You Know You’re US Military If…



Ability to Sleep Anywhere

There is a rule in the military about sleep and that is to sleep fast, and sleep hard. It doesn’t matter where that sleep happens – anywhere can be your bed. If you can get to your bed space, that’s great, but otherwise even standing up can be suitable. All guys and gals in the military need is the order that they are allowed to sleep, and they’ll do it. Even if it’s for just five minutes – it can make the difference when you’ve been up for three days straight.

Ironing The Life Out Of A Shirt

Ironing is an extension of being neat and tidy. Both are required in the military at all times, so ironing is a key component to any soldier’s locker of skills. Needing to be an ironing boss so that no creases appear on your uniform is required and necessary. It’s no joke that people in the military can iron a shirt into the size of an A4 piece of paper. They’ve been taught that way and continue to maintain those standards as a matter of discipline.

Marching As Standard

When you walk as many miles as a soldier, you’ll learn that there is an optimum way to walk to preserve energy whilst being able to keep eyes and ears on everything around you. As such, you can spot a soldier on the street as they all walk with the same sense of purpose and control. Sometimes it can be marching, but otherwise it is simply walking without wasting any time. Keep reading to hear more military die hard habits.

What’s The Time?

Knowing your time in the military is a skill in itself – mainly because military personnel have their own language for telling the time. Whereas civilians will say 9pm for making a date with someone else, a soldier will speak of 2100 hours – said twenty one hundred. When soldiers leave the military, they absolutely maintain this habit, perhaps with a conscious effort, but in all likelihood, they’ve just been telling the time like this for too long to do anything other.

Buzz Cut

All guys have clipped and closely shaven heads in the military. As an incredibly practical group of people, much of having one’s hair short is down to the maintenance of it. Day to day, it takes very little time or effort to look neat and tidy. In fact, it does not need any day to day maintenance – just a regular trim with a set of clippers every so often. This is why when they leave the army, ex-soldiers invariably keep their hair closely shaven to their head.

Keeping Eyes On Everything

Just because soldiers leave the army, it does not mean that they forget all their military skill and training. One of the main traits they are taught during their time in the military is to scan, constantly, a situation for any threats or anything that is unusual. All ex-soldiers will continue to do this as a matter of course, when they finally leave the army and become a civilian. That’s because it has become an instinctive reaction for them and one that they cannot simply switch off.

Their Unrelaxed Stance

Soldiers all have a good posture because even when they are told to stand at ease, they still have to stand up straight with their hands behind their backs. Whilst, arguably, this is more comfortable than standing to attention with their arms raised in salute, it still does not look particularly relaxing or ‘easy’. After a while though, muscle memory takes over and this is how soldiers stand regardless of whether being on parade or not. Keep clicking to see what else ex soldiers will still do when they leave.

How Do You Do

Ex soldiers have impeccable manners when they need to, and one of the ways they maintain this, is by answering someone as sir or ma’am regardless of who it is they are talking to. It could well be someone superior to them in their latest civilian job, but it is just as likely to be someone like the mailman or barista. It’s an incredibly endearing trait that is at odds with what so many of our military have had to see and do abroad to protect the country.

Eat Fast

Due to the nature of their jobs, particularly when they are on operations, people in the military all eat fast. Seriously fast. It is said that this starts from the moment they are in training and the queues for the mess, or cafeteria, were so long that if they didn’t eat fast, they sometimes didn’t eat at all – and yet they still have to continue a long day where a great deal of their work is physical. Ex-soldiers will still inhale their food regardless of having left the military.

Speaking Their Own Language

How many times have you heard someone serving in the military, or someone who has left the military, say something like ‘roger that’ or ‘affirmative’ – irrespective of whether they are talking to others in the military on ops, or simply answering their server in Starbucks? Again, it’s a lifelong habit that is almost like muscle memory when answering questions. Roger that, by the way, means ‘yes I’ve heard you and understood’ – it has nothing to do with a man called Roger. Keep reading to hear other lifelong military habits.

