The Soldier Myth

Join us for The Soldier Myth and the war on terror which is a four part series in which a once British soldier who was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan has interviewed frontline soldiers and experts to uncover the reality about recruitment, tra

Part 1

NARRATOR: Britain remains a military power out of all proportion to its economic standing. Its soldiers still fight in corners of the world far removed from this tiny island of the North West coast of Europe.

NARRATOR: Hundreds have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last decade.

NARRATOR: I'm Joe Glenton. I was Lance corporal of 13 Air Assault Regiment until I was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, and that’s why it's important for me to find out why young men volunteer to risk their lives in conflicts that the majority of their fellow citizens regard as unjust and illegal. But the same question is important for every parent who has a son or daughter of recruitment age, for every tax payer who cares how the military spends their money, and for every citizen who cares about the political health of their country.

NARRATOR: So join me for the soldier myth and the war on terror, a four part series that talks to frontline soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting, and coming home.

NARRATOR: War is hell runs the old cliché, but that’s not how it appears in military recruitment ads. In these glossary highbudget productions, it looks like a cross between a paintballing weekend and a day in, and a club 1830 holiday. But the reality is very different. To uncover that reality, I spoke to:

Glenn Humphries who served in Afghanistan with 13 air assault regiment

Matt Horne who served in Iraq with the Scotts Guards

Craig Rutherford who served in Iraq and Kuwait with the Royal Logistic Corps

Benn Griffin who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the parachute regiment and later the SAS

Alex Rigler, a former officer Cadet at Sheffield University

Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition

Professor David Webb, Expert in peace and conflict studies

D. Neil Faulkner, a Conflict Archeologist and Military Historian

David Gee, who has researched on military recruiting

And Joan Humphries whose grandson was killed in Afghanistan

JOE GLENTON: In the age of mass media and deeply unpopular wars, what methods are used to attract potential recruits?

DAVID GEE: They have so many different ways to recruit staffs, from online games, to brochures to visits to schools. School these days have barracks, they have the hard copies of brochures of course, brochures for parents. There are a very sophisticated set of marketing techniques they have.

But alongside the increased use of media, a proven method of recruiting is to gloss over the reality of war with promises of other activities.

GLENN HUMPHRIES 13 AIR ASSAULT REGIMENT: I can just remember seeing the advertisements, and in the advertisements things were different than they are now, so I didn’t think we would be doing anything in other countries at that point. It was offering other activities, adventure activities, and sports. That was the main thing.

GLENTON: yes, snowboarding and rock climbing…

HUMPHRIES: During adventures, you'll be training, enjoying all the things you are doing. Actually, I think advertisement is one of the things that pulled me in.

ALEX RIGLERFORMER OFFICER CADET: It definitely came across as a good thing to be doing; you did lots of adventurous training. We went canoeing and rock climbing and mountaineering and stuff like that, and you don’t see overseas the nifty gritty side of it when you are a fourteenyearold kid. You just see it as being outside. It’s fun spending time out there.

NARRATOR: these assurances don’t always turn out to be true.

Craig recalls what he was told at the recruitment office.

CRAIG RUTHERFORD ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS: They say you will do many things, you will go canoeing, and everything is a blast. You go here, and you do things. I thought it nice to be there all the time, but it was pretty much nothing like what we did.

GLENTON: What they told you didn’t turn out to be that accurate?

CRAIG: They made it seem more like everything was sort of fun. Like, there will be more travel and that sort of thing.

GLENTON: They talked about the adventure training stuff, and they really put that side of it forward to get you in basically.

CRAIG: So technically yeah.

GLENTON: Recruiters also play on the recruits’ specific motivations.

GLENN HUMPHRIES: A lot of it was about aid to other countries. They motivate with pictures of like female medics or doctor in Southern Africa, patching up children. So I suppose that is what it was.

MATT HORNE: Basically, what I was told that I would gain is things like a driver’s license, obviously steady payroll, lots of benefits in terms of travel, discounts, and stuff like that off of various companies and a lot of support.

