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conscript training recruit specialty experience service

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#1 rohala

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 0815 AM

In tanknet we have many members who at some point served as conscripts in their nation’s military (eg Germany, Sweden, Finland, Yugoslavia, Estonia etc). Some served more recently, some more distantly in the past. There are similarities and differences in how those conscription systems work, and on what they expect from their conscript soldiers. My question is to see how they organized their training, and what the opinion of those who went through it is.

I mean for example, how long was basic training and how good or bad do you thing it was? How was your specialty training? What followed after that? How much ammunition did you consume in training? How was the daily life in the battalion? How much time was spent on chores and guard duty compared to training? How were the conscript NCOs and Reserve Officers selected? At what point during the conscript service did they deviate from the rest of the privates? How long and how good was their training? What general impression did you get of the whole thing? Discipline, cohesion, morale etc.

 

I am VERY interested to read your opinions and experiences.


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#2 BansheeOne

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1121 AM

I was drafted in 1992. General basic training, supposedly teaching basic rules, formation, fieldcraft and small arms in a common curriculum across all branches, lasted three months, followed by another three months of branch-specific special basic training. Of course since I was drafted into medical which had a non-standard general basic curriculum, then embarked upon an abortive officer career in military police lasting all of four months, I went through general basic twice, and never through any special basic. :D

 

I was part of the first East-West recruit exchange after German reunification, being drafted into a West German artillery battalion, then detached to Halle an der Saale so I could be paid by the then-higher Western standard. We were only a dozen or so Westerners in the medical training company, which felt a little like overseas deployment right from the start and sometimes resulted in cultural conflict owing to 40 years of separate development. Medical basic obviously still taught all the basic rules and law of military customs and discipline, uniform code, formations, ranks, what kinds of superiors there are, what constitutes a legal order, and how to file a proper complaint (very important in the German forces!). I want to say theory and practice were divided about 50:50. There were sports and unloved drills like donning NBC protection, though not with a gas chamber. Saluting was checked in a test before you were allowed to leave base in uniform, but you could go home every weekend unless you were put on the roster to support the NCO of the day.

 

Weapons training was however limited to the G3 and P1, starting with explanation, safety rules, then assembly/disassembly, cleaning. Our first shots were with the blue plastic training rounds on I believe a 25 meter range with the G3, followed by I think three live-fire tests at different distances you had to pass, including night firing. These were static affairs where you were handed five rounds at a time to put on standard targets from different positions after waiting your ass off in line. I scared the shit out of an instructor when I manually rode the hammer down to decock after the first P1 exercise like I was used from my own Beretta copy gas/blank gun. Totally failed pistol qualification by putting none of three rounds on target at 25 meters. However, I won the elimination game where one instructor had us assemble/disassemble the P1 one against one by tearing the thing apart in about three seconds flat.

 

Live firearms training was done during a week-long stay at Lehnin exercise area, which is basically a big sandbox of the kind that will follow you home to haunt your locker for weeks after. We also had two short bivouacs in the base exercise area local to Halle, once quite unplanned because we had to unass the barracks to quarter a Russian OSCE observer delegation or some such there. This was a former NVA/Soviet training area with lots of leftover scrap and God knows what stuff in the soil. I was once bitten by a mosquito there, and my hand swelled like it had been a wasp or something. We did basic fieldcraft there, patrolling, orientation, moving into position, camoflage, digging, alarm posts, engaging, crossing of minor water obstacles. We never went through an obstacle course though as this was supposedly offensive training unbecoming a medic, though there was training in guarding installations and dealing with trespassers. Wherin one of the latter failed to be impressed by a warning shot I simulated as advertized, and rather pulled out a pistol of his own and shot me, which offended me greatly.

 

Instead, there was already lots of medical stuff, first aid, much dressing, CPR, and carrying others in various compromising positions. There were several marches, starting with something like five kilometer familiarization, a 20 kilometer timed march, and a night orientation march by squads. Recruits were given the opportunity to play squad leaders sometimes, and on this occasion I missed a turnoff, but fortunately thought there was something amiss when another squad passed us coming the other way before too long after. Earlier I hopelessly tangled up a platoon because I didn't shout the commands to turn with the necessary force and clarity. In the end there was a test which mixed "green" (fieldcraft) and "blue" (medical) elements. My team utterly failed at loading an ambulance because it hadn't really been taught to us, and mostly dragged me along when running with a stretcher loaded with several water-filled fuel cans, but I excelled at CPR.

 

Imagine my joy when all this was found wanting after I transfered to an MP training company at Celle and had to do it all over again, just harder, because apparently even many supposedly standardized "green" things had been taught wrongly to me. There was an advantage though in that I, never the most physical guy, had built up a certain endurance to specific drills that made me outrun others who thought themselves rather fit on marches while carrying the additional packs of people who couldn't manage anymore. I still struggled with the escalade on the obstacle course due to lack of upper body strength, and my squad leader saw to it that the prescribed increase in physical fitness between the initial and end test was documented by grabbing me at the hips and turning my pull-ups into push-ups during the latter while counting loudly and I was protesting half-laughing that nobody would believe this.

