The Army has this little thing these days called a battle buddy system. It works by having every soldier accompanied by another one soldier of the same sex or another two soldiers of the opposite sex wherever they are. This rule is there for the protection of individual soldiers and cadre in AIT and BCT.
The battle buddy system is a procedure in which two people (the buddies) operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other. In dangerous activities the main purpose of the system is improved safety. Each soldier may prevent the other from becoming a casualty.
In AIT this system becomes more important due to the additional freedom and privileges after basic training. It also becomes a risk and puts soldiers at a disadvantage. While necessary in a high risk location or in combat, it is almost a hazard in AIT. Instead of looking out for each other like you would in combat, it is so unstable and unnecessary in AIT, that it becomes a tool to get gossip or an easier way to take advantage of a weaker person.
Because the system is used everywhere, a soldier must be accompanied by a battle buddy even to talk about personal issues with a chaplain. Even choosing someone that you trust puts you at risk in this sort of situation when sharing personal information. Because there are so many less females in the Army as oppose to males, many female soldiers end up with two male battle buddies instead of a single female simply because there are not enough around. If the two male soldiers are friends, how much easier would it be to take advantage of that female? This is an example of a very bad scenario, none the less, a possible and realistic one.
A more frequent situation is when a male or female has a personal issue to resolve with a person of the opposite sex and they must each bring a battle buddy. Fellow soldiers in AIT, no matter how much of a friend they might seem, just cannot always be trusted with your personal information. This is an example of how easy it is for gossip to spread around the company and depending on what information was shared, it may be harmful to someone who is involved. Another flaw in the system is that it sometimes serves as a crutch for the incompetent or psychologically insecure. The weaker soldier draining the stronger one in whatever way.
The policy on the battle buddy system says that it “helps to reduce stress, teaches teamwork, develops a sense of responsibility for fellow soldiers, and improves safety… It protects soldiers and cadre from sexual harassment and other discrimination.” However, in the same paragraph it is mentioned that “Battle buddy team integrity is desired but not required… They should pull CQ and Fireguard together. The only expectations are for sick call, individual appointments and religious activity attendance. At these times, other solders may team up together regardless of the platoon. AT NO TIME WILL AIT SOLDIERS TRAVEL ANYWHERE ON THE INSTALLATION WITHOUT A BATTLE BUDDY.”
First of all, it does not help to reduce stress most of the time but instead it adds stress to any situation because another person is involved. Instead of keeping personal affairs quiet, you now have to worry about another person aware of the situation. Not to mention the stress of finding a battle buddy (or two) to begin with.
Secondly, while the system can improve teamwork, it can also instigate hostile feelings, fights, and arguments. Supposing that your battle buddy (or two) and you don’t get along, it can make any situation uncomfortable, making the mission harder to accomplish, again, also adding stress.
Thirdly, “developing a sense of responsibility for fellow soldiers…” is quite stressful in itself, especially when your battle is irresponsible or immature.
Finally, let me quote again “improves safety” because it most certainly does not. I can remember a time when I was in the second grade and my elementary school implemented a buddy system. I was seven years old and I had to sit by my buddy at lunch, play with her at recess, and do assignments with her in class. Even though she wasn’t any older than me, she always screwed me over because she was dumb and I had to do most of the work for any project we had to do together. On top of that I would get points knocked off my grade for her lack of intelligence.
That was in second grade, I was seven. Ten years later, I never thought that I’d still have the same problem or have to take a “buddy” with me to the bathroom. I never thought that I’d be afraid to go to church because I would have to walk there with two males I don’t even know, both much bigger than me, and both equipped with huge sex drives since they just came from BCT.
Basically my point is that the battle buddy system is so abused in AIT, that I believe it is more harmful than effective.
There has been, however, plenty of times where I have requested a specific person to aid me in talking to a sergeant or going to the hospital for moral support. In these cases, I was very glad for the help and I appreciated the moral support. The thing of it all is that I can specifically ask to bring a witness or friend with me anyway so it wasn’t because of the system. I’ve had more bad experiences with this system than good.
My solution to this problem would be having the battle buddy system to be allowed butt not required. I would also suggest the use of permanent buddies, because this way you have time to at least build a relationship with the person who will spend so much time with you.
The flaw with this idea also being that every appointment you have you force the same person to miss class or and take the time from whatever they may need to be doing.
The battle buddy system may work in other environments, but it just isn’t necessary in AIT.