BENN GRIFFIN: I think there is a human interaction going on there. You got the recruiter and the young person who is being recruited. And, I think in those interactions, there is no set guideline for how they encourage or persuade that person to join. I think you've got to get people to turn up and get recruited. You’ve got a broad range of people, from people like me who are sort of zealous recruits. You know, who really want to be a soldier. We are already sold on the idea and just sign up straight away, to people who may be economic recruits. So, they are in the heart of north England, Scotland, Wales, areas of high unemployment and limited opportunities. And, these people are looking to the army for a career, for training, and for money, for pay. You've also got a broad range of people in between that, and some of them have the mixture of those components. And, I know there will be other components as well. So the recruiter, a good recruiter, coming from a point of view of the army will look at that recruit and thinks: “How can I play on that person?”

Am I going to use the economic argument? Am I going to use the ideological argument? Am I going to use the patriotic argument of defending your country? And, I think, each recruiter, a good recruiter, would be out to play on those things and put the emphasis on what that recruit is looking for.

LINDSEY GERMAN: I think this is a very strong feature of what is happening with the army. It’s a sense that people are shown a view of the army which looks very attractive to people. You learn to ski, you travel to exotic parts of world, you learn a trade, you do these sorts of things. And particularly for young men and a few women, but mainly for men in poorer parts of the country in places like western Scotland and the northeast of England where there is very little chance for getting a job or a decent job, the army is very attractive.

NARRATOR: Even in these times of austerity, the military has vast recourses at public expense.

GLENTON: What kind of money does the military put into recruiting?

David Gee: They spend about 700 million pounds a year on recruiting and training to the end of phase one which is basic training. We don’t know the full cost of training, the phase two as well. They spend about 700 million pounds a year just for recruiting and training, initial training.

So with the massive budget and access to poor and underachieving children, the military is given a unique opportunity to attract potential recruits. So are these practices ethical?

DAVID GEE: I think one way of looking at that is to think about what it would take for a young person to be able to make an informal choice about enlisting. It would have to be a free choice but a choice where there are genuinely other options they could take. And the army is not the only clear option available to them, which is largely the case. But if you are from a poor background, that would be more difficult. It would need to be a responsible choice so one that is thought through in terms of its implications ethically for being involved in the armed forces and it would have to be informed. In other words, it would have to be made in awareness of what the pros and cons really are in the short term and the long term. So I'd say the ethical shortcoming of military recruitment of the moment is that, there isn’t a serious effort made to make sure that those young people who are in a very impressionable age of development are fully aware of both the pros and the cons of signing up.

BENN GRIFFIN: For me, I think, we need to look at recruitment in a broader scale. Obviously, people focus on what the recruiters do. These guys are going to schools, or they go to country fairs, and, you know, sell the army to young men. And, on the whole, I think only 10 percent of those recruited are female. And, umm, I think we need to look at what society does as a whole. You know, like the remembrance parade, the museums, the military displays, the way history is taught in schools. You know, that the British army is a noble force and that they get involved in noble wars, so even though the recruitment is something to focus on by recruiters, I think we need to look at what society does as a whole.

NARRATOR: So why is it that Britain, alone in the EU, continues these practices?

DAVID GEE: I think the reason they want to focus on recruiting young people in particular is that once most people actually go into adulthood and reach the age of 22 or 23, tend not to want to choose a military career. So once people have started the civilian career in some point, the idea of joining the military tends to fall off. So the hope within the ministry of defense is that if you recruit from sixteen straight from school, then people won't be lost to civilian careers. So that’s why there is a focus on young people. I think, as well, young people’s minds are more impressionable than adults as we all know which are why there are laws of the age of responsibilities, when we can drink a pint of beer, when we can enter into a contract and so on. Usually being 18, there are reasons we have those laws in order to protect young people who are more impressionable and more vulnerable than adults would be. But I think, it is well known that the armed forces are better able to shape the minds of a 16 or a 17yearold than they are a 22 or 23yearold.

GLENTON: So is this way of recruiting effective?

