By Kelvin Frank.
Without soldiers there would be no wars, without soldiers there would be no conflict. This is the concept that I have always understood. However joining the British Army has always appealed to me. From the highly attractive British Army website to the constant propaganda shown on our TV screens. Each time I came in contact with the glamorization of the British Army, the more I became attracted to joining the forces.
Every Saturday morning before my own schoolboy football match, my pre game ritual consisted of a bowl of cereal, and watching Soccer AM. As a member of the TV audience I fell victim to the glamorisation of war and was some what brainwashed into believing that the British Troops deployed to the middle east, were brave heroes and individuals that were supposed to be idolised.
I had always visualised myself featuring on Soccer Am in a slideshow that featured troops supporting the colour of their football clubs, in a sense I felt that if I was seen supporting my club in the middle east, I would also be looked at as a hero fighting terrorism and also promoting my club.
As well as the Soccer AM glamorisation of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, came the Ross Kemp documentaries that followed the ”Brave” young men of the United Kingdom (which also consisted of many mercenaries from the commonwealth and Republic of Ireland).
As a TV audience we are dubbed into feeling remorse and empathy for men that voluntarily joined an army, boarded an aeroplane and invaded a country that many of them could not identify on a map.
So as a 20 year old that had always had ambitions of testing my physical abilities, putting myself in a position of defending western values and putting my life at stake in order to ”Liberate” the middle east, I was conned into believing that joining the British forces was the morally correct thing to do.
The process of applying for the forces and actually joining the forces could not have been more different. Throughout my process of applying I was greatly welcomed by my recruiter ‘Jo’, who couldn’t have been anymore helpful in speeding up my application and almost holding my hand throughout recruitment.
The opportunities offered to me and the lifestyle I was assured of once again turned out to be nothing more than lies. As footballer that was just short of the ability to make a living from the game, the concept of representing the battalion or even the army team was just another attraction that persuaded me to sign four years of my life away.
From the time of initially applying online to eventually arriving at ITC Catterick, the reception had changed. There were no more friendly receptions or false promises. I was now a number, nothing else was needed. I had legally signed a document that guaranteed at least a four year service .
As comfort to my parents and brother who had accompanied me on my initial day in ITC , they were given a presentation of all the wonderful opportunities ahead of me and how much I more I would develop by the next time I returned home. Once again it was lies .
At the beginning of training your self identity is removed, your hair is shaved off and to compliment that I had to pay four quid for the service. No civilian clothing was allowed and you couldn’t even have a small family picture in your bed space until 8 weeks later.
In my opinion the initial few weeks of training were not about soldiering or been trained to kill, it was designed to make you feel inhuman and unworthy to everyday privileges (army discipline). I quote my training section commander “your only in week 4 , you don’t deserve hair”.
Along with the dehumanisation of myself and the conversion of being a civvy to a soldier came the training of using weapons and basic field soldiering, the uncountable vaccines and limited meal times.
The training team consisted of four corporals and one second lieutenant, the 4 ”screws” felt superior to us because they had operational experience and the medals of Op Herrick ”The invasion of Afghanistan in other words”.
With high intensity of weapon handling training, the ‘SA 80 Rifle’ almost felt like a toy as recruits were so hands on. Dismantling the weapon and practicing drills, got to the point of not seeing the rifle as a weapon that could easily take a persons life, but instead a mere object in a classroom environment.
However that changed on my initial day at a range. As I laid in the firing position to fire my first few rounds, I aimed my rifle onto the target (a wooden cut out of German solider of WWI), the sounds of the other rifles echoed through my ear. I fired but to my surprise the kick back was minimum, leaving the smell of burning carbon and implanting a hole in the target.
The most memorable phase of training was bayonet training, this was designed to develop a deep anger with recruits, it would last almost a full day. On some occasions the training staff would rudely awake the recruits and torment them for hours, such as forcing them to wear gas masks and complete exercises within the accommodation until they physically could do no more. Making recruits pointlessly run around the accommodation up and down the stairs .