 

There was more weapons training, now including the MG3, Uzi and Carl Gustaf; I managed to fail the unfailable qualification with the 6.5 mm training insert of the latter because the spring of the bipod messed up my tracking of the last moving target, which went against the way it was wound. Hand grenade training was limited to one throw of a dummy, though one instructor later blew up a hand grenade fuse while demonstrating it half-asleep to a similarly empty-gazing platoon (at least until the thing went pop) after a 36-hour exercise including night orientation march. Culturally the shoe was now on the other foot as there were just a few Easterners in the company; different cultures showed again as some of them decided to teach a comrade about personal hygiene, which was very much frowned upon by Bundeswehr standards and brought the hammer down on them. Overall, I found comradeship better at the second go though.

 

There were some other notable incidents. In Halle, somehow a load of bedsheets went missing during a change, which resulted in a highly official investigation by an outside officer. Being a green recruit I was nervous beyond measure when it was my turn to be questioned, rattling off witnesses who could testify that I had turned in my bloody bedsheets correctly, until I saw my platoon leader blink at me dead slowly and realized it was all just done for show and nobody cared about some scraps of cotton. In Celle, when we were due to elect the recruits' ombudsman - a position that carried certain privileges - one guy jumped up and laid on a good speech for a buddy of his, demanded a show of hands, then declared to the company commander when he entered to hold the vote that everything was already done, to which the latter replied "I don't think so". He then held a proper secret vote with several candidates, and I was actually put up myself, but with the good early show, the initial suspect was elected anyway. Who was later busted over the possession of controlled substances ...


Edited by BansheeOne, 30 September 2015 - 0221 AM.

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#3 rohala

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1206 PM

Thanks a lot for the detailed response :)

 

From what you describe it appears that the training of a Bundeswehr conscript was longer and more serious than a Greek conscript's -at least today, as I can't speak for the '90s with certainty. Definitely, the basic training and special basic training each lasting three months is a lot longer than the Greek conscript's training. I don't know how things were run in the 1990s -there weren't any professional enlisted back then- but today basic training and specialty training combined, as far as conscripts go (professionals follow a different training regimen) do not last more than three months.

 

I would say a clear difference is that we never really passed qualifications. Perhaps they existed in theory, but never was a "test" repeated. For instance, while you describe how you failed your P1 tests, in my service, my M1911 training consisted of disassembling and assembling the gun a few times with the instructions of a corporal -no testing- and shooting 5 rounds on the 25 meters target, which, if I remember correctly, I may have also missed or put perhaps a single one on the target, although as the officer later discovered the gun was not zeroed. There was of course no repeating of any of these. You were shown what you do, so you were "trained".

 

Another differene is these weird things that probably are modern-German-specific: filing a proper complaint? electing a recruit's ombudsman? :blink:

(What complaints would you file and to whom would you direct them? If we wanted somehting we were supposed to tell our squad leader and he would pass it upwards. More commonly, we would simply come forward during the company roll-call and tell our captain directly.)

 

 

 


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#4 rohala

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1225 PM

The problem I have with the conscript service in Greece today is that its quality has dropped pretty dramatically, mainly because the great reduction in the length of conscript service does not allow for much, and because according to the theoretical Tables of Organization of the various battalions, professional privates were supposed to make up as much as 50% of all privates, thus relegating the conscripts to an auxiliary role. Certain specialties are unattainable by conscripts, and those that are, are reduced in length and substance to the bare minimum. I, for instance, trained for 2 weeks as a mortar operator, when the proper specialty course is closer to 2 months. Similarly, we did not shoot any real ammo, only some solid iron shells, at not more than 100-150 meters, just so that we would test out of the specialty. The Greek army apparently planned to have all squads and all heavy weapons led by at least one professional soldier, with conscripts being just a filler. The problem is of course that the reality is quite different from the theory. I cannot get into more detail publicly.

 

Today (I insist on that, because a few years ago things were different, and generally better), conscript basic training is broken in two parts. Conscript recruits spend slightly less than one month (ie 4 weeks) in the recruit training centers, where they learn some basic military lessons, revolving primarily around parading and basic drill, discipline and daily routine. At the end there is an oathing ceremony and then the recruits get transferred either to specialty training centers (for some specialties) or (mostly) to operational battalions. They spend an acclimatization week and then go through a 3-week advanced recruit training course, learning basic combat skills. Then, if they didn’t do their specialty already, they receive specialty training which almost invariably lasts for only 2 weeks. The most common specialties in my unit were rifleman and wheeled vehicles driver (this is a 3-week specialty). After that they follow the battalion’s training programme, which consists of 26-week (ie 6-month) cycles. This cycle includes battalion level training as well as some higher level exercises organized at brigade or national level. However continuous guard duty and periodic detachment to outposts limit the participation of conscripts in this training cycle.

 

All training is very much constrained by the terrible economic situation of the military which is one of the bigger victims of budget cut-backs. The Greek military is going through an experience similar to that of the Eastern Bloc countries in the 90s. Its effectiveness is dwindling and it approaches, as an ex chief of national defense warned, the point of no return, after which the damage will be irreversible.

