1. Artemus19
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    Artemus19 Member

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    How much does one's military experience effect one's psychology?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Artemus19, Apr 21, 2015.

    Like the title asks, how does a character with years of experience in the military (whether a veteran or current member) react to things around them, talk to other characters, and think in terms of everyday situations? Is it hugely different or are there more nuances than larger changes in personality?
     
  2. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    In my own experience there isn't much of a difference. I view team behavior a little differently and get frustrated that it's harder to manage people (and you can't be as direct), but that's about all. I've noticed that other people however are more rigid and task focused, use different terms and, depending on what rank they held, long termers of lower ranks often need guidance on practically everything. Some find it hard to give up, and join sports teams and go recreational shooting.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    sounds like a question for @Wreybies !
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are certain behaviors that seem to stick with people who've spent time in the military - discipline, attitude, and such.

    Now, if you're talking more severe and negative consequences like PTSD, you're asking the wrong question. That stuff doesn't come from the military, it comes from actually going to war (which is related to military service, but not the same thing). So, if say someone was in the U.S. military for ten years - and let's say those 10 years were 1985-1995 - they're not going to have all of those issues to the same degree, because they served in peacetime. They'll still have the effects of military training, maybe some harsh memories of deployments if they served in Desert Storm, or Grenada, or some other operation. But that's different from someone who served from 1965-75 and went through Vietnam - or someone who served from 2000-2010 and went through Afganistan an/or Iraq. Those people will have spent very long times in war zones, even more time away from family, and witnessed a lot more horror. There's also both a mental and physical side to that - you see the PTSD and stuff, and we think about the physical when you're talking lost limbs...but there's other stuff too. Vets who've been in long wars have had to push their bodies at the same level as professional athletes with all the carrying, running, etc. I know one guy who looks fine but his knees are totally shot from the stress of always running around in Afghanistan.
     
  5. S Barnwell
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    S Barnwell Member

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    What people never seem to take into consideration is the affect that the military life has upon the lives of the people around the military person themselves. My father has been RM (a Royal Marine) for thirty years and the acronyms, the way of life (with him being away or 'posted') or the feeling of unity (from those who are in the same unit etc) are things experienced by those around the military person as well as the person themselves.

    . . . . just something to consider . . . . . .
     
  6. Boger
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    Boger Contributing Member

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    Looking at the characteristics of these people, I can distinctly make out two types. I'm taking all this from real people.

    The ones that served in the army.

    They are extremely friendly, humorist and refreshing company, and you'll want to reward their modesty and good mood, because you just know they care about you and make an effort to be good company. Even entertaining and lovable individuals, who also have a weak for awesome and lovable people of all walks of life. They can be rigid in some areas, might be coping with some issues, but their open mindedness pretty much makes up for all of it. Part of this rigid side can be trauma that's either resolved or still needs to be resolved, so aggression and/or substance abuse might be a daily pattern for them, or something they've had to deal with in the past, before seeing the light again and rejoice to the full extent, taking the self respect and patience to treat the depression responsibly. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and some have the luck to recover at all, depending on the degree of engagement they underwent during combat/training.

    The ones that didn't serve in the army.

    But think it is cool to go with the adulation that comes to some veterans. They have deep rooted personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorders from different kinds of trauma and major issues with authority. They might have never even met a real veteran, but started presenting themselves like one because the coping mechanisms, somehow ''felt natural'' to them. They might idolize themes such as violence or talk about weaponry as if they were loved ones, incredible important, difficult puzzles to solve, or an element in life that seems to be a normal, automatic part of everyday life to all of us. Or they might be prone to command you/ march distinctly/ throw dictatorial tantrums. These people can be dangerous, but are generally too antisocial to be concerned with. Don't believe their lies and get away from them when they get angry. Don't antagonize them, their life is hell enough already. Understandingly converse with them like you ought to with neighbors. Often these people are more victim then offender and mostly want to have an easy day just like you. Drugs and medication are commonly directly involved in their lives either as a cause of their suffering or as a means of escaping reality.