Swearing and Cursing

Whilst the guys and gals serving in the military are impeccably polite, they also have the propensity to curse and swear with the best of them. Better probably. This is something that does not stop the moment that any soldiers decide to leave and try their luck on civvy street. Instead, the term potty mouth is pretty fitting throughout the rest of their lives. Scenes like those in Full Metal Jacket are not too far from the truth of what someone in the military can talk like on tap.

Boot Polish

Boot polish is an item that will be found in any serving or ex serving military man’s household. As an extension of needing to look presentable at all times, having highly polished boots is required. Polishing one’s boots so that you can see yourself in them is also a training technique used by instructors at training camps to break the young trainees and help whip them into shape. That being said, when those trainees grow up and leave, they still shine their shoes to a high standard.


Guys and girls who have worked in the military are rightly proud of their time serving their country. As such, you’ll notice if you visit one of their homes, a lot of memorabilia from their time with the Forces. Anything from a lot of camo or pictures of their time on operations will be dotted around showing what they have achieved during their stretch reporting for duty. Keep reading to hear yet more military habits that soldiers never leave behind.

Formal High Fives

Otherwise known as a salute, those who have left the army will still salute to say hello to fellow servicemen – old or new. It’s an iconic way of letting people know they respect you whilst also acknowledging you to say hi. It’s a quick, abrupt motion too that could not be more different to the more common wave hello or goodbye. Either way, it is a tough habit for soldiers who leave the military to kick, so more often than not, they’ll still salute to greet you.

When A Kitchen’s Not A Kitchen

In the military, a kitchen or cafeteria hall is called a mess. It’s an archaic term that seems to have withstood the test of time, so the whole institution still calls where the personnel – of any rank – eat, the Mess. When those who decide to leave the army eventually start on civvy street, they will still invariably call a cafeteria a mess. They will probably even call their own kitchen The Mess, even if it is exceptionally clean and tidy – as you would expect from someone in the military.

The Only Computer Game Worth Playing

It may sound like a busman’s holiday, but those in the military like to kick back and relax by playing the cult computer game, Call Of Duty. It may sound surprising, but many an hour has been spent by soldiers sitting down and getting caught up in the middle of a game with their fellow serving colleagues. This doesn’t stop when they leave the military, which sounds odd for those who have made the decision to retire. Luckily, they all know the difference between a game and real life!

The Difference Between Boot Polish and Paint

Boot topping is a term that very few outside the military will have heard of. It is the black coating that is slathered on in between the deck and waterline. It is similar to both boot polish and black paint – so much so that civilians would probably not even see the difference between any of them. Those in the military could spot it from about 500 meters. Boot topping is incredibly thick and viscous liquid that is manufactured from lime or sulfur.

Queueing Quietly

You can notice a serviceman, current or otherwise, on civvy street if they are standing with incredible posture in a queue but doing so quietly with minimal movements. This is a habit that is ingrained into them having endured many hours waiting in line on parade, awaiting orders or queuing for food in the Mess. Chatting away mindlessly is something that all civilians do without thinking, yet it is something that soldiers soon stop doing through their strict training. Click on to see yet more lifelong military habits.

Equipment Check

If you are with someone in the military, and about to go on a road trip, you are in safe hands. All military personnel, who are still serving or who have left, have a useful habit of checking their equipment before it is needed – to the utmost level of detail. This means that if you are travelling a long distance, they’ll have made sure there’s enough oil in the engine, gas in the tank and air in the tires, amongst many other things. Something civvies just don’t do regularly enough!

Knowing Your Jobs

What may seem a little annoying to civilians, but is incredibly helpful and practical, is a chore list that anyone in the military will compile within a few days of living in a house. Whilst this may aggravate the families of serving members, it does at least ensure that everyone under the same roof knows what is required of them to keep the home looking clean and tidy – and thus more enjoyable to live in. Read on for yet more unknown signs that someone has served in the military.

