Early on in the film adaptation of Richard McKenna’s novel The Sand Pebbles, an experienced missionary named Jameson explains his opinion of the American sailors stationed in China in the 1920s: “They reduce life to a very simple point, or no point at all. As long as they obey orders, the Navy takes care of them. It’s a way of existence that appeals to a certain kind of man.” While this assessment may have been harsh (and certainly inaccurate as applied to the movie’s protagonist, a petty officer named Jake Holman), it also reflected a common view of military enlistment that had existed for centuries: that it was a path for young men with no education or standing in society, men with few options in life but to join the service. With some exceptions—the World War II effort mobilized a massive proportion of the eligible American population, and the Vietnam-era draft removed the element of choice for many enlistees—that view has remained stubbornly persistent to this day.
Think Smaller, Think Smarter
American military personnel are more educated, fit, and technologically equipped than ever; the time is right for an organizational reboot with an eye toward small-team agility.
By Lieutenant Commander Kevin Duffy, U.S. Coast Guard