Leadership: April 25, 2001


American junior officers, especially captains commanding companies, complain bitterly about the poor attitudes of the new troops they get. Everyone knows the reason; basic training is no longer a rite of passage that terrifies and stresses civilians while turning them into disciplined and selfless civilians. But it's not just the busted basic that causes the problem. A lot of it is societal. In Britain, where boot camp is as harsh and effective as ever, most new recruits can't take the stress. Up to 70 percent of trainees drop out. Britain, like the United States, has an all volunteer force. If the new troops decide the military life is not for them, they can just flunk out. British commanders have noted the growing percentage of dropouts over the last few decades. Interviews with the recruits that failed revealed a growing reluctance to be challenged. Adolescents are no longer exposed to as much discipline in school. So when they hit boot camp, the concept of following orders quickly and without any backtalk is quite alien. Those who meet the challenge go on to become excellent soldiers. The problem in America is that nearly everyone passed basic training, leaving it to NCOs and officers to deal with the lack of discipline later on. Many of the troops not challenged in basic, drop out later when faced with the stress of regular service. 


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