Morale: What The Troops Think


September22, 2008:  The U.S. Army has long conducted surveys of what the troops are thinking. Now they are doing it online at 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.

During World 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 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.



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