DAVID GEE: It’s more efficient to phase out recruitments of 16 or 17yearolds because to recruit a 16yearold costs the state, the tax payer effectively, twice as much as it does to recruit an 18yearold. That 16yearold who is being recruited has a legal right to leave now before their 18th birthday if they choose to exercise that. And, they also can’t be deployed to a theater of war, so the UK is effectively recruiting people who can leave if they want, who can't be deployed, and cost twice as much to train.

NARRATOR: By law, anyone under the age of eighteen serving in the military is a child soldier. There seems to be a fear in military that by losing access to children would have an impact on its recruiting numbers. The Army Cadet Force in which I also spend time is just one of the tools the military uses to recruit.

Army Cadet Detachments are often attached to schools and it was a school where Alex Rigler first became involved. I asked Alex about what he did as an Army Cadet.

ALEX RIGLER: Suppose I was doing shooting at the range at the age of 13. And, you are just shooting at this yellow target, human target. And then when you do attacks, you would have many targets in various positions. A group of 14yearold kids run around with guns, shooting at targets, after which they would have lunch and a cup of tea. It was done in a very casual manner. You don’t think much of it then; it was just a good bit of fun. But then when in hindsight you actually look back on it, you realize you were a very militarized 14yearold. And, I thought of it as an adventure as well; it was a very interesting career choice. You are doing more interesting things compared to working in an office and doing a normal job. I thought it was going to be a lot of fun.

NARRATOR: So from a young age Alex and his schoolmates were actively learning infantry combat skills.

ALEX RIGLER: The training for Cadets was infantry training, so you didn’t do any specialized training, any signal or military intelligence. Anything I learned was basic training, section and platoon attacks and stuff like that. It was very basic compared to when I got off to officer training core.

GLENTON: So you were learning fundamental infantry skills?

ALEX RIGLER: That was all you were really got thought, doing that sort of thing.

GLENTON: Fighting, killing, taking, holding ground

ALEX: yes, but instead of having a real enemy you had a cardboard cutout.

While there is a lot of coverage and public debate over the recruitment of noncommissioned soldiers there is much less regarding the recruitment of the officers trained to lead them. Officers are often recruited, indoctrinated, and trained through universities. After his timing cadets, Alex joined the army bursary scheme. He signed the contract when he was only 16; the military would pay for his education if he committed himself to weekly military training at university and agreed to join the military after his degree was complete.

ALEX: Our duty started out quite nice. We did a few training weekends, and did meetups Wednesdays. It was a good social life. It was really good; you meet people who had similar interests. You could do these really fun things. But then the pressure started mounting because I had the scholarship in bursary. I was told that the right thing for me to do is getting a territorial army commission while still being a student, so that would be 3 weeks at Sandhurst, and all the extra training beforehand, and I dropped out a week before, or a couple of weeks ago before I was meant to go to Sandhurst to do the TA commission

NARRATOR: However, the military became increasingly demanding and the training commitment started to affect his education concerned he approached his commander

ALEX: His words were “at the end of the day your commitment is to usthe armyand you’ve got to maintain that commitment because you can be going to Sandhurst and a regular army career, so in Sandhurst I had 3 sort of commitments, I had my commitment to regular army which was a long term commitment after university, and my commitment to the officer training core and my commitment to my degree and you can't manage all these 3 of them.

NARRATOR: he says he found raising the issue with his officer like talking to a brick wall At this point; he began to realize he had made the wrong choice

ALEX: I signed my scholarship contract when I was 16, and yet I still was not able to drink or vote.

NARRATOR: he sent his letter of resignation to Sandhurst, listing his concerns, there is never being an official response. He was to learn as I did that the military can't handle rejection.

ALEX: They said, you know, we understand that you are doing this for political reasons.

GLENTON: What do you think they meant by that? Did they expand?

ALEX: No, they didn’t. As soon as he mentioned that, I said no you don’t mind, so I made it quickly. My main priority for leaving has been because it’s ruining my degree.

