The Army then and now.
   (Ver 1)


Alex is an ex-Royal Australian Army APC fitter. His Dad was a Bren Gun Carrier (Universal Carrier) driver in the Army from 1948 through to 1962.
What follows is a discussion we had over the relative merits of the "modern" army.


Alex - The more modern the soldier, the more woossie they are becoming. They are not happy these days unless they have 5 star accommodation.

Doug - Can you blame them? After all, why go without when all around you are living in the lap of luxury and quite likely getting paid more for the same qualifications in civvy street. Oz has a history of not adequately looking after ex-servicemen.
The old days of cannon fodder are long gone. It basically takes a Higher School Certificate to even get in as a recruit now. If they want capable people then treating them like cannon fodder isn't the way to keep them. I know of quite a few who got out after 3 years due to terminal boredom. The conditions were good, but painting rocks and staying out of site of the WO just aren't what job satisfaction are made of. The modern generation have grown up with all this high tech etc and aren't about to put up with brainless bullsh*t.
You also must realise that the latest generations don't view hardship as hardening, they view it as stingy crap from authority who are padding their own nests and making others go without out of bloody mindedness. They couldn't give a flying hoot about careers etc. Their Dad probably got a gold watch after 20 years of working for the same company, they couldn't care less. All they are interested in is the here and now, their own comfort and instant gratification of any desire.
If those requirements are not met they go elsewhere.
They also have no respect for authority for authorities' sake. Just because someone has rank doesn't mean they will knuckle under to them. So the old idea of weed out the wise mouths and those who won't just blindly obey orders so as you retain those who will knuckle under and follow orders could very well end up with an empty parade ground.
Interesting people these Generation X and Y and Z ers.
Not like us Baby Boomers at all.

Alex - I have to agree. I saw this coming only 5 years ago. One of the many reasons I got out. But the question is, would you rather be in a hot tactical situation with someone that has better hands on experience, can rough it, survive when required and generally have a lot of fight, or someone who when his technology breaks down, can't fight his way out of an argument in an RSL club?
When I used to go out in the field in the Fitters Track, once we got there, the vehicles crew had a brew happening and made each of us Tradies a cuppa while we got in and dirty. Good crews were also there assisting, passing spanners or helping in what ever way they could. It was great team work and the brew, well that was just tradition.
It was probably my last support of a M113A1 LRV driving and servicing course. As a mech I often had to go to support these courses at the School of Armour to repair the vehicles. I stated to my Sergeant at the time when I saw the students, "What the ****, we training kids now?" to which he replied, "How old are you and how long you been in?" "12 years service." As the sarge stated, I was there once. I had just grown up a hell of a lot. The students were 17 and 18 most of them. What I did notice was the attitude. When a break down occurred and we fronted up in our FRT (Forward Repair Team) and asked where's our brew, we were plainly told, you want a brew, make it your **** self. Even though the older crews and D&S instructors informed them of tradition, their idea's were, hey I'm only here to drive the thing. Many a time we drove off without completeing the repairs. This never phased the modern crew, it was called, "tough luck", leave it there.
Times have certainly changed in the few years I have been out. I think this sort of attitude led to the mass exodus about 5 years ago. My poor old Tech Sqn ended up without any staff at all the year I got out, but it didn't take them long to get in the new blood. In the end the Army got what they wanted. And to think 2 years ago, I tried to get back in.
It was called project 2000 by the military. Pass super high fitness standards, or bye bye. Basically, they wanted to get rid of anyone older than 30. Especially in the Field Force positions such as mine. I had intelligence, discipline, could make tanks tank, Carriers carry, trucks truck and Land Rovers Rove. When a job needed fixing, I fixed it regardless of the time of night, rain, hail sleet or snow, the colder it was, the faster and harder you worked to keep warm. Inter service rivalry was prevalent everywhere, hardened the soldiers, another Country comes in or civvies and all of a sudden, you were best mates with the Navy and Air Force guys you were pub brawling with the night before.

Doug - Shafting people at the age of 30 doesn't sound like the way to retain experienced and capable people to me. Nor, once the word gets around, to encourage anyone to join. Makes the place sound more like certain fast food chain practices - doesn't matter what sort of worker you are, how many sickies you took, once you hit 18, bye bye.

