Five Common Military Stereotypes Debunked

Retiring military professionals transitioning to civilian life and preparing for a job search in the private sector face many challenges. Sometimes there is a misinformed stereotype associated with military personnel that can be difficult to shake during a job search.

AOL Jobs spoke to executive career coach Don Orlando of The McLean Group to debunk the stereotypes and learn more about how today's transitioning military professionals can add value to the private sector.

Here are the five common stereotypes, and the reality behind them.

No. 1

The stereotype: Military people are rigid. They know only one way to do anything.

The reality: Officers and NCOs are taught again and again that the key to success is flexibility and innovation. They know they won't be promoted unless they demonstrate those capabilities on the job regularly.

No. 2

The stereotype: Military people never had to think. They had only to give and take orders.

The reality: When I ask retiring full colonels and chief master sergeants, "How many of you have ever given a direct order?" I will usually find only one example in a group of a dozen whose combined service easily exceeds 240 years.

Today's military is smarter than ever. Service members won't accept blind orders.

No. 3

The stereotype: Military people don't understand profit and loss.

The reality: Civilians are always surprised to learn the uniformed services must compete in the "real world." For example, even though the Air Force's Air Mobility Command is structured to provide airlift, the work can go to a commercial carrier if AMC can't compete (and that reflects on the commander and staff of AMC).

During the A76 program, the Air Force had to complete with private contractors to provide non-combat-related services. It was done through a request for proposal -- just like in the civilian world. (btw, the Air Force lost to the contractors.)

No. 4

The stereotype: Military people had unlimited resources in money, people, and equipment.

The reality: Almost every element of the uniformed services is chronically understaffed and underfunded. Officers and NCOs are specifically evaluated on this aspect in every performance review. Today, our military is stretched even thinner because of Iraq and Afghanistan.

No. 5

The stereotype: Senior military are prima donnas.

The reality: I'm sure there are a few. But people don't stay for a 20-year career to be very well paid or enjoy exclusive perks. The average retiring colonel or chief master sergeant makes a small fraction of what a civilian counterpart makes, even though his or her responsibilities are much greater.

Next: Military Families Week

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After reading the article and a lot of the comments, I feel I need to point a few things out. I retired as an Army Master Sergeant with 26 years of service.

Was I paid well? I thought so. Of course I was doing work for which I would be paid well in the civilian sector, probably better than I was paid in the military. To put it in perspective, I had a friend that would take charge of failing factories and straighten out the problems. He was paid very well for this. He asked me to join him as an Operations Manager. My pay would have been double what I made in the military.

Retirement? Great deal. It is an incentive to keep people in the military so that people like me would not leave for the higher paying civilian jobs.

VA disability? Yes I get that plus SSDI. I'm not shy about saying that and here are the reasons I get it. I beat the tar out of my body for 26 years. I dislocated my shoulder, broke ribs, wrists, and sprained a whole lot of body parts. That may make me seem like a klutz, but I was combat arms and rode around standing up for days at a time, and my body was in danger every time I went out on my tank. It is hard work, you get to carry around things that weigh 75 pounds or more on your shoulder. Not nice and flexible things like bags of dog food, but nice hard things like fifty caliber machine guns. Of course the job also necessitated jumping on, off, over and under things lol. Then there are those wonderful things you see that you don't normally see in the civilian sector. Things like your friend pulling himself toward his weapon because he can no longer move his legs. Talking to the wife of another friend after his helicopter crashed and he was torn in two. Seeing the brains of people scattered on the ground in front of you. Fun times, not often enjoyed by civilians.

Some people might say I was stupid for loving my country enough to go through all that, but they will never understand.

When I got out, I applied for a job at a local Target and was interviewed by a 21 year old woman who told me I had no idea what customer service was because I had been in the military so long. She had no understanding that customer service is practiced by all leaders in the military when we balance the professional life of our soldiers, and yes that is a big part of it. She had no understanding that when we I was in staff or instructor positions I did have customers.

The bottom line is that most civilians do not have a clue what happens in the military, or what skills are required by the various ranks.

Oh, and to the person who noted that 30% of the budget outlay is for defense, you forgot to mention that an even greater percentage is allocated for those who can no longer work and collect social security and SSDi, as well as people who do not get paid enough to live on, and my favorite THOSE WHO DON"T WORK, some of whom never had.

God bless our country and those who serve

April 18 2011 at 10:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tim's comment
Roberts Family

So sorry you were treated that way! I want you to know I appreciate your service and your sacrifice! I personally would hire a soldier because they definitely know work, have been around many different personalities and can put up with just about anything. That soldier and his family has had to make many moves to different places, therefore having to making new friends in a town that he might not stay in very long...that would definitely be a plus for customer service! The soldier looking for a job has had to get up early and start their prior job before daylight, there was no such thing as being late for work and they are use to following orders from higher up...sounds like a great employee to me! And to the twenty something girl who doesn't understand Military life...she's needs to find out more before she downs a life she knows nothing about!!

April 28 2011 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Stacey, Mesager42 did not say what rank he retired at. He only wrote about what his experience was at E-4.
GET HIM BOY ! ! Jump on his chest until his ribs cave in ! Rip his throat out !
I guess you told him, HUH !

Really, you just wanted to bleed off a little of your hate for the life you have.
You are as sad as is most of the people in this world.