 

EDIT to clarify:

The Greek army has gone through some pretty significant transformation compared to the past. Up until the 1990s it was a conscript based army with an average of 2 years long obligatory service. Officers and NCOs were mostly career professionals produced in academies, while there were also provisions for conscripts to remain in the army as professionals after the end of their obligatory term, either for a short term or even potentially as career NCOs. Their numbers however were not very great. Since 2000 however the length of the conscript service was slashed down to initially 12 months and then only 9 months, while a “plan” was put forward to eventually hire as many as 50,000 professional privates (ie the equivalent of an annual conscript class) with 7-year contracts. In the first wave the ceiling for professionals was set at 25,000. In 2009 the ceiling was increased to 40,000, but the last class of contract privates was hired in 2010, and then the process froze due to the economic crisis. An old institution, called short re-enlistement soldiers, was revived, allowing some conscripts to extent their service by up to 3 years with a salary. The ceiling for this institution was however kept low, at 1,000 troops.


Edited by rohala, 27 September 2015 - 1258 PM.

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#5 RETAC21

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1341 PM

In tanknet we have many members who at some point served as conscripts in their nation’s military (eg Germany, Sweden, Finland, Yugoslavia, Estonia etc). Some served more recently, some more distantly in the past. There are similarities and differences in how those conscription systems work, and on what they expect from their conscript soldiers. My question is to see how they organized their training, and what the opinion of those who went through it is.

I mean for example, how long was basic training and how good or bad do you thing it was? How was your specialty training? What followed after that? How much ammunition did you consume in training? How was the daily life in the battalion? How much time was spent on chores and guard duty compared to training? How were the conscript NCOs and Reserve Officers selected? At what point during the conscript service did they deviate from the rest of the privates? How long and how good was their training? What general impression did you get of the whole thing? Discipline, cohesion, morale etc.

 

I am VERY interested to read your opinions and experiences.

 

Speaking for myself, I was drafted in May'95, basic training lasted about a month, given that the first week was mainly paperwork and getting fitted, and then trying to convert a mob into something able to march, turn, etc. Combat training was all of a couple of days, with one week in the field (Mon-Fri, midday) to march a bit, fire 12 rounds (only CETME L) and do some night work. Since my regiment was definitely REMF, we could fight out of a paper bag (wet, at that) but could march proudly under the flag and swore that we would give our lives, etc. From that point on, we were soldiers rather than recruits and stood guards (a couple or 3 every month, both night and day)

 

After that, real training started, which in my case involved learning to drive a truck and operate a long range radio net, for a couple more months, until declared ready in Sept.

 

We then went off for a week of maneuvers, then came back for a month of getting everything ready for Adventure Exchange 95 - at which point the lid blew up in Bosnia and it got cancelled, but since the money had been allocated and it would have been sad to had it given back, it was replaced by Somontano 95, a month long exercise for the then new Spanish Rapid Reaction Force (a divisional size force composed of the Para Brigade, the Legión, and 2nd Cav Brigade) pitted against the Mountain Division - my company was tasked with setting up a repeater on top of a mountain, which entailed little excitement but hopes of an special forces raid with never came and an incident with some wild horses that ended up with the antenna farm all over the place.

 

Coming back in Dec, we had the joy and happiness of having a new CAPT that was a through and through SoB disciplinarian, but whose concept didn't go beyond dress and salute, there were hopes of him getting a job in UNPROFOR, but they were disappointed. By then Christmas and my vacation saw me going back in Feb. with barely 15 days to go of my 9 months.

 

Daily routine centered on vehicle maintenance and signals training, Fridays were for ceremonies and training for ceremonies. Each day there were sports and physical training.

 

And all this for the lofty salary of 6 EUR/month (presumably soldier salaries started out at the legal minimum but the Army deducted housing, food and clothes - even if you didn't sleep in quarters or ate at the canteen).


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#6 rohala

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1419 PM

Very interesting RETAC21.
I served a 9 month service a couple of years ago. I was also drafted in May and released in February. Our salary was about 9 Euros/month :D
I had finished my initial training by the end of July, so like also in the case of BansheeOne, your training was longer. We never did a one month long exercise. Our field exercises (two during my service) lasted single weeks.

On the other hand, I did about 105 days of duties, ~80 of which were guard duty. And I was the lucky one. Others in the battalion did some 120-140 days of duty. Removing the initial training period (almost no duties) and the various leaves and vacations) we averaged some 20 days per month on duty (in truth some months were relaxed with 10 days of duty and some hard with some 25 days of duty).

Guard duty in the Greek army is made in 2-hour shifts, 3 times per day (there are thus 4 shifts, called "numbers"), so they are always both day and night. In our unit the change of guards was done by a corporal and lasted 40 minutes every time. Inlcluding the guard briefings by the officer on duty, the whole thing consumed some 9 hours of a conscript's day. It was really quite detrimental.
As far as I am concerned the worst thing about conscript service was the lack of sleep. We typically would sleep 4-hours per day, and tried to replenish the difference in the few days we weren’t on guard duty.


