What is an Infantryman?
In war, the Infantryman is part of that indispensable element of armies who decide all battles by their final presence; who are often maligned or praised with equal fervour by those who have little idea of what they are or the essentials of their trade.
As a soldier, he is self sufficient as a fighting unit until his support fails or he becomes a casualty. He carries the tools of his trade on his back, needs little individual support and is expected to function efficiently in his assigned role until told otherwise. He must possess initiative, determination, team spirit and must unstintingly give of himself to those chosen to lead him and to his mates.
As a leader, he is expected to carry lightly the burden of personally directing men in battle to accomplish tasks often of great physical difficulty, over all terrain and in all weather. He must train his men in all things concerning his complicated art and ensure, by the sheer force of his personal and intimate leadership, he retains their motivation, loyalty, cooperation, sustained effort and humour.
He must possess singleness of purpose, endurance, sound judgment, obedience, flexibility and compassion. His senses must be finely attuned to the fear, worry, emotions and well being of his men. He must replace all the influences which previously guided them and become their master, mentor, father, mother, priest, confessor and marriage counsellor. Above all else, he must understand men.
In peace he must suffer the brunt of retrenchments, cost cutting schemes and devices, which make defence spending more palatable to a Budget minded public. He must overcome these obstacles to keep alive his art learned mainly from experience in war. He is difficult to move, house, feed and administer in large numbers and is often resented because he is the rationale of the rest of the army.
He is expected to uncomplainingly move himself and his family to a wide variety of locations and undertake tasks for which his formal training did not equip him. He is expected to educate himself in his profession and all related subjects concerning other arms and services, which support him in peace and war. He must show a great deal of common sense, maturity and manliness in all he does. He is constantly judged by his superiors and subordinates in his performance and too often he must look for his well earned praise in belated histories of wars in which he fought. He is mostly taken for granted.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he can possess an unquenchable spirit in the most trying circumstances. It is mostly for him alone to see death on a large scale, destruction and human misery, which can tax him beyond normal limits. It is his ability to rise above the baseness that haunts his profession and emerge as a man, that sets him apart; that makes him an Infantryman.
(K.J.P. McTAGGART) Captain
Australian Infantry June 1981