The Americans have encountered problems recruiting soldiers especially during the current climate of the disastrous US war in Iraq. The Afghanistan situation will add to this recruiting problem. I have blogged earlier on this issue (see the 'Uday Singh tragedy' below), where the US military recruits foreigners for their foot soldiers. The reward for those foreign recruits is the possibility of a US citizenship, which appeals to people from the more deprived world like Filipinos, South Americans and Indians.
Australia with an increasing commitment to the war in Afghanistan faces similar problems. It wants to boost up the numbers of service personnel especially for the Army but it is encountering difficulties attracting young men into uniform. The lack of male enthusiasm may be attributed to increased economic prosperity, changing career expectations and family pressures.
Recently, there have even been talks about permitting women to serve in frontline combat roles because of such recruiting difficulties with men. But the community’s general feeling is not so supportive of women assuming such a dangerous role.
So, now the Aussies are taking a leaf out of the American book and considering the recruiting of young Pacific islanders into the Australian defence force under a citizenship-for-military-service plan.
The Aussie Armed Forces are considering a kind of Aussie Foreign Legion, like forming a Pacific Islands Regiment. The difference Australia has with the American approach is of course its traditional ties with Pacific Islanders, where it supports those people with aid and all sorts of assistance. Australia sees such recruitment as just another way to engage the young people of the Pacific Islands and improve their skills as part of a broader Pacific engagement program.
In fact, Australia also has military links with Pacific island nations during the Second World War when a similar Pacific Islands Regiment was formed, with Australian officers and SNCOs commanding the troops. The Armed Forces have a team looking into sign-on payments, free educational incentives, shorter careers and a more varied lifestyle.
Advance Australia Fair.
Uday Singh, a US Citizen