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As A Teenage Soldier I Was Numb, Focused On War And Ready To Kill The Enemy

Huffington Post

"Joining at 16 is massively psychologically damaging and issues of PTSD, suicide and depression are major issues for veterans, and more so for teenage recruits.I think it is hugely important the recruitment age is raised. I now work with Veterans for Peace as a volunteer educating young people on the realities of war and support advocacy group Child Soldiers International, who recently launched its Declare18! campaign, to get governments to raise the age to 18."

By Wayne Sharrocks, former British Army Soldier

I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the army and I was constantly surrounded by army life.

The Iraq war was in the news and I remember seeing a documentary on it. I thought joining the army was the most noble thing a person can do. Little did I know the psychological damage that decision 10 years ago would have on my life.

On 5 November 2006, aged 17, I began my army training.

It was a shock. People were hyper aggressive, my head was shaved, my clothes were taken. I was taught that civilians are the lowest of the low and leaving would be failure.

If anyone did anything wrong during the first six months, there was a brutal punishment. It is not just you who gets punished but the whole group - you become indoctrinated with a collective mentality. It puts fear into you and people were easily ostracised.

I went from a civilian with my own thoughts and feelings straight from school into someone who followed orders without question.

You are taught to be focused on war and killing an enemy. By the time I finished training, just aged 17, that is the mindset I had.

It is nerve-wracking when you first join the battalion and there is heavy scrutiny on new recruits. I remember one guy who was late for something once - instantly he was targeted and a real bullying mentality grew.

By deployment time civilian life is flushed out of you.

What do you think?

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