A former Blackpool soldier has hit back at experts who warned of the damaging effects of teens serving in the army and called for the recruitment of children to stop.
One-in-four soldiers in the UK is under 18, and the UK is the only country in Europe and the only permanent member of the UN Security Council to recruit children.
In an editorial in the online journal BMJ Paediatrics Open, it was claimed military service for teenagers makes them more vulnerable to self-harm, suicide and alcohol misuse.
But Jordan Wylie, who joined at 16 years and nine months and served with the King’s Royal Hussars for more than a decade, said: “Serving in the army made me the man I am today. I had no qualifications, I had been in trouble with the police being a nuisance in Blackpool.”
The 35-year-old, who is now a best-selling author, philanthropist, and ‘hunter’ on Channel 4’s Hunted, added: “I left the army with a foundation degree, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. It would have been very easy for me to have gone down the wrong track but the army helped enormously.
“So I believe there are so many positives to joining the army after school.”
The editorial also said young recruits, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are more likely to see frontline combat and that, as well as the isolation and culture of military life, can have cause harm.
In the UK, 15 year-olds are allowed to begin the enlistment process, with two years of training, starting at the age of 16.
An army spokesperson said: “We strongly dispute many of the assertions in this article, which are based on the assumption that under 18s are deployed on front line combat roles. This is not the case as 16-18 year old trainee soldiers are not deployed on combat operations and are able to leave employment at any point before their 18th birthday.
“It is also untrue to suggest we predominantly recruit from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The Army Foundation College Harrogate has a strong emphasis on training and personnel development, delivering not only formal qualifications but also teaching life-skills such as increased self-esteem and communication skills.”