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#7 Leo Niehorster

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 1448 PM

US Army.
I volunteered in 1969. Inducted at Fort Dix, New Jersey for Basic Combat Training (BCT). After a "Zero Week", in which we got a "haircut", were issued our uniforms, advanced medical testing, blood "donation", vaccinations, and paperwork, attended some indoctrination lectures. We were then moved into our barracks and basic training officially began. Lasted about 10 weeks. The usual: uniform wearing, military courtesy, marching, PT, basic weapons orientation, familiarilzation, and firing. (M-14: many times; M-60: once, firing maybe 20 shots; M-79: fired 5 rounds; M-2 got to look at someone firing; grenades: one practice round — the rest of the time we threw dummy hand grenades at empty tires.) ABC (now NBC) training, hand-to-hand, bayonet, basic first air, military justice, Geneva and Hague Conventions, etc. Running various "combat trails". Some Vietnam orientation, but not much. Camouflage and concealment. Night operations. And other stuff. And of course, various guard duty and kitchen police sessions. (Frankly, a pain in the ass. Not an interesting experience.) After 10 weeks, given leave over Christmas.

Reported to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Combat Engineers. Another Zero week followed by a 10 week training period. Learned basic pioneer skills, ranging from use of hand and power tools, bridge-building, water crossing, mine laying and removal, obstacle construction and removal. Spinal Meningitis scare. Very little PT. More guard duty and KP sessions. (Although it was mid-Winter in Missouri (!), it was an interesting and pleasurable experience.)

Then, shockingly, for those pioneers going to Vietnam, there was a Vietnam Orientation Course in March 1970, which lasted one week. These poor guys were taught to look for traps, mines, punji sticks, etc. in minus 10°C weather, a meter of snow, and frozen ground. Not very promising survival prospects.

Then, after these 10 weeks, plus another two weeks' leave, I was moved to a holding company pending completion of my security clearance necessary for admission to Officer Candidate School (OCS). Six months in a holding company is normally no fun. (Up to then I had lived in Holland, Peru, England, Mexico, Canada, of the US, and traveled extensively.)

Anyway, that's the end of the basic training.
 


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#8 BansheeOne

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 1043 AM

Another differene is these weird things that probably are modern-German-specific: filing a proper complaint? electing a recruit's ombudsman? :blink:

(What complaints would you file and to whom would you direct them? If we wanted somehting we were supposed to tell our squad leader and he would pass it upwards. More commonly, we would simply come forward during the company roll-call and tell our captain directly.)

 

The Bundeswehr is highly unionized! :D (Actually, that's only half a joke.)

 

Filing complaints is governed by its own ten-page regulation. The most important rule I remember is that you have to sleep over your grievance before putting it/having it put on paper (§ 6). You address it to the next superior in a position to decide on the issue; typically the company commander. Of course it is forbidden to disadvantage a complainant. And if your complaint is unsuccessful, you can complain again after a month. :D

 

Any soldier also has the right to turn directly to the Defense Ombudsman of Parliament (Wehrbeauftragter) outside the chain of command. In fact we're seeing an increase in people doing this even with issues that would be better resolved at unit level, in part because many don't trust the prohibition of disadvantagement.

 

Any rank group of at least five in a unit - officers, NCOs, enlisted - also elect a person of confidence (Vertrauensperson) among them. Since 1990, this is governed by the Soldiers Participation Law. They are heard on some issues like transfers, disciplinary action, awards etc., and can also make suggestions of their own. In an unusual source of tradition for the Bundeswehr, I find this actually goes back to the post-WW I Freikorps.


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#9 Mistral

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 1107 AM

Did 26 months back in 93-95.  One month in basic training during which the selection for reserve officers was made as well as the branch in which you would serve, I was selected to go to officer training school and was assigned to the infantry even though it was my third choice, armor and artillery being the other two.  We had a weird way of assigning your branch.  A random number between 20 and 30 was chosen and in our case it was number 27.  Then based upon our serial numbers we were assigned to a specific group of 27, and each group had to select where they wanted to be assigned from a given set of choices (say 15 infantry 5 armor 5 artillery etc).  Well I was number 26 in our group so infantry it was, armor and artillery were always coveted.

 

Then it was 4 months in reserve officer training course in Crete where i run a lot with an MG3 in my hands- fun times, and upon completion of that another month of training in your specialty.  I was trained a machine gunner and trained on everything we had at the time (MG3s, FN MAGs, Yugoslav M53s, Browning 0.30 and 0.50, DsHKs.)

 

I would say that basic training was just that very basic.  But the 4 months in Crete and the one month after that were significantly better.  There was a lot of live fire training. 

 

After that you were assigned to a unit where other duties start to take over and you are basically an administrator.  I was the payroll officer for my unit as well as responsible for the in base store which sold foodstuff etc.  

 

In a year a regular infantry unit would have around 10-12 days of  off base training in addition to half days over 15 days or so to reconnoiter locations roads and battle positions , rest of the days passed in theoretical classes, mainntenance and in our case a lot of MILAN ATGM simulation time as the unit I was had basically an antitank role.  We had all the MILAN and HOT launchers which would be allocated in case of emergency to front line infantry units.  There used to be a lot of live fire training back then,  not so much now,

 

Oh and my pay was around 100 EUR per month and for privates it was around 45 euros I believe.  Now its almost double that, but they only serve 23 months.


Edited by Mistral, 28 September 2015 - 1108 AM.

