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Thread: The Moment That the Reality of Military Life Slapped You In the Face

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    The Moment That the Reality of Military Life Slapped You In the Face

    Most of us joined right out of high school, and some of us joined a few years later. In either case, I think we can all agree that the point at which we decided to join was the moment that we decided it was time to "grow up."

    And we were excited as hell. The anticipation of boot camp/basic training when we got there. How pumped we were while going through. The pride we felt when we donned our dress uniforms for the first time. And we were so convinced that our dress uniforms would be instant panty-droppers. Our schooling for our job was the one thing that we had to get though before that to use.

    It was the first time in our lives that were on our own as adults. We finally got to do adult things - like spend our own money however we saw fit, choose what we ate for meals, not have a curfew, etc.

    We were bright-eyed and optimistic about our futures in the military. We all thought that we would be the SMA/MCPON/SMMC/CMSAF/MPOCG someday, or was at least going retire as an E9. We all planed to don the campaign hat/red rope sometime during our military career. Hell, we might even try out for SpecOps or look for a commission.

    And when it came to performance and conduct, we all thought were on top of our game.

    That is, until we found out that someone in charge of us didn't share the same view. Or maybe something else happened during your career. Maybe you saw too many people retiring at E6 (or even E5, if you were in more than ten years ago), and realized that retiring at E9 is statistically highly unlikely. Maybe you ran into junior NCOs who have a habit of eating their young.

    I've said this before: that moment when the reality of military life slapped me in the face, and my bright-eyed optimism came to a complete end was when I was "perceived" to be doing something wrong. But, rather than come to me with the problem so that I could clear up what was happening, this person went and told my LPO. My LPO ripped me a new one and, when I explained what was happening, he didn't want to hear it. Rank = credibility, and my LPO believed the person who told him what he saw.

    What was your moment?
    Last edited by Rusty Jones; 12-28-2016 at 04:43 PM.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
    -Rainmaker, referencing black males

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    Administrator Mjölnir's Avatar
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    Too many people watched Top Gun, and enlisted the Navy not understanding that they likely weren't going to be a pilot.

    Me personally, my first loss of enthusiasm for the military was after my 2d NJP, mostly because I was pretty sure I was either going to be thrown out or not allowed to reenlist. I got re-energized as a result of a 1stSgt who told me that if I kept moping around that I for sure wouldn't stick around. I dusted myself off and got to work, and I worked hard. Some of that work was recognized directly ... and I am pretty sure if I had just treaded water in my duties I would have been shown the door.

    My real sense of the 'reality' of the military, was my first instance in combat. That is really what all of the BS and military regimen prepares us for ... after that, I realized that when I screwed up and got yelled at (or got yelled at for no good reason) -- at least that asshole wasn't trying to kill me or that when my Platoon Sergeant made me run further than I felt like that day -- at least they weren't shooting at me etc. You want perspective about life, have someone try to take yours ... that will offer perspective like you have never had. Have a job that isn't Combat Arms -- you may through unfortunate circumstance find yourself being shot at or in a combat situation ... having someone rain on your parade isn't the end of the world. However, too many will never really understand this and instead will whine ... yes whine ... about what is actually trivial like being yelled at, running out of ice cream on deployment, or having to maintain a height and weight standard.

    I guess ironic to your OP, I tried out for and went into Marine Corps Reconnaissance (SpecOps) and also applied for and was accepted for a commission; along the way the military paid for most of my undergrad degree and two grad degrees (one at a pretty well respected school that makes it totally ironic to people who knew me in High School). I am probably the most unlikely person to be where I am: didn't do overly well in High School, went to college for a year and dropped out, enlisted in the Marine Corps and was busted twice etc. I think my attitude shift led to achieving some measure of success in the military and more importantly peace in my life. Does this mean I have never or still don't get frustrated, hell no. I realize that the military is a big bureaucratic system, and while I can't control the whole thing I can influence my little corner of it, but I have total agency over my outlook on life, my character, what is important to me, and how I treat and look out for the people around me.

    I think the loss of "optimism" in some part depends on why people join, what service they join (if it matches what they really want, their personality etc.) and the job they go into. A much larger part of why people loose their enthusiasm for the military is within themselves, a whiner is going to whine no matter what comes their way. If you think the world (the military) is out to screw you over, it likely will (at least from your perspective), if you think anyone & everyone that promotes past you did it by kissing ass and not hard work ... you will be convinced that they got it for doing a volunteer event and not that maybe, just maybe that person out performed you ... no amount of evidence will correct that. Sure, there are faults, there are bad people within the services ... and for example: some people promote on a fluke ... things like this are far from the norm. Own the decisions you make and the consequences of those decisions; i.e. I have no desire to be a Captain, I am not doing the things (taking the assignments) that will make me competitive for it ... am not going to begrudge those who want it or do what is needed to make them competitive for that promotion -- I made my decision and will congratulate them if they make their goal.

