[September 16, 2023] Picture, just for the moment, the legendary Marine or Army Drill Sergeant screaming into the face of a young recruit. The purpose has always been to “toughen ‘em up” and to “get their full undivided attention.” And, of course, that is precisely what it did; it made them more resilient against stress (mentally stronger) and firmly focused them on doing their jobs. This leadership technique had the added benefit of scaring the bejesus out of them so they would have respect for authority.
Yelling at recruits or anyone is no longer allowed. At one time, recruits could carry stress cards that allowed them to use them to avoid being put under pressure if they felt too stressed out1. Thankfully, that is no longer in fashion. At one point, all military members were subjected to these stressors: recruits and officers-to-be in ROTC, military academies, and Officer Schools.
Military personnel have to pass through the rigors of many stress-filled days. When they graduate to the next level, it is recognized that they have survived a “rites of passage” that meant they passed the soldiering test and were part of something special. This was based on physical and mental capabilities – more than anything else; you had to keep your head (not panic) and show you could function as part of a team.
This is no longer necessary. We have created an environment of low expectations in the military, of shielding the recruits and not testing them under stress, thus not improving their physical or mental abilities. We are weakening their resilience, not improving on it. This results from the new Woke ideology permeating slowly through the politicalized officer corps.
Indeed, the military has transformed with the changing aspects of today’s wars. But the principles of war have not changed, nor has the outlook that our troops must be stronger than in the past. When they fail (and some will inevitably fail), we keep them in our ranks anyway. Our military is becoming bloated with troops we are unwilling and now incapable of surviving in combat; they are a danger to themselves and their teammates. We are reluctant to strengthen them using time-proven techniques by introducing minor stressors into their lives (getting up early, standing guard in the rain, being on KP).
These minor, artificially induced stressors allowed them to better adapt to real-life major events, like war. In grade school, everyone gets a trophy, and in the military, they all get promoted. Am I arguing for increasing standards? No, for that is not the point. I’m for changing how we train all troops throughout their careers, not just as raw recruits or cadets. It also means removing leaders who fail to perform.
The introduction of minor random stressors makes people more resilient. It strengthens them against big events we should be training our troops to withstand. We have taken stressors away from them, calling it a new era of “respect.” But respect is not measured by pushing them out of their comfort zone but by showing them how to earn respect through action.
The application of this goes far beyond the military, of course. It applies directly to all businesses with the goal of making their employees better. It applies to families and any social context. Under some pressure to perform, people will perform better given the right circumstances and leadership. Shielding people from stress weakens them fundamentally.
In the military, we have met the “soccer mom,” and we are her.
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