Battle Buddies Matter
02/22/2020 | By Lt. Michael Ryan Wood
Humans are social animals. Even the staunchest introvert craves some communal interaction from time to time. Innately, we seek to learn from, compete with, and care for others. So it comes as no surprise that embedded in Army culture is the ideology better known as the “Buddy System.” Merriam Webster defines the buddy system as “an arrangement in which two individuals are paired (as for mutual safety in a hazardous situation).
"1The Army has taken this Buddy System from Individual nascent stages to Organizational programs such as the “Buddy Team Enlistment Option, also known as the Buddy Program which allows a recruit and up to five friends to enlist and train in the Army together. Under this program, a recruit and his or her friends may enlist in the same Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), and attend Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at the same time.”2
Tapping into the psyche of the Army’s most important resource is the unseen combat multiplier on and off the battlefield. Veterans have experienced the intangible benefits during the most challenging of times; however, one could equally agree that on a personal level, having a person to share, confide, and vent inspires focus and motivation to deal with other interpersonal difficulties. When completing my first marathon, I decided to walk at mile 22. As I slowed my pace to a quick trot, I noticed my Battle Buddy watching me from a distance. Immediately, I felt a tug of motivation and determination to overcome physically, and began running again. What I experienced was the positive peer pressure that the Army relies on to improve individual and collective military acumen. However, the benefits go beyond physical accountability, we are designed with flaw that limit our ability to understand how we interact with others around us. This blind spot is glaringly obvious to others sometimes in retrospect, and so having a trusted agent already in place to provide candid and appropriate feedback provides better self-awareness and builds resiliency.
Resiliency is one of the Army’s buzz words that derives from one’s ability to overcome all forms of life’s struggles. Officially, the Army defines resilience “as the mental, physical, emotional and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks.”3 Legacy belief that a “resilient person” can just deal with the embarrassment, trouble, or hurt does not comport in today’s cultural mores. “Figure it out and suck it up, Soldier” are logical fallacies and do not address the gap between understanding and the impetus for action that only a valued partner can provide. This need to act extends beyond the field of battle and importantly could be the lifeline if a Soldier has one too many drinks or needs someone with whom to talk when events overcome capacity. Battle Buddies provide insight to what one does not see, inspire confidence to push harder and further, and offer solace when we “think” we cannot continue. As one half of a Battle Buddy team, each of us must do our part to learn from, compete with, and care for our Battle Buddy at home, at work, and in the Army.
- https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/buddy system
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April 2019 – E/2-317th RGT - SGT Green (left) motivates SGT Warley (right) to complete the last miles of 7-mile ruck march to earn the German Armed Proficiency Forces Badge (GAFB).
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