April 18 2011 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The entire article is BS my husband is one of those Chief Master Sergeants..and they do understand profit and loss statements...they have a budget for the entire year..its not as though they can ask for more money for staples....deployments etc. come out of their funds. He is extremely smart...not like just anyone can make E9 in the Air Force..there is a TEST and it is also based on what you have done..who you have been in your career...he is not an ass kisser..he is nose to the grind stone kind of guy..the year he made Chief He was working on his Double Masters Degree in Human Resources and Management. I dont know many people outside the military who can say they have two Masters..1 yes or at least a BS or BA...but come on...BS! If you are cant do the job they have to communicate and figure out the best way to do any job..but especially so in the military.

April 18 2011 at 9:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chstburton's comment

I believe that you misread the article. It was strongly in favor for military personnel and conveyed the misconceptions along with the reality. I have seen when I was in service at times when flexibility was almost non existant. However there have been many times when they found out that you have to adapt and overcome a obstacle. If you cant do that, then you are subject to fail. Again the article is supportive of what you are saying, not downing ex military personnel.

April 18 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any vet (particulary enlisted personnel) can tell you that Military Jstice is an oxymoron.

April 18 2011 at 9:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What kind of crap is this article? Most things they have you do in the military dont make sense; but you are ordered to do so; so you do it. They do not understand profit and loss. Anyone in the military can tell you wasteful spending horror stories. The military does use commercial air transport and even the article says so because "they cannot compete". Anyone see anything wrong with that picture? They cant compete to fly a plane which pays its maitnenance people; pilots etc a fraction of what an airline pays? They also get fuel cheaper; etc and they cant compete after all that? That means the system is broke and they refuse to fix it. This whole article is totally BS if you asked me.

April 18 2011 at 9:51 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Larry Sanchez

As a US Army vetran with 11 years of service I can tell you this . There are double standards for enlisted personel and Officers . Don't get me wrong I had the pleasure of working with some fantastic officers . But as an MP I also saw enlisted men getting busted for things and loosing rank and getting brig time and I saw Officers committing the same ofenses and getting a slap on the wrist . Any time I pkaced an officer under aprehension for suxh things as drunk driving , drunk and disorderly and assault . I had to call the duty officer who was also a commisioned officer usually a Lt. or a Captain and they would often tell me to just let the officer go without even filing a report as to not hurt the oficers career . However enlisted personel were put in a cell and a full report made , before releasing them to the custody of their Company commander or 1st Sargent .

April 18 2011 at 9:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Larry Sanchez's comment

Yes, I saw that as well. However, it also depends on what kind of work you are doing. I was in personnel and MP's really didnt want to touch us if they could avoid it. I even had a Warrant officer tell us that if we were arrested for anything short of murder, to call him and he could pull strings to get us out of it.

April 18 2011 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most civilians that ave never put uniform on /or lived anther life cannot not relate and they are reserved in their actions about how to treat the former uniformed service people. It is not as simple as it should be ,jealoulsy can be be ivolved here ,one of the first thing si notice that a non unifomed person will do is try to discredit the unformed person in some way( maybe so they wil not feel intimatdated) i do not realy understand that maybe its because it is the unknown they are scared of their own unknown,
The next and i am not trying to start any wars brtweeen the branches but there is daylight and dark in the backgrounds of the arm forces branches there has to be,they operate under different conditions pressures,i could go on,you just cannot group all forces under one heading regardless of what your intentions are,There are more orders given to ground troops, than say an office while office can be stressfull in it self,what seperates the units is the vast amunt of numbers of troops and the constantling changing envioroment eithe the opposing force ,the focus,the weather ,the machinery,there is million things that might need to change in a matter of hours THis is not a simple comparision to make.

April 18 2011 at 8:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

almost sounds like they are pumping us up to spend more money on the military. how about fewer bombs instead ?

April 18 2011 at 7:55 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to popstarkidnap's comment

@popstarkidnap: Almost sounds like you have your own ulterior agenda. Where exactly do you get that the article is about trying to get us to spend more on the military? It's obviously an attempt to debunk some stereotypes, that's all.

April 18 2011 at 8:21 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Our military allows you to be where you are, saying what you are saying.

April 18 2011 at 8:30 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to angler725's comment

Not since our Revolution has their been a credible threat against our rights from outside. It the judicial system and law enforcement that allow us to to be where we are and say what we're saying.

April 18 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

@Chasstout.... if you believe that, you haven't been paying attention. Where did you think WW2 was gonna end if we didn't get involved (we'd be speaking German on the mainland and probably Japanese in Hawaii and Alaska).

April 18 2011 at 9:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

When I discharged the hardest thing to cope with was the backstabbing and other employees only consideration is to move up the ladder and not care who they walk over. In the military you are taught to watch each others back and to not leave anyone behind. In the real world its all about "me."

April 18 2011 at 5:52 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to knightrang's comment

LOL there is tons of backstabbing in the military...people try to out do one another to get the prime job..where have you been?

April 18 2011 at 10:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One small suggestion for clarification - a direct order means the subordinate is being directed to do something usually in a specific fasion. So, a direct order to police the company area while duck-walking is a direct order. (Been there, done that) Being ordered to the infirmary because you are sick is no less an order, but you can choose how you get there.

April 18 2011 at 5:25 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wilkesgm's comment

yeah, telling the company to march is not a direct order, telling an individual to report to captain's mast IS (as an E-5 my husband had to hand out a few of those over the years) the writers of a lot of these "military family week" articles are as full of it as, well some COs i have met over the years *lol*

April 18 2011 at 5:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
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