NARRATOR: If nothing else, it appears that he had managed to spook them. They responded in ageold fashion by rushing to cover themselves

ALEX: after I left the adjutant office, I was on my way out of the barracks, a friend of mine who was a young officer told me that he had heard about it because the adjutants wanted him to write a statement about me and why I was leaving and stuff like that. I didn’t quite understand that and you know, that was a very strange thing for them to do, to ask around other young officers about my reasons for leaving. I think it was just them trying to cover their backs because obviously someone at Sandhurst wasn’t particularly happy that I had written a letter and was dropping out of my bursary scholarship.

NARRATOR: among the warm clichés about why young men become soldiers are those regarding service to Queen and country, defense of the realm, or patriotic duty.

NARRATOR: In order to place recruitment in its actual historical context I traveled to Norfolk to meet Dr. Neil Faulkner, a historian author and modern conflict archeologist. He suggested we conduct the interview in a historical site which he felt had particular relevance.

DR.NEIL FAULKNER: It feels as if we are a long away from any battle fields, and in a sense we are, but because we are in northwest Norfolk and standing inside a mortuary in a wood in the middle of what was during the First World War a training aerodrome, where between 1914 and 1918, there was in a sense, mass production of pilots to go and serve on the western front, and they were getting through so many planes and so many pilots that they needed to rampart these training aerodromes and to force the training pace to such a degree, they were losing at an aerodrome like this roughly one pilot a month in a fatal accident, so hidden in the woods here, in the middle of the aerodrome is a mortuary building, hidden away, so that the casualties aren’t demoralizing the airmen living on the site.

GLENTON: I asked him to explain the historical forces which had compelled men into the military,

DR.NEIL FAULKNER: I think there are really two forces that mesh together, I think one is, there is economic pressure, I mean most of the ordinary guys joining the army are under some kind of economic pressure, it is seen as a way out of poverty, out of a dead end job, out of a dull job on relatively low wages, so generally speaking the army as always recruited from people who were looking for the way out, so there is an economic compulsion.

JOAN HUMPHREYS: Five people from his class joined up pretty much at the same time, and for each of them, the whole idea was to get away from what was going on around them

CRAIG RUTHERFORD: I was living in a rough area as well, and things were very rough, so for me, it was like starting a new life basically.

GLENN HUMPHRIES: Official security, a place to live, frees meals a day.


MATT HORNE: There are not a lot of opportunities in general anyway, there are not a lot of jobs, and it became difficult to find some work or some sustainable work.

NARRATOR: for these soldiers as well as me, there was something other than money which drives us to join; it seems to me the economic argument alone cannot explain why people volunteer for the military

DR.NEIL FAULKNER: but I think it doesn’t really work unless you also sell people an idea, and the idea is adventure, it’s foreign travel, it’s either the service and duty of doing something worthwhile, something that is socially approved of and so on, and it’s a combination of those two things I think, that’s bringing those people into the armed forces

GLENTON: so the concept of it was quite appealing to a young bloke?

GLENN HUMPHRIES: to test myself, I suppose, to see what I can do and what I can not do

BENN GRIFFIN: I think, if you want to indoctrinate from a young age, you know, if I went to a country fair and saw some parachute is jumping from a plane, and saw some soldiers there showing off their weapons, I was interested by that, I was always so interested by military history as a young boy, and I really started to take all this in, Remembering its parades, any parades, you know, visits to war museums, visits to see ships, all of this, sort of built up in me a desire to be a soldier

ALEX: I think I had these naïve views that I would be fighting the good fight, so I thought if I was going to join the British army I had a view that fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were for good reasons, fighting terrorists and stuff like that

BENN GRIFFIN: so I wouldn’t say that I was recruited at all. By the time I walked into the recruiting office, I was ready to join,

NARRATOR: In peace studies and similar disciplines, violence is divided into subtypes with physical or direct violence being just one of them, recruiting, professor Webb, argues uses the other two types of violence: the cultural violence which reinforces the idea that these wars are somehow noble, and the structure violence of the potential soldiers economic predicament

PROF. DAVID WEBB: there is a lot of cultural violence in there suggesting that it doesn’t matter that the training you get would be used in order to kill people or invade other countries or whatever, but there is also the structural violence which says okay you need a job, we are not going to give you a decent job or an ordinary job that you can do something constructive in, we are going to give you, offer you this job where you can serve our needs, what we want you to do, so I think it’s a mixture of all of those things really

NARRATOR: it takes a lot to convince a teenager that their job in life is to kill another human being, but that’s what armed forces have to do; we’ve seen how the military seek to attract young people.

