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  • Writer's pictureJoe Miller

Pro Tip: The Veteran Series for the Non-Veterans

A little basic background. There are four main branches of the U.S. Armed Services.

Army: Provide land dominance across the full spectrum of conflict Navy: Deter aggression and maintain freedom of the seas Air Force: Control airspace through fighter/bomber aircraft and missiles Marines: Deploys fast for combat operations in very hostile territory Junior enlisted ranks: Entry-level workers who earn the respect of peers for doing as they are told quickly and efficiently, generally referred to as "Private" (Army or Marine), "Airman" (Air Force), or"Sailor/Seaman" (Navy). One quick point on Marines. Marines are trained to be Rifleman first. Regardless of their military occupation (i.e., clerk, mechanic, driver), they are expected to maintain a very high level of physical fitness, marksmanship, and tactical proficiency. The term “Soldier” is used incorrectly to reference Marine personnel. Marines usually won’t correct you, but knowing the general term for a Marine is “Marine” and not “Soldier” could score some rapport points. A former Marine won’t refer to themselves as an ex-Marine like a soldier might refer to themselves as “ex-Army”. To Marines, there are only a few classifications for Marines: Marine Recruit, Marine, Former Marine, and Dead Marine. Crisis Communication Tip: Frequently when a veteran (or even a non-veteran) is barricaded, they will exaggerate or outright lie about their military service and/or training. If I had a nickel for every faux Navy SEAL I’ve dealt with, well, I guess I wouldn’t have to go to work today. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman describes this in his great work on the physiological effects of combat stress, “On Combat”. The brain perceives a threat and shifts into Midbrain Function. This tends to manifest in behaviors classified as Fight, Flight, Posture, or Submit. The posture response is when the organism puffs up in an attempt to appear more dangerous than it is to dissuade a stronger predator from attacking it. Picture a pufferfish, or better yet, a house cat cornered by the family dog. The barricaded person lying about their service and/or training may be an example of this sort of posturing. No matter how offensive we find this “stolen valor”, it’s not our job to investigate (at least at this point). Our job is to develop rapport and attempt to make threatening and violent behavior less threatening and less violent. Calling the person on their lie is one of those situations where, if it makes us feel good…it’s no good. Instead, use a helpful, encouraging tone and ask open-ended, non-investigative questions. Use active listening techniques like, “I hear what you’re saying, it sounds like you’re not the type who does things the easy way”, to plant a subliminal suggestion. If we do our job in rapport building, we can use this suggestion when it’s time to do another “not easy thing”, like coming out from the barricade.


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