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Understanding Stereotypes

By Kathleen Brill
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, July 19, 2004; 4:55 PM

Stereotypes -- both positive and negative -- inform a significant part of the public's opinions about the military. Hollywood movies like M*A*S*H, Saving Private Ryan, and Dr. Strangelove contribute to some civilians' attitudes about the armed services.

Myths that military people are "stupid" and "power-hungry" or "heroic" also may be perpetuated when former soldiers hold too tightly to mission-critical mindsets in civilian work settings. Such thinking appears inflexible to coworkers who have never worked in life-threatening situations, says Derrick Dortch, career counselor at Georgetown University and former Marine.

Asking for alternative opinions on the job and openly valuing perspectives of coworkers helps to neutralize counter-productive stereotypes.

"Take the time to get to know the people you're working with," says Tim Davidson, a retired Air Force colonel. "You have to leave your rank at the door when you leave the service."

Editor's note: This article by Kathleen Brill, was first acquired by washingtonpost.com on May 15, 2003.

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