"You've Got To Be A Certain Kinda Crazy To Want This Life, Boy."

Military service is an unusual thing. You spend a lot of time in an unusual place with unusual people doing the extraordinarily unusual things. Which is especially weird when for some people, it's spending a lot of time in California with Joe America doing the most menial fucking thing ever every day.

During wartime, you're fighting a war. It's a pretty unusual occupation, warfighting. It's not really for everyone. In fact, it's really not for anyone. But during wartime, you're a warfighter who isn't fighting a fucking war. So that's weird.

And when you aren't even a warfighter yet, you just really really want to be, you are wishing you were fighting a fucking war, even though you'll hate a major amount of your life if you ever get around to it.

It's all a little peculiar.

Hard military men are pretty unusual too. My last girlfriend, lovely as she was, was the daughter of a member of the United States Army's Special Forces. He was an odd guy. Goofy, scrawny, kind of funny looking. He wasn't the meatheads some people think of as being the bad ass members of our armed forces. He was kind of a kid at heart. Probably exaggerated by how much time he had to spend being about as much of a grown up as anyone will ever be, but it wasn't just that. It seems that line of work just attracts a certain kind of person. A certain kind of unusual.

So I guess it shouldn't surprise me how fucking stir crazy I'm going here in a civilian life (and a boring as shit one at that, let me tell you. I can't remember the last time I heard any noise that was worth hearing, much less the last person I really talked to other than my mother, and that was just because of the recent tragedy in Boston). I'm sitting here, and realizing that I'd rather be sucker punched in the gut, have a sack thrown over my head, and be abducted away to boot camp, than continue on with this freaking life.

That's not a rational thought. But there it is, in my brain. Wondering why the fuck I can't get a stupid job just so I can pay $700 for a couple of months so I can finally tick off the last box and say "Hey Uncle Sam, I've got your proof I'm not an idiot, now let me in!" Wondering why the fuck the most exciting thing in my life right now is that there isn't anything exciting in my life.

It is an unusual man that thinks these things. That wants nothing more than to go and be screamed at by grown men, to be thrown into the mud and the dirt and the dust and to use up every last ounce of will to get through whatever unpleasant experience is up next.

One of the first Marines I ever talked to after starting to consider the decision to enlist didn't have much to say to me. He was well adjusted, though had his oddities about him as most do. He'd enjoyed his time in the Corps, and it brought him pride as much as it brought him pain. But he had one thing to say to me that stuck in my head for a long time. "You've got to be a certain kinda crazy to want this life, boy."

I wasn't really sure what he meant. I mean, sure, you think "well, you probably have to be a little nuts to go into a line of work that involves a hail of bullets being a likely plot point in your future," but I'm starting to think there might be a little more to that. It's a bit strange, but it's actually reinforcing my desire to enlist. Maybe I'm better cut out for this shit than I thought. I mean, who the fucking hell gets this frustrated because they can't get a break on going to MCRD? Normal people hear "we'll break you the fuck down and build you back up" and run the opposite direction. Yet all I can think is how stupid it is that I'm not fucking there yet.

Maybe I'm just crazy. But god damnit I'm gunna kick the shit out of MCRD's ass sooner or later. I'm just tired of fucking waiting. I'm one freakin' job away from being able to just get it over with and let the Marine Corps ship my ass off to be remade. I wish that job would come a little quicker. I'm just about fed up with this life and it's time for me to get a second try at a new one.

/exhausted rambling

27 Comments
27 Comments
Posted by Sploder

Pretty interesting thoughts, dude. I wish you well in getting remade.

Posted by Pachtar_Klepek

I got out and I couldn't stay couped up, I had to hit the range and start random hobbies to stay occupied. I can't compare to most field experience, I only experienced a fair amount of combat myself, but I feel I can at least relate to some of the more extreme guys.

What I'm saying is the Marines (most military for that matter) is a lot of waiting, and it doesn't get easier!

Posted by Ghostiet

Good read. Your story reminded me of The Hurt Locker. Not as tragic and, perhaps, twisted, of course, but it is strange and peculiar that you can get so hooked on the military.

Edited by MordeaniisChaos

@sploder said:

Pretty interesting thoughts, dude. I wish you well in getting remade.

Thanks man!

I got out and I couldn't stay couped up, I had to hit the range and start random hobbies to stay occupied. I can't compare to most field experience, I only experienced a fair amount of combat myself, but I feel I can at least relate to some of the more extreme guys.

What I'm saying is the Marines (most military for that matter) is a lot of waiting, and it doesn't get easier!

Yeah, but I'd rather be waiting in uniform than out of uniform, ya know? I swore an oath like two years ago and between myself, my father, and just bad luck I've been set back in about a million ways and now I'm stuck in a rut and it's driving me a little bonkers. At least once I get through boot camp, that'll refresh me a bit and I'll be up for some waiting, and when I get to my unit I'll have hazing and shit to keep me busy. And unless I make recon or turn out to be a brilliant shot and go Scout Sniper, I'll have goals to work towards, etc. I'm sure the waiting will still be obnoxious, but at least I'll be waiting around to do what I signed up for, not waiting to wait to learn to wait to do what I signed up for :p Make a little progress in my life, and I'll be willing to wait around a bit. But it's been a while since anything went anywhere in my life.

@ghostiet said:

Good read. Your story reminded me of The Hurt Locker. Not as tragic and, perhaps, twisted, of course, but it is strange and peculiar that you can get so hooked on the military.

It really is. I'm spending my days reading/searching for field manuals that interest me, working out, practicing reciting creeds and mottos and rules and general orders. Not really something I saw myself doing when I was 15, so I guess there is truth in what they say, you never really know what you're going to end up doing or being.

Posted by Klei

To each their own, I guess.

