The recent media frenzy over the behaviour in our military colleges reminded me of my early days in the RAAF. I guess it’s going back a few years now but the situation seems close to my time there so I offer these observations as a bit of backgrounding on where the system has evolved from, before reaching the current situation.
I first attempted to join the military at the very earliest opportunity which would have been at about age 16 back in ‘69. Being of very light build in those days and still waiting for the growth spurt that comes with teenage years, I was given 6 months to put some weight on but failed miserably to meet the target weight despite hitting the milk with huge spoons full of Activite. You have to remember this era pre-dates Fast Food and it wasn’t until many years later I learned the secret was to marry a Dutch girl with superior cooking skills. (Go Liz).
At the time I was deeply disappointed with this lost opportunity but unbeknownst to me it was a blessing in disguise. Had I been successful I would have become an Apprentice or Appy as it was known in those days, and this was the very worst way to join the Forces. Later, after doing an Apprenticeship in civvy street, I reapplied and was successful in joining as an Adult Apprentice and was sent to RAAF base Laverton’s Radio school to gain another skill as a Radio Technician.
Once there, I was horrified to see how the Appys were treated and behaved. Bastardisation was rife and not a lot of control was exercised on these kids who had only recently been released from Mother’s apron strings. It pretty much appeared as if they were treated as a self managing group and discipline was only meted out when things got totally out of hand (as in, noticed by the public.)
If you have read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (which I hated with a passion when I was forced to read it in school) you couldn’t help but draw some comparisons.
The problems came from the intemperate society outside the system being allowed full reign within the system and which was thought to be “character building”. A theory I find totally at odds with the outcome for some twisted individuals.
Being older, we adult apprentices had been out in the real world and simply didn’t put up with the same inhuman treatment and I can’t say we were “lesser” folk for not putting up with the same crap.
At that time there was often reports in the media about misbehaviour at Duntroon where Officers did their Basic Training and I was surprised the supposed “elites” were putting up with the same thing.
So that was the position at that time. An environment that reflected the outside society but with less responsible control exercised.
The current aggravation about a filmed consenting sexual act being secretly channelled by Skype into an a joining room struck me as an advance upon the “good ol’ days” for the following reasons.
- It was between consenting teenagers. The act not the filming.
- It was heterosexual. So the gender separation has ceased.
- It follows behaviour in the community at large despite it being portrayed as something unique to the military
- It caused high embarrassment to the hierarchy.
As unacceptable as the event was, it shows real progress in our treatment of individuals in the military so I for one, am encouraged by the fallout that has ensued. Gay bashing has become unacceptable and moving from rape to a betrayal of trust is a great leap forward. If these advances continue as the fallout would suggest, we are heading in a good direction and have come a fair way from the supposed good Ol’ days.