What is Camaraderie?

By | October 28, 2019

[October 28, 2019]  It is a military axiom that goes back further than the recorded history of men and warfare.  Men fight in war not to achieve a strategic aim but because of their comrades fighting alongside them.  Camaraderie is their motivation.

“I hold it to be of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables an infantry soldier to keep going with his weapons is the near presence or the presumed presence of a comrade … He is sustained by his fellows primarily and by his weapons secondarily.” –  S.L.A. Marshall, chief U.S. Army combat historian

One might believe that the idea of camaraderie is old fashioned and lacks utility in modern warfare or today’s commercial-manufacturing sector.  One might also believe that camaraderie is a throw-back to the days that men and women lacked the intelligence and incentive to work as part of a group or team to accomplish any particularly difficult task.

I’ve been asked many times to define the idea of camaraderie.  College students, business people, family members; all have questioned me about camaraderie and why it matters.  We do exist in a highly technological society with many safeguards, security procedures, and built-in and crash-proof jobs and tools.  The definition of “camaraderie” is one of those things you know it when you hear it.

In classic definition style, camaraderie is “a spirit of good friendship and loyalty among members of a group.”  My first comments to friends, family, and colleagues on this idea, however, are that I cannot define camaraderie with just words.  Like the Indian fable of the blind men describing an elephant, I too have a limited perspective.

I believe camaraderie is fundamentally societal and biological in origin.  Those who have it are also those who have survived over the thousands of years humans have existed.  We are predisposed to have it and are motivated by it.  We know that camaraderie is friendship, trust, solidarity, commonality, spiritualness, closeness, and much more all rolled into one.  And, we’ve all experienced it and know how it “feels.”

Camaraderie is a primal brotherhood (or sisterhood, all in the broadest sense) brought on by the sacrifice of the many for a common goal.  I was asked once what I missed most about the military after being in it for 40 years.  My answer is always the same, “I miss the people.”1  That is what camaraderie is and what it will always be.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “What is Camaraderie?

  1. Max Foster

    I spent only four years in the U.S. Navy but I can tell you the one thing I learned was that the reason men and women do a great job of staying the course in their jobs is because they don’t want to let down their comrades (friends at work) that work beside them every day. This is so important, that many who go to college have no idea of the concept of camaraderie. The idea is foreign. They never experienced it and might never feel it. They are losers for what they degrade in their comments, for they don’t know what they don’t know.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Ah Max, don’t get me started on the babies that go to college. They are allowed to be children in adulthood, not just because of the professors, but because the college administration wants to keep them that way out of their own fear. Thanks Max. Well said.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      One of the great things about being in the U.S. miltiary is that you get to met some of the most wonderful people in the world. It matters not whether they are young or old, black or white, religious or not, tall or short; for they recognize that it is not the “tribe” or group they are born into but solely on their performance, hard work, dedication, honesty, and integrity.

  2. Wilson Cox

    Without camaraderie we have a society with eroding trust of in our democratic institutions.

  3. Fred Weber

    “Camaraderie is a primal brotherhood (or sisterhood, all in the broadest sense) brought on by the sacrifice of the many for a common goal. ”
    I liked this particular sentence which I think sums up the main reasoning of the importance of camaraderie.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      Spot on comment, Fred. Just my thoughts too. After I read this sentence, I too thought, hmmmmm, this is why the human species has survived for so long despite the stupidity we see everywhere.

  4. Eric Coda

    If you are following the US presidential elections you would never know there is any such thing as camaraderie. You would think all is chaos. This shows the value of camaraderie and how it can be lost so easily. I believe it is not so easily gained but fast lost.

    1. Harry Donner

      So true! The partisanship reminds me of third world nations.

    2. Bryan Lee

      Personally, Eric, I’m not following the stupidity of so many of the nuts that are following it. Too much hate and violence (encouraged but denied). I see especially Joe Biden (previous Vice Pres) saying the most unintelligible things and yet people love him. What craziness.

      1. Eva Easterbrook

        I was thinking along the same lines as you Bryan. Too much partisanship. Regarding camaraderie, I do believe that it is a foreign concept to the pajama-wearing, snowflake generation of our young people. The “get a trophy” at participation and you grow up believe you are superior to everyone and deserve to “rule” over all of us just because you are you. That is what things have come to. And they don’t even know how to properly take care of their own health.

  5. Greg Heyman

    Here is the heart of the article, “We know that camaraderie is friendship, trust, solidarity, commonality, spiritualness, closeness, and much more all rolled into one. ” Excellent!

    1. Georgie B.

      Yep, great ideas are often discussed and are just as often simple on the surface but complex in other ways.
      Oh, Crazy Dude, are you really crazy? Just kidding. 😊

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Well, this article caught me by surprise. Such a simple topic …. unless you start thinking about it and things don’t look so simple any more. I read a few definitions and a few articles by soldiers who wrote about ‘camaraderie’ and got a variety of answers. This is no simple subject.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Yes, that is the surprise of the day. An idea that we all think we know a lot about and – pow – we get someone who delves into the subject and we are caught flatfooted mentally. I thought I knew about “camaraderie” and now I’m not so sure. Great article, Gen. Satterfield so thanks for this morning’s dose of leadership.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Thanks Kenny. I was thinking exactly the same thing. You beat me to the comment. Some of the things we take for granted can jump up and make us realize that we were either wrong or had an oversimplified view.

  7. Army Captain

    Pretty darn good article. All thumbs up. And people wonder what attracts men and women to the military. It’s not just belonging to something bigger than themselves but for the camaraderie.

    1. Scotty Bush

      More should be written on this subject so I will suggest it to Gen. Satterfield. If you are reading my comments, sir, then please have a few articles on what attracts men to the military and what they are like once they are in for a period of time.

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