The Quickest Way to Ruin Your Military Career

In my opinion, the quickest way to ruin your military career in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves, Active Duty, or any other service component is to do something that makes your organization or the military look bad. I’ve seen it happen many times in my military career and it is never a good thing for the Soldier involved, or the military.

What are some of the stupid things you can do that might ruin your military career?

  • Domestic abuse
  • Drinking and driving
  • Wearing awards you aren’t authorized
  • Adultery
  • Wearing a uniform in a protest
  • Speaking badly about the military on or off record
  • Venting your views about the military on television, online or on the radio
  • Talking politics while in uniform
  • Publishing stuff on Facebook, YouTube or any social media site that brings discredit to the service
  • Murder, rape, or any other type of crime
  • Getting arrested for any reason
  • Doing anything shameful in combat that brings shame to the military or your unit

These are just some examples.

If you ever become “disgruntled” with the organization you serve in, or the military in general, keep it to yourself.  Be careful who you share your thoughts with.  It almost always backfires.  And you never REALLY know who you are talking to.  The person you are talking with might be best buddies with the person you are talking about.

Don’t go on record to vent.  EVER. Realize that there is no such thing as “off record” when you talk to the media.  Don’t do, say or write ANYTHING that makes the military look bad.

If you are really disgruntled with the military, you should just resign or get out.  If you hate your unit or your chain of command, get a transfer to another unit.  And even if neither of these two options are available, you still need to be a professional.

As a Soldier, you must realize that you represent the government.  Everything you do or say while in uniform is a direct reflection of you, your unit, military, the government and the United States of America.  And trust me, people are watching you.  Now that everyone has Smart Phones, access to video cameras, and social media accounts, anything you do or say can be recorded and published for the whole world to see, in a matter of seconds.

I’m not writing any of this to scare you.  You don’t need to be scared.  You just need to use some common sense.  Whenever you put on your uniform, be a PROFESSIONAL.  Take pride in what you do and lead by example.  Bring CREDIT and HONOR to the uniform at all the times.  If you are ever in a situation that could potentially backfire, stand the high ground and always do the right thing.

Even when you are off duty, remember that you are still a Soldier at all times.  It takes years to build a successful military career and just seconds to ruin it.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think is the fastest way to ruin your military career?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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12 thoughts on “The Quickest Way to Ruin Your Military Career”

  1. I have seen military people come on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites talking politics. I look at their profile picture and see the person in uniform. The political items they are talking about are not always of military nature, but it could still look bad upon them and their branch of service. Yes, you may be a Republican with a Democrat for President, but you need to remember that he is your top boss. You may think you have the right to say things, but you are killing your career. There is a time to speak, and a time not to.

    Great post Chuck. I hope many who are doing this type of thing read this post.

      1. I would also say that if you are that disgruntled with the Army, or any other branch of service, maybe it is time to get out. Staying in for just the retirement money is not always the best choice. I have seen people stay in something they hated for retirement money, and when they finally end up retiring, it seems they die soon after.

        Life is just too short to stay somewhere you do not want to be. There are plenty of other opportunities to do something you will enjoy.

  2. Theresa Williams

    I think the fastest way to ruin your military career is to vent in a public forum. It’s a stupid mistake that so many make or is so easy to make. On the flip side, I think the slowest one to ruin your career is adultery. Yes, there are punitive actions taken against that but it’s hard to catch wind of and hard to prove. Especially if it’s two military personnel committing adultery with each other. There was one such case in my husband’s unit where a woman was married but separated from her husband and was having an affair with a married NCO. The NCO PCOSed but the rumors about the woman kept circulating. She did definitely have an affair with another soldier (not married) but when action started to be taken against her, she then accused an innocent party of harassment and, because he was her superior, he was reassigned and put through hell and then further action against her adultery violations was never taken. She and her husband decided not to divorce and she was moved to a different job but still reaps many benefits and sympathy from her (false) claim of harassment. Sad situation.

  3. These are ALL very quick ways to get booted from any branch of the military. The UCMJ has punitive articles detailing basically every offense that you mentioned, all of which are illegal and punishable in a court of law. For the majority of these offenses, that punishment will almost surely come in the form of dishonorable discharge from the military. I personally think the worst offensives are those that endangered not only your fellow soldiers, but your entire country (espionage, conspiracy, mutiny, etc).

  4. I truly believe that the fastest way to ruin a military career is to do something public that can be picked up by the media and broadcast to the world. One of the most devastating is, as you suggest, putting anything disrespectful or that can be perceived as disrespectful out on social media. It doesn’t matter if you are joking — we all know sometimes stress and an odd sense of humor can backfire. Nowhere is that more likely than on social media.

    Remember the picture that went viral with the Wisconsin unit that was goofing around a flag-draped coffin? Then there was the one with the Air Force guy actually IN the casket. The repercussions to those soldiers were likely at a level that completely ended their military careers.

    Don’t joke in a disrespectful way, and if you find you need to, don’t take pictures. If you are crazy enough to take pictures, then for Pete’s sake, don’t post them on Instagram or Facebook! The media WILL find them.

    1. I agree. Social media has definitely changed things. Before cell phones and social media, stuff like that seldom happened. If it did happen, no one found out about it. Now, with a few clicks and a quick online search, you can find just about anything.

  5. It’s terrible to see talented and hardworking Soldiers ruin their careers because of a dumb (and sometimes not dumb but outright stupid crime – like murder or a shameful one like rape) decision that in the end, they end up deeply regretting. Being in the military is a decision, and in making that decision, one accepts the rules. Breaking the rules, like anywhere else, results in punishments!

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