“Proceeding Sir” 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Joining the Military

“Oh the joys of basic training.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I know I would return back to Lackland AFB (Now Joint Base San Antonio [JSBA-San Antonio]). Crazy! I went to basic training on November 13, 2001. We were still dealing with the aftermath of September 11th, and teenage Danielle was still trying to figure out this thing called life.

FYI: I’m 35, and still trying to figure out this thing called life

I got off that bus with a little knowledge of what to expect, but not a whole lot. I tried to get into working out about before I left, but I have just never been an athletic girl (SPOILER ALERT: I still struggle with it, but well talk about that later). Little did I know that it was going to be such a reality check for me. Not saying coming straight out of high school is not a good choice, but having some life experience before entering into the military might have helped prepare me for what was to come. Without further ado, here are some things you might want to consider becoming accustomed to before entering the military (any branch).

1. Become more accustomed to standing up when someone enters the  room

This is something I never did growing up, so being told I have to stand up every time someone walked in the room, caught me off guard. It is not a bad thing to be used to doing in general. You see, this is a custom and courtesy they are teaching us. Something that will carry on into any position you may have (whether it be military or civilian). If you went up to someone in the store, would you want them to talk to you sitting down scrolling After being in the military for a while, I cannot even imagine sitting at my desk.

2. Become accustomed to saying Sir/Ma’am to everyone

Customs and courtesy are values that are instilled in us to get us more familiarized with how to show respect to one another. Personally, I think everyone should be treated equally. That has been my mentality all of my life (and military career), but there are some people who are just more important than you, and even if you have no earthly idea who they are, you are required to be respectful. In my opinion, I think you may want to become accustomed to using sir/ma’am with everyone you encounter. That way when you come in contact with someone of high importance that you may have never met a day in your military career, you won’t slip up and disregard their presence. There may be younger men and women who may not want you to say sir/ma’am (I was once guilty of correcting airmen when they used ma’am), but continue to keep that professionalism, so they understand you respect them and you mean business.

3. Start participating in family functions you hate going to

So in the military, there are going to be times when you have to attend functions you REALLY don’t want to go to. UGH! Right. There are going to be promotion ceremonies, retirement parties, and social gatherings that you are just not going to want to go to. I’m telling you the honest to God truth. You just put in all these hours of work with some people you probably don’t care for personally. Now you have to go and mingle with them. Lol. It’s going to happen. So, I’d say start going to those family gatherings that you have been avoiding all these years. It will start building that thick skin you’re going to need when the time comes you’re invited to an extracurricular activity that you’re just not wanting to go to. It will be known as MANDATORY FUN! Lol. SN: We sometimes say this in our household now that our oldest is starting to get moody, and doesn’t really want to do the kid adventures that his brother wants to do it. “You’re going to do it and you’re going to do it with a smile!”

4. Make it a habit to volunteer

Even if you have to volunteer at your local soup kitchen, make this become a normal habit for you. Keep in mind, you do not have to volunteer for everything, but you should consider giving back to the community throughout the year. This could be as simple as being a mentor at your local Boys & Girls Club. This will help you out in the long-run. In the military, the whole-person concept is key. Whether you give back to the local community will be looked at, and could hold up your promotion.

5. Understand the concept of “the best answer”

Now this is the hardest part of being in the military…Let me correct that…This is the hardest part of being in the Air Force. The best way to explain this is to use a scenario.

            Tammy is an NCO in the USAF. After a 12-hour shift, she is off for the weekend and is headed home for the evening to spend time with her husband and two kids. She gets a call that her airmen she supervises (who is not on her shift) saying she’s very distraught and would like to talk. What should Tammy do?

1. Let her airmen know she just got off shift and could talk to her in the morning

2. Let her airmen know that she can talk to her over the phone while she drives home

3. Ask her airmen where she is; tell her airman she is on the way to her location but will need to call your family to let them know she has to handle something with work

If you chose c, then you have chosen the correct answer. We will discuss why in the next topic.

