15 February 2008

A Call to Service. Part I of II.

Twenty or so apprehensive yet excited young adults sit facing forward, giving their rapt attention to the individual giving a powerpoint presentation at the head of the room. I don't think I have ever seen so many pockmarked faces. Like a university attracts bright 18 and 19 year olds from the top quartile of the highschool class, the military seems to attract the same age group but a demographic of the top twenty-five percent of individuals in need of a dermatoligist. The professor is not Dr. Johnson but rather First-Sergeant Johnson. After laying out the expectations for the day, he ends with a motivational speech thanking the young pupils in the room for their decision to serve the United States. I can't help but think of my college sociology classes which would largely argue that there was little choice for these students. So many of them are "choosing" to serve as a stepping stone to an education and sociology classes. Though perhaps they are being duped only as much as I, who at the tender age of eighteen, "chose" to go to college.

On the bus that morning I had sat beside a woman named Jennifer who had twelve years of Army service under her belt, and after a year as a civilian, decided to reenlist and join the Air Guard. I told her of my desire to become a Combat Rescue Officer and how I had been physically training, studying for the written test, and putting together recommendations for an application package. She was shocked that I was spending so much time preparing. She told me that she had never heard of anyone having to compete to join the military. Again, with my academic background, a hypothesis was made, theory quickly applied, and a conclusion drawn. I compete for a job whereas the military competes for young enlistees. The choice to serve is one greatly influenced by the carrot of adventure and money for college. It is a choice, though the options for the pockmarked individual are hardly comparable to the choice I face when choosing service against a myriad of other career options only available to the educated elite.

In short, the military enlistee is largely young, looking for a job, not from the usual college bound class, and perhaps seeking adventure. This demographic has little to offer as far as marketable skills that can earn much more than minimum wage. So with the options presented, I would say it is a sign of intelligence to join. Decent wage, vocational training, travel and adventure, money for college, large bonuses. The kicker is that it is the military competing for people rather than people competing for this remarkable opportunity. And the civilian analogue? The Peace Corps.

Unfortunately, for the aforementioned demographic, the Peace Corps is not an option. A college degree or significant work experience is required simply to apply. And further, the Peace Corps offers far less in perks

Choice is premised by options. Fortunately or unfortunately for America the military is essential a unique choice with little direct competition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Anda, keep up the analysis. We need reasoned and thoughtful deliberation on these great issues for the human species. Look at our military budget. For better or for worse it is a very important part of our culture. I hope you can make a positve contribution. This is important work.

Robert Greeney
Associate Professor of Physics