Building military cohesion with decent sports fieldsIn the aftermath of a shooting spree that left South Korean soldiers dead ― killed by one of their own ― and other recent incidents that caused even more fatalities, the South Korean military leadership announced a string of measures that supposedly would cure the military once and for all of its ailments. We are talking about hazing by superiors and the resulting effects.
More regular psychological screenings of soldiers, a pay raise, upgraded living quarters, air conditioning and more personal computers are among the things that the military was quick to announce would be coming the soldiers’ way.
It took them 50 years to announce this. In addition, online college classes are now also being considered so that people can no longer say that the mandatory military service is a “waste of time.”
Well, this is all nice, but the bottom line here is that what soldiers need are not some far-fetched measures that require a certain budget to be implemented.
While the military may have announced all these measures, as time goes on and the attention of the public fades away, the military will shift its focus from the well-being of the soldiers who are doing all the grunt work to expensive toys that it hopes to buy with its limited budget.
What better way to release the stress of soldiers than providing them with adequate facilities and equipment to play some sports? Now, how many indoor basketball courts do you think the military owns? I am guessing it’s a single one, the one that the Sangmu Military Sports Unit has to train its soldier athletes. And I am willing to bet the whole farm on it.
That is how far the top brass of the military really cares about its soldiers or understands what needs to be done. The military will claim that every Wednesday, called “combat sports day” in the military, it gives the soldiers the afternoon off to play sports, especially soccer matches. Soccer matches are played, but very few of them are on grass. We are talking about rock hard surfaces that drill holes into brand new soccer shoes within a couple of months. Trust me. Falling down on these surfaces is no fun. It’s a bloody affair indeed.
It’s no different with the so-called outdoor basketball courts. How soldiers manage to dribble their way to the opponent’s net on that rocky surface was always a mystery to me. I could never master that art in my days in the army. It’s like playing basketball with an American football. Also, often soldiers don’t even have a decent soccer ball to play with. That’s how things are.
The camaraderie and unit cohesion that are essential to the army are built up through teamwork, and playing team sports can help. Yet the military has invested far too little in this area. Perhaps it has underestimated the real value of fully supported sports activities in the military.
With real facilities, an opportunity is enlarged for soldiers to open themselves up more through interaction that is different from what goes on in the line of duty.
When you have a bunch of soldiers cramped up in close quarters, there is a need to get rid of all the negative energy that builds up over time. In that regard, a ball game goes a long way.
by Brian Lee