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The Big Five Personality Traits and Your Vital Three Military Character Pillars


As you leave the military and go back to the civilian world, you might take a course or two at a college or university. If you take a course in psychology, you'll find out about the big five personality traits which civilians prize so highly. These are slightly technical, so I'll just give what's called the blind date version of the big five, and these are easy to remember.

Just think about a blind date and what you want to know about your blind date to understand the big five. You want to know for sure if your blind date is:

  1. Sane
  2. Outgoing
  3. Friendly
  4. Dependable
  5. Smart

And, that's easy to remember. You get past those with a civilian, and it's smooth sailing, a downhill march, clear air. Get those wrong, or allow someone to misunderstand or even misrepresent you, and watch out.

As only 5% of the U.S. population has served or has a family member who did, there's a massive misunderstanding about who you are and what you are. What's often unfair to veterans is you are going to be evaluated on the big five every day because you make civilians nervous. You do. 95% of the world doesn't get you.

Civilians aren't going to admit they are nervous and don't understand you, instead, they're going to say, "Thank you for your service," while not knowing a thing about it. That's standard. Get used to it, and don't get upset, it's how things are.

In the military, the big five personality traits only get your foot in the door at MEPS. That's all. Military people are concerned with three things, and three things only, which are:

  1. Duty
  2. Honor
  3. Courage

These are so important, so critical to your military career, they're right on the front of your uniform. Duty: how long have you served, where have you served, and service stripes with campaign ribbons show duty. Honor: a good conduct medal, a legion of honor medal, performance awards, and other medals. And, lastly Courage: air medals, service crosses, commendations, star awards, and the big one, which you'll only rarely see. Duty, Honor, and Courage are scary to civilians. Only first responders do that.

If you want to cross a bridge to the civilian world, you're going to have to meet people halfway.

Explain what you know: how the uniform works, for example, so civilians can understand you're sane, outgoing, friendly, dependable, and smart. Explain that it's interesting to be able to read a military uniform, what all that stuff on the uniform means, duty, honor, courage, for example. Then, ask a civilian to compare the differences between the two systems.

You might want to start by asking a civilian if they have 30 seconds to learn the ropes of the military, as in the rope on the uniform.

Ask them if they want to learn the ropes of the military uniform, how to read a uniform, and explain the rope over the shoulder tells the whole world you work for the General, you hold his horse. You're a 'horse holder' and that rope signifies this, and work for the General or Admiral means you have a different job from most people, like working directly for the boss.

Good to know stuff, right? You can ask a civilian how they identify someone who works directly for the boss, and tell them how we in the military know. It's simple. Look for the rope.

It can be a good way to get halfway across the bridge to civilians and start discussing. With civilians, remember; as long as you're sane, outgoing, friendly, dependable, and smart, every day, all the time, you've got a place.

Good luck.

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