I learned something interesting while recently attending the retirement ceremony of an Army officer who is a friend of mine. In today’s volunteer force of professional soldiers someone is discharged on the day they actually leave the service. Back in my time during the Vietnam War, one left the army 48 to 72 hours before the actual date on the discharge papers, meaning that you were technically still in the service for two or three more days. This was intended to prevent an irate draftee’s attempting to return to his unit to punch out his officers. As one would still be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice a court martial would follow such behavior plus a fast trip to Leavenworth.
Another aspect of the old draftee army was the need to give frequent expression to the diminishing number of days that one had left in the service. This was referred to as a short-timer’s attitude. A “single-digit midget” had fewer than ten days to go while a “two-digit midget” had fewer than 100 days left. In my intel outfit those of us who were short-timers would periodically stick our heads out of our office doorways and shout out “Short!” which would result in a flood of officers converging in the hallway searching for the culprit. Does the modern army have short-timers or has the concept disappeared?
Are today’s professional soldiers better behaved than the citizen soldiers of the past or were we citizens in uniform on to something in terms of our lack of respect for certain aspects of the military?