What Is a Civilian?

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A civilian is a person who does not belong to any military, police, fire fighting or other emergency service organization. Civilians have jobs that pay them a living. They have mortgages, cars, insurance, and bills to pay. They work with other people in a job, have a boss and need to show initiative if they want to get ahead.

There is no such thing as a purely civilian society; all societies have some kind of military component, even if it’s only a small part of the total population. People can be both civilian and military at the same time, but it’s not very common for them to be fully one or the other.

People in the military have an attitudinal divide between their civilian and military life. The more societal influences are present in the military, the smaller that divide is likely to be.

Military personnel need to understand the culture and values of civilians. They need to be able to communicate effectively with their civilian colleagues and friends. They also need to understand the nuances of civilian politics and business practices. This will help them in their roles as leaders and leaders-in-training.

There are different definitions of a civilian, but the most common is that a civilian is someone who does not take direct part in hostilities or act as a combatant. This is based on international humanitarian law. According to the ICRC, “civilians are not members of the armed forces and do not become combatants when they openly bear arms and respect the laws and customs of war.” The ICTY’s pre-trial brief in the Tadic case notes that common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions provides an authoritative definition of civilians.

Civilians in military policymaking are important because they provide valuable perspective from outside the military and national security communities on how the nation’s defense enterprises should be organized, resourced and managed. Careers that prepare people for these positions tend to be in the areas of social science, law and management. This means that these people have spent their entire professional lives learning how to balance extremely diverse interests and public relations. They are skilled at identifying and building relationships with all kinds of stakeholders, from the highest levels of government to local communities.

Those who are military minded need to understand that they cannot just walk away from the military after years of active duty. They must take time to adjust to the responsibilities and expectations of civilian life. This is difficult, but it’s essential for the health and well being of a service member. It’s a necessary step in their career advancement and for the future of our nation. The sooner they accept and understand this, the more successful they will be in their transition back to civilian life. It will also make the process less stressful for their families. The more that they can get their family members and friends to support this, the better for all of them.