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#10 rohala

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 1707 PM

@BansheeOne

The idea of having a soldiers’ parliamentary ombudsman outside of the chain of command is not bad to be honest, mainly because simply in the age of the internet, this role is de facto filled by informal institutions. In Greece there are certain sites, that typically have a very anti-military stance (say omhroi.gr, meaning “hostages”), that have formed a tradition, in a way, of receiving and publishing soldiers’ complaints, that would otherwise be impossible to make known. Bypassing the chain of command is I believe a necessary evil some times.

 

@Mistral

Heh, your experience is the typical Greek army model. For what its worth, the position you held back then, in the case of my unit, was filled by a warrant officer. I think he was no longer responsible for paying salaries to the professionals, although he was still responsible for signing our release paper as finances manager (διαχειριστής οικονομικού). Conscripts’ salaries were paid by the officer (actually a master sergeant) responsible for food supplies.

As far as pays go, as you may already know a reserve officer in Greece gets some 500-550 Euros today, which is vaaastly more than a private.

 

 

I hope more people take the time to answer to this thread. I know there are members who served and have'nt responded. I wanted to know their experiences, or to be more frank, the way their nation's conscription training systems function. Part of the reason why i created this thread was things I read regarding the Swedish and Finish systems that were different than the Greek system (for insteance the time conscript NCOs were selected and the length of their training). I'd be thankful if they added their insight to the thread. The same goes to Estonians, Serbs, Israelis and anyone else there is. I mean after all, up until recently, almost all western nations had compuslory conscription. :)


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#11 bd1

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 1311 PM

give me some time, i wrote an lenghty essay, but i have to translate it. i am a one-finger-typing man, who types so slowly i lose usually track of thought...


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#12 TonyE

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 1601 PM

Is write, later.


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#13 bd1

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 1638 PM

My national service was in 1996-96. Service time was 1 year,  new wave of recruits came in every 3 months. Basic train 3 months, then assinging to subunit and then addit. train. and service. I was at Single Signals Batallion, signals coy, RTO.

Some background at first

EDF was back then bit different from other forces mentioned here. Restored in 1992, it was start from scratch manpower- and equipmentwise

Officers came from ´´30-day wonders´´-courses, ex-sov. Army  (incl. https://en.wikipedia...i/Ants_Laaneots  ) and some others , and from west, (most prominent https://en.wikipedia...ksander_Einseln  ). All this resulted in lot of friction both in systems and in personalities. At the same time the country was falling into huge recess, russian troops were still in till autumn of 1994, our reput. was questionable, at the same time there were wars in former yugo, and caucasus hence relatively little support  from outside to us. Major difference was finland that started training officers in their schools and germany who donated  equipment for border guard and some east germ. stuff like trucks.

Overall the western orientation won and has been paying off in longer term view, while latvia and lithuania went short-term solutin and accepted more former sov. personnel. That meant little bit more capable force in short term, but they afaik never fully got rid of sov.style discipline problems, which resulted in loosing conscription after joining NATO.  

Thanks to Sov. Army memories the reputation of EDF was rather low at first, not many wanting to serve in military if all reference one could draw was from their own/dad´s/brother´s experiences in Red Army, funding was low. Low as in future chancellor of MOD at his first day of work had an assignment to convert some kilograms of wool someone had donated to EDF, into something valuable to military....

 

Some of the equipment came from sov.troops, both in legal and illegal ways (like Defence League reportedly loosing one engineering equipment train on some branch road,  i don´t know if it´s true, but at least i saw a MDK-2 ditch-digger in one inf. Btl.  Motorpool), later bits and pieces from romania and china (AK-s, RPG-s), finland donated some Mosin rifles . then htere was the israeli weapons deal, when we bought aroughly  light inf. Brig. equipment plus some more (galils,negev LMGs,Mapats ATGMs, comms,  mortars , body armor- some of it not good buy, like MAPATS and Negev, rest OK or even much beloved, like galil) . barracks-infrastructure was in former sov. bases, with variyng level of habitability , at least on batallion had to do with 3 sinks for 3 companies at my time, plus guarding some of it/cleaning-up/ was really manpower-intensive.

Vehicles in my unit was mostly ex-sov.usual UAZ, Gaz-66, Zil-131, ex GDR Robur (gadawful  frikkin trabant of trucks),plus chinese UAZ-clone, WW2 era Dodge ambulance and CUCV´s

 

My service started in training company, looking back it was all rather basic. First week was familiarisation, no punishments were assigned, all that changed on second week. :) Lots of physical activities, drill, regulations. Ombudsman (HQ major) visited us on end of first month, meeting was just us, no segeants. He explained his duties, rights and our rights , asked for complaints. There was of course right to turn to him personally or to go through your superiors, but he also made rather clear that it´s not a good idea to waste his time with  trivialities :) .´´..though of course you have the right to do it´´. As we heard later his reputation was excellent and apparently he stepped on some toes if someone got carried away, but still managed to be balanced with couple dozen recruits complaints each year.

