Youth and military service: exploring the effects of military socialisation, reintegration and employment

Kramm, Neil (2017-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) was adopted to rejuvenate the ageing force of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and has an additional function to provide social uplifment to the youth by alleviating unemployment and providing the youth with skills to assist them in finding gainful employment in the civilian labour market. To date, little is known about the youth that enters the SANDF via the MSDS program and how military socialisation affects the young millennials recruited into the military. Similarly, research on youth reintegration after military service, especially for those that serve for shorter periods, is lacking in South Africa. Equally, how young veterans manage in the civilian work place is also largely neglected in the literature. In this study, I aim to fill this void by exploring the experiences and perceptions of military socialisation, reintegration and employment status. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with MSDS instructors, current and former MSDS members and employment agencies. Discussions were framed around the three key themes this study sought to investigate, namely the effect of military socialisation has on young recruits and how this influences their ability to adapt in civilian life and find gainful employment. The conclusion is reached that the values and aspirations of the millennial youth joining the military differs fundamentally from what the military requires. This is owing to this youth cohort being defined as more individualistic, lacking in discipline, selfish and opinionated. In terms of work preference, they prefer working in flexible work environments, flatter organizations, that are more participatory and less authoritarian, do not necessarily like team work unless it is collaborative and are typically risk adverse. The above character traits and work preferences stand in sharp contrast in terms of what the military desires in recruits and what the organisation can offer in terms of the work environment. The military therefore has to re-socialise young recruits in order to instil the values required by the military to transform these young civilians into soldiers. This socialisation occurs via the total institution that changes recruits fundamentally with effects that are long-lasting as it creates a military habitus which reproduces their military identity in civilian life. The results of this study show that, initially, young recruits experience this as a culture shock, but as they assimilate the military culture that they become more authoritarian, aggressive and masculine. This they convey with them as they reintegrate back into civilian society when they leave the military. However, this is not the only affect that military socialisation has on them. Given that the military is a typical total institution, the loss of institutional support and command structure results in feelings of loss, anxiety, depression and alienation when they leave. Their military habitus and dependency on the command structure in their work effects how and where they obtain employment. These effects are not similar for all military personnel. Combat branches experience finding employment more difficult as they have little skills to peddle on the labour market besides ‘military skills’. Those in the technical and support musterings, find employment easier, but because it is not accredited often have to start their second careers right at the bottom of the ladder. However, irrespective of branch, their military habitus has an impact on how well they integrate into the workplace. These findings raise concerns in terms of the effect that militarization has on the youth, their ability to reintegrate back into society and whether the military should be used, or considered as a tool for social upliftment in a country like South Africa, which is beset with violence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Military Skills Development System (MSDS) is geïmplementeer om die verouderende mag van die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag (SANW) te vernuwe met jonger lede, asook om sosiale opheffing te verskaf aan die jeug deur werkloosheid te verminder en om hulle met vaardighede toe te rus wat vir hulle van waarde sal wees om sinvolle werk in die privaatsektor te vind. Tans is min inligting beskikbaar oor die jeug wat deur die SANW in die MSDS program opgeneem word en hoe die leër se sosialisering hierdie jong millennials affekteer. Eweneens is daar ‘n leemte in navorsing oor die jeug se herintegrasie na afhandeling van militêre diens, veral van diegene wat vir korter tydperke in Suid-Afrika diens gelewer het. Die vordering van jong veterane in die werksplek word ook nie deur die literatuur aangespreek nie. Hierdie studie poog om die bogenoemde leemte te vul deur die ervarings en persepsies van militêre sosialisering, asook herintegrasie en werkstatus, te ondersoek. Fokusgroepe en individuele onderhoude is gevoer met MSDS instrukteurs, huidige en voormalige MSDS lede en werkagentskappe. Besprekings is gestruktureer rondom drie kerntemas sentraal tot hierdie ondersoek, naamlik; die effek wat militêre sosialisering op jong rekrute het, hoe dit hulle aanpassing in die burgerlike samelewing beïnvloed en die impak van militêre sosialisering op hul vermoë om betaalde werk te vind. Die studie kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat die waardes en aspirasies van die millennial jeug wat by die leër aansluit, grootliks verskil van die leër se vereistes. Dit is danksy ‘n jeugkohort wat beskryf word as meer individualisties, ‘n tekort aan discipline het en selfsugtig en eiewys is. In terme van werksvoorkeur, verkies hulle buigsame werksomgewings, meer gelyke organisasies wat deelnemend is en minder outoritêr, hulle hou nie noodwendig van spanwerk nie tensy dit samewerking vereis, en hulle vermy hoë risikos. Die bogenoemde karaktereienskappe en werksvoorkeure staan in skrille kontras met wat die leër van nuwe rekrute vereis en wat dié organisasie as werkgewer bied. Die leer moet dus jong rekrute her-sosialiseer om aan die vereistes van die leër te voldoen en om militêre waardes in hierdie jong burgerlikes in te boesem. Die sosialisering vind plaas via die totale instelling wat rekrute fundamenteel verander wat dan lewenslange gevolge inhou aangesien dit ‘n habitus vorm wat hulle militêre identiteit in hul lewens herproduseer. Die bevindinge van hierdie studie toon dat jong rekrute aanvanklik 'n kultuurskok ervaar, maar soos hulle die militêre kultuur assimileer, raak hulle meer outoritêr, aggressief en manlik. Na militêre diens word hierdie habitus tydens herintegrasie in die burgerlike samelewing voortgesit. Nietemin is dit nie die enigste invloed wat militêre sosialisering op hulle het nie. Gegewe dat die leër ‘n totale instelling is, veroorsaak die verlies aan institusionele ondersteuning en bevelstruktuur ‘n gevoel van verlies, angs, depressie en vervreemding wanneer hulle die militêre instelling verlaat. Die militêre habitus en afhanklikheid van die bevelstruktuur in hulle werk, beïnvloed hoe en waar hulle werk in die burgerlike samelewing kry. Hierdie uitwerkings word nie deur alle militêre personeel op dieselfde manier ervaar nie. Operasionale personeel vind dit moeiliker om werk in die burgerlike samelewing te kry, aangesien hulle oor min vaardighede beskik, behalwe hul militêre vaardighede. Diegene wat in die tegniese- en ondersteuningsvelde werk, vind dit makliker om werk in die burgerlike samelewing te kry, maar weens die feit dat nie alle kwalifikasies geakkrediteer is nie, begin hulle dikwels van voor af in hulle tweede loopbane. Ongeag hiervan beïnvloed hul militêre habitus hoe goed hulle in die werksplek integreer. Dié bevindinge wek kommer ten opsigte van die effek van die militarisering van die jeug, die vermoë van die jeug om te herintegreer in die samelewing en of die leër gebruik kan word as ‘n instrument van sosiale opheffing in ʼn land soos Suid-Afrika waar geweld ‘n bedreiging vir die samelewing inhou.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100969
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