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To be a Soldier

Updated on September 21, 2015

On Patrol

The honor of the uniform

This is a hub I've been thinking about since I read about Micheal Moore's statement about Snipers and some of the replies that I saw on that forum. I've wanted to let people know just what it takes to put on the uniform of your country and proudly serve with distinction.

I'm writing this hub partly from personal experience (I proudly served six and a half years) and partly from the book by Chris Ryan called 'Fight back' a book about what it takes to make the Special Forces.

The main reason for writing is to give some of my fellow hubbers an idea of what it's like to serve and why people volunteer to literally put themselves 'in harms way' for the sake of others.

While I'm primarily talking about 'being a Soldier' or serving the the Armed forces much of what's here can also be said about the people who join organizations like the Police, the Paramedics and the Fire service (to name a few) and it's my hope that after reading the hub you'll have a new appreciation of what they do.

"Who Dares Wins"

— Special Air Service Motto

What does it take?

Well, what does it take?

For most of us the only real thing we know about the Armed forces is what we've seen in the movies, on TV and read in the news, but they can only tell part of the story. They can't tell you how good it feels when you're there on parade (ironically in Britain it's called the passing out parade and you're so nervous you're not sure you will literally 'pass out') and you know Mum and Dad are there in the crowd looking for their young 17 or 18 year old child standing tall among their comrades, ready to go and serves wherever they are sent.

Getting to that stage takes preparation and much of it isn't really done on the drill square, or in the mud during training! A lot of it's done well before you even think of enlisting! It's done in the mind!

A soldier's main weapon isn't the rifle they hold. It's the brain between the ears! and that's the first thing that the soldier will learn to use.

Sounds ironic really, I mean aren't soldiers supposed to just obey orders? Yes, but they're also supposed to issue those orders and make sure that others around them stay safe or as safe as can be.

If you were to line ten Soldiers, Seamen, Airmen, Police or Firefighters and ask them what made them join I would say that 99% couldn't put the reason into words, it's just something they knew that they would do! Maybe their Parents were in the Service and they found themselves wanting to be like them. Either way they just knew that this was the path they would take.

Here comes Basic training

One Day London, before the Queen, the next Kabul!

That's what happened to the Scots Guards back in 2011, and it's just part of the life of a soldier. The one minute you're on show at a ceremonial event with friends and family watching (maybe even the President or the Queen) and the next day you're deployed into a combat zone chasing down the enemy!

I've got to explain here that the Guards division in the British Army isn't a regiment that you just decide one day to join! There has to be a connection! It can be family (your father was in the regiment or your brother) or you have to be determined, but just rolling up and expecting to get in isn't going to cut it!

From the day that a person makes that choice to join selection begins and every day situations will present themselves that will test your resolve!

The first weeks after enlisting you're sent to basic training and you are taught just that. You're taught the basics of being an infantry soldier. Like it or not, no matter what you do in the Army you are primarily an infantry soldier!

"But I'm going to drive a tank!" I can hear people saying. That might be, but what happens if your tank's taken out by an anti tank weapon? You bale out and need to know how to fight as infantry!

Basic training usually takes about six to eight weeks and is the same for every soldier joining up. That's when they take the unfit civilian that joins (believe me no matter how fit you think you are you're in for a shock! It's not fit enough)

Basic is about building stamina and also about building teams. The squad needs to know that they can trust everyone in it and that's what it's about. Out on a run, no one is finished until the last one crosses the line and if that means carrying their unconscious body over (we never got that far but I remember sat least one time with sick men being carried by two of us just to finish the course) then that's what you do.

You've got to realize here that the Armed forces never flunk anyone out of 'Basic' of 'Boot Camp' you are the one that pulls the plug here because they are looking for those that keep going no matter what the obstacle. There's a saying that sums this up "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" This is where the confidence is built. When you finish basic you know you can take on the world!

You never know what's coming next.

Basic or 'Boot camp' is over, now what?

When I was leaving the Army a few years ago I got the chance to spend a day with the London Fire Brigade. Firefighters are among the bravest people on the earth and after that day I was more convinced than ever.

The average firefighter in the UK spends twelve weeks in training learning to use the equipment and building up their fitness. In the London Fire Brigade it's fourteen weeks with the last two weeks spent training in a four storey gas chamber that can be heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit training to work in a real building with the idea that the better the training the more lives will will be saved.or

The same goes with the 'trade training' for the servicemen and women in the armed forces. Learning not just the basics of their trade but how to operate whatever system they use in just about every situation you can imagine and some that you can't imagine.

Drivers don't just learn how to drive a vehicle but how to fix it when things go wrong, driving it in any conditions you can think of.