Fireworks Night

Sadly, one of the repercussions of serving in the military and going on an operational tour, is that nights that involve fireworks may well be off limits to you. The noises and bangs that the fireworks make are extremely similar to those that servicemen will have endured whilst abroad protecting their country or endeavoring to bring peace to another. It has been known for fireworks to bring flashbacks on in those that have served so that they are best avoided.

Standing Tall

Military personnel have a great posture – as already mentioned – but another reason for standing tall is because they are also trained to stand in a power stance. It’s designed to make a soldier look tall and proud – as they should be – to project the appearance of confidence, which is particularly important in situations where authority is needed to be asserted. When soldiers leave, they still stand in the same way. Didn’t know that? Keep on reading to hear more military style habits.

Your Platoon

Even when you leave the army, you have a bond with those that you served with that is stronger sometimes than with those in your own family. When you serve on operations together, this is particularly true. Knowing that those in your team and platoon are always there to protect you, because that is what they are trained to do, means that you will do anything for them, no matter what. It’s what makes leaving the army so tough – you simply don’t get those relationships in a civilian job.

Three Letter Abbreviations

The different language that those in the forces speak goes even further when you take into account that they often speak to each other in acronyms or TLAs as they are sometimes known. TLA stands for three letter abbreviations, which a soldier (whether he is serving or not) will use interchangeable with the more widely used English. Terms like ETA, standing for Estimated Time of Arrival are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to military speak. Soldiers can sometimes have a conversation without a verb.

Honk To Reverse

One of the weirder things a civilian may notice about an ex-military serviceman, is that they always honk twice on the horn when they go to reverse. It is something that they are taught in military training, but it is not an action that is used anywhere else in the world. It is one of those tough habits to break, so that those that leave will still be doing this for years after they received their last paycheck from the army. Funny hey? Read on to hear more habits.

Respect for The Flag

When you serve in the military, your respect and pride for your country knows no bounds owing to the nature of the job. This will continue outside of the army, so it is not unusual to see an ex-serviceman salute whenever they see a raised flag. It was ingrained into them in training as well as the honor they gained from serving what the flag represents. The flag is emblematic of the country that they are striving to protect at all costs.

Wall To Wall Training

You probably would not have noticed it unless it was pointed out to you, but current and ex-servicemen will always choose to stand with their back against a wall – in almost all situations. It means that they only have to keep an eye out for any threats or dangers in front of them, without having to worry about what is behind them. Whilst, more often than not it isn’t necessary to do this on civvy street, old habits like this one die hard.

Bed Making

Along with ironing and polishing, those that are in the military are excellent at making beds. Their bed space is an extension of their personal tidiness and so all those who are serving or have served in the Forces will make their bed with a hospital corner for the utmost precision. It may seem like a small thing but keeping one’s personal space clean and tidy is part of military training and as such, most servicemen will continue to do so after they have left the army.

Unbelievable Films

If you sit down to watch a war movie, set in the present day or past, with someone who has a history in the Forces, be warned. They absolutely will call out all the problems and mistakes that are in the story that simply would not or could not happen in real life. Whilst annoying for the fellow audience, it must be incredibly frustrating to see one’s work incorrectly shown all in the name of making a film for Hollywood. Click next to hear more ex-army habits.

Whistling Whilst Relieving Oneself

It is unknown why, but those that have served and are serving in the Forces, all whistle while they pee. It’s an exceedingly common military practice for reasons that are unbeknownst to everyone who is a soldier. It is a pretty funny habit too given all the places that many of the loos have been due to the wide array of operations that are running in the world at any one moment. Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait have all been exposed to overseas military whistling whilst using the bathroom.

