How to Have Military Bearing

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Silent Drill Platoon

We, in the military or associated with the military (i.e. cadet programs), call it “military bearing,” but the truth is, everyone needs a measure of what is more commonly called, “discipline.” The word, “military,” is put at the front because we stand at Attention or other positions without moving.

Everyone needs discipline: to go to sleep at a good hour, get up with the alarm clock, get to class/job on time, perform the work expected, etc. The list goes on and on. All of these seemingly insignificant tasks are part of having discipline.

Bearing/Self Discipline
Webster defines it as the manner in which one bears or comports oneself (as in something difficult to do or deal with). We can define this as self discipline. What is military bearing/self discipline?

Military bearing has two parts
When we speak of “military bearing” we think of it as a whole: being able to put up with a certain task. In this instance, let’s say that task is standing at Attention, Parade Rest, Attention, saluting, back to Parade Rest and then back to Attention for a ceremony that lasts an hour-and-a-half. What do we need beforehand to accomplish this task? Mental and physical discipline.

Physical Bearing/Discipline
We can recognize this right away: the ability to appear to stand perfectly still for a given length of time. I put “appearance” in there, because you can actually move muscles throughout your body to keep the blood flowing and still seem to remain completely still.

Physical training, drill and ceremonies training and much practice will help us attain the necessary physical requirements for our previously stated task. It’s true:

That which does not kill you
Makes you stronger

Mental Bearing/Discipline
This is not as easily recognized but plays as much a part, if not more. Compared to training your mind, physical training might be the “easier” part of military bearing/self discipline. You have to train your mind to focus and react when you need to react. Whether that reaction is to execute a facing movement, or jump out of an aircraft to parachute into a hostile area, the reaction is mandatory and you cannot not waiver. But how?

Training your mind comes from reading the manuals that are required for your job, in our case, we would need to read our service’s drill and ceremonies manual plus any other manuals/information that has some bearing on what we do (rifle maintenance and protocol manuals, etc.). We would need to read this information until we know it front-to-back and back-to-front. We would also need to know everything we could about our military service, uniform wear, rank structure and even information about where the ceremony is being held and also what the ceremony is about (change of command, remembrance ceremony, etc.). You can see where this is going: knowledge is power and that power can be used to not only set up for the ceremony and help train others for it, but also keep you doing what you need to do all throughout the ceremony.

Why do you think each service has a creed and even an honor guard charge or something similar? To help members understand what “it” is all about.

If this, then that

Your attitude/goals equal how much effort/training you are willing to put forth/endure.

If you want to become Sgt. Major of the US Marine Corps, then the amount of effort you must put forth and the amount of training you must endure is very high. If, on the other hand you would rather achieve the level of manager of a local retail store, there is nothing wrong with that, but your effort and training will be significantly less than our Marine.

You do not have to live with a “bad attitude.” You can change your mind. You are not a slave of your mind. It may feel like a daunting task, but it isn’t, you just have to get in the practice of thinking positively/differently and you need to practice this thought pattern every day- all the time. When you slip up and begin thinking negatively, no matter how extreme, start over again. It will get easier over time. Only you can do it: only you have the power to determine how you will react to any given situation. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Stop blaming others or your present or past situation(s).

Attitude ≠ Altitude, necessarily
While “attitude = altitude” does have a grain of truth in it, it comes with the connotation that if you “only” go so high, your still failing at some point. Not true at all. We can attain the stars at whatever we choose to do. Higher altitude does not equal better.

“Only” a such-and-such
Whatever your goals in life, no matter what another thinks of them, are your goals. We can achieve great things at every level of a job and in life. Don’t be fooled by others possibly thinking less of you because you “only” want to do a certain job. It doesn’t matter what others think, what matters is that you put all of your effort into what you do and do it to the best of your ability.

I once attended a briefing years ago where an Air Force  Lt Col was detailing the AF’s newly realigned personnel numbers. The numbers were significantly lower and were going to drop even further. He was there to inform us that we needed to do our best if we wanted to make a career out of the AF. He said that if we didn’t, we’d be out and “flippin’ burgers.” I found that very inappropriate since all of the Airmen in the room were AF Staff Sergeants and were all highly trained in our specialties. Our time in service and our training deserved more respect and so do you, no matter what kind of work you want to do. Also, so what if some wanted to flip burgers?

DrillMaster’s Goals
Here is a little background on me: I attended Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, AZ and graduated in 1983. During my time there I was regarded as an outstanding cadet in my 4 years of the AFJROTC program with most everyone expecting me to apply and attend the Air Force Academy. I didn’t, I went to New Mexico Military Institute and left there in 1985 to enlist in the Air Force. Enlist. Not become an officer. My 20 years in the USAF were great and I was able to do what I wanted to do: work with people at the hands-on level. My goals were not “low,” I knew what I wanted to do and I’m still doing it and loving every minute. I have done many things that no one else has done. How’s that for goals?Had I been an officer, living up to the expectations of many others, I could never have done what I did and do now.

Do I have any regrets? Yes. I wish I could have been better at interacting with others in many situations and I would love to be able to erase those wrongs. All I can do is ask for forgiveness. I’ve learned so very much and still learn almost daily. But I do not regret anything else.

Societal and familial influences can and sometimes do help/force you to go down a path toward a goal that you really had no intention of achieving. Sometimes that’s good (you didn’t realize you could accomplish that goal) and sometimes that’s bad (you were more or less forced into a career and do not have the ability to cross over into what you really want to do).

Comments 4

  1. I’m currently a part of the CA-20081 AFJROTC unit, and I really enjoyed this article. We downsized to a group this year, and on top of that it’s an inspection year. Basically, myself and the other sophomores are faced with some incredibly high expectations. Do you have any tips on how to be an effective drill commander? I will likely have to lead a flight through the thirty step drill sequence, but I’m not the best at commanding.

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      Cadet Koehn,

      There are many aspects to commanding a formation. Please read this: There’s more that deals with leadership and this one on leadership and this one on leadership. There’s also the command voice.

      You could read endless subjects, but this will get you started. Lastly, practice, practice, practice. Let me know if you have any more questions after you read.


  2. This was a great read. I’m currently in the military and transitioning from an officer candidate to the enlisted side. Your article gave me some good insights about life, decision making, and acceptance of who you are and the goals you aspire to. Thanks for the morning motivation.

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