The Economic Soldier
by Andrew Jones
Recently in Irvine, North Ayrshire I saw the army at the local job centre looking for new recruits. North Ayrshire is an area that suffers from high unemployment especially among the young.
“YOUTH unemployment in North Ayrshire has doubled in the past five years – from 6.5 per cent to 12.6 per cent. The area – which includes Irvine, Kilwinning, Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston – has seen the second-fastest rise in jobless young people in the UK, beaten only by Corby in Northamptonshire.” (Daily Record, 17/10/2012)
North Ayrshire is considered easy pickings for a recruiter offering the prospect of a paid job, a career, and the possibility of travel to foreign shores. For any 16 plus year old escaping financial hardship and uncertainty seems like a dream opportunity and it is hard to resist. The reality is that the armed forces are aware of this and exploit it to its full advantage. The question is ‘Can a 16 to 18 year old make not only the rational choice but understand the totality of that choice?’ The army can be very persuasive and offer what seems like an adventure to someone with little or no prospects.
The reality of Army life is a lot different to the expensive adverts and glossy brochures. From what I understand, the reality of Army life is not fully explained to the young people. Let’s imagine a job interview with the interviewer explaining: “This is a job that can cost you your life. You will certainly be placed in harms way with the possibility of been killed. Also, you maybe injured, loose your limbs, become brain damaged or have severe mental health problems as a result of your service.”
Would you accept such an offer? I already know the answer. I don’t see the armed forces placing these questions to the young recruit. No doubt he or she will find out for themselves, when it is too late.
A report conducted by David Gee and Anna Goodman states:”Recruitment patterns give reason to hypothesise that minors enlisting in to the armed forces face a greater risk of fatality during employment when compared with those enlisting as adults
, August 2013)
North Ayrshire is like many other counties and cities around the UK, with the same story. When I joined up I wanted to be an infantry soldier and became one in 1991. I was 17 years old and 3 months when I went in to adult basic training for 6 months. I served 4 years and 6 months and left in 1995. Like all things, hindsight is a great thing. I have 3 children aged 17, 15 and 12 and don’t want my kids to see the armed forces as one of the few opportunities available to them for a career. Sadly, for many young people, the armed forces will be the only opportunity of escape from poverty, unemployment and deprivation. Forceswatch report continues:”Four out of five minors who enlist join the army, where they are over represented in non – technical roles among front line regiments/corps. Of these, the infantry is the largest, accounting for a quarter of the army but containing one third of all it’s enlisted minors.”
This demonstrates a very high number of 16 to 18 year old’s who are concentrated in what is known as the ‘Teeth Arms’ of the army. The stress and strain of longer and repeated tours is also taking its toll on service personnel:
“As resources for the armed forces remain stretched to cope with Britain’s commitments in Afghanistan, official figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) show that there were more than 2,000 cases of soldiers going absent without leave (AWOL) last year, with 17,470 incidents recorded since the Iraq invasion in 2003.” (Independent, 20/02/2010).