Carey Martin


Army Profession, Civilian-Military Divide, Ethnography


Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Other Communication


Since the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the American public and the Armed Forces have steadily drifted apart. This has resulted in a division between the people of the nation and the individuals that defend its values. Consequently, as this division increases, the American public is thankful of military servicemen, but believes that service is something others should do. Conversely, the military’s sole purpose is to protect and defend the nation, its people, and its values, but it has become more isolated. Additionally, military service is becoming a family tradition in which outsiders cannot easily understand the values and pride of service. This gap is further perpetuated by incongruences between the media’s portrayal of the military—in movies and on the news—and what real military life consists of. This is problematic because both parties are crucial to the other’s success. If the military does not understand the public, it cannot represent and protect its ideologies, likewise, if the people do not understand the military, they will lose sight of what the true cost of freedom is, as well as, implement policies that prevent the military from accomplishing its mission set. Due to the disproportionate representation of the military within the nation—less than 1% of the total population- this study will examine the civilian-military divide from the perspective of the military. Through a careful analysis of the U.S. Army profession, and the information collected from soldier interviews, several issues were identified as the primary factors in the current division. The first factor to forging partnerships is that both parties must have a desire to be involved. The second factor to overcome is perceptions about the military that are created through media. The third factor, is a general misconception regarding what the true Army profession is and what it entails. This issue is common in both civilian and military settings. The final factor is that some civilians are ignorant about the day-to-day operation of the military, believing the military to be in a perpetual state of combat. The analysis of these contentions has produced the following objectives: 1. Define the Army profession 2. Differentiate soldiers from media portrayals 3. Examine soldier involvement in their community In addressing these objectives, this study will use an ethnographic approach to ascertain how members of the 25th Infantry Division conceptualize themselves. Twenty soldiers were interviewed and asked questions regarding their assessments of the Army profession, life in the military, and their involvement in the community. The information derived from these interviews was used to determine essential themes within the Army community and capture these themes on film. The final compilation consisted of a photo-essay that explains a key tenet of military culture and provides a visualization of the military experience. The aim of this compilation is to take an initial step toward the resolution of the civilian-military divide by breaking down current perceptions of the military and defining the life of a service member.