Alex - I think the army rejected my more recent application because, "the way they trained me, the training I got no longer fits in with the current methods and untraining me is just too difficult." In other words, I don't fit in with todays modern soldier, I'm too rough around the edges.
My next door neighbour's son is currently serving. I was talking to him over Christmas while he was on leave. Basically swapped some stories with him of some of the more fun times. Turns out all the army has really done is taken the only reason to be in, out, removed all the fun.
We used to say, we hated the army 80% of the time, but the other 20% was so damn fun that it made up for it. They have removed that 20%. Guaranteed, Aussies doing a Palace Guard now, wouldn't get pissed and get kicked out of England for eating the Queens goldfish. Yes, one of the RAR regiments did that...classic.. I thought that one hilarious.
But the current soldier is dumb when it comes to field craft these days. If they are captured by an enemy, they would not have the foggiest of how to improvise methods of escape. The art of marksmanship is out the window, heck they are not even taught to use open sights now so if your Steyr sight glass gets broken, the average Aussie soldier now couldn't hit a Leopard tank 2 feet in front of him with it, even though it is also fitted with open sights as a back up. He is stuffed without his night vision gear, wouldn't have the foggiest idea to put white tape or paint on his sights to give him a guide at night (yes it does work).
Technology is not going to do him any good when it's damaged in battle.
Years ago, I went and spoke to the curator of the Museum at XXXXXXX. I was only a School cadet at the time. He asked what we actually did in school cadets. When I told him, he said at the time, the soldiers were loosing the basic bush skills back then. He said, grab it all and never loose those skills. I did and became a better soldier because of it. That was in 1983.
Now in 2004, try getting a soldier to survive off the land. He wouldn't even know what a rabbit snare was, let alone how to use one for his own survival.
Mind you Doug, the pay in the Military is very very good, although I must admit, that I earned more in the Army as a mechanic than I ever have in civvy street. I was pay level 5 and there was only one pay level higher and that was the radio/electronics technicians. Most jobs entail pay level 3 which is a pretty average sort of civvy wage. Of course rank also had a bearing on the pay but a seperate issue. As a Craftsman on Pay level 5 I earnt the equivalent of a full corporal on pay level 3.
I will say that I did thoroughly enjoy my time in the Service. Basically, I loved tanks ever since I was a kid. Yet I hate guns so to speak. Not really hate, wrong wording...don't like cleaning them is more the point. Was shooting with my Dad at the age of 7 on the range every Sunday. I like the idea of tracked vehicles that can go "ALMOST" anywhere and the ride of tracked vehicles. I was a tender young age when we finished our Bren Gun Carrier and we took it up to our 40 acre property.
As you are aware Doug, I was Army Reserve and went full time service. Basically, the only difference between a Reservist and a Regular soldier is...the Reserve Soldier "wants to be there" and the Regular Soldier, "has to be there". It makes for 2 different attitudes.
But there's the differences. I enjoy living out scrub and roughing it. And frankly, I was far healthier for doing it. When we lived out scrub, we lived like pigs. Thus our immune systems were constantly active. Today, socially we live in such sterile conditions, that our immune systems sleep. As such we become more prone to illness. I remember my first ex, cold and wet and I got a cold...and never had one again until I got out of the army and did not live out scrub as much.
Another reason for going armour, I lived in the Fitters when roughing it. The advantage of M113's is that your M113 is your house. Even in the APC role, the infantry sleep under their hootchies while the crews slept in the comfort of their vehicle. 2 Stretchers fit neatly on the floor of the back of an M113. We set up a hammock in the roof of the Fitters for the 3rd crew member, one in the hammock, one on a stretcher under him and one on the other side. One of our guys who was permanently issued his Fitters when we ended up with 2, lived in it even on base at the barracks. Made good security. After all, we did lay red carpet in them when in base, rubber mat on the floor for out scrub....and a door mat. Anyone entering the vehicle had to wipe their feet clean. I did not know any other crews to do this.. We would pull up and the door mat would go out the back door. Other vehicle crews had to be constantly told.."Wipe your feet"
Hence the only time I used a hootchie when I was in the service was when I did Recruit Course. The rest of the time, it was a minimum of an 11 X 11 tent, a large workshop tent, or the Fitters track. If the night was great weather, just out under the stars.
I suppose the most time I spend under a Hootchie is these days when I go out on a Club camping trip or over night stay, there's no room on the Ferret to carry much more as I tarp the Ferret of a night. Or I end up sleeping in the 11 X 11 that one of the other guys owns if he goes and takes it with him.
