Those first five weeks involve spartan living, extreme cleanliness of accommodation, equipment and individuals. Figuring out the need for mutual support is left to the recruits, but they learn fast. The reward is sleep – precious oblivion between the frenzy. Sandhurst reckon that they squeeze 11 days of extra consciousness out of the Officer Cadets in the first 35 days.
Muster at 05:30 expects that you arrive on parade having washed, shaved, dressed in immaculately ironed clothes and parade-shined boots, with the correct gear – and that you have made your bed, complete with ironed fold-downs and pillow cases. Those below the standard may find their beds and gear fired out of a window and represented that evening in a more acceptable state at a grid reference on Barossa common, the military training ground near Sandhurst. Breakfast follows, then duties, then physical training – with a run across the training area, through streams and bogs, before another shower – gear into the wash to be dried, ironed and ready for inspection for the next day – those chores to be completed in the short periods between normal training. The training in the first five weeks requires one to master military skills, first aid and theory, including military history. It takes a lot to stay awake, and falling asleep in a lecture is normally rewarded with another run for all 30 men and women of the platoon.
Yes, I can see the value to the military of people working as a team. What I can’t see is the value to society as a whole of everyone submerging their individuality in said team.
So how do you cope? Well, you can’t. That’s the point. Only by dividing the work between teams can it ever be done. A team does the wash, a team irons – and everybody keeps everybody awake in lectures. In the field, a team makes the tea and cooks the scoff while others put up the shelters. If anybody is unlucky enough to be summoned to Barossa in the evening with their bed and locker to be presented immaculately, then it takes a whole section of eight to get the bed, locker gear and victim there on time and acceptably dressed. A ratio of eight or 10 to assist one, normally, for a pass. Oh, and then there is the foot drill – hours of it, learning to move as a squad in pace and in time.
The point is that by minimising the extra runs and visits to the common you get to sleep. Those who get to sleep a little do so by helping each other. By week five the exhausted recruits can deliver themselves and gear to the right place at the right time, like clockwork. They are a team – and that is when the military starts to train them for real.
And this also doesn’t work. Because that societal pressure only works upon people who wish to remain within the society. Or, as the economist would point out, free riding is all too easy. Simply don’t shave, or even fake falling asleep in a lecture. Everyone gets that run. Do it again that afternoon, again the next day. You are now hated….which is the point of doing so. You’ve destroyed the very team that the process is trying to build. You will, of course, be thrown out.
Which is the point and purpose of doing it. And what’s the point of compulsory basic training if it’s easy enough to get thrown out by day three? Hardly compulsory then, is it?
And what rate do you need of that sort of bolshieness for the whole system to come falling down? 2%? 10%? 20%?
You think current day society doesn’t contain 20% of the people who would simply tell the Army to fuck off? What’s the current fall out rate among volunteers?
If someone tried this with me I do know what I would do. Not that they are at my age but still. So, once I’ve worked out the game, collective punishment for my individual falings, then I fail at each and every possible opportunity. Everyone gets punished for those failings: until either I’m a complete free rider on their efforts, the entire team does nothing but the punishments, someone murders me or I’m thrown out.
But I’ll tell you the things I won’t be doing: shaving, polishing boots, ironing creases in blankets and all that malarkey. Because I’ll be aiming to get thrown out. And that’s the thing Collins has forgotten here. All the people this is currently being done to want to be there. And those sorts of collective punishments just won’t work when some goodly proportion are willing to tell everyone to fuck off.
As I would.
And let’s be honest about this, say we did bring basic training back. We going to have jail sentences for those who don’t complete it? Shoot people who take the piss? Jail them?
No, not going to happen is it: so what power does the Army have?