Monday, September 9, 2013

Military Ranks

The military. Enlisted. Officers. Military spouses. My opinion.

I attempted to start a blog post about all of these things about 20 times. I had to keep erasing. My readers who are not military spouses, I will guess you are confused. For the military spouses, I'm guessing you are intrigued. Here is the thing... the separation of enlisted and officer spouses is like the elephant in the room. It's the question on the tip of every wife's tongue. "Who is your husband?" But nobody admits it.

There are a rare few who want to hear a birth name in response. Most spouses really just want to know if the husband is an officer or enlisted. Why? Because there is well established military culture which honors an imaginary line between officer and enlisted. Our knee jerk reaction is 'We can't be friends'. An overstatement at best. A complete generalization, I know. But there is truth here.

Spouses do not have rank. That is what they say. Bottom line, our military families haven't quite figured out how to look past the issue. In my 15 years as military spouse, I find those who successfully blur the lines to be few and far between. There is no rank more guilty than another. Quick judgements exist on both sides of the lines. Insecurities hold us back. The challenge is to push past the comfort zone of friends at arms reach and not accept the preconceived ideas of who they are.

Recently, my kids have become interested in the military ranking system. I'm sure my husband's recent promotion sparked their interest. Nonetheless, they ask questions. The raw honest questions which usually have to do with why and why not. Lately it has been why some Marines are officers and others are enlisted. We tell them the most basic difference is education. Officers A.) have a bachelor's degree and B.) are trained at an Officer Training School (OSC).  Don't get me wrong some enlisted military members join the military with a college degree. However, still not an officer until they complete OCS.

I always tell my children if they want to join the military become an officer. There are several reasons why I encourage this. #1 I want them to finish college. #2 Financially it makes better sense especially if you retire. #3 The officer ranks have created a strong support system for their families. I believe it's something the enlisted have not achieved.  #4 Being an enlisted military member is sort of the shit end of the deal. Enlisted are the worker bees. They make the plans happen. The yes sir, yes ma'am person.

Then there are things I love about the enlisted side. #1 We don't have a hundred work related social events to attend in our free time. #2 My husband doesn't have to move every 1-2 years. #3 He doesn't (typically) have to deal with work outside of work.

Ultimately, the military is the military. The job couldn't be done without any rank. The officer and enlisted ranks carry individual responsibilities needing recognition. As far as the separation between spouses, I think the key is how you approach it. I have found the way I treat people is typically the way people treat me. I guess the Golden Rule still applies. There is always going to be a spouse who believes fraternization applies to them. A character flaw.  I am not really interested in getting to know them.

My best advice is to be yourself. Don't chat about the military. Smile. Be funny. Blur the line. Those interactions make better conversations anyways!

Linking up with Eights on the Move


  1. I love your advice! My husband and I are generally open and friendly people. When it comes to socializing, as long as you're fun and don't bring the drama we can be friends.

  2. Found your blog through the Military Monday Link up. Absolutely loved how you put it, because it's so true! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Although I am married to a Marine I really know nothing about the ranks, officers, differences, etc. So this was actually very helpful and educational for me.

  4. My husbands closest friends are all Officers. Why? Because his last two combat deployments, he roomed with his platoon commanders. In turn, one of them became my children's godfather. Through my husband, I became really good friends with their wives. Rank has never been an issue, and my husband has always been able to keep it professional at work. I think the problem lies when spouses go to work and can't keep it professional. Now, if my husband was not a SNCO, I doubt he would have been "roomies" with his plt commanders, and I highly doubt they would hang out outside of work. I also realized when I became a SSgt, I was always lumped in with Officers when it came to socials and meetings. I guess it's all how you look at it! I live this post!

  5. I really hate the politics of it all. I just think it's so silly. And the women who think they wear their husbands opinion of them is that they have no achievements of their own so they need to piggy back on their husband's achievements. I started writing a post about this a few days ago (and have started one many times) and I just can't get it out without sounding really mean.

    1. Hi Chelsea! I think you should totally write it & link up with us :) No judgements, girl! I'm here to learn as much as I can from as many opinions & experiences as possible :)

  6. I love this! I am not my husband...and I'm not trying to be. :)

  7. Love this for a million reasons! Wives don't have rank, so why so many people let it become an issue is beyond me. Let our husbands deal with that, and we can just enjoy each other's company- that's my thought anyway!


  8. I LOVE this! We were lower enlisted {LCPL}... and yet I had no problem carrying on a conversation with the WO's wife [and now that both my husband AND the WO are retired, we maintain a nice friendship with them AND their adult children our age]. It really is all about how you treat the situation.

  9. I so very much appreciate your opinion! And I love that you address that positives of being on both sides of the military. I'm incredibly grateful to have had 2+ years of my husband being enlisted to now carry with me as he embarks on the Officer side of things. Thanks for linking up, Nicole! (And hooray for a new blog to read!)

  10. I don't know if it's just my personality, but I've always been of the mindset that I will speak to and socialize with whoever I want to, regardless of external "barriers". I had every intention of doing the same once the husband returns and we settle up on a permanent station. I didn't know there was this invisible line in the proverbial sand, but I'm going to go ahead and ignore it and continue making friends with anyone I like! This is just crap other people make up to feel more important and less insecure.. Great post!

  11. Great advice! My husband is enlisted but we get along with everyone. I never come out and say, "Hi, my husband is enlisted, how are you?" I rarely mention my husband's rank. That's his deal.

  12. Our first duty station as a married couple was in Guam where my husband was on a submarine. Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no family around and the men gone most of the time, all of the wives became family. It didn't matter who your husband was. It was by far my favorite command for the camaraderie. I loved the family feel.

  13. Great post! I've been wanting to post something similar also, because I get a ton of google searches that lead to the blog about officer/enlisted. I have many friends on both sides. To me, it doesn't matter who your husband is. Going through deployment together helps you realize that everyone is going through the same situation. However, I do find that I have stronger relationships with other officer spouses. But only because we're able to get together as families with the guys involved on the weekends.

  14. Amen! I try to keep my 'military life' blogging to a minimum because like you said, a lot of people won't understand it but you're right. I overheard some officers wives out here make remarks about enlisted spouses and hold themselves with a sense of entitlement that is not theirs to hold.

    I don't think your husband remembers seeing you in his Officer Schooling classes....

    I'm just sayin'

  15. Thanks for having the guts to post this. Not only do I blur the lines, but since I have never changed my last name, people often have little choice but to get to know me before they have a chance to figure out who my marine is. Sadly, some do treat me differently once they find out. But that's their issue and at least I figured it out sooner rather than later.