Drill sergeants – all the squad leaders were also recruits like us,junior  NCO material (ca. 10% in our case) was chosen at the end of basic 3 months, they went to NCO school. Dropping out rate was at least 1/3 IIRC, so when guys from my wave came back with  7 junior sergeants and one corporal out of 8 guys who went, it was a minor miracle. Best new nco´s went to train. company, rest to subunits   above squad level , all nco´s were pros., with the exeption of supply clerk.

At the end of 2.month of basic train. we also had guard duty, since the rest of batallion went to week-long field ex.. guard duty was 24hrs, beginning 17.00 evening and ending between 17-18.00 next evening when you came back to unit, turned in rifle and equipment etc. Since 3 hours before guard duty was for sleeping and when you came back, that day´s activities were done, it was welcome change. Saturdays were for barracks cleaning, afternoon was free. Sunday was free, TV, reading, gym,cinema (for non-basic train. guys), sauna. Visitors 1hr. on Sundays during basic, after that  unlimited on Sundays, and on business days+ saturday  18.00-21.00

Daily plan was 6.00 wake up, then physical 20-30 min. (or over hour during basic), or rarely in winter during storms, snow ploughing. After hygiene, inspection, breakfast. Lessons (regulations, technical stuff, drills), lunch, then field lessons (tactics, or later signals equipm. in our case) , 17-18 physical train, 18-19 dinner. Free time, then 21.00 formation, hymn. 22.00 bed. Except for the ones on soem punishment/correctional  duty

 Only new year´s eve was free for everybody who was not in duty, provided they return sober and by morning formation time.

After basic there were few night ´´alarms´´ since company commander was firm believer of good night sleep, but during basic we had plenty, incl. ´´fire drill´´ that had us evacuate all train. company equipment (except wardrobes) to drill ground 200m away, where we had to set it all up exectly to comapny ground plan, incl. beds , us in those beds, company orderly on his desk, houseplants and shit. Since it was warm septemeber night (exactly 19 years ago!) it was all more fun than pain. Though that tradition ended with next wave after us, since they took it all too ´´seriously ´´ and sent squad leaders room equipment, beds and all,  through window. A closed window. Since it was in mid-december, the sergeants were not really amused

Food was bad in my unit, we were the last unit in EDF not to have our own kitchen, but brought in stuff from sports school. At field food was much better, though we had occasionally the infamous Bundeswehr MRE-s .

Discipline – inter-people relations were basicly not too bad, one can´t be really a cunt to another if there is only 1,3 million people in the land and your reputation will find you again. Hazing was not an issue, since it would resulted in prisons term longer than your service year, or at best couple weeks at garrison cellar.

I had additional help, since my drill sergeant was my classmate, who had volunteered 6 months before me. We had not more easy life, but he explained to me in private some things and reasonings behind the things that other squads-platoons had to figure out themselves. Still he was prick enough to stick a bayonet to rifle and run ast he last man during obstacle course if we were not doing fast enough.

Biggest problem was russians-  they were most part less motivated,disciplined, many had language issues, couple attitude issues too. they made up about 25% of our unit, one third of these should have sent home after the end of first week. Political correctness  and ´´they´ll learn the language in service´´ was dumb policy in longer term. OTOH a half of the rest were really OK guys.

Weapons training was mainly Galil , iirc 30 shots during train. + familiarisation with chinese AK (3 rds.) + familiarisation with PM (also 3rds./25m., which i aced to everybody´s surprise, incl. mine).

Unfortunately i cannot comment much on shooting since my glasses broke in overcrowded truck during one shoot. Exercise and even i did 2 applications for replacements , i never got these. So every next shooting exercise i just shot at wherever i wanted. Well, i could still see targets at 100m. , vaguely, but 200 and 300 m . was hopeless, esp. Night.  On the other hand i was good to have, since my neighbour  once had 17 hits on his target, out of 10 rounds issued. Mine was clean.

Basic train had 2 week-long field exercises – squad tact., physical, orient., digging, night marches in swamps. First one was in 30c heat in july and we camped in sand quarry .we had 2-3 litres of water per day, so even  teethbrushing was optional choice. Other was in mellow 20c and really enjoyable, we spent it former sov. border guard NCO train. school territory near sea

The end of basic was ´´soldier´s exam´´ -regulations, tests, + 60km orient. march in 24hrs. (3men teams in full equipment and  1 map without scale) We did it in 20 hrs., across swamps etc, got bit lost , so did 10+km extra. Then the oath, after that weekend off, that was my first time out of gate alone in 3 months.

 

Then regular service in signals company, training on our equipment, guard dut. Every 3 months one wave left to civil life and a new one came from basic. I ended in signals coy, radio platoon , RTO.  Other platoons were wire comms and tech. Platoon (generators mainly). I had GAZ-66 R142 that lihtuanians had ´´liberated´´ or ´´bought´´ or bought from russian army , estonia bought some 5 from them, then we had ex-gdr IFA W50 and Zil-131´s. manpack TADIRAN uhf and vhf  encrypted comms that we were told to be the best amongst neighbouring countries . back then it was probably true. Unfortunatley we did not take the full options and later they suffered from our penny-pinching (batteries!)

Big part of service was guard duty, that our btl. Had in our own unit, but our guard company also had MOD, army HQ and signals coy had Defence League HQ.  I trried to get as much that posting if possible, we had access to their library, radio, tv.  