No Pointer Needed

Another obvious sign of someone with previous military experience is if they use a knife hand whilst training to explain something – in a serious presentation or otherwise. Even if they are telling a joke to friends, servicemen will all use the knife hand. The knife hand is keeping all fingers tight together and using the whole hand as a pointer as opposed to using just a single finger or splaying the hand wider. You’ll notice it now that it’s been mentioned.

Early Risers

During training, soldiers’ days start before the sun has risen. When they leave the army, the habit of getting up early is rooted into them to such a degree that any ex-serviceman will rarely have a lie in. It helps that they, as previously mentioned, sleep deeply from the moment they close their eyes. They’re actually trained to sleep in such a way that they will perform at the best of their ability from the moment they wake up. Read on to hear more astounding military habits.

Popping Out For A Smoke

Popping smoke means something very very different to those in the military in comparison to those with no military background. To pop smoke in the army means to create a diversion so that the real action of a mission can take place. However, when a gentleman in the military refers to popping smoke when he is in a civilian surrounding, he simply means that he will be leaving. So, whilst it sounds similar to popping out for a smoke, it means something very different.

Flavouring Up Those Ration Packs

The ration packs that the soldiers receive are full of food to help them reach the required calories they need during their working days, whilst out on exercise or on tour. The thing that all of them contain, regardless of what the main meal is or the time of day, is a small bottle of tabasco. This means the guys and girls can add much needed flavor if they want it. The stuff is pretty addictive so that when they leave, they often still add it to their food.

Punctuality Is Key

The phrase better late than never will give a soldier a nervous tick. Soldiers are punctual because they actually turn up early for any meeting time. This means that they arrive about 15 minutes before any dinner party or drinks date. You may not notice it as a civilian who runs to a very different body clock, but those that leave the Forces will still adhere to the code of punctuality. Keep on scrolling to hear more habits that our servicemen pick up in the military.

Explanation Not Needed

Whilst those of us on civvy street spend an increasing amount of time in meetings that seem to drag on, those in the Forces are trained to keep meetings short. So much so that they actually call them briefings, which is a term that was coined for when an explanation of a series of events happened. Briefing is a word that is now used throughout the military for when information needs to be disseminated to soldiers. Ex-soldiers are therefore known for getting straight to the point.

Workout Beats

Keeping fit in the army goes without saying. Servicemen have to be at peak physical fitness throughout their serving career. To help with what may become a mundane chore, many will look to music to keep them going. Without a doubt, the top way that all soldiers use, even when they have left, to workout to is ‘cadence’. It will keep them going and motivate them to maintain a tough training run or workout, even when they really want to stop.

Know Your Gun

During their training, those in the army are taught that their gun is an extension of their body. This means that they are almost mandated to know where it is at all times. Thi, more often than not, means taking it wherever you go. Those that leave often speak of feeling like they can still have the sensation that their gun is still with them at all times. Astonishing stuff isn’t it? Read on to hear more intriguing habits ex-military men pick up.

A New Alphabet

Those in the army will be taught from the get go how to spell using the phonetic alphabet. It means no confusion is caused or time lost, when spelling important information or other necessary facts over the phone or radio. For example, J will always be referred to as Juliet, or H as Hotel. Those that have left the army will still spell like this over the phone when they are relaying information. It is a useful tool to have.

Knowing 5 Ways To Get Somewhere

If you’re in the military or have left the Forces, chances are you still plan at least five routes to get from a to b – regardless of distance or direction. It comes from years of learning the hard way that it is always good to have a backup plan or route in case your original one is blocked or impossible to drive through – for whatever reason. Soldiers therefore will never rely on just knowing one way to get anywhere. Even if it’s to get more milk.

Always Having Your Right Hand Available

The soldiers in this shot are holding their guns in their right hand so that they are ready to shoot if needed. It follows from this, as most soldiers are right handed, that soldiers will inevitably always keep their right hand free so that they are ready with their lead hand – available for action if needs be. When soldiers leave the army, this is a habit that they find incredibly difficult to break. Click next for more signs that a person has been in the military.

