While I was in the service I picked up many new and valuable traits that have been useful to me since I have gotten out. The one that I think is the most important to me and has been the most useful has been patience. It is also the one thing that changed the most from who I was before I joined the Army.
Before I joined the service, for as long as I can remember before that, I was most definitely not a patient person. Not to say that I was terribly impatient, just with certain things, like when I would try to fix something and it just wouldn’t go right, or if I’d be at a certain part in a video game that I knew how to beat but couldn’t seem to do it. Those kinds of things I would lose patience and get very frustrated rather quickly. Standing around was also a big issue for me.
Standing around is probably the first thing I got used to doing when I got to basic training. I spent around a week at the replacement battalion for in-processing, and aside from the few things we had to do every day, we mostly sat on bleacher seats and read our army manuals, or smart books as everyone seemed to call them. Once in basic the amount of time standing around lessoned a bit except waiting in the chow line. If we were the last battery to arrive, it was an hour of standing just to get food.
Half of my battery from basic wound up at the same unit when we were stationed at Ft. Hood after basic. Since this unit was just standing up (we did the unveiling of the battalion colors about four or five months after I got to the unit) we had no vehicles or other equipment besides two guns and CATs (our Paladins and the ammo vehicle). I don’t think I’ve ever sat around as much as I did those first few months at Ft. Hood.
Once we got our equipment and vehicles and actually started training as an artillery unit, I was thinking that we would finally be busy and it would feel like normal work hours again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For some reason, which still escapes me to this day, we would stand around almost all day and then around the time we should have been having final formation, which was supposed to be around 1700, we would suddenly have a long list of things that we should’ve gotten done that day. Except for the last two weeks before we deployed, we worked a minimum of 14 hours each day and most weekends. I’m not sure if this was to get us used to chaos before deployment, or if our BC really just didn’t care about us having family time before we deployed.
Now artillery came very easy to me, and I learned jobs above my rank very quickly. I like teaching people things, but I had never had too much patience for it if someone would struggle while I was teaching them. With the vast difference in backgrounds and personalities in the guys in our unit, I learned quickly that each person learns differently, and I had to adjust how I would teach things based on each person. That being said, I also learned how to be more patient in a class or a setting where someone is teaching and there is someone or maybe a group of people that hasn’t picked up on what was being taught as fast as some other people.
I also learned to be more patient in letting things develop. When an order or mission would come down, instead of rushing to get it done as soon as humanly possible, I learned to take a step back and assess the situation. More often than not I would either then figure out a more efficient way of doing it and therefore still get it done faster than the people who rushed to get it started, or a change would come down that I would be prepared to handle.
I also learned patience as far as life in general. Since I have been out I really notice the amount of things I see people stress about that really would be so much better if they would just take a step back and relax. I notice kids around campus that completely freak out when it comes to testing. I used to be one of those people even though testing was always my strongest thing in high school. Now I don’t concentrate on the stress of a test I’m studying for, and just study for the test. Same thing with homework. Take my time, do a good job, and everything should be alright.
Dealing with people and other veterans has also gotten easier for me since I’ve been out of the military. Each person I meet is different in their own way. Taking the time to learn about the person, whether it be a few extra seconds of listening for quick introductions or listening to a story one of my friends or family is telling, has allowed me to learn more and be able to deal with and interact with people much easier. Sometimes letting that one person who just has to be the leader do just that even though I think or have a better idea or way to do something has also sometimes made things easier. Instead of fighting about it or getting frustrated that things are not going the way I want them to I am able to relax and still accomplish the main objective.
There were many things and ideas I took from my time in the service, but patience has definitely shaped me differently than anything else. I am definitely not the person I was before I went in the Army, and I think that is a good thing. I would not be where I am today if I had not joined.