Posted by leebmx

@klei said:

To each their own, I guess.

Indeed. Joining any part of the army is the last thing I would want to do, but everyone has to follow whatever path they feel drawn to.

In a semi-unrelated point I was talking about army conscription with a friend the other day and he remarked that the fairest way for a country to draw up its armed forces would be to not let anyone join of their own free-will but entirely conscript the whole army. This would avoid the unfair practice of most country's armies being made up of the poorest sections of the communities who see the army as a good way to earn a decent salary when there aren't too many other oppourtunites about, while anyone with decent chances in life would normally avoid something as dangerous as a job where people shoot at you. We all want the protection an army provides - so shouldn't we all contribute?

It sounds crazy at first, but morally it seems the fairest way to staff an army.

Edited by Mirado

Best of luck in your future endeavors, but something to keep in mind: life is only as boring as you make it. Excitement can be found, or as is often the case, it can find you (and not always in the best of ways), but boredom is a luxury of your own making. Don't consider boredom such a misfortune, as unrelenting excitement can be far more maddening than unrelenting boredom.

Posted by living4theday258

The two marines I've met have been perfectly normal people. One of them was a bit shy but other than that....

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@klei said:

To each their own, I guess.

Stuff like that comes off as super passive aggressive and in my experience usually means the person wants to tell me that I "don't have to do it" or "they'll make you into a murdering robot!" So I'm not terrible certain how to really look at that comment, honestly. I'm not making any assumptions, just sayin'.

@leebmx said:

@klei said:

To each their own, I guess.

Indeed. Joining any part of the army is the last thing I would want to do, but everyone has to follow whatever path they feel drawn to.

In a semi-unrelated point I was talking about army conscription with a friend the other day and he remarked that the fairest way for a country to draw up its armed forces would be to not let anyone join of their own free-will but entirely conscript the whole army. This would avoid the unfair practice of most country's armies being made up of the poorest sections of the communities who see the army as a good way to earn a decent salary when there aren't too many other oppourtunites about, while anyone with decent chances in life would normally avoid something as dangerous as a job where people shoot at you. We all want the protection an army provides - so shouldn't we all contribute?

It sounds crazy at first, but morally it seems the fairest way to staff an army.

I would never want to see that. We get enough people who aren't up to the task as it is. I think a volunteer force is the best way to do things because it's the best chance of getting as many people who are willing and ready to serve, such as myself, as possible. And getting as few people who aren't so willing and end up flaking out.

There are some real horror stories I've heard about kids who even half way through boot camp realize they weren't cut out for the military and they end up doing really stupid shit to try and get out. I've heard of guys cutting of their trigger fingers, getting intentionally caught engaging in... inter-recruit relations, all kinds of shit. Honestly, most people can probably hack it. But I'd rather know that A) my country is guarded by the willing and B) that my back is covered by the willing. We don't need fair, we need effective and willing.

Until we find ourselves in a conflict that needs the numbers of required service, then yeah it'll be effective. But until then I think it's best to stick to the way things are.

Plus it'd be a bummer to want to join and then not have a choice. lol.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@living4theday258 said:

The two marines I've met have been perfectly normal people. One of them was a bit shy but other than that....

Most of them are, generally speaking. But there is no way to go through boot camp and deployments without being a changed man, ya know? On the one hand, most Marines are easy going nice guys and gals. But they all have a bit of crazy in them just from how different life is as a Marine and what it takes just to become a Marine.

@mirado said:

Best of luck in your future endeavors, but something to keep in mind: life is only as boring as you make it. Excitement can be found, or as is often the case, it can find you (and not always in the best of ways), but boredom is a luxury of your own making. Don't consider boredom such a misfortune, as unrelenting excitement can be far more maddening than unrelenting boredom.

I guess boredom is the wrong word. It's the lack of progress. I can keep myself reasonably entertained, but it all comes off as useless and empty usually. Even good games are kind of losing their edge on me. Stuff like that. I'm just sitting here trying to occupy myself, trying to move forward, but all I'm really doing is waiting and keeping myself occupied.

Posted by JazGalaxy

Military service is an unusual thing. You spend a lot of time in an unusual place with unusual people doing the extraordinarily unusual things. Which is especially weird when for some people, it's spending a lot of time in California with Joe America doing the most menial fucking thing ever every day.

During wartime, you're fighting a war. It's a pretty unusual occupation, warfighting. It's not really for everyone. In fact, it's really not for anyone. But during wartime, you're a warfighter who isn't fighting a fucking war. So that's weird.

And when you aren't even a warfighter yet, you just really really want to be, you are wishing you were fighting a fucking war, even though you'll hate a major amount of your life if you ever get around to it.

It's all a little peculiar.

Hard military men are pretty unusual too. My last girlfriend, lovely as she was, was the daughter of a member of the United States Army's Special Forces. He was an odd guy. Goofy, scrawny, kind of funny looking. He wasn't the meatheads some people think of as being the bad ass members of our armed forces. He was kind of a kid at heart. Probably exaggerated by how much time he had to spend being about as much of a grown up as anyone will ever be, but it wasn't just that. It seems that line of work just attracts a certain kind of person. A certain kind of unusual.

So I guess it shouldn't surprise me how fucking stir crazy I'm going here in a civilian life (and a boring as shit one at that, let me tell you. I can't remember the last time I heard any noise that was worth hearing, much less the last person I really talked to other than my mother, and that was just because of the recent tragedy in Boston). I'm sitting here, and realizing that I'd rather be sucker punched in the gut, have a sack thrown over my head, and be abducted away to boot camp, than continue on with this freaking life.

That's not a rational thought. But there it is, in my brain. Wondering why the fuck I can't get a stupid job just so I can pay $700 for a couple of months so I can finally tick off the last box and say "Hey Uncle Sam, I've got your proof I'm not an idiot, now let me in!" Wondering why the fuck the most exciting thing in my life right now is that there isn't anything exciting in my life.

