14 Ridiculous Things You Only Know if You Worked There: The Pentagon




The Pentagon. That big, awkwardly shaped building that is the epicenter of all military goings-on in our country. Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal, the Pentagon is not some cool, dimly-lit operations center filled with military folks perpetually in the middle of a life or death operation. Well, I’m sure they have those rooms; I’m just not allowed in them.

No, for the average Pentagon person it’s a really big office building with lots of cipher locks and meeting rooms where policy is laid out and then dissected in excruciating detail, a place where the art of the blind copy on email has no equal. It’s a must tour/assignment for many hoping to advance in their field and, though technically a military installation, it’s miles away from the experience you’ll have when assigned to Ft. Bragg or any other military base.

26,000 people, 17.5 miles of corridors and a rich (and sometimes tragic) history are all a part of what it means to work in “The Building.”


1. When you come off the metro escalator but are not yet in the building.

Some are covered, some are not—it’s a saluting no man’s land where anything goes…until a gung-ho Lieutenant Colonel decides to call you out right before the guard podium because you didn’t salute. Busted.



2. Those hallways, those polished floors.

The burning desire when in the Pentagon early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to run through the halls à la Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club” singing “I wanna be an Airborne Ranger!” at the top of your lungs.


3. The mirage of the uniform shop on the fifth deck. 

Sometimes you can find it, sometimes you can’t…usually when you are in desperate need of a frog or a new ribbon rack.


4. The old food service versus the new food service. 

Remember when one Burger King had to feed like 5000 people? 


5. The Escher-like hallways.

Walk the same way every day and at some point you will find your corridor blocked with a temporary wall because of construction.


6. Flight suits in the Pentagon.

I will never get used to this sight; unless they start parking jets and helos in the parking lot.


7. The sweet, sweet freedom of the “no cover, no salute” center courtyard.

It’s like we’re all equal!


8. Floor-Ring-Corridor-Room. 

Essential first-day-in-the-Pentagon guidance.


9. The eeriness of accidentally running into an official tour guide practicing in civilian clothes.

Because it’s just weird to see a guy walking backwards talking to himself about military history.


10. The planes.

For anyone who was there on September 11th, the inability to ever get over how low the planes fly when taking off from Reagan.


11. Sigh.

The look of defeated resignation on the faces of all those folks who would rather be out to sea/in the field/operational.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) visits the Pentagon food court March 4, 2013 to speak to Department of Defense employees, and Virginia constituents  about the effects sequestration will have on them. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo) (Released)

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) visits the Pentagon food court March 4, 2013 to speak to Department of Defense employees, and Virginia constituents about the effects sequestration will have on them. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo) (Released)

12. Your first day, when you saw a four star!

And your last day when you barely register that the SECDEF just chatted you up in the line at Starbucks.


13. Ouch.

Getting a knee injury from having to lean in on the constant curve when running around the teeny-tiny-itty-bitty track at the Pentagon Athletic Center. How many laps around for the PT test? 45 you say? Okay awesome.


14. Forgetting your ID when going to the Pentagon Athletic Center.

(Cue ominous music). Now walk the 20 miles back to your office space to get it out of your computer; unless those ninja-like CAC police have found it first…

  • At the very least it’s more informative than one of those reality TV stars, kim this?
    Joey what?

  • Mac

    Where is the purple water cooler?

    • tkeitzer

      When I was there I saw it in the basement near the Air Force Operations Center

    • Arby

      During the renovation, it was placed into storage. Then when the AF Ops Center opened on the Mezzanine, it was put in a display case outside the entrances to ops center and the AF Council Room. The original plaque mentioned the story about “colored” drinking fountains and Virginia’s Jim Crow laws. Later, a new plaque mysteriously replaced the original one and said nothing about the old history. In other words, the PC police got to it.

  • Vitsing

    As a contractor, I was forced into Indentured Servitude to keep my job from 1995 to 2002. Yes I was there and injured on 911.

    Our favorite saying was “Any day in the Pentagon was far worse than your most miserable day with your Dentist.”

  • Richard Christiansen

    I spent 6 months TDY in the Army Intelligence Watch Office. Worked 4 days on then days off and switch shifts. I was there when The Berlin Wall came down and when Noriega was captured.

  • walkerny

    Where do they teach you to leave at 1600 sharp? Must be first day Indoc.

    • Len

      In my years at the Pentagon, leaving at 1600 was not a real option for most folks. To get a parking space, I had to arrive by about 0615. I stayed until 1800, because that’s when the HOV restrictions lifted.

  • shadowcruzr

    I spent a total of 9 years there, on three different tours, between 1975 and 1990. I had my Navy retirement ceremony at the Pentagon done by a Vice Admiral. I loved every one of my tours there.

  • Martin Laatsch

    Was there 72-73. Wednesday was “Military Day” when military personnel wore their uniforms. All other days for most folks was civilian attire because it was too dangerous to be in military uniform in DC and surrounding area.

  • David Lake

    Spent 16 years or so in there. The most un-nerving time was the day after I switched from Army Staff Sergeant to Civilian and the ops team General called me Sirat t he coffee mess.

  • JohnD

    So they have a division plus working there to misguide the military! No wonder we have soooo many flag officers without troops under them to run the military! If we keep cutting brigades, who will the huge Pentagon machine control? So they need to be cut also instead of finding 3 and 4 star homes or GS 50 level nonsense jobs with staffs!!

  • David Emery

    Being able to calculate how far your former office was from where the airplane impacted on Sept 11.

  • Kyle

    The hallway that smells like a skunk.

  • aenorton

    I spent three tours there (USN). A comment about getting off the Metro and being dressed down for not saluting: (a) USN personnel only salute when covered; (b), when walking (running?) to and from the Metro, going up escalators, etc., the need to salute was pretty much ignored/overlooked. We called the food court that was dead center in the grassy, five-acre center open area (where you can walk uncovered, as if you were indoors) “Ground Zero.” This was no joke after 9/11.

  • LIAM

    The “Puzzle Palace” been there….easy to get lost!!