The Military saving wayward youth - how true?

My observation is that there’s a scale of “troubled” youths in the 18-year old range. Quite many of them are still on the way to maturing. They screw up, get in trouble for a while but after a bit they’ll settle down and become a lot more sane. At the other end are the hopeless losers who are going to get themselves into stupid situations for the rest of their lives.

If you put people at either end of the scale in the military the first group will come out surprisingly changed. The ones at the other end won’t.

The question is: Was it the military or the time elapsed that did it? My Magic 8 Balls says “Answer unclear”.

OTOH, the military definitely seems the right place to tuck these people away until their mature brain engages. Limited options, being told what to do, organized lifestyle, etc.

Note that self-selection processes like ending up where the only job you can get is a security guard tends to skew with the data.

Oh I certainly could. I just deleted a few massive paragraphs. The pistol event made me realize I was completely out of control, and that I was a disgusting person. I enlisted as a sort of self-punishment, but in hindsight a complete change of scenery was very much what I needed. Military life was so different from what I’d known, there was very little demand for my old attitudes. I was determined to not be an asshole anymore, so anytime the Army told me to be a certain way, I went that way without hesitation. Be truthful? Be a team member? Work hard? Put your needs last? Be attentive to the needs of others? New and strange territory, but ok. After Basic, a few other noobs and I got adopted by some junior NCOs who mentored us, showed us what was what in Army land, showed us how to start thinking about career paths, smacked us on the back of the head when our bearing was off. It wasn’t an official duty, I think it’s just an institutional mentoring thing that happens. I took to calling one of them “Dad” even though he couldn’t have been more than a couple years older than I was. Dad was in my class at DLI (63 weeks of Arabic), at additional training at Goodfellow AFB, and we ended up stationed together for the last 2 years of my enlistment at Ft. Stewart. He was good at grooming my better habits and explaining to me why my bad habits were so destructive. If I were the sort to believe in guardian angels, I’d insist he was one. For [reasons] I didn’t reenlist in 1996. He stayed in and spent a couple tours in Afghanistan and we fell out of touch. A year or two ago I learned he’d taken his own life. I wish I could talk to him today and let him know how instrumental he was in turning my life around. Gratitude like that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind in 1991.

One celebrity case: the late R Lee Ermey. You have to dig into some detailed biographies to find it out, but Ermey was a troublemaker as a kid, was arrested twice, and eventually given this option by a judge. He certainly personally credited the marines with straightening him out.

I found the military to be a maturing experience. The structure helped me to find my way into true adulthood. Didn’t get sent by a judge but it would probably have been in my near future. After 4 years I knew what I wanted and how to go for it.

When I joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 1999, there was a specific question on the enlistment forms about about whether I was joining due to an “or else” court judgement (I don’t remember the actual wording, but that was the gist). Answering “Yes” to that question was a bar to enlistment. I don’t think that’s changed since, and I believe it’s true for all branches. Now, as Loach points out, recruitment standards change all the time. There are waivers for just about everything. It wouldn’t surprise me if some Soldiers who answered “Yes” were waivered into the Army during the height of the recruitment crunch c. 2004-2008. As a general rule, though, if you’re being coerced into joining the military to “straighten you out”, the military doesn’t want you.

A couple of anecdotes:

When you enlist into the U.S. Army Reserves, you enlist into a specific slot in a specific unit. It’s standard procedure for the enlistee to attend the once-a-month weekend “Battle Assemblies” while waiting for a Basic Training slot to open up, which sometimes takes months. I remember one Soldier in particular who, prior to Basic, was an active detriment to the unit. Lazy, late for everything, borderline insubordinate, etc. There was a limit to what we could do with a pre-Basic Soldier, and we had a very limited time available to get everything done we needed to during the weekend, so we (NCOs) mostly just tried to put her somewhere where she wouldn’t do any damage. Admittedly, a bad approach both for her and for the unit, but she just seemed like she was more trouble than she was worth. After she returned from Basic, though, she changed dramatically. She still wasn’t really a model Soldier (she never really showed any individual initiative), but she followed orders, showed up on time, and performed her duties competently. I have no idea if that carried over into her civilian life, though. There’s a big difference between dealing with bosses that can, in theory, send to you to prison for back-talking, and dealing with bosses who can, at worst, fire you.

As a civilian, I got pulled over once for expired registration (I just plain forgot to renew it - completely my fault). In my county of residence, the standard procedure for expired tags was for the officer to issue a ticket with a court date. If you renewed before the court date, and showed up to court with a valid renewal, the court would nullify the ticket. Also, in my county, traffic violations and misdemeanors were put on the same court docket. So, while waiting for my turn to show my renewal, I saw a number of misdemeanors being processed. One was a sentencing (I don’t remember the exact charges, but it was something like disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct). Prior to the sentencing, the judge asked the defendant if he were still enlisting in the Marine Corps - it was obvious from the context that in his original bench trial, the defendant had told the judge he was planning to do so. The defendant replied that he had enlisted, and was awaiting a date to ship out to Basic. The judge handed down a very light sentence (I don’t remember the details, but it was something like a small number of hours of community service and a suspended jail sentence). Again from context, it was clear that he hadn’t been formally sentenced to enlist or face jail, but, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, because he enlisted, the judge handed down a very light sentence, and this was the implicit deal they had worked out at the trial.