It is an unusual man that thinks these things. That wants nothing more than to go and be screamed at by grown men, to be thrown into the mud and the dirt and the dust and to use up every last ounce of will to get through whatever unpleasant experience is up next.

One of the first Marines I ever talked to after starting to consider the decision to enlist didn't have much to say to me. He was well adjusted, though had his oddities about him as most do. He'd enjoyed his time in the Corps, and it brought him pride as much as it brought him pain. But he had one thing to say to me that stuck in my head for a long time. "You've got to be a certain kinda crazy to want this life, boy."

I wasn't really sure what he meant. I mean, sure, you think "well, you probably have to be a little nuts to go into a line of work that involves a hail of bullets being a likely plot point in your future," but I'm starting to think there might be a little more to that. It's a bit strange, but it's actually reinforcing my desire to enlist. Maybe I'm better cut out for this shit than I thought. I mean, who the fucking hell gets this frustrated because they can't get a break on going to MCRD? Normal people hear "we'll break you the fuck down and build you back up" and run the opposite direction. Yet all I can think is how stupid it is that I'm not fucking there yet.

Maybe I'm just crazy. But god damnit I'm gunna kick the shit out of MCRD's ass sooner or later. I'm just tired of fucking waiting. I'm one freakin' job away from being able to just get it over with and let the Marine Corps ship my ass off to be remade. I wish that job would come a little quicker. I'm just about fed up with this life and it's time for me to get a second try at a new one.

/exhausted rambling

I've met two guys who sound like you do. One of them had his head filled with a lot of exciting rainbows by a recruiter, and one just thought being a special forces army soldier sounded like an awesome thing to do.

Both of them returned to report that they hated it and that they were dumbest people on the planet for believing what they did. The first guy wanted so badly to get out, but he couldn't. He was deeply depressed about it.

Please, by no means think that I'm suggesting you don't do what you're going to do. My dad was a captain in the army and is the most honorable man I, and most people who have met him, have ever known. You're doing a fantastic thing for your country and for us.

But don't be deluded as to what it is you're going to do.

Posted by leebmx

@mordeaniischaos: Maybe. I think the point he was making (and I agree with him to a certain extent) is that it is not really fair that most of the people that Western societies send of to die for them in foreign countries are poor young people to whom the army looks like a good job because there aren't that many others around. Think about Vietnam - people were protesting against it but shit really hit the fan when they started conscripting and all the middle-class kids at university realised they would have to go and fight - they were all pretty quiet about it when it was just mid-western farmer kids and blacks being sent out.

I live in a pretty run-down part of London and there is a big Army recruitment shop in one of the local malls, go out to Mayfair or Hamstead Heath and you won't find any. Same thing if you go to any of the big ex-industrial cities like Sunderland or Middlesborough - lots of Army adverts and recruitment drives.

I suppose the idea is that if we all take it for granted that we want to live in a society where we are protected it is not fair that the people who are doing the dirty, dangerous work are there because there are not many other oppourtunities for other decent paid work in their local communities. By the way I don't include you in this - I have no idea what sociological reasons (if any) lie behind your enthusiasm for the Marines.

In addition I think if we did have a compulsory conscription army there would be much less chance of us fighting stupid (in my opinion) wars like Iraq because once the middle and upper classes realised that there was a chance of their children being shipped of to foreign countries with the risk of coming minus legs, mentally ill or in a box they would be a lot more less likely to vote in politicians like eager to wage conflict.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@leebmx: I'm of the opinion that if you don't to the research and understand exactly what you are getting into, that is 100% your fault. We've all heard bad things about recruiters, but one of the first things my recruiters said is that it's not for everyone and they don't need people just looking for a quick buck.

I've done my research. I understand that at times it will be miserable. That I will be treated like trash by my drill instructors and that I'll be hazed all to fucking hell when I get with my unit initially. I know if I'm ever deployed to a combat zone, I'm going to see and do some fucked up things. And it wasn't hard to get a more realistic idea of what going into the military really means. I think to really appreciate what it means to join, you have to expect the worst. You have to hear the horror stories and be warned not to join if it isn't for you. You have to know that it's a boring ass occupation for 99.9% of those serving. Even infantry is boring as fuck.

Yes, they target poorer areas. But being poor is no excuse for not knowing what you are getting into. A lot of people sign up blindly because they are foolish, not because they are having their arms twisted into doing something. It's not hard to figure out "military life sucks." You're going to lose your girlfriend, almost certainly. If you go in with a girlfriend, you mind as well just invite your best friend to fuck her, because it's just not going to last. She may not cheat on you like a bitch, but most girls just don't want to go from "down the street" to "across the planet in a world of shit." Your family is going to have it's opinions of you, but it doesn't really matter because you'll never see em, proud or pissed off at you. You'll probably get hurt. You'll be dirty and uncomfortable and bored, even if you aren't in Afghanistan.

I don't think there's any excuse for joining for a stupid reason, and I consider that to be entirely the fault of the enlistee. At least for the Marine Corps, they do a lot to scare you early on. Even before boot camp, they spend most of MEPS being a total dick to you and going on about how they will fuck you over if you step out of line or lie or anything. And everyone lies, so everyone's terrified they will end up in jail for 5 years or get a $500,000 fine or whatever they threaten you with.

And there are plenty of documentaries out there about being a Marine or a soldier in the current/recent conflicts. Even for coalition nations. There's a really good one about I think Dutch soldiers, for example. So there's really no excuse. Google and Netflix will give you a decent idea of the shit you are in for.

