Common mistakes authors make when referring to military personnel

adjusting to civilian life

The proper usage of ‘Ex’, ‘Former’ and ‘Prior’ when discussing military service personnel.

The above terms and prefixes are bandied about in all kinds of conversations. Be it in a newspaper, news reports, or dare I say it, even in a novel.

This is a very basic generalization only to get a point across about the proper usage of a prefix, ex and other labels that may apply to a specific circumstance.

Here’s a good example: ‘Joe Navy is an ex-SEAL.’

What’s wrong with that statement?

This statement is wrong for several reasons.

First, if Joe actually made it through INDOC, BUD/S and SQT, that’s Indoctrination, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL and SEAL Qualification Training and received his Trident then he is certified as a SEAL and gets the SOC attached to his rate. He graduated and is now qualified in that field so therefore when he leaves the Navy for whatever reason he is a former SEAL who is prior service. He is not an ex-SEAL.

When one leaves a branch of service they don’t leave those achievements, qualifications or certifications behind. That’s like saying when you graduate high school you’re an ex-student. You’re actually a former student or an alumnus of that school. They don’t strip away your diploma, Bachelor’s, Master’s or PHD just because you’re no longer attending high school, college, or universities do they? You earned those and you get to keep them. Someone does not come along and remove that knowledge from you just like the military does not remove training, skills, and experience from a prior service member.

The same concept applies to Bob Ranger. If Bob graduated from Ranger school and got ‘tabbed’ as Ranger qualified then served his time in a Ranger Regiment, Bob is a former Ranger not an ex-Ranger.

The same applies to a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. For those that are Marines, they join an elite brotherhood of fellow Marines and are never referred to as ex-Marines. (Marines are not soldiers, they are Marines. It’s a Marine thing.)

And that doesn’t just apply to the US military only. There are former Royal Marines out there just like there are former SAS.

The next time you see a book on the shelf and read the synopsis on the back and it states something about an ex-blank in reference to a military field, you know right off that book may not be one you want to read if you’re interested in any kind of accuracy.


So remember boys and girls, if a military person has achieved specific qualifications/certifications in a field of endeavor, those quals and certs stay with them when they exit the military therefore they are not ‘ex’ anything they are prior service and a former whatever.



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