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Thoughts on required military service

October 28, 2009

I’ve always had the impression that people in America are against the idea of mandatory military service. I’m not sure why. Many other countries in the world require their young men, at least, to serve for a year or so in the armed forces. I’m not sure why America doesn’t require it. Perhaps the politicians don’t think there is any public support for it. And maybe there isn’t any public support for it; I’ve not done any research into that (yet).

I’ve never really had an opinion on it one way or the other, until my youngest sister went off to Boot Camp. For the last six weeks (she graduates in just over two weeks), I’ve been following her experiences vicariously through her letters to me and my family.

Knowing the person that she was before she went to boot camp, and seeing how she’s grown and changed, even over the last few weeks, I’ve started thinking more about what it would mean to our country and our young people if there were a required year of service for all of us. Imagine what the disaster surrounding Hurricane Katrina might have been like if everyone on the ground had has some amount of military training and experience.

The idea is starting to take shape in my head, and I’m thinking that everyone should go through boot camp, but then there should be choices as to how each person served. You could chose between the army, navy, air force, national guard, or coast guard, much the way you can now, but there could also be options to do something like AmeriCorps, or to join Disaster Relief efforts in whatever part of the country is having a disaster. I’m not sure exactly what the other options might be, but I think it would be a worth-while endeavor.

And it could be a required step between high school and higher education (be it two-year, four-year, or vocational). And if an individual dropped out of high school, they would be required to do it when they turned seventeen. (Eighteen? I’m not sure about the rules for that.)

It’s kind of awesome to think about what that might do for us as a nation. If everyone had to go through what my sister is going through right now at boot camp, I suspect we’d all be in much better shape, for one thing. And she’s had to face down her fears and learn to fire a weapon and all work with people she doesn’t know to accomplish a goal, often in horrible conditions. I just think it could have very powerful influences on many people in this country.

Those who wanted to sign on for longer could, because they liked it or were good at it, or wanted to use it to help fund their further education. And people who didn’t have many other prospects in life (because they came from a poor neighborhood, or didn’t do well in school, or a variety of other reasons) might have a chance to prove to themselves what they could accomplish.

I’m sure there are a lot of negatives that I’m not thinking of at the moment; a lot of counter-arguments to why it’s not as brilliant an idea as I think it is right now. But it’s certainly an idea worth considering. Maybe there’s a book in there, somewhere. And it would certainly accomplish my long-term, life goal of helping to level the playing field for people all over the country.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Amanda Pingel permalink
    December 11, 2009 12:54 am

    According to one of Grandma’s magazines, it’s also one of the great hierarchy-flatteners in Israel: once you’re in the military, the rich kid has to salute the kibutznik, if they’re higher rank. So people make connections they wouldn’t otherwise.

    One of Adam’s friends, who is in the military at the moment, came & talked to him after a group exercise. They did a little personality-sorting exercise, and put you in a group with people like you (the thinkers, the organizers, the socialites, etc). And they give you a project to do together in your group.

    Then they divide it all out, so each group has a strategizer, a socialite, etc. And give you another project to do in your group. And you see how, even though you LIKE working with people like you, you work BETTER with people unlike you.

    They also said that the empathy/social personality type is the most common in the US … not the majority, but the smallest minority. But in that room, there were only 4 of them out of the 80-or-so people. Which totally makes sense, you can see how the military might not attract the empath/social types. But what would change if they had to be in the military, and so the military had as many of them as the non-profits did?

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