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Military Immigration: From Civilian to Soldier. “The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.” – Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson). Introduction : The United States Army.

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Military Immigration: From Civilian to Soldier

  • “The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.” – Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson)


The United States Army

After September 11th, 2001, myself along with many other Americans both young and old had joined the military. Many Americans joined to serve their country to protect from more terrorist attacks, others joined for the education benefits, and some joined for career opportunities. The United States Army has become one that is ready for any war or conflict, and since 2001, the military has been in training for constant deployments rather than training for large scale wars. It is an organization “that emphasizes organizational and collective effectiveness, discipline, and commitment rather than individual rights, prerogatives, and liberties” (Goldich 62). This new force is also “less tolerant of tactical and operational failure than its predecessors, a result of vastly enhanced training as well as deepened ethos of physical and mental toughness” (Goldich 65). In order for the military to achieve these adjectives and become the professional force it is, the standards needed to be set and accounted for. These standards are taught through various sponsors and tools. The standards are never compromised and are ingrained from the first step of joining. This presentation will go through the steps of taking a soldier from the civilian life and transforming him or her to the military discourse of the United States Army.

  • ”This We’ll Defend” – US Army Motto

Becoming a Soldier:

Who Joins?

  • Civilian life is much different than the military one. A person has freedoms and choices that one does not have being in the military. People are allowed these freedoms such as to be able to live where they want, interact with whom they want, and wear what they want. These freedoms are taken away in the Army for the reasoning of creating cohesion and an ideal of being for something larger than yourself. The people that join the Army come from many different backgrounds and even from different countries in order to get citizenship. Below are the people that were interviewed for this project and a brief introduction of their life before and after joining the military.
  • SGT Vinicio Reyes: A Dominican immigrant, whose parents worked from humble beginnings and became upper middle class in the Dominican Republic. He, himself, has worked from being an employee at McDonald’s to becoming a teacher using the military to get him the education and knowledge of English as a language.
  • SGT Anthony Leimeister: He grew up in north east Ohio who lost his father and was raised by a single mother. He was very active in sports throughout his life growing up. The Army has allowed him to gain a college degree and is now a professional surveyor.
  • SPC Allison Carr: She grew up in the country by a small town, where everyone knows everyone. She is currently in school working on a college degree.
  • SGT David Krise: He grew up in a small rural town similar to Carr’s town. Krise is a dedicated Christian. He also manages a popcorn store while holding two associate’s degrees and is working on getting a bachelor’s degree.

Becoming a Soldier:

Who Joins?


  • Statistically the United States Army is typically comprised of white males. However, throughout the years from the integration of African Americans and women in 1948 to the executive order in 2002 that made noncitizen members of the armed forces eligible for expedited US citizenship, the military has become more and more diverse. Also, the education level of soldiers have grown. Generally, soldiers come from higher-income households, are typically more physically fit, and have less run-ins with the law (Goldich 67). This is different than an older view upon the military. Based upon statistics from a poll from the Military Times:
      • 89% are Male,
      • over 60% are Christian,
      • 81% are White
      • 6.5% African American,
      • 3.55% Asian or Pacific Islander
      • 3.05% Mixed Race
      • 3.43% Native American
      • 21.37% have some college
      • 24.15% have Bachelor’s degree
      • 27.18% have Master’s degree
      • 2.4% have Doctorate degree
  • However, even with the diversity of so many different people, from so many different backgrounds, it has had little to no effect on the military discourse (Goldich 68). The people from various backgrounds and demographics conform to the fundamental aspects of the set in place standards of the Army.
  • “The young person who enlists knows that he or she is opting to leave behind the comfortable, perhaps complacent, atmosphere of family, friends, and local environment.” - Robert L. Goldich

Becoming a Soldier: Basic Training

  • Everyone gains a primary discourse from their early stages in their life such as their home, and close family. A person also gains secondary discourses through typically instiutions such as local stores, churches, schools, and so forth (Gee 527). As James Paul Gee writes, “each of these social institutions commands and demands one or more Discourses” (Gee 527). A Discourse according to Gee is an“identity kit” that “comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular role that others will speak, think and act like a linguist, and to recognize others when they do so. For the Army, basic training is the soldier’s introduction to the military discourse. It is in basic training where sponsors such as drill sergeants will guide the soldier and form him or her into the American Soldier.
  • “They give you a common set of goals and obstacles and you have to conform and work as a team to accomplish your objective” –SGT Anthony Leimeister
  • “The military preaches and teaches discipline and sensitivity. One of the military’s tools to conform soldiers in basic training and the idea of discipline. They don’t care what or who you are; the only expect you to achieve a certain level of discipline and skill sets so you can successfully complete the mission.” – SGT David Krise
  • If you can't get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country? – George Patton

Becoming a Soldier: Basic Training

In basic training, the common approach is that they tear the soldier down and build them back up. Essentially what they do is attempt to strip many of the previous discourses learned or acquired and replace them with theirs. This creates a professional soldier who can be counted upon by their peers to do what is asked of them. At basic training the soldier is taught the customs, traditions, infantry skills, and regulations that is needed to be a successful soldier in the American military. Here the idea of being an individual with individualistic views is stripped and replaced with a team first attitude. Many who have played team sports in the past have acquired this mentality. However, in this aspect it holds bigger stakes such as giving one’s life for another or group, or it could also be to maintain the honor of the Army and country before their own.

