But a big part of how soldiers view the military also lies in perceptions and often misperceptions of how rosy things are in the civilian world. "The Army and Navy Times are filled with stories of people who figured they'd get out and land an $80,000-per-year tech job but then found out everyone's not doing as well as they thought," notes TIME military correspondent Mark Thompson. Thompson says the feelings that the military discourages entrepreneurship may also be a little misguided. "If you go out in the field there are 26-year-olds operating hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of equipment with hundreds of people under their command. There aren't many people in the private sector who can make the same claim." Maybe so, but then again, not many Microsoft employees are asked to ship off to the Balkans for half-year stretches.
Soldiers have been complaining about their working conditions since Hannibal crossed the Alps, but a recent survey of roughly 12,000 servicepeople by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reveals particularly high levels of discontent. The study of the troopers, all of whom have been in the armed forces for a decade or more, indicate that morale in the military is at a 20-year low. It seems that all those peacekeeping missions and budget cuts are taking a toll on both morale and military readiness. Soldiers are increasingly finding themselves separated from their families for long stretches and aren't happy with their compensation. The study also cites a growing case of corporate envy soldiers are perceiving the armed forces as rigid compared to the modern corporate structure, which promotes individualism and entrepreneurship, and they want flexi-schedules like the rest of us.