How to Suck an Egg

By: M.M. O'Leary (1997)

The purpose of this exercise is to follow precise unnecessary directions issued by a higher HQ. You have been directed to be in possession of a fresh empty eggshell for no apparent reason. Simple issuance of tasks being insufficient in any anal-retentive, career-oriented, hopelessly bureaucratic military staff society, the staff of the higher HQ have issued the following instructions:

1.    The Egg. Acquire an egg. An appropriately sized egg would be a chicken's egg or one similar in volume. This egg should be; a. Not too small, as a small egg might be too fragile, difficult to hold or could unexpectedly be aspirated and lead to choking; and b. Not too large, for too large an egg would require you to suck out too much material. Remember that volume increases in a cube function relationship to dimensional increases along a single axis. A goose egg twice as long as a medium chicken's egg and similar in proportion, therefore would contain about eight times as much suckable material.

2.    Egg Purchase. You can pick these up by the dozen at your local grocery. If you think this operation will require practice, perhaps you should buy a full dozen. No recovery action against the Higher HQ is to be taken as a result of this purchase. Excessive purchase requirements may be submitted on the next cyclical.

3.    Identification and Marking of the Ends of the Egg. Take an egg carefully in your hand, examine it and identify the smaller end. The smaller end may be identified by measuring the outside diameter one-third of the distance from each end of the egg, the end farthest from the greater cross-sectional circumference will be the "small end." This is the end upon which the sucking will occur. The other end is the large end and, therefore, will be the end furthest from you while sucking. Using a fine tipped felt marker, mark the ends of the egg now to differentiate them later without having to repeat this determination process. Mark the small end with an "S" (for small or suck) and the large end with an "O" (for the other end").

4.    Piercing the Egg. Successful sucking of an egg requires that a small hole (see below for recommended sizes) is made in each end of the egg. The following guidance is provided to assist the staff officer in establishing a hole in each end of the egg:

a.    Using a small pointed object (pin, pen, unfolded paperclip, staff officer's head, etc.) to make the small holes in each end of the egg

b.    Make the "S" hole, through which all egg contents will flow in a short explosive journey, 5 mm in diameter;

c.    Make the "O" hole, through which only air will travel, about 2 mm in diameter;

d.    Place the holes at the points where the imagined line of the longitudinal axis of the egg would intersect its shell;

e.    Do not use too vigorous an action or grip the egg too firmly while effecting the required piercing. Doing so might result in a crushed egg;

f.    Ensure you pierce both ends of the egg. If you only pierce the large end, you will be attempting to suck the egg through its unbroken shell. If you only pierce the small end, no air can get into the egg as you suck. You could end up collapsing the egg or unexpectedly trying to swallow it. If you feel that one hole is sufficient, then ensure someone competent in the Heimlich manoeuvre is present.

5.    Setting Down the Egg. Place the egg gently on your desk. You will not need it for the next step.

6.    Confirming the Ability to Suck. Before actually sucking the egg, it is necessary to confirm that you know the requisite physical actions to effect sucking. Hold apiece of white bond paper vertically in front of your face such that it gently contacts the tip of your nose. Suck! If the paper does not appear to move, but only trembles slightly, you are in fact sucking. If the paper moves noticeably away from your face, you are not sucking, but blowing. This action is inappropriate. Practice sucking until you are able to do it without error. Put the sheet of paper back in the printer, or save it until the next time an egg must be sucked.

7.    Picking up the Egg. Pick up the egg. Make sure you have picked up the prepared egg with the two end holes, marked "S" and "O".

8.    Bringing the Egg in Contact with the Lips. Place the pierced egg against your lips, centering the "S" hole on an opening in your pursed lips. Ensure the lips are pursed or you may end up trying to brace the shell on your teeth with undesirable results.

9.    Canting the Egg. Tilt the egg upwards to ensure all of the internal material tends to drain toward the lower hole in the small end of the egg.

10.    Advise on Preparing to Suck. Ensure that you use an inward sucking action. Inadvertently blowing outwards will not be successful. "Blowing" could result in your workspace, or a watching fellow staff officer, being coated with albumen and yolk. You might end up with the requisite empty shell, but you have failed to follow issued direction and been left with a sticky mess. If you happen to "blow" the egg out of you grasp, you will not even be left with the empty shell. 

11.    Sucking the Egg. Suck!

12.    What to do With a Mouthful of Albumen and Yolk. Swallow.

13.    Result of the Successful Suck. If you have correctly selected your egg and followed the above instructions, you should now be left with one empty eggshell and a bad taste in your mouth.

14.    After-Action Reporting and Actions. Follow the instructions at Annex A regarding the further handling of this shell and complete the form at Annex B, with info copies to G3 Higher HQ, PaffO Higher HQ and NDHQ on task completion. Submission of Annex C, Egg Sucking Report, and approval by all Higher HQs will authorize the successful staff egg-sucker to wear the "Sucker" badge in an order and position determined in accordance with the performance criteria at Appendix 1 to Annex C and place the letters "S.T.A.F.F." after their name on all correspondence.

15.    The Staff Officer's Egg-Sucking Guide. Local HQ are to reformat and produce the above instructions in the form of a pocket-sized, accordion style card for individual carriage and reference. All staff officers are to be in possession of their copy of the Staff Officers Egg-Sucking card at all times when in the following orders of dress: DEU (all), Garrison Dress, Combat, PT strip, mufti, nil.

16.    Higher HQ sends.

17.    Watch for further issues in this series, including: "Pulling Your Head From Your Ass", "Sucking Up", and "Smoke-Sculpting and Mirror Management - A Staff Guide to Briefing the Unaware".

Staffio Insesitivitum.


How to Suck an Egg was written in response to a sudden proclivity of the chain-of-command to issue 'pocket cards.' The initial conception of issuing soldier pocket sized reminder cards is commendable - for such critical requirements as operations Rules of Engagement (ROE) they can be a confidence builder for the soldier and a means of confirming that soldiers have current regulations for the commander. And this ROE measure had various forerunners, such as the advisory cards sometimes issued to NCO on the critical information to be given to a soldier under arrest - things which had to be done correctly under pressure to ensure a fair system.

But the pocket card idea quickly got out of control. Within months every bone-headed staff officer who thought his small part of the bureaucracy was important wanted his pocket card carried by all and sundry also. In no time at all there were pocket-sized cards covering environmental protection, media interviews, radio voice procedure, defensive electronic warfare measures, weapon cards, etc. And all this while many military publications underwent reformatting to inch-thick "pocket-sized" editions. Though how many ofthese half-pound blocks of paper a soldier, NCO or officer was expected to carry was never established.

I was working as a staff officer during these years, watching with amazement as pocket cards and publications flourished. To my mind some were an excellent method of reinforcing training - like the ROE cards. Others seemed to be an attempt by the staff to ensure the commander's ass was covered - "Of course he knew what he was supposed to do, he had the pocket card." - "He must have been briefed on the right procedures, he was issued the pocket card." - "All personnel will carry subject card ..."

Perhaps we need a new pocket card for commanders - "Seeking and Accepting Responsibility at all Levels"

Anyway, "How to Suck an Egg" was my response to the pocket-card mania. It's a staff officer's response to the out-of-control approaches of thestaff.

(The original was formatted with WordPerfect on 8.5 x 14 paper with the page subdivided into two rows and four columns. Printed back-to-back a half sheet folded into a nice little eight paged pocket card.)