The British Army offers a family to those who’ve always wanted to belong; a gang of mates, hanging out in some pretty wild and wonderful places, being adventurous, with a strongly-defined hierarchy that supports each member of the team. It’s also widely regarded as the most experienced, best-trained and most capable in the world. You’d be joining the A Team, so don’t imagine it’s going to be an easy ride…
The Army exists for a very serious purpose, and the aims of the team – or military unit – always take priority over the individual aspirations of its members. The military life is ideal for people with nothing else they’d particularly like to pursue, or people willing to defer their own personal desires and ambitions in favour of taking part in somebody elses’ adventure. But it can end badly, especially if individuals find they’re not totally in agreement with whatever task they’ve been given.
This is where it’s worth thinking very seriously before signing up. The bottom line is that you have to be prepared to go wherever you’re sent, and do what you’ve been trained to do – which could easily be dangerous. However, you will be very well trained, led by experienced, professional people, and be part of a very tight team which you will remember afterwards for the rest of your life.
Most military training attempts to provide a flavour of what might be in store on operations – to minimise the shock and disorientation that would otherwise prevent units from carrying out what they’ve been trained to do. However only in special forces’ type selection are individuals deliberately discouraged; more usual military training encourages and develops skills and capabilities.
Women on the front line
Western armies now admit women into most but not all fighting units; but even so, on basic training courses women usually only train alongside men during specific exercises or training sessions.
The average woman is not as strong, and so not as robust as the average man. The Army works on the basis of the average person, and in many instances the lowest common denominator. Although a very fit, strong woman could keep up with the men, the average woman would be at physical disadvantage to the average man.
There are many examples of the difficulties of allowing sexual equality in the Army. On often cited is during combat in the Gaza Strip, when Israeli male soldiers were seriously distracted from fighting when women were wounded. An otherwise well-respected female medical officer in one of the Gulf War One tank regiments was replaced after the soldiers lost confidence in her physical ability to lift wounded casualties.
Although statutory ‘equality’ is satisfied by having women in military units, the army’s actual reason for acquiescing in previous resistance to the admission of women, is to make up the numbers with better-educated, high quality people who happen to be female, who the Army would now admit are generally better suited to administration and complicated headquarters jobs than many men.
Women are undoubtedly better at men in a number of areas important to the military: like intelligence collation, or the many headquarters-type activities for achieving concensus when working in groups is vitally important.