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Military mindset question

teachandmomteachandmom Registered User Posts: 1,244 Senior Member
After growing up very bright, and knowing how to make good decisions and not just follow what others were doing, how does one then give that up and do the opposite? Suddenly, it is right to jump off the bridge just because others are doing it too, but that's not what we were taught when young...So, I am curious as to HOW intelligent individuals are able to train themselves to become part of a group mentality? I am honestly asking because it is something I can't fathom. It seems at odds. I know this could be asked in any academy forum, but I really think of Air Force as being particularly intellectual, so I wonder if this presents a struggle there for cadets. What skills do you have to learn to be able to go from being the free thinking leader that got you in, to then following orders as a cadet, to then leading again?
Post edited by teachandmom on

Replies to: Military mindset question

  • Time2Time2 Registered User Posts: 708 Member
    So are you asking a hypothetical question or do you have concerns about your son/daugther expressing an interest in becoming part of the military? Being trained to follow orders if different from joining a cult where you no longer know right from wrong. Even in a private sector business, there are norms you are expected to follow and be part of the team....so that isn't unique to the military.
  • eagle36eagle36 Registered User Posts: 1,548 Senior Member
    I don't think I can answer your question the way you've asked it. what I see is a skewed vision of how I interpret it. I'll do my best to answer, but if you still have questions or disagree, please let me know.

    On one hand, yes, military members have to obey orders of those over them and follow them, and in some instances this can be seen as "blindly". However, I have a few points on this. One, the military in some ways is just like any other organizations. In most companies, CEOs and other higher ups make decisions about what they want to do and how they want to go forward. People under them then have to go along with these decisions and "follow" these decisions. I'm willing to bet if a boss tells an engineer to design something to certain specifications, the engineer can't simply decide he doesn't want to and go a different way. If he does, he won't be there long. So although there is some "blind" following, there is following in any corporation.

    To another point, I don't feel that we were simply groomed into a group "mob mentality". In fact, I feel the opposite is true. Throughout my four years at USAFA (I graduated last May, 2010) I grew to become a more critical thinker and challenge ideas. From a classroom standpoint, I had classes where we were encouraged to read and challenge the ideas of the authors, and we then discussed. But as I moved "up the ranks", i had the opportunity to introduce my own ideas. Are some shot down, and do some not work? Of course. But I was also given times when I tried things and they worked, or they failed but I learned. Some of the more easy examples have to do with how I ran my flight during basic training. Sure I had to follow certain guidelines, but for the most part I got to choose how I went about running my flight. There are some things I feel I did better than when I went through, and some things I wish I could re-do. However it was a learning experience for me as well as for the basics. That leads into the last part as well. Trust.

    There are always times when cadets don't understand the why behind things. Why are we doing this, why does that happen that way? If leadership says you have a briefing at 1900 and you must go, you go. Even if you don't know exactly why, there is some reason they want you there. You have to trust that. The same things goes for classes, athletics, and various training. Some things you get explained to you earlier, and some things you understand better when you're on "the other side of the coin". Although it sounds cliche, when it comes down to a live-or-death situation, without trust you have nothing. There is no way you can function in a war if you challenge everything you're told. That being said, we are also taught to a point to stand-up if we feel orders are against the UCMJ or Geneva (basically illegal). So while we're taught to trust and follow orders, we aren't brainwashed into robots who can be programmed.


    I hope this clears up a little bit your view of the group mentality. As i said, if you have other questions or want clarification, please ask. I'm not trying to say I'm right, but only let you see that there are other ways to view the same thing.
  • 07PETKO07PETKO Registered User Posts: 1,275 Senior Member
    Shack, Eagle.

    The military is not looking to produce blind followers at its Academies. Critical thinking is a vital skill to have while respecting the orders and intent of those above.
  • dgpetedgpete Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    Very well put Eagle36!
    Trust, loyalty, and commitment do not equate to blind obedience...
  • teachandmomteachandmom Registered User Posts: 1,244 Senior Member
    Thank you. Very helpful replies. My D wanted to go Navy, but can't for med. reasons. I couldn't understand her desire at all, due to my question posted. Thanks again.
  • raimiusraimius Registered User Posts: 2,360 Senior Member
    It's not about blindly following, except in extremely rare and time-critical situations. There are times when the wisdom or efficiency of orders doesn't make sense. If you face a situation that doesn't make sense, privately raising concerns is usually appropriate. Where people go wrong/get criticized is when they start making negative comments about their leadership in public or don't stop trying to change something well after it has been decided. Obviously, that would be bad in any organization, but when lives and millions/billions of dollars are on the line, the level of tolerance for becoming an annoyance is reduced.

    There is also a very strong trust factor. If a solder yells, "DUCK!" That's what you do. Often, you train with people enough to know that they mean business when they become directive. As a student pilot, if my instructor tells me to "go around" on a landing, I immediately do that. It is not simply because I blindly follow orders, but because I trust that they have a valid reason. I might not see the other aircraft at the end of the runway, or maybe they see a hawk about to fly where we are headed.
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