An article by Prince William for the Armed Forces supplement in the Sunday Telegraph
Published 21 June 2009
I do feel there is truth in the view that society can learn much from British military values and ethos.
It seems to have become a cliché in recent years for people in all walks of life to talk about how Armed Forces’ discipline and strict lifestyle could help a wayward generation of young people to learn how to behave in a civilised manner. My generation, like any generation before it, is not hell-bent on violence and mayhem – far from it. But I do feel there is truth in the view that society can learn much from British military values and ethos.
That is why I am so delighted to have become the Royal Patron of Skill Force – an organisation that takes the best of our military training, skills and life experience, and puts it to work in today’s society. What makes this charity successful is that most of its instructors are ex-Armed Forces and are therefore steeped in the military ethos and have an innate understanding of how this can be applied to help young people – some of them the most hard to reach in our country – inspiring them to adopt a can-do outlook and giving them confidence in their academic and personal lives.
The results are truly impressive. Thousands of young people each year come away better equipped to find a job, get into training or go on to further education. In short, the organisation has recognised that the core values of the Armed Forces bring out the best, not just in sailors, soldiers and airmen, but in the young across Britain.
Whatever the background, people of my age and younger want to make the most of our lives. For all sorts of reasons – lack of role model, a disruptive home life, a lack of aspiration in those around them – many find themselves setting off on the wrong path. Youth crime and gang violence are issues pretty well constantly in the headlines nowadays. Of course, these reports are by no means representative of the vast majority of Britain’s young men and women, but I do believe that they are emblematic of a wider problem: so often, young people are just not getting the support or encouragement that they so desperately need, and deserve.
Former gang members have told me that it is precisely to find status, respect from others and the role in a community that we all crave that led them to fall in with gangs in the first place. One enduring feature of all gangs – and teams – is that they survive on mutual support. They allow their members to earn respect by obeying the rules, and they share clear objectives. Essentially, they allow the individual to belong. As such, the fundamental difference – so far as I can see – between violent street gangs and cohesive teams of contented young people is the destructive violence of the former set against the constructive comradeship of the latter, which I have been fortunate enough to have experienced first hand in the Services.
The challenge, therefore, seems to me to be how to turn gang members into team members.
As anyone who has ever been a sailor, a soldier or an airman knows, serving your Country demands team work, initiative and the willingness to take calculated risks. Servicemen and women – whatever their age or rank – recognise that this can only be achieved by looking out for one another. Over the last few years – indeed, throughout our history – there have been countless examples of when our fighting men and women have taken this to the ultimate degree of self-sacrifice.
One of the unintended but invaluable consequences of the past few years’ high tempo of operations is that the British public has once again been exposed on an almost daily basis to the core values and extraordinary spirit of our Armed Forces. The governing advantage for Skill Force is that, as a charity, it has recognised this unique quality and spirit. What they have found in their work is that young people recognise this, too, and are responding to it in the most extraordinary way. The values that the charity stands for, on this Armed Forces Day, are something to celebrate alongside our country’s peerless fighting forces.