Later it was usual to have a weekend off once in month or two months, we had 2 weeks  of vacation during the service. It was good idea to be a blood donor, since that gave you a day off per donation. I ended it having last 5 days off, then returing to btl. to return my stuff, collect the signatures and go back to civvie street. Pay was iirc 8 eur/month, after becoming Cpl. (pfc really), addit. 2 eur. That went mostly for cigarettes. Though after ending, state paid us one  average monthly salary iirc, that was around 100 eur. Back then. Since i had almost no wardrobe left that would fit me, it was really welcome.

My biggest ´´adventure´´ was a PfP exercise in latvia, adazi. Baltic common engineer exercise, est. had composite sapper coy. I was coy commander´s RTO

Overall discipline was worse in earlier years, former workmate was in inf. Btl. where  a soldier got drunk, started shooting at air and threatening people. Btl. commander, later CoS of EDF , then capt., now Gen.(ret.)Kert walked up to him, ordered to drop the gun, when refused , pulled pistol and put bullet in guys head. That was end discipline issues at that batallion.

My younger brothers went to serve 5 years after me, when NATO-preparations were in ful swing. As i understand their era was physically less demanding, but way, way better in tactics. Big part of this was that there was a united military education system.  

 

Around 2006-7 estonia adopted new system of service time 9 months for ordinary guys and 11 months for NCO´s and drivers, who are pre-selected from draft by tests. Part of these NCO´s can get addit. train. to become ´´aspirants´, wartime ensigns. The whole system is bit mystery to me and since i´ve been typing amost 4 hours and it´s 00.38, i´llleave it here.

Systemis said to be based on finland and is as much as i can tell excellent for peacetime. Guys go in and a whole batallion comes out at spring. But the minus of this is that EDF is fighting –capable at march-till-june, other times it´s dependent on call-up of reserves. As this springs largest peacetime ex ´´hedgehog 2015´´ showed , this works, if given enough time.


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#14 rohala

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 1850 PM

@bd1
thanks a lot for the detailed response, it was really interesting.
From what you describe conscript service in the Estonian army was quite serious. I mean, if you really made 60km in 24h as part of a map-reading exercise that’s really impressive. In our basic training map-reading exercise was only a couple of hours around the camp, and later, as part of the battalion training, it was a night long (~10 hours) during which we would cover barely 30km. And I'm ashamed to admit I considered it at the time a pretty hard exercise! :unsure:
I also find it interesting that you also had a soldiers' ombudsman, like the Germans. We in the Greek army certainly didn’t, and such an institution seems very foreign to me, although this role is in practice fulfilled by informal ways. I think the Greek army should consider adopting this system.
 

Drill sergeants – all the squad leaders were also recruits like us,junior NCO material (ca. 10% in our case) was chosen at the end of basic 3 months, they went to NCO school. Dropping out rate was at least 1/3 IIRC, so when guys from my wave came back with 7 junior sergeants and one corporal out of 8 guys who went, it was a minor miracle. Best new nco´s went to train. company, rest to subunits above squad level , all nco´s were pros., with the exeption of supply clerk.

Very interesting. That seems like a reasonable NCO creation. NCOs by us were also made immediately after basic training, but the selection was almost random and nobody failed. The officers didn’t take conscript NCOs seriously. It’s worth to note that professionals also do not fail NCO training. Every contract soldier will become corporal after 4 years, sergeant after 7 years etc.

At the end of 2.month of basic train. we also had guard duty, since the rest of batallion went to week-long field ex.. guard duty was 24hrs, beginning 17.00 evening and ending between 17-18.00 next evening when you came back to unit, turned in rifle and equipment etc. Since 3 hours before guard duty was for sleeping and when you came back, that day´s activities were done, it was welcome change.

I’m not sure I understand. How was guard duty done? Did you leave the unit? And went where?
I understand the concept of 24-hour duty because we also did the same (our duty day began and ended at 15.00), but we didn’t leave the unit. Guard duty was mixed with the rest of the daily activities. Also, I notice that you really gave importance to sleep.

Basic train had 2 week-long field exercises – squad tact., physical, orient., digging, night marches in swamps. First one was in 30c heat in july and we camped in sand quarry .we had 2-3 litres of water per day, so even teethbrushing was optional choice. Other was in mellow 20c and really enjoyable, we spent it former sov. border guard NCO train. school territory near sea
The end of basic was ´´soldier´s exam´´ -regulations, tests, + 60km orient. march in 24hrs. (3men teams in full equipment and 1 map without scale) We did it in 20 hrs., across swamps etc, got bit lost , so did 10+km extra. Then the oath, after that weekend off, that was my first time out of gate alone in 3 months.

That’s pretty awesome, and far beyond what the Greek army does. For what it’s worth 30c heat is very common in Greece. I did my initial training in summer when night temperatures of 30c and above are common. I did, just after completing my initial training in August and as part of the battalion programme, an all-night exercise (a raid) and I had only taken my 1-liter water bottle. I discovered my mistake the hard way. When returning from the raid I was so thirsty I deviated from the column and drank water from a public watering pool indented for goats. :mellow:

Later it was usual to have a weekend off once in month or two months, we had 2 weeks of vacation during the service. It was good idea to be a blood donor, since that gave you a day off per donation. I ended it having last 5 days off, then returing to btl. to return my stuff, collect the signatures and go back to civvie street.

