September 21, 2005

Curious George - A Guide to the Military for Dummies Hello all. I am looking for an information resource that can give me as a writer a primer on the military, it's ranks, customs, methodology, etc...

I have a couple of books for mystery writers called The Mystery Writer's Companion and The Crime Laboratory that give writers enough real world information about the police and detective world to write credible stories. I'm basically looking for the same thing, only about the military. A book would be great, a website even better (i.e. free). Anyone know of such a beast?

  • Which military are you trying to find out about. I'm a naval historian, if it helps.
  • Sorry, missing a question mark there...
  • I don't know a specific answer, but I've found some interesting stories in Vietnam Vet websites. I'd guess that each war/army has it's own particular vernacular. And they seem to use acronyms a lot. For one example, I found a site that described burning c4 (the explosive), gouged out of the back of a claymore mine, to heat food rations. Apparently the heating tabs supplied with the rations were pathetic, but c4 burns great even in the wet jungle. So using keywords like burn c4 heat claymore, I found more stories about jungle warfare in Vietnam. Any new story might use more slang unique to that place, which would feed more searches, and so on.
  • Specifically, I am writing a story told from the POV of an Army regular or possibly a national guardsmen in the Iraq war. If I can get it, I'd like to know how teams work, what the top down structures are, what the psyche of a grunt solider is, etc... I think the best way to describe what I want would be a sort of "cliff notes" of what the military is for non military folks so what I write doesn't sound completely absurd. Thanks ahead of time for whatever you monkeys might come up with.
  • I haven't seen anything that generalizes the experience, but I have found a few noteworthy individual stories. Here's an interesting blog entry (google cache, as I can't load the original right now) from Michale Yon in Iraq. He's embedded with some troops in Mosul, and describes a firefight there, with pics.
  • Dept. of the Army Pamphlet 10-1 [pdf] might help. As others suggested, probably reading current war blogs would be could for some reality, slang, the way things really work as opposed to above-linked pamphlet, etc. Some roundups of war blogs here and here.
  • There were a couple of blogs by troops stationed in Iraq, and who were on the front lines, which I used to read regularly, but they were shut down by the military on the theory that they were providing too much sensitive information, or something. Your best bet might be to find people who are no longer serving.
  • Go down to the army recruiter. I"m sure they will tell you all you need to know. Just don't sign anything!!!
  • squid, Amazon offers copies of The Watch Officer's Guide and similar publications for U.S. naval personnel. Sets out a fair number of protocols.
  • Join up. Nothing will teach you about army life more than a tour of duty in Iraq.
  • Errr, fuck that Skrik. It's not a war that I even remotely believe in. Besides that, I'm also not going to get pregnant if I wanna write a story about having babies. Of course, the fact that I'm a guy would kinda preclude that option, but you get the idea.
  • Wikipedia, follow the links.
  • There are tons and tons of miliary links on the net. It's one of those subjects that encourages enthusiasts. However, be careful. Enthusiasts will often present a picture of military life that is, not so much glorified or romanticiesed these days, but naritivised. They will tell thing such that they make a good story, rather than an accurate one. Military cultures are highly ideosyncratic. The best thing to do is read, as people have already suggested, reminicences. There is a book I havn't read yet, but have had recommended to me by collegues, called Generation Kill, which is supposed to be a very accurate view of combat culture in the current Iraq War. What else... Play video-games. That sounds silly, but I'm not kidding. I'm actually trying to work on a program to use video-games to instruct students here, and the actual military has been doing it for years. There's a free, downloadable game called America's Army. It shows a very recruitment-friendly view of the US Army, but it actually captures some of the flavour of combat (sans blood). Also, you'll get a lot of the messages that modern US soldiers are taught, so it will help to get the organisatioinal ethos kind of right. Which is to say, imagine how a bunch of 18 year olds inculcated with those messages might behave. War blogs will get you a lot of the feeling of how people behave out there, but they won't capture operational details. Still, very worth checking out.
  • Just drop and give me twenty!
  • Try The Last True Story I'll ever tell for good insight into a grunts psyche. I know it's not an online resource, but it's a damned good book.
  • I was looking recently for some first person comments on GIs who had spent the holidays in Iraq for an article. Queried a couple of veterans' web-sites and got multiple responses back same day/next day. Want to know how a grunt thinks, ask a grunt.
  • senior sprocket, do tell the websites you went to.
  • I don't actually remember where I finally made contact, but what I do remember and probably what you want to know is the method: I Google'd iraq war veterans support (and because I wanted to localize it I added the state), then browsed the first couple of pages for something that looked like it was up my alley. It sort of depends too on the slant you're looking for (e.g. anti-war, try vaiw, or optruth, etc. -- btw I use those two as an example only because they came up on the first page of google when I searched just now, so spare the messenger). You might also try contacting a veterans hospital or returning national guard unit in your area.
  • BTW: Monkeyfilter: I wanna write a story about having babies