Top 10 Books for Civilians Working with the Military

If you work in the defense industry or are looking to break into the defense business, a lack of military experience can be a major drawback. Fortunately, dozens of authors have come to your aid with books that can help you learn the ropes – and language – of your military colleagues. Read this article on the best 10 books for civilians working with the military, written by ClearanceJobs contributor Mike Jones. (And there’s still time to add them to your holiday wish-list, too! ;))

Can you recognize a Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer by their uniform? How should you address a Vice Admiral? Do you know what to pack for a month-long stay on a Navy ship? Years ago, when I first starting looking for a career in the defense industry I had no previous experience with the military and I could not answer any of these questions. In fact, for a long time interacting with members of the military felt like talking to someone from a foreign country. Even job interviews with defense contractors were daunting because of the liberal use of military lingo, of which I was wholly unfamiliar.

Thankfully, eventually I stumbled upon a number of great books that gave me practical knowledge about working with the military and understanding the military mindset. These books became my bibles for working with the military and today many of them sit on my shelf with dog-eared pages. To help other civilians looking for jobs in the defense sector, here are some of the books I found most helpful.

1. NavCivGuide Another title for this book could be “The U.S. Navy 101.” Despite the unusual title, this was one of the first and most important books in my “military education.” Written by a retired naval officer, the book is a complete guide for civilians working with the U.S. Navy and operating on naval vessels. It covers everything from naval terms, to ranks, to culture. The first time I read this book was on the plane heading out to my first time at-sea with the Navy, and I cannot tell you how many times since then I have used it to brush up on naval information.

2. A Civilian’s Guide To The U.S. Military If the U.S. military was another country, this would be its Lonely Planet guidebook. In its 400 pages, Dr. Barbara Schading provides detailed reference information on the military from the perspective of a civilian, including everything from ranks to basic weapon systems. You will not be a military expert after reading this book, but you will have no problem holding a conversation (or a job interview) with current and former members of the military.

3. A Family’s Guide to the Military For Dummies Although written for the family members of service men and women, Sheryl Garrett’s book is actually a great introduction for any civilian that has to interact with the military. Particularly useful is the information about living and working on military bases, which can sometimes feel to civilians like a foreign nation, with their own rules, stores, and procedures. While some of the information, like how to deal with having one’s significant other be on deployment, is less directly applicable, I found that even this helped provide me with an understanding of the mindset of the military and the social pressures of servicemen and women.

4. The Dictionary of Military Terms The first thing you notice when working closely with the military is that they use an entirely separate language to themselves, and they assume you speak it as well. This book is packed with over 750 pages of terms used by the different branches of the military and is a pretty accurate representation of the current terminology. Whenever I am at a military event I keep this book in my bag to allow me to quickly (and discretely) look up words and terms used by service members that I am unfamiliar with.

6. Assignment Pentagon Originally written in 1988, Perry Smith and Daniel Gerstein’s Assignment: Pentagon is a classic but still highly relevant guide to working with the military. Despite its name, the book is more than just about working in the actual Pentagon building; it is a practical guide to working with the military and defense bureaucracy in general. It is packed with usable information, from what to wear to both the formal and informal rules of the U.S. military’s stateside bureaucracy.

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