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Debunking the Stress Card

Rumor has it that the Air Force handed out yellow Stress Cards that permitted a recruit to “take a break” should the training become too strenuous. They were essentially “get out of jail free cards” that could be handed to a Recruit Division Commander, or RDC, for  a chance to calm down.

If this sounds outrageous to you, you’ll be happy to know that these cards never existed. They were a myth. But how did this myth get started, and why did it spread?

It seems to have been born in the 1990s with the so-called “Blues Cards” the Navy issued new recruits. It wasn’t a “stress card,” but a brochure to let recruits know where to turn if they got depressed. The goal was to give new recruits choices before they went so far as to desert or wash out. The cards didn’t last long and weren’t used to halt an intense dressing down from a RDC (Navy-speak for drill instructor).

Somewhere along the way, the history of the Blues Cards was distorted and became the Stress Card handed out by the Air Force. Every generation of veterans, it seems, believes THEY had it tougher than the current recruits. Older veterans harbor concerns about the nation’s youth. Maybe they’re too soft, too coddled, unwilling or unable to shoulder the burden of our national defence. Couple that concern with stereotypes of the “Chair Force,” and you have the perfect recipe for an urban legend that captures all these fears and assumptions in one outrageous story.

In fact, as Airmen spend more time in joint-service operations than ever before, the Air Force has recently transitioned from six-and-a-half weeks of training to approximately eight-and-a-half weeks to prepare new recruits to become “battlefield airmen.” No Stress Cards allowed.

Join us this week on the Scuttlebutt as we begin our six-part series on the military branches. First up, the exciting Air Force. This and our Phrases of the Week, Military Headlines and celebrate the upcoming 35 year anniversary of Top Gun and Iron Eagle. Don’t forget to like, share, comment, and subscribe.