The military has this little thing these days called the battle buddy system. It works by having each soldier be accompanied by another soldier of the same sex or two other soldiers of the opposite sex wherever they happen to be. This rule exists for the protection of individual soldiers and cadres in AIT and BCT.

The battle buddy system is a procedure where two people (the buddies) operate together as a single unit so that they can monitor and help each other. In dangerous activities, the main objective of the system is to improve safety. Each soldier can prevent the other from becoming a casualty.

In AIT this system becomes more important due to the additional freedom and privileges after basic training. It also becomes a risk and puts soldiers at a disadvantage. While necessary in a high-risk location or in combat, it’s almost a hazard in AIT. Instead of looking out for each other like they would in combat, it’s so unstable and unnecessary in AIT, that it becomes a gossip tool or an easier way to take advantage of a weaker person.

Because the system is used everywhere, a soldier must be accompanied by a battle buddy even to discuss personal matters with a chaplain. Even choosing someone you trust puts you at risk in these types of situations by sharing personal information. Because there are far fewer women in the military compared to men, many female soldiers end up with two male sparring partners instead of a single female simply because there aren’t enough of them. If the two male soldiers are friends, how much easier would it be to take advantage of that woman? This is an example of a very bad scenario, however possible and realistic.

A more frequent situation is when a man or woman has a personal problem to solve with a person of the opposite sex and each must bring a battle partner. Fellow soldiers at AIT, no matter how friendly you may seem, you just can’t always be trusted with your personal information. This is an example of how easy it is for gossip to spread throughout the company and, depending on the information shared, it can be harmful to someone involved. Another shortcoming of the system is that it sometimes serves as a crutch for the incompetent or psychologically insecure. The weakest soldier draining the strongest one in any way.

The policy on the buddy system says that it “helps reduce stress, teaches teamwork, develops a sense of responsibility for fellow soldiers, and improves security… It protects soldiers and cadres from sexual harassment and other discriminations. However, in the same paragraph it is mentioned that “Integrity of the battle buddy team is desired but not required… They must unite CQ and Fireguard. The only expectations are for medical visits, individual appointments and attendance at religious activities. At this time, other soldiers can team up regardless of platoon. AT NO TIME WILL AIT SOLDIERS TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE FACILITY WITHOUT A BATTLE PARTNER.”

First of all, it doesn’t help reduce stress most of the time, but rather adds stress to any situation because someone else is involved. Instead of keeping personal matters secret, you now have to worry about someone else knowing about the situation. Not to mention the stress of finding a sparring partner (or two) to start with.

Second, while the system can improve teamwork, it can also instigate hostile feelings, fights, and arguments. Assuming you and your battle buddy (or two) don’t get along, you can make any situation awkward, making the mission harder to accomplish, again, and also adding stress.

Third, “developing a sense of responsibility for fellow soldiers…” is stressful enough in itself, especially when your battle is irresponsible or immature.

Finally, let me quote “improves security” again because it certainly doesn’t. I can remember a time when I was in second grade and my elementary school implemented a buddy system. I was seven years old and I had to sit with my friend at lunch, play with her at recess, and do homework with her in class. Even though she wasn’t older than me, she always teased me because she was dumb and I had to do most of the work on whatever project we had to do together. On top of that, I would have points taken off my grade for her lack of intelligence.

That was in 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 “partner” 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 men I don’t even know, both much bigger than me and both equipped with a huge sex drive as they just got back from BCT.

Basically, my point is that the battle buddy system in AIT is so abused that I think it’s more harmful than effective.

However, there have been many occasions where I have asked a specific person to help me talk to a sergeant or go to the hospital for moral support. In these cases, I was very happy for the help and appreciated the moral support. The thing is, I can specifically ask to have a witness or a friend come with me anyway, so it wasn’t the fault of the system. I have had more bad experiences with this system than good ones.

My solution to this problem would be to have the battle buddy system enabled but not required. I would also suggest using permanent friends, because this way you have time to at least build a relationship with the person who will be spending so much time with you.

The flaw with this idea is also that on every date you go on you force the same person to skip class or take time for whatever they need to do.

The battle buddy system may work in other environments, but is not required in AIT.

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