    Note that this behavior is the result of post traumatic stress disorder, and the depression is just as serious. It might also be prone with actual veterans, on top of eventual medication/drug abuse.

    A third party is the combined one.

    The ones that served in the army and use the adulation that comes from being a veteran. You start doubting if they didn't go into the army out of a curiosity for killing; whether they really killed because this was their goal, or became a soldier for the need for gratification and a sense of being capable enough to survive the adventure, sort of treating it as a joke, maybe as a coping mechanism, maybe because they don't take life or death too seriously. They can be friendly, but this is only to make sure you're not getting suspicious. Even trying to be the definition of friendly, a mere act, attempting to make you believe your conception about human nature has been wrong all the time. It might be part of their effort at hiding the traumatized part of their psychology due to what they've been through in the army, it might be because they are psychopaths who think you've deserved to be their company, or even both. It's impossible to look in their heads: they might have been a soldier, might have not, but have the scars and souvenirs to prove it. They might have killed people, might have not, but don't want you to know if they have a tendency to. They might have done it for fun, might have not, but they will do everything in their power to seem potent and boundlessly worthy of your trust. You simply don't know if your suspicions are true, but their effort at fighting your suspicions are done with the precision, tact and manipulation of a stone cold killer, a trained mercenary, a ninja with no soul. And did they become this way because of the army, or did they join the army because they are this way, and what did they precisely have up their sleeve? Perhaps it's better you never know.

    All three kinds have overlap. My grandfather has a bit of all three, but he was most of the above, having served forcibly (luckily he escaped before reaching the war zone but even though he never fired a shot he had been imprisoned by the enemy, I don't know what happened or how long his travel around the world went; all I know is he is a veteran and a beautiful person). The human mind has several ways to deal with trauma, but I'm not a psychologist. All I know is that depending on the person they're going to suffer differently and cope with it differently, but to some degree it is possible to categorize these stress related disorders.

    Edit; The answer is that all veterans are going to have to cope with it, and there is no bad way of coping with it. It's unfair to say there are bad people, and I'm making it look like there are, but I don't really know this for sure. I might have simply been facing someone's coping mechanism, which confused me because the person was a confusing person to me, not evil per se. They might be the same people as the first type; simply not hiding it under couches they are veterans, like doctors feel no need to be mysterious about their profession.

    I don't know what the stories of these people are, but not all of them seem as appealing to me, and whether it has anything to do with recovering from trauma? I have no effing clue, but the latter type might simply have more trouble recovering or simply doesn't really care about recovering. Disclaimer: they're not essentially psychopaths for not making it evident they aren't.

    Sorry if I offended anyone, I didn't mean to be insensitive and/or selfish.

    It's a weird question by the way. Is it for character development? For writing? You can make it whatever your imagination wants to make it. You can make it whatever your taste wants you to make it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your grandfather both served and did not serve? Is he Schrodinger's Grandpa?
     
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  8. Boger
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    Boger Contributing Member

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    I'm not Schrodinger. Nor was my cat his.

    I'm saying he served, but not voluntarily and that I don't know what types of problematic behaviors he displayed through his life, if any at all.

    I don't mean it's possible to be in said quantumstate, To display traits of both category doesn't mean you are of both, it means that the psyche has overlapping fields and that three examples have interchangeable things in common due to the nature of the human and to the nature of their experiences and how they recover.

    This thread is not about my grandfather per se, nor was my comment, intended to sketch a profile of what I personally think I know about it, and I'm not a professional, just someone with (un)fortunate connections.
     
  9. Artemus19
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    Artemus19 Member

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    The question was based almost solely on a character development stand point. I appreciate your delving into the personality types, however, it's given me a good center stage to begin adding variety.
     
