One wiki search later, and I've learned that FNG is an old term that spans all services and dates back at least to Vietnam.
FNGs were an important part of the group dynamic of US units in Vietnam and their treatment had at its core an overall sense of "us" (those with experience of the war) and "them" (those who were back in the United States). As one soldier said, FNGs were "still shitting stateside chow". It was in combat units that the FNG was truly ignored and hated by his fellow soldiers. An FNG in a combat unit was "treated as a non-person, a pariah to be shunned and scorned, almost vilified, until he passed that magic, unseen line to respectability".
I bolded that last part of the quote because I love the way it refers to one's transition away from being an FNG as something unstated and non-quantifiable. I think there's a universal application here and it goes way beyond the military: Anytime you show up ANYWHERE for the first time, like it or not, you're an FNG. Eventually, of course, you stop being an FNG, but no one really knows when. Personally, I think the ratio of people newer or older than you to the unit is key -- after a year or so at any active duty unit, you can't really be an FNG anymore, because by then half the staff has probably been there for less time than you have.
So it might not necessarily work so well for your neighborhood, your church, or your job -- if turnover there isn't all that frequent, you can still be an FNG after years, no matter how much you wish you weren't. I guess it all just depends, but no matter how welcoming your *group* is, or how transitory its membership, there's still got to be some period of time where you're an FNG.
Soon, I'm going to be an FNG in many senses of the word -- new to the rank, to the MOS, the unit, the base, and most important of all, the service. So in comes the question -- How should one handle being an FNG?
The most obvious thing that comes to my mind is a probationary period on new ideas or suggestions about how things should be done. I won't try to remain completely quiet -- besides running counter to my natural personality, I might run the risk of appearing aloof, which couldn't be further from the case. However, I definitely won't start regaling people with tales from "...this one time, at band camp" because I know no quicker way to make eyes roll.
But I think the real key to successfully transitioning from FNG to just, well G, is to give oneself a healthy period of time to Observe and Orient before Deciding to Act (and thanks to Col. Boyd for coming with the OODA loop phrase to aid the memory).
Soak stuff in.
Get your bearings.
Learn which side of your blouse the patches go on.
Figure out the hierarchies, formal and informal.
When the Good Idea Fairy lands on your shoulder, brush him off before you wind up with the newest suggestion to most efficiently maintain the vehicles or to muster for PT.
Eventually, when you see something that you might want to tweak, or wish it were different, find the right way to voice that opinion, subtly and tactfully. But only once you're no longer an FNG.
All groups have their tribal codes and codas, stated and implicit. All have common rituals and language to draw distinctions between *in* and *out.* Naturally, then, all SHOULD have a healthy skepticism of anyone who comes in from somewhere else, especially someone in a leadership role prone to verbal miscues like confusing "latrine" with "head."
That is, of course, until that person stops being an FNG. At which point, of course, he can begin viewing newcomers with a quizzical eye and the dismissive tone that comes when he turns to someone else and says, "So, who's this FNG?"