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Explaining the Army’s Battle Buddy System
The military has this little thing these days called the battle buddy system. It works by having each soldier follow one other soldier of the same gender or two other soldiers of the opposite gender wherever they are. This rule exists to protect individual soldiers and personnel in AIT and BCT.
The battle buddies system is a procedure where two people (buddies) act together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and assist each other. In hazardous activities, the main purpose of the system is improved safety. Each soldier can prevent another from becoming a victim.
In AIT, this system becomes more important because of the additional freedom and privileges after basic training. It also becomes a risk and puts soldiers at a disadvantage. Although necessary in high-risk locations or in combat, it is almost a hazard in AIT. Instead of looking out for each other like in combat, it’s so unstable and unnecessary in AIT, it becomes a tool to get gossip or an easy way to take advantage of a weaker person.
Because the system is used everywhere, a soldier must be accompanied by a combat buddy even to discuss personal problems with a chaplain. Even choosing someone you trust puts you at risk in a situation like this when you’re sharing personal information. Since there are far fewer women than men in the military, many female soldiers end up having two male combat buddies instead of one female simply because there aren’t enough of them around. If two male soldiers are friends, how much easier would it be to use that woman? This is an example of a very bad scenario, however, possible and realistic.
A more common situation is when a man or a woman has a personal problem to solve with a person of the opposite sex, and each of them has to bring a friend. Fellow soldiers in AIT, no matter how friendly they seem, just can’t always be trusted with your personal information. This is an example of how easily gossip spreads throughout a company and depending on what information is shared, it can be harmful to someone involved. Another flaw in the system is that it sometimes serves as a crutch for the incompetent or mentally insecure. A weaker soldier takes out a stronger one by any means necessary.
The policy on the battle buddy system says it “helps reduce stress, teaches teamwork, develops a sense of responsibility for fellow Soldiers, and improves safety… It protects Soldiers and personnel from sexual harassment and other discrimination.” However, the same paragraph mentions that “Team integrity for battle buddies is desired but not required… They should merge CQ and Fireguard. The only expectations are for sick days, individual meetings, and attendance at religious activities. At these times, other soldiers can be banded together regardless of platoon. SOLDIERS WILL NEVER TRAVEL ANYWHERE ON THE INSTALLATION WITHOUT A BATTLE BUDDY.”
First of all, it doesn’t help reduce stress most of the time, but instead adds stress to any situation because another person is involved. Instead of hiding personal matters, you now have to worry about another person who is aware of the situation. Not to mention the stress of finding a war buddy (or two) to begin with.
Second, while the system can improve teamwork, it can also foster hostile feelings, arguments, and strife. Assuming your battle buddy (or two) and you don’t get along, it can make any situation awkward, making the mission difficult to accomplish, again, adding stress.
Third, “developing a sense of responsibility for your fellow soldiers…” is quite stressful in itself, especially when your battle is irresponsible or immature.
Finally, let me quote “improves security” again, because it most certainly does not. I remember when I was in second grade and my elementary school introduced the buddy system. I was seven years old and had to sit next to my friend at lunch, play with her at recess and do assignments with her in class. Even though she wasn’t older than me, she always screwed me because she was stupid and I had to do most of the work for every project we had to do together. On top of that, I would get points off my grade because of her lack of intelligence.
It was in the second grade, I was seven years old. Ten years later, I never thought that I would still have the same problem or that I would have to take a “friend” with me to the bathroom. I never thought I would be afraid to go to church because I would have to walk there with two males I don’t even know, both much bigger than me, and both equipped with a huge sex drive having just come from BCT.
Basically, my point is that the battle buddy system is so abused in AIT, that I believe it is more harmful than effective.
There were, however, many times when I asked a certain person to help me talk to the sergeant or go to the hospital for moral support. In these cases I was glad to help and appreciated the moral support. The thing is that I can specifically ask to bring a witness or a friend with me, if it wasn’t for the system. I’ve had more bad experiences with this system than good.
My solution to this problem would be for the battle buddy system to be allowed but not required. I would also suggest using constant friends, because that way you have time to at least build a relationship with the person who will be spending so much time with you.
The downside to this idea is that every meeting you have, you’re forcing the same person to miss class or make time for what they need to do.
The battle buddy system may work in other environments, but it’s simply not necessary in AIT.
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