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This former soldier says all that shouting and swearing IS needed

‘Military life is tough going, particularly in the early days…but then the realities of life in an operational setting are equally as tough, perhaps even tougher.’

Declan Power Security analyst

THE RESPONSE BY members of the public to last night’s airing of the RTE documentary, ‘Recruits’ is largely to be welcomed.

At last the Irish public are finally getting a real insight into the reality of the training involved in becoming a member of a modern adaptable western European military force.

The fact that so many are shocked at what on first impressions seems to be a deluge of harsh treatment is to be expected among a population that has very little engagement in, or comprehension of, what is required for military life in an operational setting.

Why all the shouting and swearing?

Viewers should remember that this is a programme which has been designed to inject a bit of shock factor and has been edited accordingly. In the next episode the viewer will see an evolution in the relationship between the instructors and recruits where there is less shouting and more mentoring.

So, why all the shouting and swearing and hardship? The simple answer is to create a shock factor in the early days of recruit training, to remind the recruit what it is they have signed up for.

They are seeking to become professional soldiers and will be expected to work in some of the most hostile parts of the planet. Central to the skills the recruits must learn, is the ability to be able to maintain resilience in the face of extreme pressures that will not be experienced by their civilian peers.

In general, the idea is to initially create an atmosphere of pressure and indeed fear. The reaction is sought to escalate the recruit’s interdependence and sense of team. Them against the world, because undoubtedly they will find themselves in situations where those resources will be called upon.

These recruits will eventually find themselves dealing with situations similar to what faced the Defence Forces in the Golan Heights in Syria, Chad, Liberia and many other tough postings.

It works

The core elements of recruit training is to instill within the recruit an ability to work efficiently under pressure and as part of a team. Having experienced both recruit and cadet training, plus many other forms of military and crisis management training, I can attest to its effectiveness.

I still feel an intense bond with the fellow soldiers I underwent training with, as we knew we could trust each other when times would be tough.

Despite what people may think, particularly the ‘hurlers on the ditch’ who have never served or who served in a more gentler era, the Defence Forces are operating at a time when the resilience and adaptability of soldiers has never been more necessary.

It should be understood, it was training like this that produced soldiers who acquitted themselves at the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo in 1961, the Battle of At Tiri in Lebanon in 1980 and the rescue operation on the Golan last year mounted in the face of Islamic militants.

Military life is tough

I would ask people to reserve rushing to judgement and watch the second episode next week. Remember that none of the young soldiers in the documentary, despite the litigious culture we now live in, lodged any complaint as to being bullied or treated harshly.

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The reality is with upgraded training and fitness standards we now have a military that is fit for purpose. We are not a war-fighting nation, but we are committed to working with our European neighbours in putting in place security and stability in less fortunate parts of the world.

Therefore we owe it to our soldiers to ensure they are equipped both physically and psychologically with the tools to protect themselves and see the hard times through.

Certainly, my generation’s experiences in the forces were if anything, harsher and more spartan. This wasn’t always for the best.

The new system of training has been assessed over the years by both civilian and military experts and has been the subject of input by one of the leading anti-bullying experts in the state, Dr Eileen Doyle.

At one point the training was considered to have been too sanitized and recommendations were made to re-inject greater reality into the training.

The bottom line is military life is tough going, particularly in the early days…but then the realities of life in an operational setting are equally as tough, perhaps even tougher.

The days of soft soldiering in Ireland are long past…if they ever indeed existed.

Declan Power was a former career soldier and author of ‘Siege at Jadotville’. He continues to work as an independent security and defence analyst.

Read: ‘It’s the army, not kindergarten’: RTÉ’s Recruits doc got quite a reaction on Twitter last night>

About the author:

Declan Power  / Security analyst

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