Baby-sitting in the Army

Twice during my time in Soest I had to babysit the captain’s children while he and his wife went out to some social function. I had been babysitting before to earn some money, but in the army all that it earned you was browny points. It must be easy finding babysitters when you’re an officer in the army: instead of contacting a babysitter agency, or asking neighbours, friends of family, you have a ready source of potential recruits.

Presumably, since I was a little older than the standard “milicien”, I was seen as a safe pair of hands who could be trusted not to mess things up when looking after someone else’s children. From my point of view it might mean that if I ever got into any trouble, I could hope for some added leniency because of having done the captain a favour.

But what struck me most of all was how different the captain behaved in a family versus a military environment. To be fair, I should have realised this because an uncle of mine had been a captain of a tank regiment in Werl and Soest, and having stayed with him as a child I knew he was no ogre but a perfectly normal human being when at home in a family situation.

Still, it must be something strange that, when in the barracks, you have to behave in a totally different (and presumably less human) way than when you are at home. Granted that any work environment calls on different qualities in your personality from when you’re away from the workplace, but usually you remain recognisably the same person, just using different aspects of your personality. Maybe an army environment forces you to hide that part of yourself that might be seen as weak and too open to persuasion in contravention of the army ethics of “do as I say, because I say so”.

Seems like a recipe for a split personality to me. No wonder some people have trouble adjusting to civilian life when leaving the army.


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