Military personnel are members of the state's armed forces. Their
roles, pay, and obligations differ according to their military branch
(army, navy, marines, air force, and sometimes coast guard), rank
(officer, non-commissioned officer, or enlisted recruit), and their
military task when deployed on operations and on exercise.
4 Initial training
5 Terms of service
5.1 Minimum service period
5.2 Military law
5.3 Posting and deployment
7 See also
9 External links
Those who serve in a typical large land force are soldiers, making up
an army. Those who serve in seagoing forces are seamen or sailors, and
their branch is a navy or coast guard.
Marines serve in a marine
corps. In the 20th century, the development of powered flight aircraft
prompted the development of air forces, serviced by airmen and women.
Designated leaders of military personnel are officers. These include
commissioned officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers
(NCOs). For naval forces, non-commissioned officers are referred to as
Organizations other than state armed forces include military
personnel, such as paramilitary organizations and non-state armed
Main article: Military recruitment
Most personnel at the start of their military career are young
adults. For example, in 2013 the average age of a United States
Army soldier beginning initial training was 20.7 years.
Historically, the use of children under the age of 18 for military
purposes has been widespread - see
Children in the military
Children in the military - but has
been in decline in the 21st century. According to Child Soldiers
International, as of 2017 approximately two-thirds of states worldwide
had committed to restrict military recruitment to adults, while 50
states were still recruiting personnel aged 16 or 17, including most
of the world's major military powers.
Most personnel are male. The proportion of female personnel varies
internationally; for example, it is approximately 3% in India, 10%
in the UK, 13% in Sweden, 16% in the US, and 27% in South
Africa. Many state armed forces that recruit women bar them from
ground close combat roles (roles that would require them to kill at
close quarters). Compared with male personnel and female civilians,
female personnel face substantially higher risks of sexual harassment
and sexual violence, according to British, Canadian, and US
Personnel who join as officers tend to be upwardly-mobile young adults
from age 18. Most enlisted personnel have a childhood
background of relative socio-economic
deprivation. For example, after the US suspended
conscription in 1973, 'the military disproportionately attracted
African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds,
men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose
high school grades tended to be low'. As an indication of the
socio-economic background of British
Army personnel, in 2015
three-quarters of its youngest recruits had the literacy skills
normally expected of an 11-year-old or younger, and 7% had a reading
age of 5–7.
Further information: Women in the military,
Sexual harassment in the
military, and Children in the military
Main article: Military recruitment
Military personnel may be conscripted (recruited by compulsion under
the law) or recruited by attracting civilians to join the armed
In states that do not rely entirely on conscription, the process of
attracting children and young people to military employment begins in
their early years by means of, for example:
Visits to primary and secondary schools;
Military schools and youth organizations such as cadet forces;
Advertising across television, radio, cinema, online
including social media, the press, billboards, brochures and
leaflets, and merchandising; and
Recruitment stalls (e.g. air shows, military amusement parks such as
Patriot Park in Russia, national days and armed forces days).
Bespoke recruitment videogames and association of military life with
A former head of recruitment for the British Army, Colonel (latterly
Brigadier) David Allfrey, explained the British approach in 2007:
"Our new model is about raising awareness, and that takes a ten-year
span. It starts with a seven-year-old boy seeing a parachutist at an
air show and thinking, 'That looks great.' From then the army is
trying to build interest by drip, drip, drip."
Once they are old enough to apply, candidates for military employment
typically apply online or at a recruitment centre. Many eligibility
criteria normally apply, which may be related to age, nationality,
height and weight (body mass index), medical history, psychiatric
history, illicit drug use, criminal record, literacy and numeracy,
proof of identity, satisfactory references, and whether any tattoos
are visible. A minimum standard of academic attainment may be required
for entry, for certain technical roles, or for entry to train for a
leadership position as a commissioned officer. Candidates who meet the
criteria will normally also undergo a medical examination, a battery
of questions to test aptitude, and tests of physical strength and
Most state armed forces that enlist minors (persons under the age of
18) are required by law to obtain the informed consent of one or
both parents or legal guardians before their child's enlistment can
take place. In practice, consent is indicated on a form, which
Once enlistment has taken place, recruits are subject to military
terms of service and begin their initial training.
