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*Note: The following is an excerpt from the new book, The Patriot Fire Team Operation Guidebook, now available as a paperback or Kindle version, by the author, Paul G. Markel.
Who is a Citizen Soldier?
When we use the term “citizen soldier” in the 21st Century, the most common connotation is that of the US Army National Guard. It is a safe bet that before reading this, a good percentage of the audience already had decided that citizen soldier and National Guardsman were interchangeable terms. The US Army has been using the term as a recruiting tool for better than a decade now.
Before we go one step further, let me assure you that I have no problem with members of the National Guard referring to themselves as citizen soldiers. Nonetheless, the US Army does not own the exclusive rights to the concept or the usage of that term.
The citizens of Sparta, an ancient Greek city-state of some fame, were one of the oldest and most famous examples of putting into practice the concept of the citizen soldier.
All Spartan male children were expected to undergo rigorous physical education and martial training as well as scholastic education as a part of their duty as citizens.
What does Civic Duty Mean?
This is a great time to consider the idea of duty. Duty is not something that we engage in if we are in the mood or don’t have anything else to do. When we consider duty from the aspect of the citizen soldier, it becomes a given, a situation for which there is no other choice but shame. Duty is what is expected from every able bodied boy or man in the community. To not fulfill one’s duty to their family, their community and their nation is unthinkable.
The Spartans are naturally not the only people in history to embrace the tradition of the citizen soldier. However, it must be taken into account that training and arming of all of the physically capable men in a nation to become on-call fighters was far from the standard practice for nations throughout history.
The majority of the rulers throughout history; kings, emperors, czars, etc. had a deep seated fear of armed and trained citizens. We discussed this at length in the “Examining the Armed Citizen” book. Rather than create a culture of citizen soldiers, where every man was trained and armed, they instead preferred a method of conscription.
The conscripts, also known as draftees in modern vernacular, did not serve from a sense of moral duty to their nation, but from a forced obligation. This is not to say that there were not volunteers serving in the regular military units, there were. However, when the king, emperor, or even president needed to bulk up their forces for this war or that, they resorted to involuntary conscription.
In the previous case, both the volunteers and conscripts are a part of a regular, strictly controlled army. They are enlisted and serve at the behest of their ruler, they are not truly citizens who are also trained to be soldiers. They are under the control of their king, lord, etc. not freemen able to go about their lives as they see fit.
Modern Incarnations of the Citizen Soldier
Both Switzerland and Israel have been held up as modern examples of nations who employ the concept of citizen soldiers. An examination of both nations will show that this mentality has been eroded over time. The vernerated Swiss reserve soldier, with his rifle and ammunition kept close at hand ala the minuteman, has come under steady attack from Swiss “Social-Democrats” (communists).
Israel is famous for their mandatory military service conscription program. Sadly, Israel has also been poisoned by the social-democrat “Labor” movement. Do not expect that nation to move into the 21st Century as a shining example of freedom and liberty. Also, keep in mind that conscription into the military is not the same as a cultural duty. Yes, before you write me letters, I know that there are citizens in Israel who embrace military service as their duty, but the same can be said for all nations on earth.
American Militias and Training Bands
In the modern world, the most famous examples of putting the concept of the citizen soldier into practice were the original 13 Colonies of the Americas under the British Empire.
Born of both practical necessity and a moral duty, those who inhabited the colonies that would later become the United States of America, formed their citizens into Training Bands and Militias.
In villages, cities, and counties, it was expected that all able bodied boys and men would participate in martial training and be prepared to fight and defend their communities if and when called up. They were armed with the most modern arms available at the time. The Massachusetts Militias, one of the most notable examples of citizen soldiers, had parity with the British Regular Army when it came to arms. The militias drilled with the same “Brown Bess” muskets and bayonets that their redcoated counterparts did. The militias had cannon, powder and cannon balls to fire from them. Anyone who would claim otherwise is a malevolent liar.
More than two hundred years since the first American civil war, the militias of 1775 are still revered and remembered. We revere and remember them, not because of their ordinary or unremarkable place in human history. No, the American militias and training bands were true citizen soldiers who were trained and armed out of a sense of duty toward their families and communities.
The training bands and militias were NOT the equivalent of the US Army National Guard as many deceptive liars would have you believe. The men who served in the Massachusetts Militia elected their officers and participated as volunteers obligated not by a government contract, but by a spirit of civic duty.
Are you Prepared to do Your Duty for America?
One of the most important distinctions between a citizen soldier and a citizen serving in the regular army is the aspect of control. Though manned by the citizens of the nation, the regular army is under the control of the state which may or may not have the best interests of the people as the primary concern.
A training band or militia, composed of volunteer citizens, falls under the control of the people themselves and the community. The men who founded the United States of America embraced the tradition of the citizen soldier and warned against the dangers of standing armies. They knew history and they knew that the best defense against arbitrary abuse of power by the government and blatant tyranny was to put arms and martial training in the hands of people.
Lastly, the militias and the training bands drilled (conducted organized training) continuously. The leaders of these men understood that possessing arms was only part of the equation. Only by coming together and participating in deliberate and purposeful training could a citizen soldier fulfill their true duty to the community.
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