Posted March. 30, 2017 07:06,
Updated March. 30, 2017 07:12
When the commander of an Army engineering battalion selected a team of troops to be mobilized to remove landmines buried in Gyeonggi Province during the Korean War, he reportedly sought consent from their parents. He excluded three soldiers from the team whose parents did not agree, replacing them with other troops. The battalion reportedly did the same for five soldiers last year. How effective the unit could be in responding to mission needs if it seeks advance agreement from the parents of its troops for military operations. How would the parents look who agreed on the belief that it was the duty of their sons who are serving in the military?
It is not a recent matter that some military units have allowed soldiers’ parents to get involved in their operations. In reality, online chat rooms are opened for military commanders and troops’ parents, forcing military commanders to respond to inquiries and requests from soldiers’ mothers. It has been over 20 years since the military sought parents’ agreement when sending troops overseas. Lee Sang-eui, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who retired in 2010, attempted to eliminate such practices, which he called “populism in barracks” to no avail.
It is human nature for parents to worry about the safety of their children in the military. Their concerns are not unfounded, as an average of 42 soldiers a year lost their lives due to safety accidents in service between 2007 and 2013. The number has been reduced to an annual average of 20 over the last three years, but those sacrifices could have been prevented in the first place. The military’s intransparency in fatal accidents add to parents’ concerns. Although the military chose to disclose part of soldiers’ life in the military to help ease such concerns, the latest episode has revealed the adverse effects such disclosures.
Purchasing expensive high-tech weapons is not everything in building strong military forces. There needs to be solid trust between officers and men, and between the military and the public. The need for parents’ consent in troop management shows that there are huge cracks in the trust between the military and the public. The military should make thorough efforts to prevent undue casualties and show proper respect and consolation for those who sacrificed their lives in urgent situations. Soldiers and their parents should also remember that military service is the best way of showing their love of the country.