Knowing A Way Out

If you go to a concert or sports event with a soldier or person who has served in the military, they’ll be aware of every single exit that you pass without you knowing it. They’re great to be around when leaving any busy place or area therefore as they’ll inevitably know which exit is the quickest way to leave. It stems from years of needing to know where to go in an emergency situation where a speedy evacuation is needed.

Running Towards The Danger

As civilians, we mainly run away from danger or scary situations to protect ourselves. Ex-soldiers and those still serving will always run towards danger as a matter of course. It becomes a natural reaction for them after they have completed their initial training as well as their continued work throughout their Forces career. Click next to find out the ultimate sign that someone has served in the Forces or worked in the military in some way. It will really surprise you!

What’s That?

One of the most recognizable ways that people reveal that they are, or have been, in the military is if they say ‘say again’ as opposed to pardon or excuse me. It is just one of those things that has ingrained itself in the military institution so that all its personnel start saying it from the moment they have completed their initial training – even though it is not required or mandated. It’s one of those habits that soldiers won’t even be aware that they do without being alerted to it.

Clean Shaven – 24/7

One of the most obvious signs that you have been in the military is that you are clean shaven at all times. Even if you are one of the hairiest chested men out there, you will still find time to shave the corresponding thick hair on your face, come rain or shine. This means that even if you are on exercise or on operations, you’ll still shave to ensure that you look as presentable as possible. Men in the military also prefer a wet shave. It gets closer to stubble.

You Still Play Tug Of War

One of the ways that the military are still trained to this day is through an old fashioned tug of war competition. It’s a great way to get soldiers’ strengths up as well as create a team where guys and girls learn to work together. For that reason, if there is ever a tug of war at a school fete or a town fair or festival, those from the military will always been the first ones to step up to take part and make use of their hard training.

Fix Things By Brute Strength

Owing to becoming physically fit, the majority of those who have served in the military, past and present, are also very strong. Whilst they tend to be practical too, having to fix things on the side of road during training and operations with very few tools available to them makes them that way, they do sometimes revert to sheer brute strength to fix equipment. Whilst this may work for their day job, when they come home, and the washing machine or dryer needs fixing, it can have dire consequences.

Competitive Nature

99% of those serving in the Military and those who have left, will have a competitive nature that means they tirelessly work at something until they win. Coming second is not an option for many who have served their country. It comes from their training where they are pipped against their colleagues to be the best they can be. Click next to see a surprising trait for those that are serving in the military and for those that are now civilians.

Serializing A Spreadsheet

For a job that is historically based on being outside and on physical training, a lot of army work is carried on a spreadsheet – often that contain long lists of what needs to be completed to succeed on a mission. Army folk, even when they have left the Forces, will serialize a spreadsheet of tasks to allocate and billet out to people – be they fellow Army colleagues or simply members of their family. They like to have something logical and concrete for everyone to refer to.

Quick Thinker

Owing to the nature of the job, most guys and girls in the military will be incredibly quick thinkers. When put in to the most pressurized scenarios where the wrong decision could cost lives, there isn’t often the chance to think through all possibilities and weigh up the pros and cons of each. Instead, they are trained to think quickly and surmise efficiently what the best course of action is. This translates into real life too when decisions need to be made – big or small!

Making Do

When you’re in the Military and have spent time abroad on operations, you quickly learn to make do with whatever equipment you are given to succeed in whatever task you have been allocated. There often isn’t time to find the best piece of kit that could help in a situation, so instead, those in the military work with what they have. This continues into their real lives and makes them practical, pragmatic people who are not interested in the material aspects of life. Just a hot shower will do!

Showering Quickly

Owing to the pressurized environment that they work in, soldiers will always have short showers so that they can get back out on the range or to their bed space to get some much-needed rest. This is a habit that cannot be kicked quickly and so those that have left the military will very often keep taking short showers, even though they have a lot more time on their hands. This is probably something that many civilians should try to do to minimize water waste.