Leadership: November 5, 2002

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A new generation, the Internet generation, of officers, and troops, are coming of age in the U.S. military. This is making it much easier for the military to adopt current computer technology for military use. Until the last few years, there was a lot of resistance to things like the "battlefield internet" and computer wargames. 

Currently, about twenty percent of all Army officers have their own web pages. These are mostly junior officers. But remember that students at college ROTC and the service academy have never known a world without personal computers (PCs), and all witnessed the phenomenal appearance and spread of the Internet when they were entering their teen years (when they were most impressionable.) Even before the world wide web showed up in the mid 1990s, army officers were frequently found on the commercial networks and bulletin board systems that developed in the early 1980s. Most company and battalion commanders had experience with the early computer and console games in the 1980s (when they were in high school and college.) 

Right now, some 73 percent of all American teenagers are on the web regularly, and that translates to nearly a hundred percent of new officers and enlisted troops entering the armed force. Many of the early adopters of PC technology were also the fast track officers in the military. Thus many of current generals and admirals were early users of PCs and were at least familiar with the concept of PC and console games. Indeed, if they paid any attention to what their kids were doing in the 1980s, they knew more about PC and console games than they wanted. Noting that their immediate subordinates are even more enthusiastic about, and comfortable with PC technology, there is a coming flood of PC based technologies for use in combat. Given the slow pace with which this technology was adopted in the past, the rapid appearance of all these gadgets will surprise many civilians. But to those officers who grew up with PCs, and have spent ten years or more in the military agitating for more of this stuff, it won't be a surprise at all.

 


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