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16 Year Old Soldiers but Not Voters

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My youngest sister has just turned 16 and about to receive her GCSE results this week, she cannot buy a drink in a pub, drive or vote but she could join the Army, she could even choose to commit herself to the life of a soldier until she was 22. All this before she could even vote for those deciding her fate.

This might not be her choice but for many young people in Wales it is as the number of Welsh Army recruits has increased by 15% this year and the number of those between 16-24 is double the UK average figure.

The age group is facing a particularly hard time at the moment, the TUC has said that this is a tough time for young people looking for work or seeking further education and warns of losing a whole generation of talented people to debt and unemployment.

I can't help thinking that the Army are benefiting from the young, disadvantaged and out of work. Especially in poorer areas such as Wales.

I remember the soldier seeking Army recruits coming to school to discuss joining the Army before I sat my GCSE exams and how attractive they made it sound, especially for those not wanting to stay in school after they were 16. In the face of long term unemployment I can imagine that it is an even more viable option for many 16 year olds today.

I don't know about you, but sending 16 year old children to join the Army doesn't sit right with me.

I think this might be the case for many people as Britain is the only country in the European Union that allows the Army to go into schools looking for their future soldiers.

At the moment the choice for many young people in Wales is between long term unemployment or learning to be a soldier and being sent to far away countries to kill other young people. Is it time for us to ask how we feel about this?

How moral is it to allow 16 year olds to become soldiers before they've even been allowed to vote in a democratic election? If they are still children and unable to make a decision on who to vote for in an election then why allow them to make a decision that could affect their lives so dramatically, such as joining the army? At least give them the chance to change their minds when they become adults.

But then, what jobs are there for former soldiers? And how many would have the bravery to tell the Army that they had changed their minds and wanted to leave?

The Army recruiters at our school described it as an apprenticeship, an opportunity to see the world and gain qualifications; but what other apprenticeship could mean spending time in a military prison or getting yourself killed?