Do you think you’ve got what it takes to be a soldier? Would you even want to become a soldier? Today we are going to look at the life of soldiers, in this episode of the Infographics Show, American Soldier vs British Soldier.
There are many different types of military service, with the most renowned arguably being the Army. If you join the military you could also end-up working in the other main branches which are the air force, the navy, the marine corps, the coast guard, or even as a reserve. There are many more things you could do that make you a military man or woman, so to not complicate matters too much, we will discuss the American and British armies today. We’ll start with how you get into the army and what it takes to do so.
The American army is the largest and oldest branch of the U.S. military. It was founded in 1775 to fight the British during the American Revolution. It’s now one of the largest and certainly most powerful armies in the world with a total number of personnel of just under one million.
The Brits may have been fighting their battles for many centuries, but the British army was only formally established in 1660. Prior to this the English army was the strongest military force in the region we now call the British Isles. Notwithstanding the British army’s successes and how it helped to forge an Empire, the present British Army is quite small with around 112,000 personnel.
So, how do you become a soldier in one of these armies? In the U.S. you must be between the ages of 18 and 35, although if your mother or father gives you consent, you can join at the age of 17. You should probably have a high school diploma, although most military websites do say that exceptions can be made, especially if you have passed a General Educational Development test. They ask you not to have more than two dependents, and you must pass a medical exam and physical tests. They also require that you pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test. We looked at example test questions online and it seems you must know some basic English vocabulary and grammar, as well as have a fairly basic understanding of math, science and mechanics. Do you know the meaning of the word “observe” or where the coolant flows in a car? If you do, you are part way there. Once all that is done with, you can start your 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, commonly referred to as Boot Camp.
If you want to join the regular British Army, you can do so at the age of 16 without any kind of qualifications. Remember that Brits can leave school at 15 if they don’t, or can’t, take A-Levels. This might be a reason why the BBC reported in 2013 that 39 percent of new recruits to the British army have a reading age of 11. On the other hand, to join the officers’ corps you need some qualifications. The army states that you can start the application process before you are 16, although if you actually join before the age of 18 you still need your parents’ consent. You cannot apply if you are older than 33. The army recruitment site says even criminal convictions won’t stop you getting in as it states “Army life is a great way to make a fresh start.” You’ll be given some medical tests and also have to prove you are fit. One such fitness test is to run 1.5 miles (2.4km) in less than 10 minutes 30 seconds (or 12 minutes 45 seconds for females). You’ll also have to do 44 push-ups in less than two minutes. (Females only have to do 21.) Once that is done, you will join a 20-40 week boot camp to learn basic skills and see what area you might specialize in.
Once you are in, what can you expect? In the U.S army, you’ll receive healthcare, food allowance, housing, and pay. You might also be paid more depending on where you are deployed. Wage depends on your rank, but if you’ve just started out, you’ll get a basic salary of just less than 2,000 dollars a month as well as housing benefits. After two years of service, this goes up, and if you are deployed somewhere like Afghanistan, you could receive extra deployment pay of 250 dollars a month for separation from family; 150 dollars hazard pay, and 225 dollars for being in the line of fire and in imminent danger.
British army newbies during their long training stage will get as much as 24,890 dollars a year. Once you are trained, you’ll begin a series of steps from Lieutenant to 2nd Lieutenant and earn between 33,297 dollars and 42,669 dollars for a number of years. A downside for British troops is that they don’t seem to be paid extra for hazards and getting shot at. In fact, according to recent articles in the media, given they often work 16 hours a day, their wage ends-up being less than the hourly British minimum wage.
In the UK and the U.S. army, if you stay longer than five years, your rank and salary will improve greatly if you are doing a good job. Once you have decades under your belt, you might achieve colonel, and in both armies the pay is good. A U.S. colonel with less than 2 years in the position will receive about 91,000 dollars a year including benefits, while the British colonel just after promotion to the position will receive 109,855 dollars a year.
Brits receive a total of six weeks paid vacation time a year, which includes public holidays, while US soldiers receive 30 days a year providing they worked the full year. They also get public holidays. This amounts to about the same as a British soldier. Retirement benefits are a little confusing as it depends on how long you have been a soldier. In the U.S., if you worked 20 years in the army, you’ll receive 50 percent of the last pay packet you received. So if you earned 70,000 dollars, you’ll get around 35,000 dollars per year for the rest of your life. If you decide to stay on each year, the 50 percent will go up by 2.5 percent. In the UK, you can wait until 55 to collect your pension or also opt to leave the service after 35 years and collect 50% of final pensionable pay. Soldiers can also opt to pay into different pension schemes.
A very important matter is life on the job, and certainly if you are working in a dangerous area. The latest statistics according to the U.S. Department of Defense Casualty Report says that the war on terror claimed the lives of 2,350 in and around Afghanistan from 2001-2015. 20,092 soldiers were injured. 40 U.S. deaths and 183 wounded followed in later campaigns in the same areas. What the government called “Freeing Iraq” amounted to 4,424 U.S. deaths and 31,954 wounded. Later campaigns in Iraq have claimed 100s more lives. Far fewer British soldiers lost their lives in the Iraq invasion, with the number reported at 179. Less than 500 were killed in Afghanistan. In fact, the Economist reports that since 1945, a total of 7,186 British soldiers lives have been lost around the globe. The US number is over 100,000 since the same date.
Another thing we should mention is the effect being a soldier might have on the mind. Reports state that US soldiers are seven times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than UK soldiers, a condition that has been well documented in books and documentaries. Experts suggest that this is cultural, and certain cultures deal with stress and trauma in different ways. Apparently the British stiff upper lip plays a part here, and it seems American soldiers express their grief, while the Brits bottle it up or even turn to the bottle. Speaking about British soldiers, after working with them in the Middle East, one American troop is quoted as saying, “Those Brits are a strange old race; they show affection by abusing each other, will think nothing of casually stopping in the middle of a fire fight for their ‘brew up’ and eat food that I wouldn’t give to a dying dog!” He also said he’d prefer to fight alongside those troops than any other country’s soldiers. The reason, he said, was that when the chips are down, and there is no hope left, they just… soldier on. This sounds nice, and it’s quoted all over the Internet, but we can’t confirm the original source or its veracity.
So, tell us which military you would rather join, and if you’ve been a soldier or know one, why not share your thoughts in the comments!