In the next episode of, the soldier Myth in the world on terror, we’ll be looking at how new recruiter trained and at the values that go along with the life in uniform.


The Soldier Myth

Part 2

NARRATOR: Britain remains a military power out of all proportions to its economic standard.

These soldiers still fight in corners of the world far remote from this tiny island of the North West coast of Europe.

Hundreds have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last decade.

I'm Joe Glanton, I was lance Corporal Glanton of 13 Air Assault Regiment until I was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, and that's why it’s important for me to find out why young men volunteer to risk their lives in conflict which a majority of their fellow citizens regard as unjust and illegal. But the same question is important for every parent who has a son or daughter of recruitment age and for every taxpayer who cares how the military spend their money and for every citizen who cares about the political health of their country.

So join me for the soldier myth and the war on terror, a four part series that talks to frontline soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting and coming home.

NARRATOR: I, Joe Glanton, Swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.

for what it’s worth the oath of allegiance is the final step before you start training to be a soldier and this means that in the view of the military your life is no longer your own. You are going to be sent away to learn the profession of arms, this process will involve months of arduous training under the armies military instructors. The aim is to fash and rule young men and women into soldiers ready to fight and perhaps die without question.

Craige Rutherford who joined the Royal Logistics Corps found it tough going.

RUTHERFORD: Basically they just like, treat you like real burden, you know, can worth less this to me, like you see if you can break they put you push and bring a point every day, they just kept an eye on you.

NARRATOR: Ben Griffin was an ideological recruit and for him training was an exciting prospect.

GRIFFIN: I really enjoyed training, I wanted to be a soldier and for me the training was the barrier I had to cross to become a soldier.

NARRATOR: Mathew Horne joined the infantry and did his basic training at Catterick Garrison.

HORNE: Training to be a soldier was physically one of the most demanding things I've ever done; mentally I told you it was ok.

NARRATOR: One controversial feature of training in military life is beasting. I asked Craige how far these extreme physical punishments went.

RUTHERFORD: Basically they told you to run on a rugged, run on the ground, up and down hills, on your knees, your elbows, you literary falling apart basically by the end of it.

NARRATOR: While to many instructors beasting was considered a character building exercise there are examples of it going too far. There is a history of soldiers dying after being subjected to beasting punishments. In 2008 private Gavin Williams of the Royal Wels Fusiliers collapsed and died after being beasted. None of the NCOs involved was convicted. There is much debate regarding the degree to which soldiers are dehumanized by training. The parachute regiment which Ben Griffin served in have a unique take on instilling and demonize mentality during training.

GRIFFIN: It definitely changes the recruit. It changes you from a civilian with certain values and turns you into a paratrooper with completely different values and a different outlook on life. Your loyalties to the regiment, your loyalties to your comrades. so it does change the person. Does it dehumanize them, I'm not sure if it does. It makes you into a different sort of human, but still human. As far as the enemies concerned, you know, I don't know what its like in the other units but within the parachute regiment you dehumanize civilians and you dehumanize other soldiers within the army, you know, so you create this very tight team by dehumanizing everyone and the enemy is probably at the end of the long list of other people that you're taught to , not taught but you learn to despise, so civis become Civi cons, the rest of the army become craphats and they despise they look down on those inferior beings. If anything, the enemy in my own experience compare to Civis and craphats the enemy have got a bit more respect, may be less dehumanized than the others, which is a bit strange and probably unique in parachute regiment but that's how it was.

NARRATOR: I asked Glenn if he felt there was any truth in the argument that military training turned the recruit into machines.

