Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned "best friend" — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren't, say something before both of them make the blotter.
At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever's on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system's goofy name — it's actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.
1. It makes sure no one is left out
Let's call the "battle buddy system" what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.
Granted, you'll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you'll swap to someone you're cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.
Even if that means you're now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)
2. It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO
Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they're at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you've got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.
When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there's a better chance that they're doing the right thing.
If your squad leader is happy, everyone's happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader...
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
3. It ensures someone will always watch your back
Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can't even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.
Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they'll at least be safe while they're trying to find their way back.
Worst case scenario: You've got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)
4. It's been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently
As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.
It's simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that'll say, "what are you doing, you friggin' idiot?!" are less likely to end up in the commander's office.
Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)
5. It gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough
Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.
Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I'll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my "battle buddy."
Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It's the least you can do for someone who'll do the same for you.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)
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