A Career In The Military
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Though the World War is over, the military service of our country is still prominent, and suggests itself to many young men as a possible career. The army and navy have at all times occupied positions of much importance in the existence of nations; and, as long as our nationalistic tendencies continue, these two prime factors in the satisfying of such tendencies promise to retain their importance. The army and navy have a double function—they fulfil their purpose of protection of the country's interests through the means of attack and of defense. In days long gone by, when civilization had hardly begun, every man was a warrior, ready to attack the members of neighboring tribes, if such a course promised advantage, and equally pre-pared to wield his arms in defense of himself and his kinsmen. With the growth and development of the social unit, a special body of young and able-bodied men, led by older men of more experience, came to be the instrument of attack and defense, although in times of acute need all men capable of bearing arms did so. And that is still much the system upon which the military service of many countries is based. In the United States, military service is purely voluntary, except at times of extreme need, such as the last great war, when it was necessary to resort to measures such as the selective draft.
The army and the navy considered as a career make their chief appeal to the patriotism of the individual. But there are other factors which influence young men to choose the military calling. The life of a soldier suggests not only service for one's country, but also gives promise of a life of adventure and rich experience. In other words, military life makes a strong appeal to the spirited, imaginative type of youth. It seems to combine, probably to a greater extent than any other vocation, a somewhat spectacular mode of life, and yet honorable and useful service, inspired by high ideals.
The military organization of today is more complex than it has ever been before. The three great units which compose it are the army, the navy and the air service. In the army, the chief divisions are the infantry, the cavalry, the field artillery, the coast artillery, the engineers, the signal corps and the non-combatant sections, such as the hospital corps, quartermaster corps and ordnance department.
In time of war the men in these various divisions carry on the special operations of attack or defense peculiar to their divisions, but in time of peace their whole time is taken up with routine duties which will fit them for active duty when it becomes necessary. The infantry is the backbone of every army, and contains by far the largest number of men. Infantry are foot soldiers, and in time of war they are assigned to practically every sort of military duty. The cavalrymen are the mounted soldiers; the field artillerymen are mounted soldiers in charge of field guns, or light cannon; the artillerymen are in charge of the heavy artillery; and the coast artillerymen are detailed to protect the seacoast and harbors. The engineers do work of a technical nature, surveying and mapping specified regions, laying out, constructing and repairing fortifications, military roads, bridges and camps. The signal corps, too, re-quires men of technical training for the work of installing and operating telephone, telegraph and radio systems.
The everyday routine duties of all soldiers are quite similar, although the special divisions emphasize their own peculiar work in the daily peace-time practice. Garrison training includes athletics, both indoor and outdoor, practice in the use of rifle, bayonet, sword, hand grenades and other weapons, in signaling, riding, marching and pitching and breaking camp. The daily work is carried on in accordance with a very definite schedule. Every man in the army, from rawest recruit to highest commander, lives according to prescribed rules. This is part of the great distinguishing characteristic of the military service discipline. During war time discipline is not relaxed, but of course the daily duties of the soldier are different then, and depend upon many factors which it is impossible to predict.
There are two ways of entering the army in time of peace one through enlistment as a private, the other through appointment to the Military Academy at West Point and subsequent graduation and appointment as a second lieutenant. In order to enlist, a man must be between the ages of 18 and 35, a citizen of the United States, and must pass a physical examination. When he has been accepted as a recruit he is sent to the recruiting depot. There he stays for about 45 days, receiving instruction in all sorts of matters pertaining to military service. Then, his period of preliminary training over, the enlisted man is assigned to his regiment. Here he has opportunity, by strict adherence to discipline and a display of soldierly qualities, to win promotion, first to an appointment as a non-commissioned officer (corporal and sergeant), and later, perhaps, to a lieutenancy or higher rank.
Every year a certain number of young men are appointed to the Military Academy at West Point. The candidates are required to take a rather severe competitive examination in English, history, civics, arithmetic, algebra and geometry, and also to pass a physical examination. The successful candidates are appointed to the Academy, and receive from the government an annual allowance during the period of their studies. The graduates of the Military Academy are appointed to positions as second lieutenants and, if they have the qualities of a good officer, may look forward to promotion to the highest ranks.
Discipline is, as has been said, characteristic of all military service. It is vitally necessary, for without it the army would be not one unified whole working towards a common end but would consist of independent and, consequently, for military purposes, inefficient groups of men. In order to yield to discipline, the soldier must be patriotic, loyal and obedient. He should be sufficiently intelligent to realize that he obeys not the personal order of the officer who gives a command but the authority behind that officer. The good soldier is courteous and obeys not only quickly but cheerfully as well. He is respectful to his officers and shows consideration for his comrades. He is self-confident and ambitious, with a sense of duty and of responsibility. If he is courteous by nature, so much the better, but it is a fact that many men of special bravery have made extremely good soldiers because of their willingness to follow implicitly the directions of their leaders. Daring is another desirable quality, but with it must go a certain amount of caution, for the careless soldier is a source of danger to his comrades. One of the most important things with which the soldier should be endowed is good health. A strong, healthy body is necessary, for life in the army is not easy, especially in time of war.
