The U.S. Army has long
conducted surveys of what the troops are thinking. Now they are doing it online
at peosoldier.army.mil/surveys.asp. Only members of the U.S. Army can reply.
This one is not a one-off, but the start of a continuous monitoring of troops
opinion on equipment. It wasn't always that way.
War II, the U.S. Army surveyed the troops to see what they thought about their
training, leadership and a host of other items. This was a program that went on
throughout most of the war, and all over the world. The surveys were published
after the war in a two volume work called "The American Soldier"
(Stouffer, et al, still available via Amazon.com.) One of the more surprising
things to come out of these surveys was the feeling among combat troops that
their training wasn't tough enough. World War II "basic" was
generally quite intense, more severe than anything recruits experienced in the
last fifty years. But actual combat quickly revealed that even more intensity
in that training would have been a big, often life saving, help. The troops
also believed that some of their equipment and weapons were wanting.
For over a
decade now, the troops have been on the Internet, and like never before, were
in touch with each other via military related message boards, listservs and
chat rooms. Troops have always been coming up with new ideas about how to use
civilian gear for military purposes. But before the Internet came along, each
soldiers discovery spread slowly. Now, information about new discoveries gets
spread army wide within hours. The troops also compared notes about combat
experiences, and this led to detailed and compelling critiques about what worked,
and didn't work, with current army gear.
The army has
established official message boards for discussions, and online surveys are
simply doing what is already happening all over the Internet. But it isn't just
for show. An earlier survey on proposed changes to uniforms attracted 80,000
replies (there are 1.4 million people in the active army and reserves). If the
new survey results don't bring forth requested changes, the army either has to make a very compelling case why not, or
face the Internet based consequences.