6. Putting your Position before your Family

Now, we all get a little selfish sometimes (even those who are parents), but that can’t always happen when you’re in the military. See you signed a contract, and believe it or not, you can be called upon at any moment. There will be countless occasions that you are going to be on your way out the door, and you’re going to be asked to stay, and guess what? You can’t say no. You may even be halfway home, and your phone starts to ring, and your supervisor is on the other line asking you to come back to work to fix an issue that was overlooked. There will even be times you’re going to have to deploy, where you will have to leave your family. See when you’re in the military, there is no such thing as an OFF BUTTON. There will be countless times when you have to put your position before your family (SERVICE BEFORE SELF~ Core Value in USAF).

7. Start making exercise a normality

This is kind of self-explanatory. I still struggle with this one as I hit 17 years in the military. I’ve never been athletic, but believe it or not, that’s not what it’s about. Depending on the branch you choose to join, being in-shape will always be a big deal. This is not saying “larger people” can’t be in the military. This is saying that physically fit people are what most branches are searching for. So, exercising will have to become second nature. As you get older (as I’m experiencing), the physical fitness test is harder to complete. I take advantage of the time allotted for me to workout during duty hours. That way I’m not cutting into my personal time. Making exercise a regular practice will definitely make physical fitness tests a breeze.

8. Become a Go-Getter

Don’t be afraid to volunteer to organize an event. Don’t be afraid to take on a new project. Take a class that you know will help you out in the long run. I say this because this will help build character, for one, but it will also show your dedication to excelling in your position.

9. Become familiar with “hurry up and wait!”

Now, this right here is something I think everyone experiences, but the military just takes it to an extreme. You will experience a time when you will have to show up to appointments (or destinations) 2-3 hours in advance just to wait the entire time. In the military’s defense, it’s normally done during large gatherings JUST IN CASE you have that one guy who just doesn’t know how to show up on time. Just be prepared.

10. You Will Never Be The Same

Lastly, after you add up everything I mentioned, stir it in a pot mixed with you, and you get a better you. Regardless if you stay in the military for 20 years or 4, you will become a different person overall. You will get nervous when you are cutting close to showing up on time. Your body will become accustomed to waking up at a certain time. You will learn to put everything you have into everything you do because it is a representation of you.

The decision to become part of the military will be one of the best decisions you ever made. There are going to be times that you want to give up, but do what you have to do to stay focus. I promise you the discipline you will learn in the military will last you a lifetime.

Try and thank a veteran today for their sacrifice



  1. You’re a hero! Thank you so much for your service! Love reading your story because I have many friends too that are in the military and I actually don’t know much about what their day looks like. Thanks for the insight!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful journey you have had and great tips here that are great for everyone to utilize in some way. I appreciate it and congrats to you on 17 years in! I am a military kid, my dad retired from the Navy so I appreciate your service and all that our service men and women do each and every day.Thank you 🙂


  3. I LOVE THIS POST!!! This is something many of us didn’t know about before entering the military and it is definitely life changing especially if you didn’t grow up with some of these traits. Thank you for sharing this!!! Thank you for serving!


  4. The standing up when someone enters a room would also be weird to me. I don’t know if I would remember to do that all the time. I can only imagine that you’d never be the same after being in the military.


    1. Yea. I get that a lot. It’s expected for certain ranks, but after being in for so long, I feel it’s rude to hold a professional conversation sitting down. That’s just my opinion though. After loads of leadership training, I always try to be physically at the same level (nonverbal behavior). That way my subordinate doesn’t think less of themselves, and also I am showing them I’m actively listening just by stopping what your doing and standing to hold a conversation. Same thing goes with my supervisors. They know I’m not distracted when I stand up and talk to them.


    1. No problem. A lot of people don’t understand the things that go with being in the military. At the end of the day, we are a family. Every family wants its members to be a great example hence why it’s a bit strict.


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