Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Troop transport

On the way to Oxford, I shared a carriage on the Cambridge-London train with five students, most - I think - from Anglia Ruskin University, who were on their way to some kind of Army training session. There were probably members of the Officer Training Corps, but in any case they were clearly militarised in some sense: they all had huge camouflaged packs and were speaking the lingo, peppering their chat with acronyms like RSM and swapping stories of 'knocks' taken in previous training sessions. On the other hand, they were clearly not yet fully enlisted. They were all still too relaxed and had the unmistakable air of students with at least a year of a course to go, just at the beginning of a long summer vacation.

In some ways, they were a very modern bunch. All were checking the phones regularly, texting friends, chatting about Facebook-planned events; one even had brought a laptop along with him. But this was also a very old-fashioned scene. They had all received their papers -- via email, I think -- telling them where to muster, which train to catch, what kit to bring, and the like. And when the excitement of meeting up again had worn off, even though they were not - I assume - really off to any genuine conflict zone, an odd quiet came over them all. Nerves, perhaps, as well as an kind of exhaustion.

These men were at most two years away from doing this journey 'for real', should they sign up properly for the army. And in that case they really would have been off to some genuine danger. It's after all not very likely that in the next two years the British Army will not be committed to action in various places across the world. I wonder if they were thinking about that. I wonder what would make someone, right now, join the army. Adventure? Excitement? National pride? Duty? I can appreciate some of these motives, but I certainly felt no envy at all for what they were off to do.

1 comment:

emilio neoteros said...

lucky them, they have met you. they could have met sgt. Hartmann. And in that case, bye bye facebook.