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The 10-Commandments of Buddies

April 2, 2010

Introduction to the Introduction

Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

This post was for me what the “Spruce Goose” was for Howard Hughes; a big project that didn’t take off as expected.  That is, until today, when, like manna from heaven, the perfect set-up arrived on CNN:

Ladies, take a cue from men on who’s really a friend

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — Friends are important to me — not just girlfriends to sit around talking about Oprah, but also male buddies, who have a unique perspective on a number of things.  Like this chat on friendship:

Him: Yeah, I’m hanging out this weekend, supposed to go to a Final Four party my boy is having.

Me: Oh, that’s cool — hanging with your friend this weekend.

Him: He’s not my friend; he’s my boy.

Me: Isn’t that the same thing?

Him: Not at all — he’s just someone I hang with, but he’s not my friend.

I was intrigued and dug a little deeper, asking him to explain the exact difference.  This particular “boy” was someone I had thought was his friend. They spent a number of weekends together, hanging out with a group until all hours numerous nights. I made the natural assumption that they must be close. After all, if I spent that much time with one of my girlfriends, I would inevitably consider her a friend.

He went on to explain that for men, it’s simple. You may have a lot of acquaintances — someone to watch the game with, someone to have a drink with — and you may or may not invite them to your house.

But that does not equate to friendship. Your friend is that person who listens to your hopes, dreams, fears and baggage. This is that person you may not spend hours hanging out with, but that you call in a pinch. This is a treasured person who knows your family and is invited to your wedding.

For women, I don’t think we tend to be this clearcut when it comes to friendship. Too often, women don’t make this distinction, and as a result we end up sharing everything with everyone. Therein lies one of the reasons for drama associated with female friendships — because these acquaintances have been promoted to a status that they don’t deserve.

While good intentioned, it doesn’t take much effort to see that Audrey’s post is less about men & friendships than it is about women, and why women don’t have and don’t understand men’s friendships.  And the fact is, ladies, you’re not going to get the straight dope on men and buddies and friendships from a woman.

But fear not women of the world; Pants has answers!  And I’m not just making shit up, or spouting a funny & quirky opinion; this is all real, empirical, evidence-based, scientific fact, insofar as facts are generally accepted by science-minded people.  It may not be 100%, but you can still take it to the bank.  Think of this post as the Rosetta Stone of understanding men.  Capice?


About 3-months ago I was catching up on a (somewhat) recent issue of Parameters (The United States Army’s Senior Professional Journal), and I checked out, as I usually do, the book reviews, and saw something, as is often the case, that caught my eye. (.pdf download)

Infantry Company as a Society. Autumn 2009. 116-18. Joseph J. Thomas. (.pdf download)

Think of a Scandinavian “Band of Brothers” with a scientist’s eye for detail and analysis and you have got an intellectual snapshot of Knut Pipping’s Infantry Company as a Society. Contemporary military audiences will appreciate Pipping’s insightful analysis of formal and informal social groups within a single small unit. The work follows a machine-gun company of the Finnish Army’s 12th Infantry Regiment during its brief activation in combat against Soviet forces, 1941-44. The company was drawn from Lapland, a northern and rural hinterland even today. The company’s platoons were nearly always undermanned, and leaders worked to maintain warfighting effectiveness in difficult and austere conditions. The author, then a young Finnish doctoral candidate in sociology, served as a non-commissioned officer and made meticulous observations of movements, contact with the enemy, looting, periods of calm, and above all interpersonal relationships among soldiers.

…The book speaks to soldiers and was written by a soldier. Simplicity and clarity add to its appeal. The fact that Pipping was also a sociologist gives his work depth and rigor and, as such, it serves alternately as a textbook, diary, and novel.

…Ultimately, the American audience will be drawn in by Pipping’s deep insight into small-unit functioning. He effectively avoids the overly technical descriptions of group dynamics that are so common among contemporary military sociologists and organizational psychologists. In this style, Pipping is writing to the military audience at large, rather than fellow social or behavioral scientists. Anyone who has led units at the platoon, company, or battalion level will recognize the social patterns that emerge quite naturally. Understanding subcommunities within military organizations lends critical insight into influences on climate, morale, ethics, and mission effectiveness.

In many ways, organizations are driven by informal leaders exercising unsanctioned authority to the detriment or benefit of that unit’s formal leadership team. Understanding and influencing that dynamic can make the difference in the success or failure of the unit. For this reason alone, today’s officers should add Infantry Company as a Society to their professional libraries. Doing so may not qualify the reader as an amateur military sociologist, but it certainly will help develop a more effective and insightful leader

Needless to say, it captured my full and immediate attention, and I set about getting my hands on the book.  I’ll go ahead and save you the trouble: the book is only available as a .pdf download.  Yain’t gonna find it on Amazon.

Anyway, after a quick scan through the TOC, my brow furrowed and eyes narrowed when I saw the layout of chapters 5 & 6:

  • Courage (p163)
  • Private and Public Property (p168)
  • Alcohol and sexuality (p178)
  • Religion, Superstition and Information (p187)
  • Discipline (p194)
  • Helpfulness (p204)


  • Other Front Units (p206)
  • Home Front (p208)
  • Enemy (p210)

This appeared, to me, to be the most interesting part of the book, but for some reason I didn’t skip on ahead to Chapter 5; I read the introduction first.  And I’m glad I did, because it was actually there, in the introduction to the book, that I found the 10-commandments of buddies.