  10. S Barnwell
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    S Barnwell Member

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    I would be looking at how he views his job; is it a 'means to an end' or a 'life-long ambition' or 'a family expectation'. These sorts of views are going to seriously affect how this character reacts to their job and takes on duties within the job itself.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've held back from answering in this thread in order to allow the evolution of an expected outcome. As you can see (to the OP) there are many different answers. This would seem intuitive given that there are many different situations under which one would join the service and many different manners of viewing the paradigm once in the service.

    I can only speak from my own experience:

    I grew up in the military. My parents were in the military and I joined the USAF just a week after graduating high school. For me, the life was a continuous, unbroken dynamic all the way up until I left the military 10 years after I joined. There are things about the military that I loved, that others might find restricting or simply see in a way that's different than I saw it for not having been enculturated to it. There is a kind of beauty to the order of life. There is an assurance that comes from walking into a room, sweeping your gaze across shoulders or collars and knowing, from the insignia you see, the general order of things. I wasn't a combat troop. I was a crypto-linguist, which is a fancy (and slightly misleading) term in the US Armed Forces for someone who collects intelligence via foreign language sources. The job I did was very insular because ESC (now subsumed into SAC) was a very small command that had little contact with other commands because of the nature of secure work. And by secure work, I mean security clearances, controlled information, controlled access, working in SCIFs or "vaults".

    When I left the military, though these are not the words I would have used, I sometimes felt like civilians were a different species. They did things for reasons that were difficult to parse, especially when laziness or self destructive behaviors were in play. I found them confusing and sometimes (brace yourself) beneath me. That was a long time ago, but those were honest impressions at the time.

    Military people the world over have a little saying amongst themselves that when out of uniform and even decades retired, they can spot one another from a mile away. It's true. There's a certain something about the carriage of a man or woman, a mark that is indelible.

    When I joined (1988) we were arguably at peace. Joining the military seemed like a natural thing for me because it was the life I already knew and there seemed to be little risk involved, at the time. I went to the DLIFLC to train as a Russian Linguist. I loved it. I mean I really loved it. After DLI I finished my training in a little nowhere town in east Texas, San Angelo (Goodfellow AFB). From there I went to Berlin, Germany, the place to be if you were a Russian Linguist in those last days of the Cold War.

    And then Desert Storm happened.

    I never in a million years thought it would touch me. I was a Russian Linguist. What the hell use would they have for me there? Turned out there was a use that had to do with other training we had received. And what had only ever been an academic concept - war - was a real thing. And I went happily, caught up in the GI-Joe, gung-ho, I will now prove that I am a real soldier-ness of the whole thing. Something that I already knew, in which I took great pride as well, but only really knew (again) in an academic way, became a practical reality when I was in the desert. My uniform was a promise. An unbreakable vow. It wasn't just clothing to be pressed and ironed and creased to perfection. It was part of a larger frame of mind that I adopted when I was there, and that combat troops already (and always) knew. Doing what you were trained to do and what you said you would do was something that everyone who worked with you had to be able to count on as a knowledge. Not a belief. A knowledge before the fact. There's no other way. And that was beautiful too. In fact, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. And that sounds a little crazy and fanatical, I know, but it's the truth. I loved it.

    When people come back from war, they often have difficulty talking about the relationships they had with the people with whom they served. It's because the level of intimacy you share in a situation like that is the kind of thing that's usually reserved for lovers and family. But these aren't your lovers (though sometimes they are) and they're not your blood family. So it's hard to use words meant for every day life to describe how you loved the brothers and sisters with whom you served in war because those words feel like too much, and at the same time they're not enough.
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for writing that - good reading. Random note about how small the world is: My mom was a Russian Linguist and Cryptologist in the US Navy for most of the 1980s - she got out the year you got in.
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Funny, that, aye?

    Here are some photos to show your mom, then. :)

    This is the path from where the USAF, Navy and Marines had their barracks, up over the hill, to the Russian School across from Army Foxtrot.