    This article is to help you get rid of the ‘victim’ mentality. To help you get rid of the fact that you think that your life sucks because other people make your life suck. That you’re overweight because you don’t have time to go to the gym or that your supermarket doesn’t sell vegetables. That you haven’t gotten laid in a year because nobody has approached you and asked you out.

    Do you get the point…?

    I used to have this ‘victim’ mentality too. I used to blame others for my unhappiness and the areas of my life that were way below average. It’s just the easy way out. It’s far too easy to say…”My life sucks because my parents, my boss, my friends and my boss driver make all my decisions for me and they are no good.”.

    Do you want to hear the REAL reason that your life sucks?

    No, I bet you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway:

    Your life sucks because you suck.

    Stop Blaming Others

    Yeah, I said it. YOU are responsible for your life, and nobody else.

    YOU are responsible for your happiness, for your fitness and health, for your relationships, for your finances and for all your actions. But you’ve been hiding from that responsibility. You’ve been blaming your unhappiness and incompetence on others. It’s time to stop blaming others and taking responsibility for your own life. That’s when you really start to live.

    “Everybody dies but not everybody lives.” – Drake

    Of course other people have an influence on your life. An enormous influence even. For the first 16+ years your life is greatly determined by your parents. They decide where you live, where you go to school, what education and skills you learn and possibly even what your future should be by sending you off to college.

    Your friends and peers have a huge influence on you, especially when you are young. They influence everything from your choice in dating, to your clothes to the activities that you do in your free time.

    When you’re young you don’t have the experience or initiative to stand up for yourself and say ‘no’ when other people influence you in a way that you’re not happy or comfortable with. You simply don’t know better and try your best to fit in and get the approval from others, even if it means doing things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy.

    When you’re a kid and you get bad grades in school because you have no time at home to study or do your homework, you’re a victim because you have no other options. This is just an example to show you how it’s very common for people to be a victim when they’re young and genuinely being a victim because they have no control over the situation. Unfortunately, that ‘victim’ mentality stays with most people as they grow up, even when they have the power to change what’s making them unhappy.

    Stop Being A Wuss – Take Control Of Your Life

    If you’re 18 or older you have the ability to get a job and earn money to pay for monthly living expenses. You have no excuse to be a victim and blame others for your shortcomings. Your boss is not responsible for your low salary. Your parents are not to blame for your lack of success and your friends are not to blame for your lack of dates or love life.

    Maybe they are – indirectly. But you have no control over where you grew up, or which school you went to, or which friends you had when you were young. That’s something you need to accept and let go.

    You have to work with what you’ve got, and make things better for yourself. If you’re not happy with your job, have you thought about not complaining and actually going out and looking for a second job, or a new job, or starting something on the side?

    Are you unhappy with your relationship because your partner has very few of the qualities you want but you’ve settled because you think that’s all you can get? How about stepping up, breaking up and going out there to talk and date people as long as it takes until you find someone who you’re happy to be in a relationship with?

    It’s Childish and Immature To Blame Others

    It’s childish and immature to blame others who influenced you in the past for your lack of success today. Maybe you were a victim back then and had no choice in the matter, but now you have the power to take control, accept responsibility and change the things you are not happy with in your life.

    Taking responsibility for your life is scary, no doubt. It places a big bulls eye on your ego, and exposes your ego to *shudder* failure. When you accept responsibility for your life it means that every single success and failure is because of your actions, and this very fact is often what causes people to keep the ‘victim’ mentality for so long. As a ‘victim’, your failures are never your fault, they are always caused by others and allows your ego to feel safe behind a wall of lies.

    It takes guts and courage to take responsibility for your own actions, to stop hiding behind the ‘victim’ mentality that keeps you safe from the reality that the reason your life sucks is because of you.

    But at the same time, when you take responsibility for your life, you begin to grow mentally and spiritually in a way like you never have before. When you take action to improve the areas of your life that you’re not happy with, all the progress and all the success belongs to you. You’re earning your right to live, to really be alive and make the most of life.

    So I’m asking you, no I’m COMMANDING you… from today onwards, to stop blaming others and to take full control of your life. Be true to your heart and desires. If you’re unhappy with an area of your life, take action to change it. No more hidin’ behind that ‘victim’ mentality.
    The most important six inches on the battlefield ... is between your ears.

