To my ear, the term “troops” dehumanizes the young people who face the bombs and bullets. A troop is not an individual, but a group. The individual is a soldier or a marine or a sniper or a communications specialist or maybe just a grunt or a GI.
“Troops” may be a convenient shorthand for reporters, politicians and other civilians, but the term is so generic as to be misleading. Troops move from place to place and troops carry out operations and troops are deployed, but troops don’t shed blood and troops don’t die. It is men and women who do that, and the heads that babble on about our military adventures should get their terminology straight.
Do the reporters talk about “troops” so that we and they won’t have to acknowledge what we’re actually doing: exposing other people’s kids to lethal risks? That would explain the popularity of this empty word, which can refer to any number but one and which is too often used to refer to individual soldiers, especially the dead or wounded.
The term should be abandoned. It’s easy enough to refer to a soldier, a squad of marines, or an artillery company, and that’s what we ought to do.