Some, who actively oppose military recruitment practices in the belief
that they are misleading, harmful or immoral, engage in
Conscription and Counter-recruitment
Main article: Recruit training
Military personnel must be prepared to perform tasks that in civilian
life would be highly unusual or absent. In particular, they must be
capable of injuring and killing other people, and of facing mortal
danger without fleeing. This is achieved in initial training, a
physically and psychologically intensive process which resocializes
recruits for the unique nature of military demands.
According to an expert in military training methods, Lt Col. Dave
Grossman, initial training uses four conditioning techniques: role
modeling, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and
brutalization. For example, throughout initial training:
Individuality is suppressed (e.g. by shaving the head of new recruits,
issuing uniforms, denying privacy, and prohibiting the use of first
Daily routine is tightly controlled (e.g. recruits must make their
beds, polish boots, and stack their clothes in a certain way, and
mistakes are punished);
Continuous stressors deplete psychological resistance to the demands
of their instructors (e.g. depriving recruits of sleep, food, or
shelter, shouting insults and giving orders intended to
Frequent punishments serve to condition group conformity and
discourage poor performance.
The disciplined drill instructor is presented as a role model of the
In conditions of continuous physical and psychological stress, the
trainee group normally forms a bond of mutual loyalty, commonly
experienced as an emotional commitment. It has been called a
"we-feeling", and helps to commit recruits to their military
Throughout their initial training, recruits are repeatedly instructed
to stand, march, and respond to orders in a ritual known as foot
drill, which trains recruits to obey orders without hesitation or
question. According to Finnish
Army regulations, for
example, the close-order drill:
Is essential for the esprit de corps and cohesion for battlefield
Gets the recruits used to instinctive obedience and following the
Enables large units to be marched and moved in an orderly manner; and
Creates the basis for action in the battlefield.
In order to ensure that recruits will kill if ordered to do so, they
are taught to objectify (dehumanize) their opponent as an ‘enemy
target’ to ‘be engaged’, which will ‘fall when hit’.
They are also taught the basic skills of their profession, such as
military tactics, first aid, managing their affairs in the field, and
the use of weaponry and other equipment. Training is designed to test
and improve the physical fitness of recruits, although the heavy
strain on the body also leads to a rate of injury.
Terms of service
Recruits enter a binding contract of service, which may differ
according to rank, military branch, and whether the employment is
full-time or part-time.
Minimum service period
Full-time military employment normally requires a minimum period of
service of several years; between two and six years is typical of
armed forces in Australia, the UK and the US, for example, depending
on role, branch, and rank. The exception to this rule is a
short discharge window, which opens after the first few weeks of
training and closes a few months later, and allows recruits to leave
the armed force as of right.
Part-time military employment, known as reserve service, allows a
recruit to maintain a civilian job while training under military
discipline for a minimum number of days per year in return for a
financial bounty. Reserve recruits may be called out to deploy on
operations to supplement the full-time personnel complement.
After leaving the armed forces, for a fixed period (between four and
six years is normal in the UK and US, for example), former
recruits may remain liable for compulsory return to full-time military
employment in order to train or deploy on operations.
Military law introduces offenses not recognized by civilian courts,
such as absence without leave (AWOL), desertion, political acts,
malingering, behaving disrespectfully, and disobedience (see, for
example, Offences against military law in the United Kingdom).
Penalties range from a summary reprimand to imprisonment for several
years following a court martial. Certain fundamental rights are
also restricted or suspended, including the freedom of association
(e.g. union organizing) and freedom of speech (speaking to the
Military personnel in some countries have a right of
conscientious objection if they believe an order is immoral or
unlawful, or cannot in good conscience carry it out.
Posting and deployment
Personnel may be posted to bases in their home country or overseas,
according to operational need, and may be deployed from those bases on
exercises or operations anywhere in the world. The length of postings
and deployments are regulated. In the UK, for example, a soldier is
expected to be on deployment for no more than six months in every 30
months. These regulations may be waived at times of high
operational tempo, however.
Perks of military service typically include adventurous training,
subsidised accommodation, meals and travel, and a pension. Some armed
forces also subsidise recruits' education before, during and/or after
military service; examples are the St Jean military college in Canada,
Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College
Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in the UK, and the GI Bill
arrangements in the U.S. Conditions for participation normally apply,
including a minimum period of formal military employment.
Main article: Military uniform
While on duty, military personnel are normally required to wear a
military uniform, normally showing their name, rank and military
Women in the military
Children in the military
Transgender people and military service
Women in the military
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