@jazgalaxy: I'm not going in for rainbows or because I want to be some spec ops bad ass (although, I am planning on trying for either Scout Sniper or Recon, both of which are considered fairly elite within the Marine Corps). And as I've said above, I've done my research and weighed the risks. I don't know how to put it without coming off as a psycho, but I kind of enjoy hardship and misery. Not in the sense that I think I deserve to be unhappy or want to be miserable, just that what a lot of people consider miserable, I don't really see that way. I like being in a hard place with a hard job to do. I like sleeping on shitty, hard surfaces. I like being cold and wet and having a place to get and things to do anyway.

Edited by Seppli

@mordeaniischaos:

In Jack Reacher there's a little speech regarding this topic. It states that there are 4 types of people joining the armed forces.

  • A. It's the family trade
  • B. You're a patriot, and proud to serve your nation and people
  • C. You need a job
  • D. You want the legal means to kill people

Sounds quite accurate to me. Now which type are you? A? B? C? D? A little bit of all of the above?

Posted by Brodehouse

@Seppli Jack Reacher is a silly story.

@Leebmx I think it's kind of crass to postulate about how conscription would be morally fair under the knowledge that one will never actually be conscripted. Allowing the state to have the right to impose its goals on you, at the cost of your life, is not something I would qualify as 'morally fair'. Keep in mind, when conscription actually was a thing, that the people who most often ended up being railroaded into dying on a foreign shore were the poor and lower middle class.

@mordeaniischaos I can at least assure you that frustration at the lack of any forward progress with your life is understandable and completely universal for just about everyone in their 20s right now. Between the economy, the amount of debt you need to get into in order to get any job that isn't entry level, everyone living longer and thus working longer, the entire thing is fucked up. You can take comfort that the shitty holding pattern you're in is pretty much par for the course.

Edited by MordeaniisChaos

@seppli: I'm not sure those are all the types really, and D is pretty much a tiny percentage of people that usually end up either getting or deserving discharge. Not because of the moral issue, but because they tend to step out of their bounds and do stupid things.

As for me, it is absolutely B. I am a patriot through and through and I believe in the cause. I don't need a job at the moment nor did I when I decided to enlist, I am the first member of my family other than my Uncle who married in to serve in the armed forces. In fact, they are all extremely liberal and don't believe in any war ever, apparently.

And I highly doubt D is something that pulls much in. If you assume every dumbass screaming racist bullshit in the heat of a battle is just there to kill people, you must think 90% of infantry are all a bunch of loons who just want to murder people.

Edited by casper_

i had some friends who sounded a lot like you when i was in high school. they were slightly directionless and wanted to do something more exciting than college while still being considered useful by society. 2 of them joined up immediately after (1 marine and 1 army ranger) and that has been the entirety of their lives ever since. i think you have to understand that it is a life defining decision and it isnt an adventure at all. from what little i've heard from them it consists of 99% boredom and tedium and 1% terror. after their first tours they would tell me how they just wished they could finish up, go to college, get a real education, smoke pot and live a quiet life. 1 of them (who was my best friend) was about the hardest motherfucker i'd ever met and i'd seen him do awfully violent things to people but the violence he experienced was too much and i could see real empathy and pain when he would speak of it. he exited the military in december and i've been trying to convince him to get treatment for PTSD ever since. he just does a lot of drugs now.

i'm just saying its not a big fun swashbuckling ride for your suburban kid who wants more in life. you will be either doing incredibly tedious jobs or inflicting/receiving violence on/from people you aren't always sure are the enemy or who want to hurt you or etc.

just think about it and talk to some adults you look up to first before you make your choice. listen carefully to the people who are telling you things you might not want to hear and really consider what they say.

i was walking back from newbury st. when the bombs went off in boston and i can tell you that IS NOT a sound worth hearing, as you have suggested. hearing innocent women crying and people screaming is not the sound of adventure.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@casper_: You should read some of my other blogs regarding my decision to join the Marine Corps. I don't think I've ever said that I want to just go on an "adventure."

In fact, I want to make the Marine Corps my career. I'm not planning to go in for just 4 years. I have extensive goals within the Marine Corps. Generally speaking, the two jobs I want to potentially get require years of experience unless you are basically kicking boot camp's ass, and even then it's tough shit.

Scout Snipers have to be expert marksmen, meaning that they have to have qualified as such within the year of becoming a Scout Sniper and must display consistently excellent marksmanship. They have to be at least a Lance Corporal, which takes about two years to reach. The position has one of the highest GT Score requirements. You also need experience as a marksman and it's not technically required but chances are it'll never happen without going through a number of courses relating to the job of Scout Sniper. You have to be in peak physical condition, which means first class PFT scores.

Recon is about the same, with a slightly lower time in service requirement. I think you need an even higher GT Score for that, as well.

And then, there's the training, which is very difficult and takes some time. I don't plan on going through Recon training (which is actually a lot like BUDS for Navy SEALS, based on a lot of the same basic pillars) or Scout Sniper training just to have it on my wall. It's what I want to do with my life.

I understand what it means to give up one's life for one's country. I decided a long time ago that my family life would be non-existent. I decided I wouldn't start a family until after I was out of the service, and avoid relationships. There are a lot of different experiences in the military. Just because you happen to know some people who decided they didn't want to go all the way, doesn't mean no one does. There are people out there that serve for about as long as they are physically able to, and serve in a far more lethal capacity than even most infantry.

Obviously war is not exactly fun. But I believe in the conflict, I believe in taking the fight to bad people across the world. And when we aren't fighting wars, we will be helping with crisis events across the world. Floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, you name it, the Marine Corps will be there to help. It's not all war, and considering we are nearing the end of our campaign in Afghanistan, it's likely I'll never see combat at all but the time I get into an actual unit.

