My nickname was Ishmael for the first few months on a team. Being a new guy is an interesting experience and fun, just not for you.

You’ve all heard it. FNG – “Fucking New Guy.” That was me; it was you and if it wasn’t it will be. It’s not fun but, it’s not the worst, either. Often, in Special Forces when you first arrive at your team you’re hardly spoken to or acknowledged. I have a friend who wasn’t allowed to sit for the first six months. It can be brutal with nicknames, interrogatory questions that never actually end and being treated like an idiot, on purpose. But, you take it with a grain of salt and understand they’re testing you and having fun. Our team became pretty rough for almost anyone who just walked into the team room. But underneath that, we were just having a great time.

You’ve got so much to learn. The basics of shoot, move, and communicate, but with your team. As a new guy you have to listen to your teammates’ experiences. You have to understand the slightly different way they operate and do things. The new way to do things runs the gamut from administration functions to the more important tactics. After some time you go from zero to hero. You’ll eventually be the senior member of the company. You might be even find yourself telling soldiers how to behave as new detachment members themselves.

Some standard new team guy tasks are: cleaning the team room, buying beer for the team regularly, shred documents for the team, accept your new stupid nickname, and undergo some on-the-spot time to test your skills – often. Being a new guy isn’t fun, but there’s some freedom in the face that you’re learning. The best thing that can happen to you is to deploy to combat with your team after a little bit of time back in the rear. Back in the rear being here in the states, physically at your unit.

While it’s tempting to haze and never let up on new guys, it’s the still the army and some professionalism is required. My team did a good job with me. But my name was Ishmael. There was a rumor, in jest, that I was Amish when I first arrived. It was because I lived out in a rural part of Kentucky with a friend of mine, another unit member. Somehow that got the twist and turned into me being Amish, and so it only made sense my name was Ishmael. That lasted for a good while, and after a short time I became “Ish.”

The nickname eventually subsided, probably by our first firefight and the start of the fighting season in Afghanistan, when I really connected with my team. I probably think about that deployment more often than any other. Your time spent on a team is something that will stay with you forever. Especially if it’s a good one that close-knit and competent. The team I arrived to was great and good at their jobs. In the end, I’m proud to have served with them and feel lucky.

Featured image courtesy of Fistful of Talent.

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