare soldiers for the extreme stresses of war. I can handle that truth and eat that sin if you can admit this is still illegal to do to anyone else, and still unethical, even if the U.S. government does it legally. What I can’t accept is the military lying to recruits, telling them basic training will turn them into self-actualized adults, when it’s specifically designed to break their sanity and take away their identity and free will.
The argument that misleading and brainwashing volunteers is a necessary evil to protect Americans’ freedoms doesn’t apply when the American government keeps taking away its citizens’ freedom and privacy. Worse than that, it keeps passing more laws that make it harder for the poor to have a decent quality of life. If Americans were truly free, they would have the freedom to decide if they want their tax dollars spent on brainwashing soldiers or endless wars, but they don’t have that choice. They have to pay their taxes and fund the industrial war complex or go to jail. If they protest against it, they’ll be spied on, and if their protest is too successful, they’ll go to jail. People are free to criticize the government sometimes in some ways, but journalists who report criminal activity committed by the American government are routinely jailed. That’s not freedom of speech.
The problem isn’t that I don’t understand or appreciate the sacrifices soldiers have made to protect my freedoms. The problem is that my freedoms are being whittled away despite the sacrifices of soldiers. If you support the troops, then you shouldn’t get mad at me for pointing out that the American government is systemically corrupt and manipulates its soldiers into believing they’re defending freedom when they’re really defending corruption. If you support the troops, then get mad at the government that’s making a mockery of its soldiers’ sacrifices.
5. I was in the military, and I enjoyed it. Plus I got paid well and learned valuable job skills. Hence, the military is good.
The fact that you enjoyed the military and got a lot out of it doesn’t change the fact that the military is a cult that treats its own troops in ways that are illegal to treat anyone else. The benefits any troops do get out of the military are still stained with the shame of the rights American citizens have lost and the blood of the civilians the American government has killed. I’ll admit the military isn’t all-bad if you admit it isn’t all-good either.
6. Anyone who criticizes the military is a pussy.
Calling someone you don’t agree with a pussy isn’t an argument. It’s a gut reaction. The topic of how the military industrial complex manipulates and uses the troops is too important to end with a logic-stopping temper tantrum. If there’s any chance anything I said here is true, it deserves serious, soul-searching thought. Refusing to consider opposing points of view isn’t brave or mature, and it doesn’t do the people whose freedoms you think you’re killing and dying for any favors.
The problem here isn’t that I need to stop being a pussy and shut up. At the very least, the problem is that the U.S. military should be more transparent.
7. I can’t believe what a crazy conspiracy theorist the author of this post is. His ideas are unbelievably wacko.
I’ve received a lot of E-mails from veterans and active duty service members thanking me for articulating what they’ve been thinking but couldn’t say, because it’s illegal for them to speak unflatteringly about the military even if it’s true. Either all of these people came up with the same conspiracy theories independently, or they’re not conspiracy theories. They’re the elephant in the room.
8. I’m currently active duty, and my indoctrination has worn off. I’ve seen the military for the death cult it is, and now I’ve lost my esprit de corps and military bearing. I want to get out, but I’m locked in a contract. How do I make it through the rest of my time knowing what I know?
It’s frustrating living in the military, seeing it for what it is. Everywhere you look you, see reminders of the ever-present creepy cult thing they’ve got going on. And the more aware you are of the fact that you’re not fighting for freedom, the more pointless and dirty the whole charade feels. If you think about it too much, quitting in protest starts to seem like the right thing to do, but the only thing that will change is screwing up the rest of your life.
Talking to anyone in your chain of command about these feelings is the second worst thing you can do. All your coworkers have been programmed to react with extreme prejudice when they hear the cult doctrine questioned. Doing so will only frustrate you and your coworkers, which can lead to you being ostracized, criticized, disciplined, dishonorably discharged, and ruining your work references.
You’re a prisoner who needs to cope with being in prison. The best thing you can do is keep your back straight, your mouth shut, and go through the motions on autopilot until the clock winds down. Become a shadow on the wall. Go to your happy place in your mind during work hours, and use your military vocabulary when people talk to you. Be as Zen and as patient as you can, and leave Murder Inc. on good terms.
On a side note, when you go back out into the civilian world, the sergeants you’ve worked for will be your only job references, and 10 years from now, they’re still going to be your job references. Pick your favorite sergeants, and groom them to be your references. Do extra things for them, and stay in contact after you separate. You’ll need to know their new phone number and E-mail address 10 years from now.
Keep up the good fight. If you want to ease your conscience, I suggest finding something productive to do to raise awareness of the moral corruption in the military. It’s not legal for you to speak publicly now, but you can be working on something before you get out. Then you’ll have something fresh to share as soon as you’re free. Alternatively, if you meet troops who see the light, share my blogs with them to help them confirm and articulate their suspicions that something’s not right.
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