In his first enlistment, Martin was serving on guard duty. On two occasions, he learned important lessons. The first time occurred on a particularly dark night. Martin approached another guard during that night. Hidden in the darkness, the other guard did not know who was approaching. He yelled out a few times before panicking and discharging his weapon. As one could imagine, the entire battalion fell out in response. Joseph Martin never confessed (until he published his memoir), and no one ever knew the event was his fault.
The second occasion was one in which a senior officer tested camp sentries. Every guard, it seems, failed his test: he approached each, and none of them asked for the call sign. Approaching Joseph, he was finally asked for the call sign. Later, Joseph overheard the man telling his commanding officer about finally finding a real man. In his next breath, however, he related that the guard then relaxed his firearm. He had passed easily through every guard. Martin was quickly moved from immense pride for asking a superior officer for the call sign to humility for reacting to the call sign by relaxing his defenses. Once again, no one knew that Martin was the soldier in the officer's evaluation.