Life in the army is much more than drilling on the parade grown and firing the musket. It is a unique transformational experience that teaches an individual how to fit into a robotic system of rules and regulations with higher values instilled in him during training. A new recruit has to spend nine week at Army Boot Camp where most of the time is spent in marching, drill, ceremonies and lots of standing in formation. There are seven core values with which every soldier in the army should be familiar with: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These core values provide a framework for behavior within the army, behavior on the personal level and behavior on an interpersonal level as well. One of the most attractive features of life in the army is the special bond that develops as a result of working together on tough missions and the heroism involved in the work. Life in the army is tough and challenging but the respectability and honor associated with it makes it all worthwhile.
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The army has a very strong organizational culture that includes the need for personal achievement, adherence to institutional leadership, sense of duty and accomplishment, social conscience and conservatism. Women in the army work under high pressure and need to be highly goal oriented to survive. Younger soldiers are marked by their strong desire for challenges, expression, sexual permissiveness, networking, etc. However, as they age, they desire greater autonomy, have a stronger sense of duty and ethics and become more pragmatic in approach. Generally, soldiers value combat roles that means defending their country. However, more recently soldiers are being increasingly deployed to fight terrorism in foreign countries. Life is all the more challenging when army personnel are deputed to serve in hot desert countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Life in the army is stressful. The training programs are physically very demanding and mentally challenging as well. Army basic training is very physically taxing and a person needs to be fit in order to survive a boot camp and well trained to do running, push-ups and sit-ups. With the goal of making them tough and ready to cope with any kind of crisis, they are deliberately put through strenuous training. This are more difficult for women military personnel who have a need to prove their worth in what is generally perceived as a ‘man’s area’. They also have to shoulder a balance between work and career and are sometimes forced to endure sexual harassment at work. All of this causes stress and tension among the soldiers who resort to alcohol and drugs for relaxation. Sometimes, the drinking habit becomes addictive and abusive, creating bitterness in the working arena and also at home (Stith, 1).
To reduce some of the stress associated with life in the army, some policy changes are being initiated. Traditionally, American soldiers lead a single life within the army. They were barred from sharing bed with sleeping partners in war zones. But these rules are being relaxed since May 2006. According to a news article in MSNBC, the Army is allowing scores of husband-and-wife soldiers to live and sleep together in the war zone and it is said that the policy change is aimed at “preserving marriages, boosting morale and perhaps bolstering re-enlistment rates at a time when the military is struggling to fill its ranks five years into the fighting” (MSNBC, 1).
During war, soldiers in the army are forced to see much violence, death and horror events. As a result, most of the soldiers tend to suffer from stress related disorders. Some of these disorders may be dangerous enough to include panic, rage, uncontrolled sharking and temporary paralysis and can cause lead to broken marriages, suicides and psychiatric breakdowns. According to a Pentagon survey, about 70% of the soldiers in the army bounce back to normal life once the war period is over. But about 20% of them will suffer from mental distress. Due to such problems, an increasing number of soldiers U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves (Thompson, 1). But according to FDA findings, antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide in children and adolescents especially young adults ages 18 to 24, the age group that forms the majority in the army. This probably explains the increasing number of suicides in the army.
Life in the army is varied and each one’s experience varies. But the instilment of the core values in a person, along with the basic training brings soldiers together in a special sense of camaraderie that is unmatched elsewhere. The stress of soldiers in the combat zone is becoming a serious issue with more and more youngsters being deployed in offshore regions to fight terrorism. Some measures are already being taken to counter the increasing stress levels of life in the army, but there is a need for more measures to be taken to make life in the army truly an appealing career choice for youngsters.
MSNBC (2008). Army lets soldiers take ‘I do’ to Iraq war zone. Web.
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Stith, Kevin (2008). Alcohol Abuse in the Army. Ezine Article. Web.
Thompson, Mark (2008). America’s Medicated Army. Time CNN, Web.