GLENN HUMPHRIES: I suppose, to a degree, you are becoming more mechanical because you are using too much than you use in earlier acts you know part of a cock, part of a machine, part of a, for range of cocks working together, they come and go, well that may be, so I suppose yeah I do agree to some extent that they want to change your mindset to except or do orders and do things more efficiently.

NARRATOR: to some, the training is aimed at removing certain values which the rest of is take for granted.

MATT: I'm looking back at the training and perhaps it dehumanizing in documation now simply to eradicate our natural instincts. Naturally humans are social. We have what's called empathy. We empathies, you know, it’s like a child or if you see a child abandoned on the street you don't just leave it. You empathise, I mean you would take care of it yourself, If you couldn't find the mother or the father you know someone to look after, you know you end up looking after it yourself. That's the human way, that's the natural way.

NARRATOR: The post 9/11 political climate has seen a growth of antiMuslim prejudice and many would argue this is a part of wider program to legitimize the wars. Few western media outlets miss the opportunity to use buzz words like Islamism, extremism, Jihad or terrorism in relation to Muslims. This despite the fact that in Britain you statistically eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. So given the political space which new liberalism and imperialism have provided for racist ideas how much of an issue is racism in the military.

GRIFFIN: The act towards racism or the actual racism within the army is consistent ways recruiting a lot of people from Scotland and north of England. That's where these guys are coming from, So that's a sort of level of racism so I imagine the level of racism in the army isn't much different to small town Wales or you know Glasco, North of England and actually I found out why its opinion if that’s the right word or why its variation in the levels of racism with the army so guys from Burney for example white guys from Burney were racist. Prejudice to guys who are Muslims prejudice to guys with brown skin but they’re from Burney. There's a 40 % Muslim population in the area. I think, you know, there's been riots, there has been race riots in those towns so they are gonna cut bring that baggage into the army

NARRATOR: one derogatory term which is commonly used to refer to the native populations is (Chowgis) which is a British military equivalent of rackheads, cammel jockeys and the like.

JOE: so how was the degree of kind of racism and prejudice in the kind of institution?

GLENN: Yeah, I would see things like (Chowgi) and I was like to me and it was a sort of term yeah so obviously.

GRIFFIN: Units that I worked with came across in Iraq specifically American Units, maybe national guard or less professional units, so you are talking about units that are full of people who have been recruited, actively recruited by an aggressive recruitment policy, economic recruits, recruits who are looking for college educations at the end of it, I mean the military. There was an element of racism from these people. They used the term rakheads, (mm Haji) and there was this idea or this view I mean through whole units of, specifically in my experience, American units I'm not sure what it was like in (?) of units who looks at the Iraqi people as somehow subhuman or inferior.

NARRATOR: The racism then seems in part to depend on where soldiers are drown from. Matt Horne served in a regiment which recruited as Ben pointed out from Scotland and the North West of England.

MATT: The Military is incredibly racist but it comes under the banner of banter.

NARRATOR: so racism and Islamophobia in the military exists at similar levels to normal society. But does racism exist at strategic level?

GRIFFIN: I'm not sure because the tactics or the strategy that has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan is that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims or there are good Afghans and bad Afghans, good Iraqis bad Iraqis, and ummm we are quite happy to work with and whole sections of those countries, whole sections of the population. In Iraq we start off by backing the Shia and this is an American lead strategy I suppose and there is a turning point, I can't remember these actually when we started backing the Sunni awakening you know we started backing the Sunnis, previously to that the Sunnis were the trouble makers, the Sunnis were the Bathis and relate to AlQaeda. So there is a cynicism about our approach to this. I don't think there is really much racism strategic or an army wide level. Because we were quiet happy to change our allegiances and to work with these people and exploit these people's prejudice.

NARRATOR: so at the highest level there is a much more cynical approach. Racism it seems is just another (?) as far as the military and political commanders are concerned. So while it’s clear that the majority of soldiers are not overtly fascistic, the army remains in inherently right wing institution, based on absolute power, top down obedience and service to narrow elite interests. Rather an effort to educate soldiers on proper combat there is a public relations exercise, basic t

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