The officer should have all the qualities of the good soldier, and some others besides. He should be fair and just, treating his men without partiality, and should be able to inspire them with confidence in his leadership. A good officer will be a man who, while treating his soldiers impersonally, will yet have a sympathetic interest in them, and never attempt to drive them, but lead them by his example.
Soldiers are not highly paid. Even the highest officers rarely have salaries of more than a few thousand dollars a year, and privates begin with about $33 a month. The life during time of peace is not very hard, and offers plenty of opportunity for amusement, recreation and study; during war, of course, the soldier faces hardships and dangers of many sorts. How-ever, it is a sort of life which appeals strongly to many men. There is a certain amount of variety and adventure in it, an opportunity to see lands and people which one might otherwise never come upon, and to gain many interesting experiences. The pay and employment are steady, and one has the privilege of retirement on a pension after thirty years of service. And, above all, there is the great opportunity to serve one's country.
A career in the navy offers much the same opportunities and advantages as one in the army, and requires also much the same qualities in the seaman as in the soldier. The navy, as does the army, seeks in its men the innate characteristics of a high sense of duty and of responsibility, loyalty, trustworthiness and a proper sense of subordination.
The men in the navy are divided into seamen, artificers, engineers and yeomen. The seamen are the real sailormen, handling the ship and fighting in time of need. The artificers are carpenters, plumbers, painters, shipwrights and other such workers who keep the ship and its fittings in repair; and a large number of machinists who are employed particularly on submarines. The engineers attend to boilers, electric installations and engines. Yeomen are non combatants petty officers doing clerical work in the various departments on board ship.
The sailor may enter the navy as an enlisted recruit, or as an ensign graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Every recruit is, upon enlistment, sent to a training station. Men who enter the navy with some knowledge of a trade are usually detailed to one of the technical schools, where they are given further training in that trade, to enable them to practice it with special reference to the needs of the naval service. It is not difficult for the conscientious and ambitious seaman to win promotion.
The Marine Corps is really a separate part of the military organization of our country. The marine is a sort of combination of soldier and sailor. When it is necessary that a naval expedition land on foreign soil, this work is undertaken by the marines, who are trained in the duties of both the sailor and the soldier.
The sailor's life is, in some respects, easier than that of the soldier, but, in general, the two principal branches of the military service may be considered almost equal, as far as ad-vantages and disadvantages go. The sailor, too, is assured of steady employment and continuous, though moderate, pay, of a pension in his old age and of opportunity to educate himself and broaden his outlook through travel and varied experience.
The newest branch of the military service is the aircraft service. This has till now been regarded chiefly as an auxiliary to the army, navy and marine corps, but its increasing importance entitles it to independent consideration. Airplanes are used for observation and attack, and are usually manned by at least two men—the pilot and the observer. The military pilot attends to the actual handling of the plane on flight expeditions, and must know his machine thoroughly and have considerable understanding of military affairs. The military pilot is usually drawn from the ranks of the army, sent to one of the government aviation schools, given training in flying and military tactics and then assigned to a special squadron.
The observer's work is just as strenuous as that of the pilot. He is the man upon whom depends the success of all reconnoitering expeditions in time of war. He must observe the movements of the enemy as well as those of his own country's troops, take aerial photographs, make aerial maps, report minutely and accurately upon whatever he is sent to observe, operate the wireless and radio apparatus with which the plane is equipped and operate also the weapons of attack and defense which he may be called upon to handle in the course of his work. He needs, of course, a very thorough knowledge of military tactics and of various technical matters, in order to carry out his work. Observers are trained in the government observation schools.
Both pilot and observer must be strong men of sound nerves, for their work is exceedingly strenuous. They must have a great amount of courage, initiative and independence, for up in the air they cannot, like the soldier or sailor, depend upon an officer for instructions as to how they shall proceed. Military aviators must be persistent also, for, when they are told to accomplish a thing, it is expected that, like all soldiers, they will do so, if possible. Coolness, caution and self-confidence are further necessary qualifications.
Men of particular promise and intelligence in the pilots' schools may be sent to the Field Officers' School, where they receive special instruction and training in all branches of aviation and in the war-time utilization of aircraft. The military aviator is somewhat better paid than the soldier or seaman. His work is perhaps slightly more hazardous than theirs, for it entails, besides the dangers which they are likely to encounter, the additional perils resulting from our limited knowledge of the air. The appeal which flying makes to the imagination is, however, a very strong one. There is no doubt that it offers more attractions to the man of adventurous and independent spirit than does service in the army and navy proper.
The boy who enters upon the military service as a career, or who simply passes through a limited period of enlistment and then returns to civil life, gains much of value from this experience. He learns to mingle with other men in unselfish comradeship, he learns the virtues of self-restraint and the advantages of teamwork, and his love for his country is no doubt strengthened by the very fact that he has been so directly in its service.
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