This team concept is done in many ways, one in particular is that if one soldier errs, the whole group is at fault and is punished. As the soldier goes through and finishes basic training, this concept isn’t one that needs to be thought about but is one that is instinctive. I remember going to my job training school, where I learned what I would be doing in the military. We set all of our duffle bags outside and went in for a briefing. When we came out, the drill sergeants were yelling at us to get our own bags and move to the barracks in no more than 5 minutes. They had moved our bags around, so that no one knew where their bags were. I should add that besides our names being on the bags, they were all the same. Now, in basic training, the typical group of soldiers would be frantically trying to find their own bags which happened the first day of basic training. However, with this team mentality, we all started to grab bags and started shouting out names immediately. Everyone was able to get their bags in a quick and timely manner as everyone worked together to get each other’s bags. The underlining discourses learned to achieve this was teamwork and ability to handle pressure.

This is a team building obstacle course where soldiers must utilize each other from adopting a plan to conquer it, to moving across the obstacle. Each soldier is able to count on each other to move through the obstacle.


Becoming a Soldier:


In order to learn a new discourse, there must be sponsors and tools set in place for a person to be successful and able to assimilate into the new discourse. Below is a list of just some of the sponsors that the military uses:


  • Drill Sergeants – They introduce and teach the military courtesies, customs, basic infantry skills, and army regulations.
  • Non-commissioned officer’s and Officers – These are the upper enlisted and officers that continue the teaching of young soldiers as well as keep accountability of the soldiers to adhere to the military courtesies, customs, job skills, and army regulations.

Drill Sergeant is teaching the proper wear of the patrol cap as part of conforming to the military standard.

  • " Now for some reason I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It's not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight and always answer every question with "Yes, drill sergeant." – Forrest Gump (From the movie, Forrest Gump)

Becoming a Soldier:


Tools are needed for the sponsors to have a set of guidelines so that they can teach the new soldier or for the soldier to continue his learning within the military. Just as schools, certain classes, and fields have ways in which they want things to be done, the military is no different. Below is a list of just some of these that the military uses:


  • Army Regulations (AR), Field Manuals (FM’s), and Technical Manuals (TM’s)– These are various documents that spell out everything that a soldier may need to know. The Army Regulations such as AR 670-1 covers the wear and appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. This is most possibly the most important Army Regulation as it explains the appearance of the soldier giving them the “costume” of the discourse along with maintaining the same look across the board again symbolizing a single professional and disciplined Army. Field Manuals and technical manuals have to do with soldiers performing their job, task or mission as it spells out for example how to fire a weapon system or how to conduct an ambush. These are critical as it keeps continuity of how to do things across the board which allows soldiers to be placed within any unit, situation, or squad and be
  • Creeds – Creeds are important to the military discourse as it creates easy to remember ideals of what is expected of the soldier as he or she moves through the ranks. These instill values upon the soldier and sum up of what it means to be either a soldier, non-commissioned officer, ranger and so forth.
  • “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” – Nathan Hale

Becoming a Soldier: Difficulties Acquiring New Discourse

  • New Discourses aren’t always easy to acquire and learn. Some purposely deny them, for others it may be simply different than their previous discourses and its hard to adjust. Each of the soldiers interviewed had difficulties, below are some of their thoughts:
  • SPC Allison Carr – “I was raised to think for myself and make my own choices. So, when I joined the military it was hard to let that go and start thinking as a ‘whole’ instead of just myself. It took a while to understand that thinking as a part of a group was the only way to make it.”
  • SGT David Krise – “Being from a religious background, it was tough to integrate into a military that is typically abrasive”
  • SGT Anthony Leimeister – “ Basic Training was a culture shock. I had not experienced anything like that before. The discipline and structure was hard to get used to.”
  • SGT Vinicio Reyes – “During basic training, one of the NCO’s saw me and told me to ‘drop’. After he screamed a couple of times, I remembered the word ‘drop’ meaning like ‘drop of water’. I was in shock and confused, because I did not know what he meant, until someone screamed in Spanish the meaning of the word and that in this case he wanted me to do push ups.”

The American Soldier

  • “I am an American Soldier” and the rest of the Soldier’s creed represents the new found Discourses of the American soldier. This presentation is only a snap shot of the process of how the army creates the soldier. The modern American soldier is special in the fact that they join knowing that it is harder than the civilian world that they know. They have entered into an institution that is “more dangerous and demanding, well-regarded among civilians, and more exciting and realistic than the humdrum world of daily civil life they left behind. They are, in a sense, internal immigrants, emigrating from their familiar surroundings to find more opportunity in the new and, in many ways, utterly alien institutional terrain of the armed forces” (Goldich 67). It takes someone special and the bonds formed during their service create special ties to one another. Soldiers can relate to each other because of the similar events such as basic training, war, and other events within the military Discourse. Everyone always has similar experiences and stories even though they may not have been in the same unit or location even. However, once known, the two can communicate and tell stories that would confuse a non soldier listener. It is probably the hardest Discourse to try to explain to those who haven’t been a part of it.

This is myself and Dustin Littrell, who was my roommate and in my section in our tour in Iraq. He has become my best friend from that tour. In the picture, we did a walk to raise money for a cure to brain cancer. One of our fellow soldiers that served with us got it from the burn pits in our tour in Iraq. As in the Soldier’s Creed, “I will never leave a fallen comrade”, we will continue to fight for our fellow brethren.



Carr, Allison, Anthony Leimeister, David Krise, and Vinicio Reyes. "Army Discourse." Personal interview. 25 May 2012.

Gee, James P. "Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What Is Literacy?" Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook. By Ellen Cushman. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001. 525-44. Print.

Goldich, Robert L. "American Military Culture from Colony to Empire." Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Summer 140.3 (2011): 58-69. Print.