What a shitty way to start a Monday morning

So, as some of you may know, I’m in the Air Force, and in the Air Force (well, military in general), we do a type of formation from time to time called “Open Ranks”. Basically, we fall in, space ourselves out so that our sergeants can walk between the ranks, and they inspect us and our uniforms, one at a time, making sure our uniforms are clean and presentable, everything is within regs, that we have everything on us we’re required to have, etc.

Downside to this kind of thing is that we have to be standing at attention for a good portion of it while the sergeants inspect us one at a time (our flight has 80 airmen in it, this takes a while even with several sergeants working on us in tandem). One of the risks of standing at attention for prolonged periods of time is passing out and falling, usually due to locking your knees (cuts of circulation to the brain for some reason) or being dehydrated (standing at attention for an extended period of time is EXHAUSTING, and if you’re not hydrated, you feel it).

We can all see where this is going.

So out of the corner of my eye, I see an airman about 10 spots down fall forward like a tree, hitting the pavement with a sound that makes my teeth hurt even now, hours later. Immediately two of the airmen next to her are at her side checking on her (they were supposed to catch her before she hit the ground, but they didn’t see the pre-fall sway and she fell away from everyone else). The sergeants gather around and shoo the airmen off, and dismiss the formation, sending us all off to tend to what we need to do for the day.

And this is when my day gets shitty. Turns out this girl is a friend of mine I’ve been hanging out with a lot lately, who I’ve been pretty interested in as of late and spending time with. The first airman who went to help her said she was just laying still on the pavement with her eyes wide open and wimpering. That airman had to start her day freaked out AND feeling guilty because she couldn’t catch her friend in time.

Silver lining for what it’s worth, another friend who works in the squadron CQ said he saw her sitting up in a holding room pressing bandages to her face while they were waiting for the ambulance to come fetch her and take her to the hospital in town. Haven’t heard anything new about her since then.

So, as the topic said: man, what a shitty way to start a Monday.:frowning:

What a shitty procedure to order ‘from time to time’!

Just what is the point of requiring people to stand at attention after they have been inspected? Especially when it is known to have ‘risks’ of passing out, falling, and being injured?

Other than to enhance the self-importance of the officers in charge, reassuring them that they are so powerful that otherwise intelligent people will do self-destructive things just because they order it.

(Obviously, I have never been in the military, and likely never will be.)

Well, as with most things having to do with formations, it looks uniform. Ideally, the formation would be a lot smaller than this, and it wouldn’t last as long. Having each guy come to attention and then go back to parade rest just doesn’t look as impressive or orderly. Even though I don’t think Open Ranks is ever done for a demonstration, it’s part of the military drill stuff, and all of that is based on everyone doing the same thing at the same time.

The vast most of the time, nothing bad at all happens except for a guy getting in trouble for not shaving or failing to shine his boots. They specifically train us to bend our knees slightly at attention in order to prevent this sort of thing, and of course we’re also trained to try and catch anyone who is falling, but sometimes bad stuff just happens.:frowning:

It’s to get you trained to do what you’re told, when you’re told, for exactly as long as you’re told to do it.

If you’ve never experienced it, or expect to, or want to, then it’s impossible for me to describe in words less blunt.

And that’s an important part too. People in the military end up doing potentially or certainly self-destructive things all throughout history, it’s kinda part of the job, and this is part of how they train to do that.


Part of the thing is, it only happens if you lock your knees. Everyone knows that. I was not in the millitary but 10 years of marching band and several concurrent seasons of DCI drum and bugle corps have probably combined to me spending a couple months of my 38 years at attention.

It requires alot of discipline and even some physical condition to maintain such a state for long periods of time. In my corps, we would do this as a little contest. Set up a block, go to attention, and the instructors would go through looking for movement. Only blinking and breathing was allowed. You even looked anything but straight ahead and got caught, you were out. Usually we were down by 50% in 10-15 min, its not easy. They stopped it one time at 2 hours with 10 out of 127 left in.

Hah, yeah, and that reminds me, my knees were killing me during formation, trying to hold them at slightly-bent, and flexing a little back and forth to keep the blood flowing, and to make sure that my knees were in fact bent: during my brief time in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, I once nearly passed out from locking my knees, this with no fewer than three sophomores standing two feet from me screaming at me to bend my knees, which I would not do because I knew they were already bent. I’m guessing the lack of oxygen to the brain has an effect in your decision making at this critical point. Finally I went ahead and bent my knees, and suddenly my body stopped shaking and and the world came back into focus. Scary experience, but I learned from it and always made sure my knees were bent.