On the other hand: If you look at the homeless population of any large city, a heck of a lot of them are veterans. Now, I won’t say that this necessarily means that the military screwed them up: It may be that those guys were always troubled, and joined the military in an attempt to straighten themselves out. But at the very least, we can say that the military wasn’t able to get their lives onto track.

How do you know that?

I’ve seen panhandlers with signs saying, “Homeless vetern - please give.” But I’ve always assumed it was a ploy to increase donations.

Well, yes, but so does looking only at those who are more successful.

Though I will note that security work can be a decently paid steady job, however popular it is to regard people doing it as ‘failures’. That company, which was bloody awful, 0 hours contracts for all and sometimes no hours for weeks, was neither decently paid nor steady and did attract a lot of messed up folks, but that’s not true in other companies where the joining requirements are greater than the ability to stand there. I met a lot of people, mostly in other companies, who were using guarding, especially overnight static guarding, as a way to get time to study other languages or Open University courses while being paid, for example.

The estimates stats from the Royal Legion in the UK, from 2014, are that around 3-6% of rough sleepers here overall are ex-military (served at some point, not necessarily recently), but it’s as high as 20% in some areas. This is despite charities that solely work getting former service members off the streets and them also getting priority in housing programmes for a time after discharge. In the last few years there’s been a significant increase in rough sleepers in the UK, so I don’t know if the proportion has changed.

These guys reckon 11% of the US homeless population are veterans, 45% of them being African American or Hispanic. So yeah, some of those guys with signs saying they’re ex-military are possibly fake, but a lot of them are real.

Tell them to improve their spellings… What the hell is a “vetern”? Veteran!:cool::smiley:

Seriously, discharged soldiers screwing up in civilain life is a trope which goes back several thousand years; I think Juvenal mentions it.

He won’t be kneeling during the national anthem, that’s for sure.

Do you mean the British Legion?

I assume she means the Royal British Legion.
There’s been people for whom “enlist/get drafted, see the world” has been an eye opener, leading them to their future careers and people who sign up on account of “I have really no idea what the heck to do with my ass and that looks like fun” who end up staying in. But depending on how fucked up someone is, the military isn’t going to fix them any more than they’re going to clean my car.

You’ll get a better answer from a military-oriented forum like Arrse.

This is now prohibited by regulation. Has been for a few decades, at least. The military doesn’t want troublemakers or society’s cast-offs anymore.

It would be interesting for me to see some sort of research that tries to answer the ‘do kids who serve a term have better lives’ question. Do they get better jobs and earn more? Do they have fewer arrests and jail sentences. All the indicators for increased - even marginally - socio-economic status.

It might be possible to do so using data from countries with manda for youth.tory military service.

There’s some questionable choice there, certainly, but there’s also some that might give a decent western baseline like Denmark and Switzerland.

In essence, does serving a term instill enough discipline to get young men and women through the transitional period - say 18-22 - to improve their odds of success in downstream life? Nothing will succeed for all, of course. But is there enough of a gain to make it recommended.

Oops, Royal British Legion, like Nava said.

This is true.
Between ages 18-21, most people grow and mature. But some don’t.

It’s common to think that the army teaches discipline, teamwork, and lots of good stuff.
But there’s another side to the issue that nobody has mentioned yet : for seriously fucked-up people , life in the army can be easier than life in the civilian world.
And the reason is simple: the army is a job from which you can’t be fired.

A lot of army jobs are the same as civilian jobs: work in a warehouse loading boxes on forklifts, work in a big kitchen slicing potatoes and washing dishes, etc.
But in civilian life, if you’re a total fuck-up,you’ll get fired. Then when you have no money you’ll get evicted from your apartment and you’ll have your car taken away by the repo guy.
If you come to work late, never help out, make a mess and leave it for somebody else to clean up,etc,…you’re in trouble.

In the army, you’ll still have a room to sleep in,3 meals a day, and a paycheck.
Sure, theoretically, a fuck-up like that can be sent to jail. But that requires a court-martial and a lot of headaches for his boss.
So in reality, he’ll probably get by and survive.
He will just become known as The Asshole, who is hated by everybody else on the army base.
But for some people,that’s better than being broke, with no place to live and no car.

And for that kind of person, being in the military actually delays the process of growing up. So by age 21 he is LESS mature than he would have been without the army.

General or dishonorable discharge, bar from reenlistment, garrison duty, endless article 15 actions for performance issues…

It’s enough to say some people can’t be helped. But the military certainly has no obligation to hang on to losers.

As many have learned very recently after troops were withdrawn from the Middle East troop level again went down. Soldiers that had bad marks in their past suddenly found themselves unable to re-enlist. Get too fat or too slow and you’re out. Article 15s used to be a way to discipline without ruining a career. Now it’s a career ender. It is certainly possible to get fired from the military. Pretty easy really. Now more than ever.

Ah, the Harvard Law of Animal Behavior strikes again.
“Under carefully controlled experimental circumstances, an animal will behave as it damned well pleases.”People is complicated. At least you can say guy #2 is no worse off than be was before.