Of how about flying? There are over two hundred different careers that you can train for in the Military (that's what I know of, probably many more) everything from a Musician (who also often double up as Unit medics when deployed into combat situations) to a Medical Doctor (with awesome trauma experience but not just trauma work, you'll encounter some exotic and strange diseases (not all caught by soldiers or sailors in strange places!) to Engineers etc.

How much does it cost to pay for a degree? Even with student loans it can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and either you have a rich uncle or you're paying it off for the rest of your life (how long does it take to pay off a $100k loan at 7% and a $300k Mortgage at 6%?).

No matter what you want to do you can pretty much guarantee that the Military is looking for someone willing to study that career option and is happy to pay for it provided they want to work in that area for a few years!

Just think, studying medicine at one of the best universities in the World (I met a Doc in the Army who studied it at Oxford and the Army paid for her degree) all paid for by your employer, then coming out and getting the best hands on training for years, along with experience that any employer would give their right arm for someone with that experience.

I also had a mate when I was working in Iraq who studied marine engineering and one of the best Universities in the United states (paid for by the US Navy) and the only stipulation was that after finishing the study (and a gap year he managed to get) he spend four years in the Navy as an officer.

All they are looking for are men and women of integrity who are willing to work as a team.

What about taking one of these to work?

How about one of these?

Further training

The truth is there might be a lot of reasons that people join the forces and serve their country, but there is one that keeps them serving and that's the friends they make. Actually friends is a bit of a wrong word for it. Not really a close enough word as the mates you make are with you through every situation that comes your way. For six years when I was in the Army there were four of us who went through just about everything together

In this hub we've only really dealt with the basic soldier and haven't got on to the further training that goes on once the basic soldier joins his or her unit. They never stop training and honing the skills that the basics were learned during their training. Even in peacetime the soldier, sailor and airman will spend up to three months of the year carrying out further training. When a deployment to active service comes then they undergo six months of training for that deployment. Deploying to Iraq for six months will mean six months of training for that deployment, and it's not gentle training but as near as possible re-creating the situations they will face on a daily basis with real injuries happening and real situations faced. The idea is that for every injury hopefully it saves a couple of lives. The thought of danger and what faces them is never really far away.

Why this hub?

Today we are on the cusp of sending troops back into harms way, men and women whose one desire is to serve their country with honor and integrity. We may not fully understand what makes a person be willing to stand in 'harms way' to willingly put themselves in danger to protect the weak and so that they can live in safety protected by those who 'stand on the ramparts of freedom' but hopefully this hub has helped folks to understand just a little of what it really means to be a soldier.

There are those in the Military who will go on from the basics of being a soldier, or sailor and into the more specialized units. Units that take on much more dangerous roles like going deep behind enemy lines to observe what they are doing and where necessary to deal with the potential threat. By using these special forces they are able to keep innocent casualties to an absolute minimum. Special forces is usually something that you can only apply for after six or seven years in the Military but that's for another hub. Or better yet read the book below to get a better picture of what's required.

Just an introduction

This hub is very much just a brief introduction into the world that you enter when joining the Military and an attempt to give those who've never been in the Military some background to help them understand some of the issues that confront those who willingly put themselves in 'harms way' so that others can live in peace and prosperity.

I hope that you've enjoyed the hub. Maybe even learned a little from it. I'd love to hear from you and hope that you'll leave a comment below.


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    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      General Norman Schwatzkopf once said that no one hates war more than the Soldier. Those that speak out against war often forget that, but those serving in the Military know the reality.

      The hub is my attempt to let people know something of how men and women in the military think and hopefully show a little of how we folks not in the Military can help support them. There are many who gave so much so that we can live in freedom and yet we could do so much more to help them recover from the scars that war has left on them. If I've done that then I think this hub is a successful one

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      If it's given you a better idea of what servicemen and women deal with in their training and deployment then I've achieved what I set out to do.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      There are those who speak out against war, but where would they be if no one defended us? At some point, the most ardent pacifist will rise to defend his own family and life. It's better to stand behind those who choose to serve in the military while insisting that the politicians who make the decisions about when and where to use our military assets, do so with thoughtfulness and with a determination to win whatever conflict we may enter. Since Viet Nam, we have not fought with that determination. Thanks for writing an inspiring account of what it takes to wear the uniform of a strong nation fighting for what is right.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Lawrence for giving those of us who have not served and who don't even have family members who have served a glimpse of what it is like to serve. I admire your courage and dedication. voted up ++

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thanks for the comments. I wanted to share a little of what a person faces when they make the decision to enlist in the Military and what life is like for them. It seems that one of the things it has done is helped people to understand a little more about what their families went through with someone who served and came back but wasn't always able to leave some things behind.

      I really happy that it's helping in that way. By the way, I'll go looking for the Hub you mentioned.


