Army training ‘more harmful than the war’ – young veterans

Date: 10th January 2017
Category: Armed conflict

A series of short films have been published which feature a young British veteran who, enlisted at 17, talking frankly and graphically about all aspects of army life.

Army training is 'traumatic' for young recruits and damages the adolescent mind, according to British infantry veteran Wayne Sharrocks, who features in a series of short films by Child Soldiers International. The films offer young people and their parents a frank alternative to army recruitment materials which, say many veterans, present a sanitised and unrealistic impression of military life. In particular, Wayne wants young people to know that the psychological effects of training can be harmful and permanent.

The films describe Wayne's journey through the army, from training to deployment and his struggle to adjust to civilian life afterwards. They present a picture of army life that is unrecognisable from recruitment brochures: of routine bullying; 'traumatic' training that indoctrinated him as 'a mindless, robotic killer'; and the often 'really, really, dull and boring' life on operations. He recalls seeing his colleagues maimed and killed right in front of him, and talks about his own injury from an IED explosion.

Other British armed forces veterans share Wayne's concern. On January 9th, Veterans for Peace delivered a letter to the Ministry of Defence appealing for an end to recruiting from age 16. The letter argues that adolescents should not be put through training whose central goal is to make them capable of killing on demand and without hesitation. In Wayne's experience, this psychological conditioning produces 'an insane amount of aggression' and is 'massively psychologically damaging' after leaving the army as it cannot simply be 'switched off'.
The four Children's Commissioners for the UK also believe that raising the enlistment age would be in the best interests of young people, as do the major child rights groups, health professionals, teachers, faith groups, parliamentarians, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and three-quarters of the British public, according to a 2014 poll. The British army's arrangements for gaining the informed consent of recruits and their parents are 'insufficient', the UN has said.

Each film is approximately 3 minutes long:

1. Are army adverts realistic?
2. How does army training change you? (pending upload)
3. How much bullying is there in the army?
4. What's daily life like in the army?
5. What's it like to kill someone?
6. What's it like to see someone killed?
7. A mum's point of view.
8. Do soldiers get a good education in the army?
9. What's it like after leaving the army? (pending upload)
10. How do veterans deal with how the military has changed them?

Together supports this campaign to raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard and to ensure that recruitment practices do not actively target persons under the age of 18.