As a former soldier this is a tough blog to write and on a controversial subject.
In the movie Jack Reacher (2012) the main character makes the statement, “There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next you have those who just need a job. Than there’s the kind who want the legal means of killing other people.“
I think the author, Lee Child misses an important category that might not have been all that apparent back in the late 1990’s when Jack Reacher walks the earth (but more on that later).
It’s been a long time for me but when I was a highly suggestive teenager I felt that the only way to get out of a dead-end job in Bendigo, Victoria might be to join the Army. As the recruiting ads of the time suggested joining the Army was not just another ‘job’ and it was certainly much better than pecking at a typewriter or working in a local factory. My dream of being a soldier was somewhat reflected in this Australian Army ad series that ran through 1987.
In this 61-second ad less than 4-seconds (6.5%) is dedicated to office or rear echelon duties while 6-seconds (10%) is dedicated at the end to give you the relevant contact numbers. 51-seconds (83.5%) of the vision is reserved for jumping out of planes, helicopters, driving APC’s, shooting and blowing things up. As a kid who grew up on a steady diet of Rambo movies and Mack Bolan books I couldn’t think of anything better than fast-roping out of the Huey chopper or firing anti-tank weapons.
Now look at the next Australian Army ad from 2014.
The three big data-points that jump out of me:
1. The first is that in this 60-second ad 52-seconds (86.7%) is dedicated to office or rear echelon duties and I can only find approximately eight-seconds of vision that looks combat related;
2. The eight Australian Army ‘Other Capabilities’ Wish-List makes for interesting reading. In Order: Leading, Teaching, Inspiring, Creating, Adventurers, Educators, Warriors and finally Nurturers. Yes, being a Warrior ranks seven only outranking Nurturers;
3. The best for last. Not one single person fires a weapon, nor is there a single explosion.
We obviously live in a world where we try to pretend to ourselves that the ADF main function is to do anything but smash things up.
The other team has no such qualms about what its narrative is. In terms of recruitment this is what we are up against.
Put aside the narrative. This is a very slick piece of recruitment.
Look a bit more at the young men who are attracted to the wars in the Middle East, Ukraine or the Democratic Republic of Congo. When they are interviewed they are generally engaged, animated and excited about their life. Why shouldn’t they. Sure you might die, but you were dying slowly in your ghetto [insert modern ghetto or region] and your now surrounded by your mates in the middle of [insert country] doing something. Whether your a Muslim kid from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, a former French soldier or a skin-head from Kurskaya your future at home is one of almost perpetual poverty, underemployment and jobs that at best might involve pecking at a computer trying to move up the chain, working in a factory that will be transitioning to automation or as a check-out staffer in the local supermarket.
Back to the subject of why a person joins the military, a question my nine-year old son pesters me about constantly. My view is that there are five types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. You have those who just need a job and you have some that don’t but are bored by civilian life. Finally you have those that want the legal means of killing other people.“