    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Lawrence I salute you. It is so refreshing to read and indeed see the thoughts and actions of men such as yourself. Men who made that undefinable decision to serve. I feel a touch of pride as I read of your respect for the British Army as well as the other services you mention. Congratulations on such a well researched hub, your efforts shine through. Well done. (I have a hub on an Australian SAS soldier you might be interested in).

      voted up and all.


    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thanks for the kind comments. Sometimes when the armed forces are deployed they aren't being sent to war zones but to disasters where the damage is just too great for civilian services to deal with.

      Sounds that your dad did a great job of teaching his kids to respect those who served in the Military. I'm glad that you found the hub helpful, If it helps understand their work and world then I've achieved what I set out to do. (By the way the families of the service people are the real heroes as they have to pick up the pieces of the shattered lives and often with little or no help, that takes real courage)

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Faithreaper. Sometimes I think that the real heroes aren't the servicemen and women who go off to do their duty but the loved ones that wait for them at home. They're the ones who have to pick up the pieces.

      I think many of the soldiers in the past suffered from PTSD but we just didn't know about it. It just wasn't something that was talked about but the people who had to deal with the aftermath was the families and especially the wives and husbands of those folks.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and it seemed to help you understand a little about what your dad dealt with in the wee hours. If this hub helps you and others understand a little more then I'm very happy as it's done what I intended it to

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks to you first for your service...Our world is filled with places that need help at a moment's notice and our Armed Forces men and women go and serve and I, for one, am thankful.

      My Daddy was in several wars and the taught my sisters and I to love our soldiers are the land for which they served. I have many nephews and nieces who also serve or have served. And I was the wife of a GI for almost ten years and it was a life like no other for many reasons.

      Know that you are appreciated and loved.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      God bless you for your service, Lawrence. My dad served in the Army and my husband in the Air Force. The best friends we have in this life are from when my husband was in the Air Force. It is hard to explain to those who have not served in understanding the camaraderie between the men and women who serve. Some become lifelong friends.

      I enjoyed reading this hub. Unfortunately, my dad suffered terribly with PTSD and I remember hearing him in the wee hours of the morning suffering and having flashbacks from when he was in the Korean and Vietnam wars. I call them wars and not conflicts, because from what I heard, it was pure hell and war. I wrote a poem about being a soldier's child.

      Up +++ tweeting, pinning, and sharing

      Peace and blessings always

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      What you said about old soldiers not talking about their experiences is true. My grandfather was five years with the Royal Army Service Corps ferrying supplies to the battlefield but never talked about it

      As for me there are things I can talk about but other things (about Iraq and my time there working with a relief agency) that are still hard. Thank you for the comment. I hope the hub helped you understand their world a little more

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      The only uniforms I've worn are Scouts, Security, Royal Mail. On the other hand I've got several cousins who've spent time in the Army, one who's joined the Navy. The eldest one was injured on a drop when with the Parachute Regiment of the Royal Artillery, another - his nephew - was in the Signals and did three spells in Afghanistan, and his son joined the Army recently. Another one of his nephews joined the Navy on a technical training schedule.

      My Dad showed me his Combined Services badge, the same as the SAS badge, that he wore in Italy between 1943-45. He was a bren gunner looking after mine detectors at Salerno - my Hub-page 'SALERNO SALLY...' is based on something he told me - and narrowly escaped death by a German sniper's bullet in one arm (a fraction of n inch either way...) and recuperated in Rome. Spent his 21st in Florence and crossed the Alps in the late spring of 1945 with the Royal Engineers.

      He didn't talk a lot about his experiences, nor do my cousins.

      An uncle never stopped talking about his time in the Navy in the Med. I think he must have missed it. His next door neighbour was one of the survivors of the 'Hood'.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Thank you. I just wanted to give people a glimpse of the world of the services. A world that's unique in many ways

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will tell you the same thing I tell all soldiers that I meet...thank you for serving with honor.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I am glad you decided to write this Lawrence despit the emotions. I take my hats off to Princes William and Harry. I think they have both added a bit of the human touch to the royal family and should be applauded for not shirking their duty.

    • lawrence01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Thanks for the comment Jodah. I think I said in the Hub that after the day I spent with the London Fire Brigade (they were trying to recruit ex servicemen) I came away full of admiration for them. Anyone who puts their own safety second to that others in peril deserves our respect.

      I didn't mention it in the hub but both Grandchildren of our Queen (Prince William and Harry) have done so repeatedly with their jobs. Harry served in Afghanistan with his regiment (The Blues and Royals) and William flies search and rescue missions over the Atlantic with the Air Sea rescue helicopters (and yes he actually does fly the missions)

      Glad you liked the hub although I actually found it hard to write as there was quite a bit of emotion tied up in it for me.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I enjoyed this hub lawrence. I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who join the armed forces, police, fire department, emergency services. I have been an active firefighter myself (but not in the military). I hope everyone reads this and gets even more respect for our men and women in uniform. Voted up.


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