Posted by leebmx

@mordeaniischaos: I'm not going to quote it all cos it just gets a bit messy-

Firstly, please be aware I am not making any assumptions at all about you and why you have joined the army, and I hope you don't think I am saying you are poor, rich, clued-up or stupid. I just thought i'd make this clear because I this isn't suppose to be an attack on you or people who join the army or whatever, it just so happened that I went out for coffee with my friend last week and then this post came up and I thought I would mention what we discussed.

To the point, of course whatever people do in life should be done with careful consideration, I just think if you take two people, Joe from a poor family in a post-industrial town where there are no jobs any more and Jack from a rich family in a city with a thriving economy with a place at university and profession ahead of him,who do you think is more likely to see a job in the army as a chance at a steady job with OK pay and who is going to run a mile at the thought of risking their limbs and life in a potential war?

If you take for granted that we all expect to be protected by an army, then it seems unfair that the people who are going to be risking their lives the most are those who had the least options to start of with and are joining not from a burning desire to fight for their homeland but because they didn't have many other options for a well paid job with career progression.

You talk about stupid reasons for joining, but someone who joins the army knowing it will be dangerous and horrible may well have weighed up the options and decided that the risks of the army are better than the risk of unemployment and poverty they face at home. It just seems unfair that they have to make this kind of choice and that they army knows they will be able to guarantee a steady flow of recruits because of the impoverished nature of parts of your and my countries. You can take this one step further and ask the question - if we had full employment, good prospects and a reasonable standard of living for all how full would the army be then? My hunch is that the army would not be able to fill their ranks and we would be faced with the lottery conscription scenario I posited in my first post or some other form of forcible rank filling

It just seems quite dramatically unfair to me that the section of society which is most likely to die or be injured fighting for our countries are the poorest and most disadvantaged. If freedom is something we all value so much, and the wars we have fought of late aim to further that ideal (a most debatable point but nevermind) then all strata of society should shoulder an equal share of the burden and pain.

Again this is not any criticism of your personal choice to join the Marines and I hope you have a interesting (maybe not too interesting;) career when they finally put you to work.

@brodehouse What I mean by moral fairness is this

1. We all want our lives and families friends protected against invasion and destruction in an aggressive war.

2. However fighting is a very dangerous job that only a very small percentage of the population would actually like to do if presented with another profession of similar salary etc.

3. Therefore it is morally unfair that we take advantage of the fact that living standards are so bad for certain sections of our nations that doing this very dangerous job looks attractive compared to what civilian life has to offer.

Please bear in mind that this is a philisophical argument rather than a fully practical one. As you say it would be a horrific state of affairs if the state were conscripting huge armies to fight all kinds of unjust, unwinnable or pointless wars (Although one might argue that Britain and the US have fought a fair share of these over the last 30 years anyway)

However as I mentioned in my first post, I think if it was random conscription there would be much less chance of wars of the nature of Iraq or Vietnam being fought because the whole nation would be much more involved in the process and operation of warfare rather than the unfortunately less vocal sections of the populations who form the armed forces now. Any wars which looked foolhardy or based on a whim would be unlikely to get off the ground, because people with prospects would revolt at the idea of risking their lives in a conflict which did nothing to make their lives of their countryfolk safer. For example I don't think the most recent Iraq war would have happened if there was a chance of any able-bodied person being shipped off. The the army is at the moment you can drag it off to war and be pretty sure that the pain and discontent stays in the section of the community least able to project their feelings.

For this to work, as a country we would have to be sure that our government was only fighting wars when there was truly a threat - i.e when we were attacked - i.e. pretty much never.

I totally agree that it is very likely that those with power and influence would, much as they did in Vietnam, find ways to escape any conscription which came their way. However I don't think that undermines the philisophical moral purity of the scheme. My friend is an ex-member of the Italian Communist Party so he only deals in ideals - not practicalites :)

Wow - i've really derailed this thread - Apologies @mordeaniischaos

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@leebmx: I don't mind you derailing it as it at least pertains to the subject matter. My blog post was just me rambling about my thoughts at the moment so honestly there's not much to derail.

That being said, I still think that choice should be maintained at the end of the day. It may seem unfair to you, but to me it makes plenty of sense. I don't think there are as many people going and having their lives totally fucked over by the experience as you might imagine, and I don't think that there are a lot of people who go into the military just to get a job. It's not easy to get a job in this climate but if you keep trying you'll get one eventually, and almost certainly one with better pay than standard starting base pay.

One of the key things to understand is that combat is all in the head. If you have a reason to be there, a reason to fight, you'll do better than if you're some spoiled rich boy who had no choice and was just shipped off.

Also, I know a lot of kids who come from pretty well off families (upper middle class) that went in or are going into the armed forces. It's not all poor kids. And I really don't think there are many people going in just for the work. My recruiter said to me pretty early on that that is the last reason you should join the Marine Corps. It's not something you do for the job, it's for the pride and the cause. You don't get paid well, you don't get treated well, and you're never comfortable. These are not mysteries and they aren't even kept from you by the recruiters.

Now, I will say the Army may be a little different in that regard, because of signing bonuses. I've never heard mention of signing bonuses in the Marine Corps, not so much as a rumor. It's just not how the Corps does things. But in other branches, there are a few more incentives to enlist, and that may very well attract some of those "I just need a job and some money" types. But even then, I think these kids know what they are getting in to.

I really do understand where you're coming from, but when you think of it from the perspective of what is fair to the guys who are serving completely willingly, like myself (Not to be cocky or anything, but I'm a smart guy who could easily get a really cush civilian career if I went for it and got a decent education). Think of it from the perspective of the guys on the front lines who depend on their fellow Marines, sailors, and soldiers with their lives. Do you want a guy who chose to be there, regardless of reason, or do you want someone who never wanted to be there in the first place?