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    Senior Member efmbman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mjölnir View Post
    My real sense of the 'reality' of the military, was my first instance in combat. (snip) However, too many will never really understand this and instead will whine ... yes whine ... about what is actually trivial like being yelled at, running out of ice cream on deployment, or having to maintain a height and weight standard.
    You took the words right out of my mouth. It came early for me. I joined in 1990 and went from AIT to Desert Shield / Desert Storm. I did not have day-to-day experience of Army life. I had boot camp and AIT as my experience. Fortunately, all went well.

    It was weird returning as an E3 with extra medals and a combat patch when the majority of the Army did not participate. Looking back, I think I gained a valuable perspective about what should be complained about and what really doesn't matter.

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    Administrator Mjölnir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by efmbman View Post
    You took the words right out of my mouth. It came early for me. I joined in 1990 and went from AIT to Desert Shield / Desert Storm. I did not have day-to-day experience of Army life. I had boot camp and AIT as my experience. Fortunately, all went well.

    It was weird returning as an E3 with extra medals and a combat patch when the majority of the Army did not participate. Looking back, I think I gained a valuable perspective about what should be complained about and what really doesn't matter.
    Desert Storm was the largest deployment / mobilization of the military since the end of Vietnam, roughly 16 years of relative 'calm' with blips like Lebanon, Grenada, Panama etc. Between Desert Storm and 9/11 we had about 10 years of that same 'calm'. By and large we got fat, dumb and happy ... Used to the benefits of military service with little of the true demands of the profession. For many the military became a job, and the recruiting campaigns by and large marketed it as such (especially the reserves).

    I came in just as Desert Storm ended, first saw combat outside of a large scale operation/war, and had been in for 10 years when 9/11 happened. Too many in the military did not know how to truly surge, and it showed. Granted, in the 10 years following 9/11 the surge became the steady state and many people got tired of the OPTEMPO and retention started taking a big hit. I don't think anyone joins the military itching for 12-15 months away from home with a 12 month dwell and then another deployment ... So middle ground had to be found.

    The Navy and Marines have more of a deployment-based mentality than what I have seen in the Army or Air Force, that said, my first MEU deployment might have been mistaken for a 7 month Mediterranean vacation (on a bad cruise ship) ... For the first four months, aside from the 11-day Atlantic crossing the longest we spent at sea was the 8 days to go from a port call in France around Italy to a port call in Trieste. After coming in the Navy when on a ship for a 9 month deployment when some people are whining about it, I would point out that yes being deployed is hard but that we all ate (at least) three hot meals a day, had a bed ... In a climate controlled space and despite drawing combat zone pay and tax free, were far from any credible threat and the most dangerous evolution we had conducted was underway replenishment.

    I know folks don't like the phrase perception is reality, but to those Sailors, Chiefs and Officers ... That was as hard as it got ... No insurgents, no suicide bombers, no IEDs. A 9, 10 ... 12 month deployment on a ship is far less arduous than living in a constant state of vigilance because there is someone out there actively trying to kill you, instead we end up with people whining that someone who retires with combat injuries does not rate to be referred to as "retired" because they served less than 20 years, or that they have to do PT in addition to their 8-hour in garrison 'work day' ... Boo fucking hoo.

    The "reality (read: occasional inconvenience) of military life slapping you in the face" is much better than real problems blowing your damn head off.
    The most important six inches on the battlefield ... is between your ears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mjölnir View Post
    Too many people watched Top Gun, and enlisted the Navy not understanding that they likely weren't going to be a pilot.

    Me personally, my first loss of enthusiasm for the military was after my 2d NJP, mostly because I was pretty sure I was either going to be thrown out or not allowed to reenlist. I got re-energized as a result of a 1stSgt who told me that if I kept moping around that I for sure wouldn't stick around. I dusted myself off and got to work, and I worked hard. Some of that work was recognized directly ... and I am pretty sure if I had just treaded water in my duties I would have been shown the door.

    My real sense of the 'reality' of the military, was my first instance in combat. That is really what all of the BS and military regimen prepares us for ... after that, I realized that when I screwed up and got yelled at (or got yelled at for no good reason) -- at least that asshole wasn't trying to kill me or that when my Platoon Sergeant made me run further than I felt like that day -- at least they weren't shooting at me etc. You want perspective about life, have someone try to take yours ... that will offer perspective like you have never had. Have a job that isn't Combat Arms -- you may through unfortunate circumstance find yourself being shot at or in a combat situation ... having someone rain on your parade isn't the end of the world. However, too many will never really understand this and instead will whine ... yes whine ... about what is actually trivial like being yelled at, running out of ice cream on deployment, or having to maintain a height and weight standard.

