What Is a Civilian?

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The word civilian has a broad range of meanings, depending on context. In most cases, however, it refers to a person who does not belong to any of the armed forces. This includes those in the police and fire departments. It also refers to people who are not part of the political establishment. The term is often pejorative, and it can be used to describe those who do not have the same social standing as the state politicians and military leaders.

In the case of international armed conflict, civilians are protected by the provisions of humanitarian law and have the right to be free from attack. This protection is based on the fact that they do not participate in hostilities and are not members of the armed forces or combatants. Civilians who directly participate in hostilities may lose this protection, but only for the duration of their direct participation (API Arts. 44, 50).

As the military continues to reshape itself, many servicemembers find themselves transitioning to civilian careers. Fortunately, there are many ways that veterans can build up their resumes to make it easier to move into the workforce. For example, those who have computer skills can easily transfer their military training into civilian jobs in information technology. In addition, many specialized technical skills can be converted into civilian jobs in areas such as engineering and mechanical design.

It is important to note that civilians who do not work for the government are not counted in the most common type of unemployment statistics. These numbers are typically quoted as the U-3 rate, but they are missing a significant number of potential workers. Another metric, the U-6 rate, does include these discouraged workers.

When it comes to the distinction between civilian and citizen, this article is meant to illustrate that citizenship implies a greater level of engagement and responsibility than just not serving in uniform. Citizenship carries with it the burdens and rights of a nation, such as voting rights and participation in the governance of the country. It also carries with it certain levels of expertise that complement and guide those provided by professional military advice.

Those who serve in the military can benefit from a variety of federal benefits, including health insurance, a pension upon retirement, and access to the Thrift Savings Plan (similar to a 401(K)). While civilians have their own set of benefits, the key distinction is that they do not serve in the armed forces. Whether or not they serve in the political system, however, civilians still contribute to the fabric of a thriving society. This includes a wide array of social, economic, and cultural contributions that support the military’s mission. As such, it is important to preserve this balance in the relationship between the military and civilians. Otherwise, the defense sector can fall into a vicious cycle of distrust between civilian leadership and those in uniform. This can have negative consequences for both the civilian population and the broader military community.