By Charles Bausman
In Part 1 of our research into military fear inoculation, we covered some of the basic aspects of U.S. Military training which are meant to enable the soldier to overcome fear. These methods were not specifically designed for fear inoculation, but have closely tied second-order effects of military training specific to combat arms occupations.
This article will cover several of the methods utilized by foreign militaries. It is a common theme across the various militaries that hard, realistic training is the cornerstone of preparing soldiers for the rigors of combat. With that said, several techniques are specific to other nations training and cultures, worth discussing as we dive deeper into methods of fear inoculation.
Russian ground forces and the Russian military as a whole has undergone major transformations since the fall of the Soviet Union with efforts to modernize the force. Despite this, the military is still composed primarily of a conscription force, assigned to serve two years.
This conscription force is the basis of the term “Dedovshchina,” or “Reign of Grandfathers.” It is a culture of brutal hazing of first-year conscripts by second-year conscripts. While hazing has it’s underground cultural position in western militaries, this Russian hazing goes far beyond in terms of physical abuse and denial of basic necessities such as food and shelter.
Dedovshchina has been tied to high suicide rates within the Russian Military, as well as high rates of desertion. The Russian Federation has taken notice in their attempts to modernize the force, but it appears to be a highly engrained mentality amongst Russian soldiers.
Hazing, while a controversial term, is meant to harden a young soldier to the standards of those senior to them. This can range in implementation from extra military instruction (tasks specific to military skills and knowledge) to pure abuse at the hands of the more senior soldiers.
Its efficacy is for soldier development and fear inoculation is debatable at best. It appears to be another military tradition with minimal positive returns on developing a hardened fighting force, passed down among the generations of a mostly conscription force.
Political Indoctrination is a commonly utilized method, particularly in socialist or communist nation militaries, in order to meet military and political objectives. It is not contained to communist nations, as examples can be seen in various types of governments throughout history. This can range from the objectification of the enemy (images of the rat-faced Japanese Soldier in World War Two) to the deity status of the nation’s leader (Kim Jong-un in North Korea).
In the Peoples Liberation Army of China, new recruits are sent to an abbreviated military training course, with follow-on training conducted at the battalion level. The initial instruction is divided neatly, with two-thirds dedicated to military instruction and one-third dedicated to political indoctrination.
This continues when the soldier arrives at his or her unit, where there is a Political Officer located at the Company level and every higher level of command. This Political Officer has the same amount of power as the Commanding Officer, and all decisions require a consensus between the two.
How does this to relate to Fear Inoculation?
Effective political indoctrination can lead to an absolute faith in the national government or leadership, the objectification of the enemy who stands for the wrong values and beliefs, and the development of the belief that you are fighting for a higher cause. Hypothetically, under the ideal environment of indoctrination, the soldier may then believe that his cause is true and his fight is valorous.
Other Case Examples
Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Airborne Training
“The Lion’s Gate” by Steven Pressfield covers the events leading up to and during the Six Day War, in which Israel preemptively attacked the massing forces of the Pan-Arab Movement led by Egypt.
In the preceding years, the IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan, ordered all of his officers and NCO’s be trained in airborne operations. This was not intended to create a military capability, but rather to create a shared experience of overcoming fear (jumping out of a plane) by the leadership in the IDF.
His theory was that parachuting would develop the bond amongst military leaders, creating a greater unity of effort when under the duress of wartime conditions.
Portuguese Army – Playing Chicken with a Tank
Very little context is associated with this video, but it does display a method of fear inoculation. In the video, soldiers are lined up in front of a moving tank. The soldiers must fall back between the treads or touch treads and dive to the side as to avoid being run over. This is certainly a method of fear inoculation, although not recommended.
United Kingdom – Royal Marines, Para’s, and Infantry
The UK’s Ministry of Defense conducted a study of PTSD and it’s prevalence in soldiers in the Royal Marines, the Parachute Regiment, and standard Infantry Units.
The Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment (Para’s) are elite units, with arduous selection and indoctrination processes. Infantry units go through a standard training process and are not expected to possess the same kind of rapid expeditionary capabilities.
All units experienced similar levels of combat during the early stages of the Iraq War when this study was conducted. It found that Para’s and Royal Marines were less likely to have mental or physical symptoms of fatigue and PTSD.
We cannot determine if these are directly tied to performance in combat and the respective unit’s methods of training and fear inoculation. Further research would be required to correlate fear inoculation, performance in combat, and mental resiliency once combat operations have ended.
Amongst western militaries, the techniques for training the combat arms soldier are similar in doctrine and implementation. For the most part, these are all volunteer Armies with professional NCO’s who conduct hard, realistic training to develop the skills and resiliency of junior soldiers. Hard, realistic training is the cornerstone of inoculating against fear.
Doctrine at the tactical level for foreign militaries is difficult to find and translate, and specifics to fear inoculation more so. Political Indoctrination is believed to be a powerful tool by governments, although its benefits are debatable. Perhaps fear of the superior in these regimes is greater than the fear of attacking the enemy.
Hazing in the Russian military is a grandfathered technique employed by young soldiers against even younger soldiers. No literature was found on its benefits, while a plethora of literature was found on its pervasive effect on the force.
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