Proper enlisted Marines and soldiers already get pretty unhappy having to work with reserve units. If you watch something like Generation Kill you'll get a few moments of what it's like to work alongside a bunch of guys that didn't really expect to be in a war because they got in the reserves before a war started and all of a sudden they find themselves in the middle of an invasion force. They aren't as well disciplined and they usually aren't as willing to be there as the guys that went in and specifically picked that they wanted to be infantry (In the Marine Corps, you pick your job and don't get in until an opening in a job you chose comes up, generally speaking).

The thing is, it's not really supposed to be fair. It's why most people see serving your country as being an honorable thing to do. Because you're taking on the shit of hundreds of millions of people alongside a couple hundred thousand guys. The United States Marine Corps makes up about 0.06% of the American population. The Army is about 7 times that, which is still a pretty small number. All in all I think the Military population of the United States makes up for about .4% of the total population. I could be wrong about some of the math and I don't know how up to date any of the stats I used for that, but it's certainly very small. I don't think anyone in the military really has the delusion that it's really supposed to be fair. But in some ways, that is a reward. People look at a successful military man as honorable, and self sacrificing. They know he probably cares a great deal for his country and it's people. The pride of serving is it's own form of payment. It doesn't pay the bills, but it's certainly nice.

And that sort of plays into why I think you have to be a little crazy to really want to serve, especially in a combat role such as infantry. Because it's not a very fun job most of the time. It's risky, and it pays poorly. But there's a lot more to serving than making money. If you want money, go find a "security contractor" and become a mercenary. If you want fair, stay in the US and don't join the military.

Posted by leebmx

@mordeaniischaos: I totally agree with the point that you will be better at any job if you actually want to be there, and you would rather have the best people do a job as important as defend one's country. I suppose you have to ask the question of how many people now in the army would rather be doing something else if it paid the same money and gave the same oppourtunities? As I think I said before, how full do you think the US Army would be if there was full employment and good living standards for all, my guess is not very, but you are free to try and convince me otherwise, my only experience of the army is the CCF from school and I am guessing that wasn't very representative.

I think the distinction you draw between the Marines and the normal army is quite important as well. I don't know a great deal about what the Marines do (as far as I know its not the same as the SAS - but other than that. Well, you tell me) but I get the impression that it is kind of like officer school, or something you only join if you really want to be a military man with all the trimmings. In other words I don't think it is a fair comparison to just joining the straight up Army or Navy - the 'cannon fodder' of older days. But maybe the Army is changing these days and the need just for a mass of guys with guns isn't so pressing as it has been. However I still don't think a country like the US would be able to get the bodies into service they needed if people had the chance of equally well paid jobs elsewhere - Also am I wrong in thinking that there is a scheme in the US where the Army pays your college fees if you promise to join up straight afterwards - maybe I dreamt that up but if not that seems like a good example of the unfairness I am talking about.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@leebmx: The issue with your idea that it's some desirable position is a little silly though. It takes years to get much further than very low wages. I made more in my first job than I'll make when I enlist. It doesn't pay well, and for it to get you anywhere with something like an education, you have to put a lot in.

So yes, you can get your college paid for but that only applies to A) public institutions (no private schools, all though you can opt to get assistance with a private school instead of full tuition for a public school) and B) people who spend at least 4 years of active duty service. But it's not hard to go to a community college while working and get a degree of some kind. It won't be the best education, but it's a good cheap way to get your schooling done.

The military doesn't really start paying "well" unless you go the officer route, or you stay in for about 10 years. Then the pay gets a bit better, but it's never really "superb". My last job was basically a full time minimum wage gig and I made about $1600 a month when I got the hours I was supposed to. That's about how much I'll be making once I get out of boot camp. Here's the military pay chart: http://usmilitarypaychart.com/2013-military-pay-chart/ Keep in mind that while it looks like you can quickly raise up the ladder, most promotions are at least a year apart, and as you get higher that gets longer and more competitive, so if you're not working your ass off to climb the rungs, you'll probably end up around $2700 being the most you make while you're in unless you really push for it or stay in long enough to get past Seargent. To give a little perspective, E-6 (Staff Sergeant takes about 10 years to achieve typically. The most commonly held rank in the Marine Corps is I believe Lance Corporal, with is E-3, which at 4 years would earn you about $2000 base pay.

To put that in perspective with another risky job, and one that only hires once a year: firefighters at least in my area are paid very, very well. They start out making almost $5000. To get near that as an enlisted Marine, that would take about 15 years and you'd have to be an exceptional Marine capable of achieving the highest enlisted ranks. That's pretty good pay, but it takes a long time to get there. On the other hand, you could become a skilled laborer and make about the same amount of money a year without all of the risk, and with a fairly small amount of training/education.

It's not a lucrative field. Especially considering the medical bills you will almost certainly start to have to deal with. Even if you aren't injured in combat, if you spend your days carrying 120lbs around on patrols and running around in firefights on some really inhospitable terrain, you're bound to mess something up sooner or later. Add that to the rest of the downsides, most of which don't take fuckin' investigation to find like not seeing your family, not being able to have a real spousal/significant relationship, quality of life, etc, and it's hard to say "eh, it's easy money I'll just go do it."

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@leebmx: The issue with your idea that it's some desirable position is a little silly though. It takes years to get much further than very low wages. I made more in my first job than I'll make when I enlist. It doesn't pay well, and for it to get you anywhere with something like an education, you have to put a lot in.

So yes, you can get your college paid for but that only applies to A) public institutions (no private schools, all though you can opt to get assistance with a private school instead of full tuition for a public school) and B) people who spend at least 4 years of active duty service. But it's not hard to go to a community college while working and get a degree of some kind. It won't be the best education, but it's a good cheap way to get your schooling done.