At that stage the recruits would be pent up with aggression, all in a line marching on the spot and chanting ”KILL KILL KILL ”. They are then brought outside where they are met with sandbags representing the enemy. Each recruit would continue to stab the sandbag until they had stabbed the sandbag with the required aggression.
For me the initial training gave me the skills to solider both urban and rural environments but I feel it failed in its attempt to develop me into a non thinking, do as your told individual. I’ve always maintained my individuality and the urge to do things in my own way.
It was not until I got to battalion where I experienced the impact being in the army has on people. From the way long serving soldiers acted, dressed and their humour were all very similar. The keen younger soldiers were quick to adopt the stereotypical ”Army way ”.
I have noticed that many soldiers feel that they are superior than an average citizen, and this is certainly the attitude from a lot of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The term ”Civi’ is commonly used in a derogatory manner towards non serving members of the public
In one instance a solider who is still serving told a story and laughed about an incident in Afghanistan. British Troops were ordered to shoot anyone with a weapon. Ok lets assume everyone with a weapon in a stone age country like Afghanistan is automatically a terrorist, a country that many generations have only ever known war and poverty.
On this occasion an Afghan man had a weapon on him but it was not pointed at anyone and he was in his own kitchen. The British solider shot him and left the man for dead, he reported the incident to his platoon commander and was ordered to return to the wounded man to ”Make sure he was dead”.
The British soldier was surprised to see the wounded man still alive and shot him again to confirm the kill. An act that clearly had no humane emotions, and highlighted the fact that British troops did not see the Afghans as fellow human beings in their homeland but instead associated them with livestock or even the wooden targets of a rifle range.
It turned out the reason for the man to have been in possession of a weapon, was that he was an off duty cop and the crime he committed for his cold blooded death was making bread in his own kitchen.
Those paid assassins returned proud of their services, they were welcomed home by a medal ceremony and were constantly praised in the mainstream media, while their secret acts of murder were hidden from general knowledge.
According to google statistics 31,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan were caused by ”war related violence” and just under 30,000 were wounded. I presume many more cases went unreported.
In what would seem a fragile climate in recent times, and in what we are believed to be threats from Russia, China and Iran, the scenarios in our training exercises would have Russia being the enemy.
In 2018 NATO forces had a joint exercise consisting of 50,000 troops for 31 nations. This was held in Norway and was seen as a muscle flexing exercise toward the Russians.
For me the interesting aspect of being in that environment, was being able to assess my fellow soldiers reaction to potentially training for war with another nation.
From my assessment of being in the British Army for almost four years and working in an infantry unit, I have gathered the general feeling that soldiers have about war and that it could be described by this quote ”a mass cleansing of terrorists for a better world”.
It confirms to me that soldiers do not know nor have they ever known the true meaning behind wars, they are too institutionalised to question the agenda that they are being briefed, and are more prepared to put their lives on the line. To take another’s life and to even cause casualties amongst the innocent citizens rather than questioning their authorities and doing their own research on essential matters.
They crave war, any war, The reasoning behind it’s not important. It could be a case of wanting to defend ”their country ” against any supposed threats, or many have admitted that they have just joined the army to kill someone. The mentality is accepted in the army because they are willing to go along with the agenda.
Imagine a world where every solider had high morals and researched the reasons behind war, there would be no wars. Naive men wouldn’t die fighting for geo political gain of others, civilians wouldn’t die because of the same reasons and the world would stop the spilling blood of innocent victims.
Soldiers morals are not just low on the battlefield, their low morals could be compared to that of an ally cat. Soldiers spend weeks if not months away from their families for different reasons, married or being in a relationship makes no difference to many of them. They have a tendency to employ prostitutes or have one night stands with random women in what ever town or city they are released in.
To summarize, the average soldier has no morals. They are brainwashed into thinking that murder is acceptable once your in uniform. Civilian deaths are nothing to be concerned about, and many of their lives outside of work revolves around alcohol and drugs.
What is the reward for being an ideal soldier? A heavy drinking culture and a few extra quid? This is the attitude that has been moulded to keep the possibility of wars.