I lost interest in the Army with this project 2000. It began making my job harder to do, in many ways. During Servicing the vehicles, usually multiple days, we were allowed out on the town of a night, there was no curfew as long as we were at work and able to work at 7 am the next morning. They began making these times "closed camps" meaning you were not allowed off base. As Reserves, we enjoyed the socialising out at night clubs etc during our nights. It was our time to release any tensions built up through the hard and long working hours. These nights were fun and mostly the reason the Reserve "wanted to be there". Taking this away from us created an attitude, "I don't want to be there". Out in the Field on full exercise, or on courses, you accepted it and made your own fun in barracks and in the mess.
So the army has now changed the social attitudes with the new generation of soldier.
In the workshop, we began camping on long weekends, and for a week at the Melbourne show week. Eventually, crews from the Regiment began coming too. Now what's wrong with this picture? We rough it at work, then go and rough it in our spare time? We used to take our families too. It was a social gathering, even ex members went. But it goes to show we did it because we enjoyed it.
Even when I did the private tank jobs with the Centurions in private hands, I'd ask for volunteers to be crew to get a full compliment of crew members, for safety reasons, and I'd always have more volunteers than were required. And what's more, we all got paid for it, but we enjoyed what we were doing and as such, the money was just an added bonus. One owner stated to a promoter that he thought we enjoyed our job too much. As the promoter stated, if we didn't, we would not be doing it.
A reserve soldier these days has a lot of option as to whether or not to go to work. If he doesn't go, he just fills out a leave application after he hasn't turned up. Hence, servicing there were always a lack of crews, the mechs would turn up, but rarely the crews other than those that took particular interest in their vehicles. As I came towards the end of my service, there were only the old hand crews, the modern crew just wanted to crew or drive. Hence the vehicles suffered to some extent, the crews that fronted to do servicing, often ended up servicing many vehicles that were not their responsibility and thus "carried" the other crews. So there are the team players and the non team players. In the workshop, you would not let your mates work while you did nothing and you would never stand back and let them finish alone. You all mucked in together.
In the workshop though, we were a more close knit group. Small and light on in the way of staff, but we had jobs to do. The vehicle mechanic is responsible for the hull, turret down. The Fitter/Armourer's responsible for turrets, weapons and small engines such as generators, lawn mowers etc. The Tels mech or Radio Boffins, did the electrical/electronics work. The Recovery Mechanics were in charge of de bogging and trowing vehicles. The Repair Parts Scale storeman was responsible for getting and supplying all parts. Yet the Recovery Mechs were often pulling spanners, and the vehicle mechs often helping out soldering wires for Boffins. Even the RPS storeman got his hands dirty. Although we were somewhat detached from the rest of the Regiment in that we did our own thing, our responsibilities were to keep the vehicles at a highly maintained standard, onl;y joining in Regimental activities where needs be and as such, made for a more relaxed working environment. We never had time for boredom, itr was non existent. On ex, we grabbed sleep when ever we could, be it in the back of the fitters track whilst on ex, the 3 crew members swapping positions, one driving, one commanding, one sleeping in the back as often on ex, we would travel with one Troop, awaiting for a repair task, doing what the Troop did during the day. We would get a call over the radio from another Troop whoi had a broken vehicle and would often have to make our own way across to their location, carry out the repair and either stay with them and follow them or head back to the other Troop. So we also did twice as many miles. TRhen at night we would enter our harbour. Then all the crews would come to us with minor faults, or a major breakdown we would tow the vehicle behind us and repair it that night. So we were often awake working on vehicles until often 4 am or however long the repairs took whilst all the crews slept, excepting those old hand crews who were willing to lend a hand. And yet we had a reputation of being lazy as the other crews having a well rested nights sleep, saw us sleeping during the day, when the opportunity arose, oblivious to the fact that we had worked most of the night so that they could continue on the next morning. And of course, we would have to continue on with them.
As for the situation in my old workshop now, I have no idea. But the army has certainly changed. I know for a fact, the team work and mateship has certainly diminished. Todays soldier appears to be, the I only care about me. Boredom would more likely be created by the lack of team work, the lack of wanting to get the job done. Very much a situation of I will look after me and stuff the rest of you. As such, we will rarely now see acts of bravery as in the past. Todays modern soldier appears to be far more, I'll look after me, you worry about you. There's no way I'll take any risks to help another collegue attitude. Where as when I was in the service initially, we could not do enough for each other.

My thanks to Alex.


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