    [​IMG]

    This I took from my barracks room window. The building you see across the street is the Marine barracks.

    [​IMG]

    And though I don't think Mrs. Doskech was there long enough (at that time) for her to have been one of your mom's instructors, maybe Mr. Nemetski could have been. He had been there a while. :)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow - will have to send those to her and see who was around at the time. She certainly had some interesting stories from language school - did they make you translate the profanity-laced, accidentally intercepted argument between two drunken lighthouse keepers in Kamchatka who left their radio on?
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't remember that in particular, but there was nearly a month of just profanities and vulgarities in the coursework. :)
     
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  16. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    I don't have the experience Wreybies did since he served two decades before me, in a different service, and in a completely different branch. Not to mention he's a civilian now. I'm still in and have deployed to Afghanistan, not Iraq. Different wars, different experience.

    I can tell you that current military members certainly look at civilians with hostility many times. There's a element of laziness that seems to rest with many civilians. It's evident they don't take what they do as seriously as soldiers do. This isn't more evident than with team oriented subjects. Many times a soldier may feel alienated from the very society they fight for because the military has it's own sub-culture which may be at odds with that of it's own countrymen. Americans are a very freedom loving, independent people. This is awesome for many ways, but it does seem to generate a "me first" mentality that is completely absent in the military. One of the first things I was told when I arrived at Fort Sill was "It's not about you." It's something I see absent in a lot of civilians. This is just an example of the cultural difference between civilian v. military world, without getting into experiences of war.

    War is a completely different animal. The military will change you a bit, but if you serve completely in peacetime (as my father did), you're largely the same person you were going in...add some beliefs about duty and collective thinking. The horrible experiences of war literally change the mapping of the brain. It can turn a happy-positive type of person into a depressed shadow of their former selves. And, not all in the military have experience with this. I served on one of the most heavily shelled FOBs (Forward Operating Base) in Afghanistan. I was shot at every day. Still, this experience was very mild compared to some of my other buddies. The enemy never really got close to me. I never saw dead bodies (other than the ones I watched die on UAV feeds). I lived in a constant state of fear that the next rocket/mortar had my name on it...but deep down you knew the chances of dying were slim. My other buddies, however, had a completely different experience. They'd be shot at every day, come back to get some sleep in their racks, and get mortared while asleep. They saw dead bodies, severed limbs, starving populations. Many of them came back with PTSD. I did not. Just be aware, if you make a military character, who they are forms what they do and what they experience. If you write about an Army analyst, don't have him talk of experiences of fire fights...that's not his job.

    Lastly, don't make the mistake of assuming all military veterans are the same. I see it a lot. We may wear the same uniform but the veteran is just as diverse of a population as the civilian world. Sometimes even more so. The U.S. Army, for example, has just about every race and ethnicity represented in it. There is more diversity here than my college could ever boast about. And just because someone is a soldier doesn't make them a type A, manly meathead. I've met plenty of "nerds" throughout the army who do their time in at work, go back to the barrack, and play world of warcraft.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  17. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Speaking from my own personal experience serving in the Military, I am a lot more impatient about everything. I want to do things quickly, and get irritated when people are slow; not just moving around, but thinking, or talking. I seek brevity in everything.
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I swear a lot more. That's about it.
     
  19. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Finnish ex-soldier here.

    I was at the age of 19, when I served and to me, it had a big deal for my psychological development. I noticed a clear change in my values and after I quit, going back to 'normal civilian' life was rather hard. Suddenly my timetable was empty and it was my own job to fill it. Without a clear path to go for, it felt lonely and quite challenging. I didnt get any jobs, as our economy was going down and high school + military don't compete that well against true education. My reaction to all of that was anger and slightly bitter. Which was odd, because that wasn't part of pre-military me. I'm pretty certain military did some of the change.

    In the end, most of the events in our life can change us, so military isn't that special regarding the change. But I think the potential in the amount of the change is pretty huge.
     
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