    I guess ironic to your OP, I tried out for and went into Marine Corps Reconnaissance (SpecOps) and also applied for and was accepted for a commission; along the way the military paid for most of my undergrad degree and two grad degrees (one at a pretty well respected school that makes it totally ironic to people who knew me in High School). I am probably the most unlikely person to be where I am: didn't do overly well in High School, went to college for a year and dropped out, enlisted in the Marine Corps and was busted twice etc. I think my attitude shift led to achieving some measure of success in the military and more importantly peace in my life. Does this mean I have never or still don't get frustrated, hell no. I realize that the military is a big bureaucratic system, and while I can't control the whole thing I can influence my little corner of it, but I have total agency over my outlook on life, my character, what is important to me, and how I treat and look out for the people around me.

    I think the loss of "optimism" in some part depends on why people join, what service they join (if it matches what they really want, their personality etc.) and the job they go into. A much larger part of why people loose their enthusiasm for the military is within themselves, a whiner is going to whine no matter what comes their way. If you think the world (the military) is out to screw you over, it likely will (at least from your perspective), if you think anyone & everyone that promotes past you did it by kissing ass and not hard work ... you will be convinced that they got it for doing a volunteer event and not that maybe, just maybe that person out performed you ... no amount of evidence will correct that. Sure, there are faults, there are bad people within the services ... and for example: some people promote on a fluke ... things like this are far from the norm. Own the decisions you make and the consequences of those decisions; i.e. I have no desire to be a Captain, I am not doing the things (taking the assignments) that will make me competitive for it ... am not going to begrudge those who want it or do what is needed to make them competitive for that promotion -- I made my decision and will congratulate them if they make their goal.
    A hard hitting response, but, I can't say I disagree.

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    Okay, this went in a direction that I didn't want it to go: i.e., boots being "whiners."

    That's a separate issue. For example, some young boot might have to scrub toilets and whine about that... but he knows it will be over in a few minutes, and his optimism is still there.

    On the flip side of the coin, that young boot might be attached to a command where he doesn't have to clean a thing because it's contracted out - and it might all come down to that command's leadership.

    I can give you an example of what I'm talking about: more often than not, that boot still strives to live up to his service's core values and creed that was instilled into him. However... the NCOs at his command see him as a typical overzealous boot, and are often annoyed by it. And these young boots DO pick up on that.

    I remember there being a Terminal Lance comic strip where they joked about breaking a boot's optimism on purpose, and they being completely open with that boot as to what they were doing.

    Does this really happen in any branch of the military? I HAVE seen young E4's and E5's intentionally to break their optimism, but I've never seen someone actually come out and say, "That's some nice optimism there, boot. But lemme tell you how it REALLY is around here."

    Again... yes, people whine. That's not going anywhere. But that's not what I'm talking about.

    You know it and I know it: that guy who's been at his first command for a year already? He's a totally different person than he was when he got out of the taxi for the first time at his base in his service dress uniform... for better or for worse.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
    -Rainmaker, referencing black males

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    Senior Member Bos Mutus's Avatar
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    I think my trajectory was a little bit inverse of that.

    I had no great ambition to be CMSgt when I joined...I joined in the early 80s...didn't know what I wanted to do with life and didn't wanna spend a bunch of money on college trying to figure it out...so thought I'd join the AF for a few years and figure things out. Also, to get out on my own.

    I joined in '83, Vietnam was ancient history and it was pretty peaceful time. I joined for education and travel, not war and suck. But, still, my intention was to do 4 years and get out, so I was only about 3/4 speed during my first enlistment...I thought if I made E-5, that would be cool, cuz an E-5 can stay until retirement at that time...so I thought that would take the pressure off and E-5s were grown-ups with families, so they must be pretty good.

    I didn't really commit until my first re-enlistment, that's when I thought, 'If I'm gonna make this a career, I should try to succeed"...I picked up E-5 pretty quick...anyway, I bought into more optimism, etc. after re-enlisting. My goal as an NCO was always to be an E-8. I didn't know any E-9s and didn't know what they did...but I wanted to a flight chief...which were mostly E-8s. I didn't really think about being E-9 until I picked up E-8.

    I can't say I've had much hardship in my career...never been in combat, never been shot at or shot at anyone. I've had a fair amount of assignments, almost always by volunteering. I've also had a lot of TDYs, but nearly all in nice hotels, with rental cars and full per diem.

    I'm pretty sure I would not do as well if joining today...
    The Voice of Reason

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    Administrator Mjölnir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Jones View Post
    Okay, this went in a direction that I didn't want it to go: i.e., boots being "whiners."

