An Army of One?

The U.S. military has traditionally taught soldiers the virtues of "duty, honor, and country." In the Marine Corps, we learned to subordinate ourselves to the corps, to the unit to which we belonged -- but all that may be changing. You may have seen the Army's new recruiting ad, featuring a young soldier running alone across the desert. He says, "Even though there are 1,045,690 soldiers just like me, I am my own force. . . . And I'll be the first to tell you, the might of the U.S. Army doesn't lie in numbers. It lies in me. I am an Army of one." Well, as anyone who's ever served in the military can tell you, solitary, independent-minded soldiers don't win wars. They more likely get killed. The type of radical individualism promoted in this ad undermines two essential military principles: a unit's cohesion, and its willingness to follow strong leaders into combat. So, why, after twenty years of inspiring would-be soldiers to "Be all you can be!" has the Army suddenly decided to promote this vision of the self- centered soldier? It's simple: declining numbers. Since 1995 the Army has fallen short of its recruiting goals three times and barely met them three others. The out-going Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera says the situation demands a change in the way the Army communicates with young people. Linda Wolf, head of the agency that created the campaign, explains that the ad is aimed at young adults "who don't like being told what to do." She says, "They really want to be in control. They really want to make the decisions themselves. And the whole idea of 'An Army of One' does just that." Well, unfortunately, the change of direction illustrated by this ad also reveals the Army's embrace of an aspect of today's dominant secular worldview -- which exalts radical, personal autonomy as the ultimate goal of life. By embracing the same kinds of self-gratifying, narcissistic appeals of popular culture, the Army is promoting military service as an expression of personal freedom. In marked contrast, the Marine Corps still promotes what retired General Charles Krulak calls "the qualities America holds dear: honor, courage, commitment." In the late nineties, in the midst of great recruiting shortages, then-Commandant Krulak actually raised recruiting standards and toughened physical training requirements. He also refused to integrate men's and women's training programs or barracks. And in spite of -- or, perhaps, because of -- this tough approach, the Marine Corps achieved all its recruiting goals. General Krulak said it best: The Marines "recognize what Generation X and Generation Next want and haven't been getting. They want standards. Instead of softening up, we tightened up," he said. Well, Krulak is right. Tough standards that mean something develop strong character. Marine recruiters recognized our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. The motto, Semper Fidelis -- always faithful -- says it very well. But "An Army of One" misses it badly, and I hope the Army abandons this campaign. Whether for soldiers in foxholes, or the rest of our culture, for that matter, arrogance and ego do not hold us together. Rather, we need a commitment to one another, a regard for the common good, and the old- fashioned virtues of "duty, honor, and country." For further reference: Caldwell, Robert J. "General Krulak and His Marines Keep the Faith." The San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 July 1999. Harper, Jennifer. "Legend Krulak Passes Baton to Next Marine Commandant." The Washington Times, 1 July 1999. Morahan, Lawrence. "New Army Ad Puzzles Military Analysts.", 15 January 2001. ========== Touch the future of the Kingdom of God by making a commitment to a planned gift. Prison Fellowship has trained planned giving professionals to help you be a good steward of the blessings God has given to you. Please call us toll-free at 1-877-PFM-GIVE, or email us at <> for more information. ==========


Chuck Colson



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