That title may be a bit loose to interpretation, but hey, a good title hooks people.
My thoughts today are how basic training could be improved to make a much more cohesive unit for the military rather than the collaboration of psychotic individuals that it cranks out. I'm going to be brutally honest and some of you may not like hearing it, but the simple truth is that when you come out of basic training in the military, you come out fundamentally broken inside.
Their whole argument is to strip you down to your bare essentials, then build you into the mindset of working as a team. A sound idea, sure, but boy howdy is this not accomplished. In fact, it's not even CLOSE.
*waits for the shouts of military fanboys and cries of 'non-hacker' to die down*
Now that you've gotten this out of your system, let's listen in. I am an average person. I'm not good at everything, but neither am I bad. I'm smart, sure, but hey, that's balanced by my physical nature being less than successful. Basic's two-point stratagem is to rebuild your physical prowess into something that can handle the rigors of battle and war...and to put you into the military mindset of working together as a team.
That first one? I handled that pretty well. I was able to pass tests with some ease and could hold my own with PT and whathaveyou. The second one was...well, IS poorly executed. And funnily enough, it's executed at the same time as the first, which is probably it's biggest downfall. See, you're punished in basic for erring. A LOT. And half of the time, it's not even really worth 'being smoked' for (the term we called getting our arms melted clean off with nuclear amounts of pushups). You can get smoked in basic for truly simple things...and most of the time, they're so distantly related to you so as to be uncontrollable by you in any fashion at all.
But they're still YOUR fault. Example: our whole platoon was woken up in the middle of the night by an angered drill sergeant because the two guards on duty (an unfair thing to do in basic when you're learning if you think about it) erred in missing a phone call, leading him to be called directly...and woken up from HIS sleep. We got smoked for an *hour* for something that all of us (who were asleep at the time) couldn't have possibly changed or affected.
Do you see how this is a negative?
This reinforces something that should NEVER be reinforced in any environment, be it school, work, or otherwise; up until about the last week of basic, you never 'win' if you or your team succeeds at something, you simply didn't lose. But when you don't win, you lose. And you get smoked. Punished. Forced to endure massive pain and anguish without any consideration for going over WHY you lost or, more to the point, how to not lose again. Now, sometimes, you get a rare drill sergeant that actually DOES care enough to help. However, they are far and few between. The vast majority are big, beefy guys and girls who think more with their muscles and tend to put excessive amounts of bias into physical performance and actual stats rather than mental acuity.
Example again!: an asshole in our company could run the two-mile in the PT test in eleven minutes flat. He was lauded as being a good soldier. However, he routinely shirked his duties, hit on the females of the company, and was a VERY lousy shot. BUT, the drills actually went to extreme lengths with him to get him to succeed. Such as tuning the qualifying course of basic rifle marksmanship down so much that he could qualify. He was named Top Soldier for the cycle. Not really fair, is it? Nope. Because the drills were looking to make their quota off of us. And I know that's true because working at Fort Benning gave me access to talking to drill sergeants who DIDN'T see me as their underling and could talk openly.
Most of them could be called sadistic. On a side note, most of their family lives were pretty shit as well.
This basic mentality is VERY difficult to break. The concept of 'you don't win, you just hold off losing more" carries with most all recruits who make it out intact for quite some time after. Advanced training showed me that. And the guys who came from AIT to my station were a mess too, comparatively. When you think about it, it's not really a good idea to give broken soldiers to units to fix up. Bad for business. But I've seen the mentality of 'winning by staving off losing' elsewhere in my life, too. Some jobs do this, enforcing quotas on their employees and then having those quotas be unattainable without drastic amounts of effort given. And even when you think it's attainable, if something mechanical comes along to gunk up the works, you're still considered to 'not meet standards."
Unfair and unacceptable as far as I am concerned. We should be better than this. Yes, we don't have to be all lovey-dovey, ooey-gooey with each other. But a basic understanding for how things are and how much you can accept and realize a standard with the given amount of time is VITAL if you intend to enforce such stringent standards. And the term "you win more flies with honey" is NOT stupid. By reaching out and meeting trainees halfway, you show them trust. You show them how to do it...and then you can start pushing, start helping them exceed and grow. But to just assume they will lose or worse, enforce losing with severe punishments or a never-ending limbo of misery, what are you accomplishing exactly? That kind of 'sink-or-swim' idealism never works and just leads to a lot of lost jobs, a high turnover rate, and more needless searching for work.
It needs to change. NEEDS to. We're not helping each other, not growing the right way as a human species if we continue along it. Now, granted, the more intellectual communities are well aware of this little easy-to-fall-into trap of You Can't Win and tend to avoid it. Some churches, not so much unfortunately. Some churches do.
What can help is to show the merits of teaching and training with positives in mind. Yes, you don't need to make everyone a bright and shiny star, but the thing is, by giving a positive to look at and to attain, you build confidence the positive way. It reinforces the same way negative confidence does, but is supremely healthier for one's heart in the long run.
Now, to end this on a big disclaimer, I was in basic seven years ago. Things may very well have changed. I've been out of the military (honorable discharge after deciding to not re-enlist and letting my four years run their course) for about three years now. From the outside looking in, I'm pretty distant from the issue. But I hope that if there IS some change, it's for the better. Because you should question this: do you want someone who is capable, physically AND mentally AND emotionally to handle our freedom? Or do you want someone who is only ONE of those? A LOT of emphasis was put on physical prowess determining rank while I was in. And a lot of lieutenants I had the (dis)pleasure of running across were most definitively shitty leaders because they only knew how to be physical all-stars, but had none of the emotional or mental requirements necessary to lead properly.
And that kind of brainlessness trickles down like a diseased miasma.
Now then. If anyone has any bright ideas on how to fix it, now's the time to be sharing, to be helping the leaders learn. We're getting close to a singularity point in human history, a point where we rise above what we've known for so long as standard. Personally, I'd like to approach that with a good hope that we can attain something greater for ourselves than to show our moral ineffectiveness.
At the very least, I'd like that damned episode 3 of Half-Life 2 to be released...