How to spot someone who is lying about military experience

No one likes a phony, especially when it comes to lying about service

How to spot someone who is lying about military experience

(Photo courtesy of DVIDS)

A question posted recently on Quora asked, "How do you spot someone who is lying about his/her military experience?" Check out these answers and add your own experiences below. 

By Jon Mixon, USAF veteran 

1. They don't know the jargon - An MOS (Military Occupation Specialty code) is the US Army's designation for what you do in the service. In the US Air Force it's called an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code). If someone argues that they have MOS's in the Air Force, they weren't in the military.

2. They don't know the bases/forts/camps - If an "Army Ranger" doesn't know where Ft. Lewis is, then they aren't a Ranger. If an Air Force member doesn't know where Nellis AFB is, then they weren't in the military. If a US Marine tells you that Camp LeJeune is in SOUTH Carolina, they weren't/aren't a Marine.

3. They deny having to perform basic military duties - Everybody cleans in the military. It's a core responsibility, unless you are a command officer. If the Special Forces operator sitting at the bar claims that he never had to clean his barracks for an inspection, end the conversation as you are talking to a phony.

4. They don't know the equipment - Any Air Force member who can't identify the type (or types) of aircraft at the facility where they claimed to have served, probably wasn't in the Air Force. Any sailor who can't identify the class of ship on which they served probably wasn't a sailor.

5. They have "trouble" with rank - Especially within the branch of the service in which they claim to have served. If a former "SEAL" argues that a Chief Petty Officer is a higher grade than one you know it not be, he wasn't a "SEAL." If an "airman" doesn't know that a Chief Master Sergeant is an E-9, then they likely weren't an airman.

Frankly, the fakers rarely spend the requisite amount of time necessary to make their stories authentic. They get tripped up on the minor details and it falls apart quickly under moderate scrutiny.

Ask a few questions. If you don't like the answers, I would suggest ending the conversation. I always do.

By William Treseder, M1 Advisor, Marine veteran

Two possible answers to this question.

#1 is aimed at whether someone is lying about having served at all.

There really is no litmus test - you just have to learn a bit about the person, or get someone who you know served in the same branch of service at about the same time to act as a verifier. Use your common sense and keep them talking for a while; if they start to contradict themselves or you get a weird feeling about the story, you can safely assume they're full of shit.

#2 is aimed at whether someone is embellishing stories.

Of course they are. That's basically all we do in the military during down time, which is basically all the time. We're storytellers. When you hang out with us, we're sitting by a metaphorical (or real) fire spinning a yarn about something or other.

By John Strohecker, Former Army Officer

In my experience people who are trying to fake military experience almost always choose some "sexy" imaginary role for themselves.  They claim to have been in some special operations role, or military intelligence, or a pilot, etc. If they claim to be Navy it's a fair bet they'll claim to have been a SEAL (BUDS if they are more subtle). If they were a Marine, they must have been in Force Recon. If they were Army they were at least a Ranger if not Special Forces or Delta.  

If someone tells you he was a truck driver, or a cook, or a supply clerk odds are he's authentic. If they can talk intelligently about Sergeants Major and their unnatural infatuation with neatly mowed grass, they're for real. If the stories involve a lot of stuff that could work in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie you at least need to keep digging to make an assessment.

Vets tend to collect stories about the folks they served with, more so than the specifics of their jobs. I have a great story about a solider I worked with who was counseled repeatedly for his inability to keep track of his personal property because he kept accidentally throwing away his teeth (he had dentures from a hockey accident as a kid). I had another soldier who was running an escort service out of his single-wide trailer off-post and no one in the chain of command knew about it until we had an unannounced alert at 2am and he answered the phone, "Diamonds and Pearls."  I had another that always budgeted several hours more than she needed to drive through North Carolina when she was on leave because in her own words, "I'm a black female with out of state plates. It's not a question of if I'll get pulled over, it's how many times. Today I'm planning for 2."

My point is that soldiers spend a tremendous amount of time with the other folks in their unit, particularly during war time. They learn a lot about each other, and usually have some great stories about folks in their unit - some good, some bad, some more than a little disturbing. It's not a stretch to say that I know more about some of my good friends from the Army than I do about a few members of my family.

So, if you doubt someone's military credentials and want to see if they are authentic my advice is this: steer the conversation towards funny stories about people who do dumb stuff. If the person doesn't chime in with at least a few stories about folks they served with, odds are they're faking it.