Strategic napping??? Every old soldier knows that one!

I couldn’t help laughing at this article.

… on Wednesday, the Army released new guidelines for optimal soldier performance — and they include strategic and aggressive napping.

The recommendation is part of an overhaul of the Army’s physical fitness training field manual, which was rebranded this week as the FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness manual. No longer is the guide focused entirely on grueling physical challenges like long ruck marches and pull-ups. Now it has chapters on setting goals, visualizing success, “spiritual readiness” and, yes, the art of the nap.

“Soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” the new manual advises. “When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available.”

I hardly think that’s new advice, or even required.  I recall learning to – literally – sleep on my feet during basic training.  One got so darned tired of being rushed around and harassed, morning to night and frequently all night long, that one could hardly keep one’s eyes open.  When we did route marches, it was routine for us to watch each other.  When someone’s eyes closed, we’d close in on them and keep them upright.  Their legs would keep moving and their feet would keep pounding, but it was very clear that they were asleep on their feet.  Anytime we had a break, you could be sure more than half of us would lie back on our heavily loaded web gear and backpacks, and catch as many Z’s as the instructors would permit before getting us back on our feet and moving again.  I’ve slept through many a military lecture, too, relying on others who stayed awake to copy their notes and prepare for the inevitable exam.  When I managed to stay awake and alert, I rendered the same service to those who’d fallen asleep.

When it came to combat, sleep was again in very short supply.  We’d sleep at the drop of a hat, and drop it ourselves if we got half a chance.  Twenty men in the back of a truck, bouncing so hard through the African bush that all of them became airborne every few yards?  No problem.  There’d be twenty snores to accompany every bounce!

As for “short” and “infrequent” naps – to hell with that!  We napped whenever and wherever we could, on the principle that it all added up.  We enthusiastically adopted as our own the old saw:  “Never stand when you can sit;  never sit when you can lie down;  and never be awake when you can be asleep” – because we never knew when we’d need all the reserve energy and stamina we could accumulate.  That saying was proven true so often that it’s become accepted wisdom in every armed force with which I’m familiar.  I’m sure there’s an equivalent idiom in Russian, or in Chinese – and there was probably a grizzled old centurion telling his legionaries roughly the same thing (in Latin, of course) during the Roman Empire, a couple of millennia ago.  (He probably also told them, “Venient, simias! Do tibi vis in æternum vive?”  Marines will understand the sentiment.)

Sadly, recognizing the value of nap time isn’t all the new field manual does.

The manual also has … a section on the importance of spirituality, with entries on meditation, journaling and how the “act of serving others” helps some soldiers realize the “interconnectedness of all things and people.”

That is a conversation Private Bailey never had with Sarge.

To promote good sleep, the manual warns soldiers to avoid video games, texting and other screen activity before bed, and recommends winding down by “listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a warm shower or bath” instead. It also says to avoid alcohol before sleep.

Y’know, soothing warm baths before sleep never seemed to be on our officers’ priority lists . . . and if I’d tried soothing music or meditation to relax during a break in combat, my NCO’s would have had a few choice words for me, uttered loudly, repeatedly and profanely, while kicking my butt!  As for avoiding alcohol before sleep, are these soldiers we’re talking about?  In my experience, some of them would gleefully consume as much alcohol as possible, as quickly as possible, every night before sleeping!  If they couldn’t buy it or steal it, they’d make it!  (It’s amazing how quickly you can ferment a container of fruit, water and other strategic ingredients by strapping it to a hot exhaust.  No, I didn’t drink any.  I prefer my alcohol to taste better than the southern end of a north-bound vulture, thank you very much!)

Have modern soldiers changed that much?  Is that even possible?  I beg to doubt it . . . and I therefore respectfully (?) suggest that this new, politically correct, touchy-feely field manual may be doomed before it’s even circulated!



  1. I learned it as "the infantryman's philosophy": Whenever the opportunity to eat, sleep or piss presents itself, take it. You never know when you'll get the next chance.

  2. My Latin is *very* rusty. Would that bit be something along the lines of, 'Come on, you apes! Do you wanna live forever?'?

  3. WT – by all that is holy – F! …
    “Journaling?” “ Service to others?” What, did some soi-boy re-write that manual? I can see it now: “Hey TOP, IM GOING DARK FOR A WHILE TO CATCH UP ON MY JOURNALING!” Heheheheheh…..You would be able to use the First Sergeants neck veins as grab handles! Man, I’ve slept intermittently through two wars! Having started life as lower enlisted swine in an Airborne Infantry Battalion – I can say no one likes to nap more than me, but seriously….. Journaling? (Freeholder has it right!)

  4. I do not despair that this abomination of a manual was written. I despair that it was approved. That shows how deep the rot has gone.

    The next version will probably incorporate the healing power of crystals.

  5. Hey Peter;

    Any member of the E-4 mafia could have told them that….Sheesh…You sleep when you can because you bank it so you have a surplus of it if you need it. Why do you think shamming is a time honored tradition of the mafia.

  6. See, we missileers had it easy. Bunks in the launch control centers. Four in Titans (2 at a time), one (at a time) in Minuteman.

  7. From my years as an infantryman: 'never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never simply lie down when you can sleep'. 'the world is our urinal'…
    'don't step in it'…
    Great life. Definitely for the young. js

  8. "Hunde wollt ihr ewig leben?"

    If the vernacular was good enough for a Roman Centurion, so too for Frederick the Great.

  9. Don't knock on the Journaling and other advice too much. It's probably aimed at reducing PTSD. Those poor kids have to transition back to civilian life at some point and some of them will fail at it. Keeping a journal or performing charity work may very well let them put things in perspective when the come home.

    At least I can hope so. 🙁

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