The military doesn't really start paying "well" unless you go the officer route, or you stay in for about 10 years. Then the pay gets a bit better, but it's never really "superb". My last job was basically a full time minimum wage gig and I made about $1600 a month when I got the hours I was supposed to. That's about how much I'll be making once I get out of boot camp. Here's the military pay chart: http://usmilitarypaychart.com/2013-military-pay-chart/ Keep in mind that while it looks like you can quickly raise up the ladder, most promotions are at least a year apart, and as you get higher that gets longer and more competitive, so if you're not working your ass off to climb the rungs, you'll probably end up around $2700 being the most you make while you're in unless you really push for it or stay in long enough to get past Seargent. To give a little perspective, E-6 (Staff Sergeant takes about 10 years to achieve typically. The most commonly held rank in the Marine Corps is I believe Lance Corporal, with is E-3, which at 4 years would earn you about $2000 base pay.

To put that in perspective with another risky job, and one that only hires once a year: firefighters at least in my area are paid very, very well. They start out making almost $5000. To get near that as an enlisted Marine, that would take about 15 years and you'd have to be an exceptional Marine capable of achieving the highest enlisted ranks. That's pretty good pay, but it takes a long time to get there. On the other hand, you could become a skilled laborer and make about the same amount of money a year without all of the risk, and with a fairly small amount of training/education.

It's not a lucrative field. Especially considering the medical bills you will almost certainly start to have to deal with. Even if you aren't injured in combat, if you spend your days carrying 120lbs around on patrols and running around in firefights on some really inhospitable terrain, you're bound to mess something up sooner or later. Add that to the rest of the downsides, most of which don't take fuckin' investigation to find like not seeing your family, not being able to have a real spousal/significant relationship, quality of life, etc, and it's hard to say "eh, it's easy money I'll just go do it."

Posted by leebmx

@mordeaniischaos: That's some really interesting stuff, thanks for digging that out for me, certainly the base pay in the army is less than I expected it to be.

However it is a desirable job (although I don't remember using the word desirable - might be wrong though and reading my old posts pains me) depending on what your current circumstances are. If you have shitty grades, and live in a place with no steady blue-collar work, then any job with reliable pay, health insurance, pension etc is going to look quite good. I never said its easy money, I don't think that for a moment. I realise that army work is bastard hard. - But that table was an interesting read and like I said less than expected - although I suppose that doesn't include whatever perks they maybe offering.

As I mentioned in my last post, it maybe that things are changing a little and the armies of the past whose ranks were stuffed with the poorest and least well-off in society are slowly becoming less relevant and useful. This maybe especially so in a counties like the US and UK whose warfare is more and more based around technology and specialisation, and whose populations are growing ever leery of committing scores of their young men (and now women) to early graves. I still think that if we had much fairer and more equal societies it would be much harder to fill our ranks unless we were fighting wars which really, truly did threaten our national interests. I say again that a nation whose army was filled through a common interest and shared beliefs would not have fought pointless wars like Vietnam and Iraq. I think it in some way helps war-mongering governments and the elites who profit from their actions to have a class of people they can easily recruit. Much like the jails full of drug dealers and addicts on pointless long sentences whose incarcaration fuels a whole section of the economy (think prison guards, building jails, police, lawyers etc) it can be that sometimes keeping a certain section of society marganalised can be profitable and useful elsewhere.

But it has been interesting talking to someone who knows some detail and has actual experience as it always helps to add subtlety and depth to the discussion and it has made me realise that the situation is not quite as clear cut as my friend was talking about. But then I suppose I shouldn't expect subtlety from and old ex-communist. Incidentally I hear that getting a job as a fireman is actually pretty damn hard, I think over here it is really over-subscribed and I imagine at $5k a month there must be people banging down their doors in the US as well.

Posted by Kerned

To each their own, I guess. Take that however you want.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@leebmx: If you have shitty grades, you won't get into the military. They require you to have a High School Diploma or at least 22 college credits. So I don't think that's really a reason.

As for the perks, again, they require a lot of service. If you stay in and retire you get to do it early, but you have to stay in the military. You get education paid for, but again you have to be 100% about the military life for 4 years. You could spend less time with a shitty job just saving money to pay for college, as long as you didn't have your hopes set too high.

As for Iraq being a pointless war, I'll say only this: People celebrated in the streets when we took down Saddam. Getting rid of him was a good thing. But there's no way we could have just gone in, removed him, and left. It would have been a power vacuum that'd just be the same old shit over again. Iraq and Afghanistan are both filled with a lot of bad people. We do good over there even if we also do bad. If it were possible to go in and perfectly cut out the bad parts of their societies so they could live their lives without oppression and violence (both of which existed before we went in), that'd be awesome. But the fact of the matter is a lot of the world depends on the stability of that region and the people of that region deserve more stability than what they had.

And most of the people I've talked to coming home? They felt good about their work in Iraq and Afghanistan. They felt proud when they helped the people of the region, even if they were frustrated by the reactions they sometimes got. But honestly, I think the idea that the war in Iraq was totally wrong is the sign of a lack of examination of the facts. It's easy to say that a war is wrong or bad, because people die in wars. But, on the other hand, are you going to waltz into the middle east and convince the fuckers who spend their days deciding what busy market to blow the shit out of next to stop? Are you going to convince the people of Afghanistan to adopt a more reasonable life style? There are a lot of good people in that area. They live their lives the way they see fit and that's awesome. Obviously it'd be nice to see them modernize a bit and have better access to thing like law enforcement and medical care, but they do just fine. However, there are those who wish to make their lives harder. And it's my belief that as Americans we have a sort of responsibility to stand up to bullies no matter where they are. You could argue that we didn't have a real interest in security with our aggression against the regime of Saddam, but you could just as easily argue that it shouldn't matter, because innocent people were being oppressed and hurt.