Officially speaking, the following list of “buddy rules” comes from the introduction to “Infantry Company as a Society”, under the heading of “Aspects of Some Other Military Sociological Studies of Small Military Units During and After the Second World War”.  Specifically, the title is “INFORMAL GROUP NORMS IN A SELECTED NUMBER OF POST-WORLD WAR II STUDIES”, section 4.1 “Informal group norms in Little’s “Buddy relations and Combat Performance”.  I like shit that sounds technical and official.

The 10-Commandments of Buddies: Commandments 1-5

Roger W. Little observed soldiers’ behavior in an American rifle company during the Korean War. Little lived with a rifle company, which he studied for more than three months at the end of 1952 and at the beginning of 1953.  Little found that the following informal norms regulated the behavior of the buddies:

(1) A soldier had to “understand” his buddy. They became therapists to each other.

(2) A soldier should not make the buddy relationship too “public” in the squad or in the platoon. (This was necessary to maintain the impression that every man in the squad was his buddy.)

(3) A soldier should not boast of his combat skills or compare his actions to those of others.  “The man who often boasted or expected recognition for his combat skills was considered the one most likely to forget, in a combat crisis, that he had a buddy and that buddies had to depend on each other.” (Little 1964, p.201)

(4) A soldier should not demand his buddy to make a choice between loyalty as a buddy and obligation to the formal organization (see Little 1964, p.201)

(5) Loyalty to a buddy was more important than loyalty to the formal military organization. In a crisis situation the soldier had to think first of his loyalty to his buddy and only secondarily of his obligation to the formal military organization.

When I first read this I was stunned.  I realized that (1) I was probably the only blogger in the world who would read this book and (2) therefore, I wouldn’t have any competition to speak of in terms of whether or not the quality of writing and/or accuracy were on par, and (3) that my monopoly on this niche subject would make me famous beyond my wildest dreams.  What can I say people; right place, right time.

Additionally, there is more information there than meets the eye.  For example, take a look at #4; “A soldier should not demand his buddy to make a choice between loyalty as a buddy and obligation to the formal organization.”  It doesn’t take too much imagination to re-read that as, “A soldier man should not demand his buddy to make a choice between loyalty as a buddy and obligation to the a formal organization institution.”  Yes, you know what I’m getting at: a REAL buddy will NOT make you pick between your wife and the game.  He’ll bust your balls…that’s to be expected…but he’ll accept your excuse, and let you off the hook so you don’t get in trouble with the Mrs.  Buddies don’t make buddies choose.

Already I was reeling!  My good luck!  My good fortune!  The perfect blog-post!  How could it get any better?  Simple.  Add another 5 commandments, for a satisfying, denary total of 10!

The 10-Commandments of Buddies: Commandments 6-10

As with “Buddy relations and Combat Performance”, from the introduction to “Infantry Company as a Society”, this sub-section (“Informal group norms in Hockey’s study “Squaddies, Portrait of a Subculture”) also identifies five (5) critical things that buddies must do to be considered buddies.

In his book “Squaddies, Portrait of a Subculture” (1986) John Hockey describes a British infantry company from basic training to real action in Northern Ireland.  Hockey collected the main part of his material by living three months during 1979–1980 with private soldiers of this rifle company.

Hockey describes an informal norm system, or “a normative code”, as he says, of the soldiers. He says that this normative code was the privates’ (not the officers’) unofficial norm system. It was related to their position at the bottom of the military hierarchy and the privates’ relations to their superiors (“us” and “them”) and the official norms.

The central principle in this normative code (or norm system) was that the privates had to “look after their mates”.  This general principle or norm included or consisted of several more specific norms, which were:

(6) giving mutual aid (reciprocity),

(7) doing one’s share,

(8) not getting other peers into trouble,

(9) moderation, conforming to group standards and

(10) loyalty to peers.

There you have it ladies (and guys who don’t know the rules), the 10-commandments of buddy-dom.  All are self-evident and unarguable.  Mutual aid?  Check.  If your buddy needs help, you help him.  Doing one’s share?  Check.  Nobody likes a slacker.  Not getting other peers into trouble?  Check.  Nobody likes a rat,  Moderation, and conforming to group standards?  Check.  No matter how cool you are, orange parachute pants will NEVER be cool.  Conform.  Do not wear them. (Trust me on this)  Loyalty to peers…this is the reason they hang traitors; you do NOT turn on your buddies.  Punishable by pain of death.

Hockey writes also about unofficial sanctions that were used against men who violated the normative code. He mentions the following sanctions:

  • social isolation and non-cooperation
  • name-calling and derision (there were at least two levels in the use of this sanction, the more severe one of which meant using expressions like “arselicking” etc.)
  • breaking or stealing the soldier’s property
  • direct physical violence, for instance kicking or hitting with a rifle butt.

That’s right.  A rifle butt.

In his glossary of military slang expressions, Hockey defines “Fuck-up” as “an individual who persistently turns in an inadequate performance, and as a consequence brings down extra work or the wrath of superiors upon his peers”.  “Hero”, instead, was a pejorative, which was used to describe individuals (usually NCOs or officers) who exposed themselves to excess danger and in turn their subordinates.  FYI.

And just think, we haven’t even started on chapters 5 & 6 yet.  Stay tuned.


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One Response to “ The 10-Commandments of Buddies ”

  1. Sara on April 3, 2010 at 1:38 am

    If the ‘boy’ that was having a Final Four party invited people over to his house, wouldn’t that justify them as friends according to the ‘having people over to your house’ rule?
    Incidentally, today, I happened upon a book about why mens’ behaviors are similar to dogs…I would love to have someone explain that to me. Sheesh.