I was twenty. I flew in straight from Thailand and got recruited to the Swiss Military Police. They were proud of having one of the mentally and physically toughest programs in the Swiss army. They told me that it was an honor to be there – and I believed it for a while.
Looking back, I think that they made it into this “big thing”, in order to spark some excitement and meaning in the soldiers eyes.
My confidence dropped quickly after the first 6 or 7 weeks. Hearing every single day how miserable I am, was surely not the best medicine for my health and spirit.
But I learned to shut up, and just do the thing. Without questioning. The army is no place to question anything – unless you want to be in trouble. Later I realised that, perhaps they don’t want you to think at all – just do. Execute.
“You’re not here to think.”
And so I let our Sergeant think for me.
I think an army-system only works that way.
How dangerous. Looking back I was nothing more than a puppet. Trying to please the drill-master – and to avoid punishment.
We were the pricks. The weak. The incapable. At least I was – in my intimidated eyes.
But one day…
After around 7 weeks of intimidating drills. An officer crossed the field. “Ryter,” he cried. I ran towards him. “I want you to become a Lieutenant.”
I stopped. Didn’t know what to say and couldn’t believe he had picked me with a handful of others. After all, I wasn’t that great of a soldier, I believed.
“Yes,” he said. “We only want the best.”
After weeks of feeling miserable, those words tasted like honey. And a few days later I almost signed up for the professional military.
A day before the test and interview, a friend of mine told me a story of how they manipulated a few of his friends to become Sergeants and Lieutenants. And it hit me like a rock in my face.
It’s so easy to be manipulated, especially when your confidence is low.
The army knows that. And I know now too. And I see it happening in other areas too.
Job interviews. At work. School. Dating. Even inside the family.
Sometimes it’s good to stop. To check in, and ask the question: Is this really what I want to do? Or am I just talking myself into something? Is this really in my highest interest?
I know, tough questions to ask. But vital. Perhaps life changing.
Btw. I’m the one in the middle of the picture 😉