But yeah, my knees were just hating me all through formation. The weather was colder and wetter than it usually is here (probably about 10 degrees difference) practically over night, and as far as I can tell that is what was causing me problems. Dunno if my friend was having a similar issue with her knees, but it felt like my legs were turning into lead.

So, an update on my friend’s status. She came home from the hospital tonight, she’s more or less fine, except she lost a tooth and broke her jaw, and got some stitches on her chin. She’ll be getting her jaw wired tomorrow, and they’ll probably put her on medical hold, depending on how well she can speak with her jaw wired up.

Daniel Dravot: “You are going to become soldiers. A soldier does not think. He only obeys. Do you really think that if a soldier thought twice he’d give his life for queen and country? Not bloody likely.

Funny I seem to remember when we did that in the Army that the section leaders would call their section (the artillery term for squad) to parade rest. Much easier on the knees. I remember doing it countless times myself for the routine inspections by the senior NCO’s and Battery officers. I understood this to be common practice.

I’d think that an Airman with a broken jaw should be grounds for review of your current inspection policy.

I don’t know if you believe this or are just quoting for effect, but I would just like to throw in there that this it total and utter bullshit, despite how many people seem to believe it. A soldier unable to think on his feet and take actions independent of orders is a very bad soldier, and will get himself and his comrades killed in fairly short order.

Capt Ileen Verble, USAF

That’s “more or less fine”?

I was in a marching band as well and can remember one specific competition, it was sunny and warmish. There was a band performing, and one member dropped, then another, another, then it was like bowling pins, one after another. It was kind of comical, but at the same time, we all knew it could just as easily be us.

A policy that considers this acceptable is fucked up indeed. And I agree, that is a far cry from “more or less fine” in my book.

You might not like schools in Japan either, then. During some of the opening and closing ceremonies, the kids are gathered in the gym and are standing in lines (although not at attention, obviously). Sometimes the ceremonies will last for a little while, and during the August ones it can get pretty warm in there. I’ve seen kids pass out during these.

Doesn’t do anything to change them, though. :frowning:

Poor airman. I wish her swift healing. A broken jaw is no fun.

Well, considering that right after she fell her status could be described as “lying face-down and still, eyes open and whimpering quietly”, “Broken Jaw and missing tooth” sounds like an improvement. Believe me, I wish it hadn’t happened, but at least she’s not still in the hospital, yaknow?

I think mainly it’s a problem with the length of each element in the formation. Our flight is a bit overly large compared to others I’ve seen in the past, so it takes a while to finish each line. I’m not sure about the Army, but in the Air Force, they call each rank to attention just before they are inspected, and then put them at parade rest afterward. They had I think three or four sergeants and three or four airman leaders (E-3s working as lower-level leadership; the norm in an AETC training unit).

The drill we’re trained for in the Air Force allows only for four elements or less in a flight, and the first part of Open Ranks is seeing if we can still manage the actual “Open Ranks” drill movement (one of the weirder and more annoying things we have to do while marching)

The obvious solution is to either open rank only part of the flight (picked at random, first/last half of the alphabet, whatever), or else break us up into seperate smaller formations so the guys not getting inspected can stand at Parade Rest or At Ease until the sergeants get to them.

I had that happen to a woman who was with me in ROTC; the fucking retards near her went back to attention. Those that rushed to her aid were later given an ‘atta boy’ by the higher-ups for going against ‘orders’ and thinking on their feet. Yeah, they were trying to form us into mindless robots.:rolleyes:

Yeah, in Basic now they train us to actively attempt to catch anyone who passes out in a formation (similarly, we also have standing orders to turn our head and sneeze into our arm as discretely as possible in formation and while marching, rather than hurting ourselves trying to contain it internally or sneezing on the back of the guy’s head in front of us.

Actually, the last time someone passed out in formation, in a big grassy field with soft squishy dirt (well, mud and deer poop, but still soft and squishy), we got chewed out by one of the nicest sergeants in the squadron (and this chew-out was NOT friendly) for letting her hit the ground (that girl didn’t get hut). Another time, a girl felt herself starting to pass out and walked herself out of the formation, which STILL got us a minor chewing out because nobody helped her (to be fair, “Walking unsteadily under their own power” versus “is about to fall like a tree” has some grey area between it; the guys near her weren’t sure if they should help her or not).

In case anybody is worried that it is only the fairer/smarter sex that has problems passing out, I’ve known guys to do it about as often, but they seem to reserve it for base-wide parade formations so the other three branches can watch.:rolleyes:

Understood, but I’ve always wondered how a guy who can think rationally about how best to charge up that hill shouldn’t start wondering about whether he’d personally be better off not charging up it at all.