Remember, the original invasion of Iraq was a direct response to aggression on the part of Iraq's military forces against a neighboring state. They were bullying Kuwait. Iraq was hardly a model state of human rights (which it continued to violate well after the original 1991 invasion) or international respect. I would argue that removing the toxic regime there was worth fighting for, with or without weapons of mass destruction. For once, people had some actual freedom in that country. We're all American's first and foremost over here, but we are also human beings, same as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing that our country helped to bring a little freedom to them is a good feeling for me. It's not about controlling them, it's not the same as when the English forcibly controlled foreign nations just because they could and they desired the control. I know that's the easy comparison, but it's not really a fair one. We went to a place with a shitty government and shitty people, and we did something about it. It was an ugly something, but sometimes you have to do ugly things to bring a little light into the world. We live such an incredible life in our countries. The US and the UK are infinitely better off than just about anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan before or during or after the wars. And I believe that as a result, we have some duty to the world to stop the truly terrible crimes committed against those countries often by their own leaders or fellow citizens. Especially when it is impossible to deny that the stability of the region has an impact on the entire modern world. Love it or hate it, it's an important part of the world.

That said, I do believe that we could have done better in the middle east. Both in terms of being more careful and in being a little smarter about how we handled certain things. Iraq sort of fell apart after the regime fell, and I think that was in large part because we weren't thinking about what needs to be done to safely remove the government from a country. It needs to be swiftly and fairly replaced or at least something needs to emulate it successfully while it is rebuilt. We struggled with that and as a result there was a lot of chaos that didn't need to be there.

That being said, I also think that the argument that "Iraq never did anything to us!" is kind of bullshit. Iraq at the time was supporting and harboring people who were actively threatening America and had already carried out a deadly attack on us. In fact, a lot of places in the Middle East are kind of that way even to this day. Ya can't just let that be. Ya know? The fact that it wasn't the government doesn't change the fact that the government wasn't stopping people operating out of their country from doing bad things elsewhere in the world, or even on it's own streets.

Hell, I wish Mexico was as important as the Middle East. If I were Galactic President of the United States, I'd take us to war with the drug cartels that control much of Mexico, killing and torturing and extorting and oppressing its people and pumping dangerous drugs into our own streets. No one else seems to have a way to actually get rid of the stupid pricks so why not?

It kind of seems like the basis of your argument is less about what's fair and more about if you think the government should have the manpower it needs to go to war when you don't agree with it. I could be wrong, but that's the impression that I'm getting from the conversation.

Posted by leebmx

@mordeaniischaos: I'm scared to get into a argument on Iraq because I don't want to fall out and I think we so fundamentally and monumentally disagree, but I will say a few things. Don't take the shortness of my post as lack of respect, i'm just sat up in bed and want to get back to Dark Souls. But....

The Second Iraq war was never a war about removing a tyrant. It was entirely sold war to remove the threat of Sadams WMD which turned out to be non-existent and wildly overexaggerated. The guff about removing tyrants and bullies is just weak excuse to hide the fact that the original story was at best a huge mistake and at worst and outright lie.

Sure people were celebrating on the day, but now....There are car bombs going off daily, all infrastructure has collaspsed to way below what it ever was when Sadam was in power, the country is riven by ethnic and religious strife and the political system is in chaos. It is a moot point as to whether things are really much better and if you ask the average Iraqi what they think now, rather than pick one day out 7 or whatever years ago you get a much better picture of exactly how useful the invasion was.

You also talk about stability - show me where is more stable because of US and GB involvment in those Iraq and Afganhistan. The border with Pakistan is close to being a warzone and the destruction and misery brought to that country has been greatly amplified by the coalition forces there. Iraq was very stable under Saddam - a situation the US and UK are normally very keen on as evidenced by their support of dictators throughout the 20th Century - as long as suit our foreign policy needs we are happy to install creeps like Pinochet, Mobutu, Mubarak even get behind Ghadaffi if he tows the line.

You also drop in the old canard about Sadam harbouring the terrorists who had a part in 9/11. This is completely untrue. Sadam was ruthless in removing any sign of Islamic fundamentalism and terror from his country because it was a direct threat to his rule. As far as I am aware non of the 9/11 bombers had links to Iraq.

The US needed to react to 9/11 I totally understand that, and I can see an argument for going into Afghanistan, even though it seems to have been done with typical lack of sensitivity and care. Iraq on the other hand just seems pointless strategically - no threat, no terrorists and no WMD and was a complete disaster in terms of planning, nation building - anything other than just defeating the raggedy Iraqi army who didn't want to fight anyway and stringing Saddam up on a rope.

Whether or not the troops coming home felt they did a good job is irelevant to all intents. I don't doubt that a lot of good men and women went over there and tried to do their best, but hundreds of thousands died because of lies and incompetence to build the current reality. A well-run country albeit with a brutal dictator and his death squads, has been exchanged for a crumbling broken state beset by terrorism and religious death squads.

Getting the coalition to fight for freedom in your country is like getting someone to fix a leak in your kitchen who instead of fixing it knocks down your whole house and says, 'OK - you can build something beautiful from here.'

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To the other point you make about the conscription argument, its more that I think that if everyone in the country had an equal stake in the risks that going to war entailed there would be a lot more debate and a lot more reticence to throw our weight around the world. I think the Iraq war would have been less likely to happen because the people with more voice and sharper elbows would have questioned more closely what the point of this misadventure actually was. Much the same in as when conscription actually started in Vietnam there was suddenly a much bigger outcry with protests starting at universities etc. By then it was a little too late, but if it was conscription all the way it might have been a different story. Does that make sense?

By the way I also think the recruitment process is unfair, but what you have told me has made me think a lot more closely about what the relationship is between societal status and potential recruitment.