1.1 percent of the population serves in the active-duty or reserve components of the U.S. military, or as Department of Defense civilians. Phillip Carter, Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security
joins Robert Traynham for a discussion, detailing the civilian-military divide and how stakeholders on all sides can help narrow it. This discussion continues in part 2 of Civilian Military Divide
Robert: A 2017 study by the Center for a New American Security found that just 7% of the nation's population are veterans, a gap amplifying many Americans being unfamiliar with military life and culture.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Phil Carter. He's the director of the Military Veterans in Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
Phil, welcome to the program.
Phil: Thanks, Robert.
Robert: Why is that gap so large with respect to people not being familiar with military life and culture?
Phil: [00:00:30] There's this divide that we call the civil-military divide, and it's essentially the gap between those who serve or have served in uniform and the rest of society. Right now, we think that gap is large because for 70 or so years, the US has not had conscription with the exception of the Vietnam conflict and the Korean War, and some level of peace-time draft since then. The military is small relative to the overall population of America.[00:01:00] The military is concentrated in bases around the country. They're generally not in big cities by design. You can't have a big training area in the middle of Manhattan.
Robert: Is it safe to assume, Phil, that because there's not a shared sacrifice, if you will ... For example, during World War II, as I understand it, there were many, many Americans, even if you were not serving in the military that experienced the world on a daily basis, whether it was seeing the ships sailing up and down the river coming out of your ports, or perhaps maybe you worked in the factories, [00:01:30] or perhaps maybe you had a victory guard ...In other words, we were all in this together, and so everyone kind of knew that this was a joint-victory effort, if you will.
Phil: It's shared sacrifice, but it's also shared experience. There's something that's very viscerable about the military experience and understanding what it's like to leave your community, go off to basic training, serve, sometimes go into harm's way, and then come home. There's something about understanding that experience that is meaningful, and [00:02:00] it's largely absent from today's society.If 93% of Americans have not served, if you go into a classroom or a workplace or a restaurant, you're unlikely to see a person on the other side of the table who has had that same experience as you have.
Robert: We know that our military is an all-civilian force. It's also a volunteer force. We also know that our military is, they're stretched and pulled in many different directions. I'm not sure we know, exactly, all the things that the folks [00:02:30] that wear our uniform do on a daily basis. How do we bridge the divide here?
Phil: It's a great question, because absent a war on the size of World War II and conscription, you're not going to fully bridge this divide. I think one, it's by having employers and universities, some of the major institutions in the civilian sector do what they can to bring their veterans and their non-veterans together in the workforce, to build affinity groups within companies to share experiences, to highlight the experiences of veterans that work in companies and lead and succeed [00:03:00] within those organizations.
I think second, media organizations can do a great deal of good here by sharing and highlighting stories that connect people, even though they haven't had that shared experience.
And, I think there's a role for veterans like me to play, too, to take leadership roles in our society, to share our experiences, and be very open about this so that we help to bridge that divide through what we do and say as well.
Robert: Can I expand on something you just mentioned?
I was always told, and maybe this is just an ignorance on my part, that many veterans do not want to talk about their service, they ... [00:03:30] Especially if it was, in fact, a painful experience for them. So, it's best just for them to get back into society and for them to kind of move on with their lives. Is that not accurate?
Phil: I think diplomatic or friendly conversations is always okay. There's a way into the conversation, too, to say, instead of, "What was it like to kill someone?" maybe say, "Hey, tell me about it. What did you do in the service? I'd like to hear more."A friendly conversation's always welcome, and I think that these kinds of bridges can be built between all people, [00:04:00] and that veterans don't just want to hear, "Thank you for your service," but they want to be engaged and made to feel part of their community.
Robert: Phil, are there any other programs that you're working on that we should know about?
Phil: We're doing some research right now on the future of the all-volunteer force, looking at how it's going to evolve to meet tomorrow's threats. We're also looking at the relationship between universities and the military, seeing that as one of the long-term cornerstones of the civil-military relationship, and then focusing some work on the future of the VA and how it needs to evolve to meet the needs of today's veterans and also those of tomorrow.
Robert: From what I've [00:04:30] read, the soldier of tomorrow is going to look much differently than the soldier of yesterday in terms of being nimble, multi-tasking, actually having a STEM background ... Science, technology, engineering and math, and even, sometimes, maybe even a gaming background when it comes to flying drones and so forth. Is your research showing the same exact thing or something different?
Phil: Our research suggests that tomorrow's soldier needs to be a pentathlete, that tomorrow's conflict may be cyber, it may be counterinsurgency like what we did in Iraq or Afghanistan, it may be high-end conflict with a near [00:05:00] peer like Russia or China. So, you need to be all of the above in order to succeed in tomorrow's battlefield. That has implications for the military. It also has profound implications for society when those folks come home. We need to begin thinking about what we need to do today to prepare the VA and to prepare society to receive tomorrow's veterans.
Robert: Phil, if anyone out there that's watching this program has any questions, where can they go to seek more information?
Phil: Our website for the Center for a New American Security, CNAS.org, has all of our reports as well as our recent commentaries [00:05:30] and insights on these issues.
Robert: Phil Carter, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Phil: Thank you.
Robert: And thank you for joining us as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Robert Traynham.
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