    That's a separate issue. For example, some young boot might have to scrub toilets and whine about that... but he knows it will be over in a few minutes, and his optimism is still there.

    On the flip side of the coin, that young boot might be attached to a command where he doesn't have to clean a thing because it's contracted out - and it might all come down to that command's leadership.

    I can give you an example of what I'm talking about: more often than not, that boot still strives to live up to his service's core values and creed that was instilled into him. However... the NCOs at his command see him as a typical overzealous boot, and are often annoyed by it. And these young boots DO pick up on that.

    I remember there being a Terminal Lance comic strip where they joked about breaking a boot's optimism on purpose, and they being completely open with that boot as to what they were doing.

    Does this really happen in any branch of the military? I HAVE seen young E4's and E5's intentionally to break their optimism, but I've never seen someone actually come out and say, "That's some nice optimism there, boot. But lemme tell you how it REALLY is around here."

    Again... yes, people whine. That's not going anywhere. But that's not what I'm talking about.

    You know it and I know it: that guy who's been at his first command for a year already? He's a totally different person than he was when he got out of the taxi for the first time at his base in his service dress uniform... for better or for worse.
    It is more than just 'boots' being whiners, many career-personnel are whiners too.

    As you said, most people leave their first duty station different than when they got there ... As you said some better ... Some worse.

    Honestly, I have rarely ... As a junior enlisted Marine, NCO, SNCO or officer seen NCOs annoyed by motivation. As I have said many times, maybe I have been fortunate to serve with really god units whose NCOs and Officers did their jobs well, since I have seen what you describe so infrequently.

    I know the Terminal Lance comic you describe, funny as hell ... In part because all good comedy has some bit of truth. More often than not what I saw in the infantry (what most of Terminal Lance is based on) is that in the regular infantry there is a lot of hurry up and wait, years of training for a mission you may never do etc. There was a fair amount of ribbing, short of hazing but some antics; at he same I me ... I never saw a lot of the real crazy / legendary type stuff.

    What I don't really get where you are trying to go is that your OP seems to ask when people's optimistic / hopeful outlook on the military get crushed by a shitty NCO or something else ... That was the vibe I got; my response was not to just say people that are not optimistic are whiners ... the 'reality' of military life as you seem to describe is is that like any organization ... The military is not perfect. The situation you described that slapped you in the face if as you describe is messed up, but hardly something that I would think would be a slap in the face -- no different than a teacher in school thinking you did something and you getting in trouble for it since they were a teacher and you were a student. Things are going to get goofed up, and at the level most of us are at we try to get it as right as we can with the tools at our disposal.

    IMO and in the direction of you OP ... As I tell new check ins when I see them, regardless of rank ... Opportunities at our command to perform and excel abound, as well as opportunity to explore this part of the country on their liberty, get an education, obtain professional certifications, or set themselves up for a pretty good job in this field as a civilian etc. Aside from their required warfare qualification and required training ... we don't and won't shove any of these down anyone's throat, they are adults and professional Sailors, Chiefs and Officers. When they leave the command either to PCS, separate or retire if they have gotten nothing out of the opportunities that are here ... That is on them. Some take advantage of a lot of the opportunities here, many have found great success, very few leave who simply did their time and counted their days and I hold no grudge against them. But if they whine about not advancing etc. it is easy to pull their DOR, training jacket or education officer file and see that they did not seek opportunity for themselves.

    The exception I made was on people in danger of ADSEP for PT failure ... I don't think we quite shoved it down their throat but we pushed it at their face and they would have had to consciously turn away. We provided a fairly rigorous remedial PT program that got them on track. Any of the Sailors or the Chief could have gone through the motions and taken their ADSEP ... None did, they all embraced the hell out of it and we had no separations ... I chock that up as a win.
    The most important six inches on the battlefield ... is between your ears.

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    Banned sandsjames's Avatar
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    Don't think it ever slapped me in the face. It was a good job for 20 years...but other than deployments I don't think it was anything out of the ordinary. Though joining right out of high school I didn't have anything to compare it against. Nothing special though, really.

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    Senior Member Rusty Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandsjames View Post
    Don't think it ever slapped me in the face. It was a good job for 20 years...but other than deployments I don't think it was anything out of the ordinary. Though joining right out of high school I didn't have anything to compare it against. Nothing special though, really.
    I would think that the people who were "realists" from the start (and won't have that overinflated bubble of optimism to bust in the first place) are military brats, especially if they've joined the same service that their parent is (or was) in.
    "Well... Uber's going to "driverless" cars soon, and their research probably shows that they're a natural fit (when it comes to getting paid for doing nothing)."
    -Rainmaker, referencing black males

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