This is basically identical as in the Greek army.

Overall discipline was worse in earlier years, former workmate was in inf. Btl. where a soldier got drunk, started shooting at air and threatening people. Btl. commander, later CoS of EDF , then capt., now Gen.(ret.)Kert walked up to him, ordered to drop the gun, when refused , pulled pistol and put bullet in guys head. That was end discipline issues at that batallion.

Well, this is definitely atypical. :blink:

Around 2006-7 estonia adopted new system of service time 9 months for ordinary guys and 11 months for NCO´s and drivers, who are pre-selected from draft by tests. Part of these NCO´s can get addit. train. to become ´´aspirants´, wartime ensigns.

Very interesting. How long does one need to become “aspirant” after finishing NCO training?


Again, thanks a lot for the response and the details. :)  Awesome information. The comparison is certainly not flattering for the Greek army. :(


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#15 NickM

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 2119 PM

@BansheeOne

The idea of having a soldiers’ parliamentary ombudsman outside of the chain of command is not bad to be honest, mainly because simply in the age of the internet, this role is de facto filled by informal institutions. In Greece there are certain sites, that typically have a very anti-military stance (say omhroi.gr, meaning “hostages”), that have formed a tradition, in a way, of receiving and publishing soldiers’ complaints, that would otherwise be impossible to make known. Bypassing the chain of command is I believe a necessary evil some times.

 

@Mistral

Heh, your experience is the typical Greek army model. For what its worth, the position you held back then, in the case of my unit, was filled by a warrant officer. I think he was no longer responsible for paying salaries to the professionals, although he was still responsible for signing our release paper as finances manager (διαχειριστής οικονομικού). Conscripts’ salaries were paid by the officer (actually a master sergeant) responsible for food supplies.

As far as pays go, as you may already know a reserve officer in Greece gets some 500-550 Euros today, which is vaaastly more than a private.

 

 

I hope more people take the time to answer to this thread. I know there are members who served and have'nt responded. I wanted to know their experiences, or to be more frank, the way their nation's conscription training systems function. Part of the reason why i created this thread was things I read regarding the Swedish and Finish systems that were different than the Greek system (for insteance the time conscript NCOs were selected and the length of their training). I'd be thankful if they added their insight to the thread. The same goes to Estonians, Serbs, Israelis and anyone else there is. I mean after all, up until recently, almost all western nations had compuslory conscription. :)

Well I remember when I was in college in Greece in the early 1980s the lot of the average Fandaro was pretty bad--poor pay, poor treatment-ESPECIALLY if you're a foreign born Greek. Seems the training cadre thought FBGs were softies. I recall tales told to me by a collegemate of mine who was a combat vet from Rhodesia. His family moved to Greece after 1980 & first thing he did was get drafted. After the Rhodesian Military however, the Greek training was pretty 'uninspired'.


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#16 BansheeOne

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 0357 AM

Officers came from ´´30-day wonders´´-courses, ex-sov. Army  (incl. https://en.wikipedia...i/Ants_Laaneots  ) and some others , and from west, (most prominent https://en.wikipedia...ksander_Einseln  ). All this resulted in lot of friction both in systems and in personalities.

 

In Halle, naturally there were quite a few ex-NVA instructors. Overall they were more kind than their West German counterparts; I thought that either they had been sieved so thoroughly that they conformed better to Bundeswehr standards than the average Bundeswehr superior, or they felt they were on probation. It was probably a bit of both; not so many were taken over, and at reduced rank since supposedly the NVA promoted faster. There was one 1LT who was said to have been promotable to major before reunification; he was rather insecure about his authority and tended to smell of alcohol.

 

I thought cultural differences with Easterners of my age had already become less compared to when I made a trip to Hungary with a DDR youth group shortly after the Wall fell but still before reunification two years earlier; I found their behavior rather collectivist then. One point that still jumped out at me in Halle was the rampant xenophobia though, particularly against folks from previous fellow socialist countries who had come to the DDR for education/training, but mostly lived in officially-imposed segregation. Some were stranded or didn't want to go back after reunification, Vietnamese being prominent. They were derogatively called "Fijis" by Easterners, and during my time in Halle the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen went down. One evening I came into the company block's community room where the TV was showing live coverage of the mob attacking the Rostock Central Reception Center for Asylum Seekers with molotov cocktails, to cheers of a couple East German soldiers in the room.

 

The chief reason for the difference was that the DDR had never really embarked on the West German approach to atone for the Nazi past, considering itself to have no connection to the old Reich rather than being something entirely new, the first Workers and Peasants State on German soil, founded by communists who had fought the Nazis (more or less), so actually on the winning side of WW II; thus, every DDR citizen was an anti-fascist by birth, no atonement needed. Later in Celle, while waiting for the cancellation of my officer candidate contract to come through after I had found it wasn't really for me and employed as a company sergeant's clerk after finishing basic training (again), one evening I was kept awake by penetrant "Sieg Heil" shouts on the floor. I stormed across the hall to declare myself temporary superior per § 5 of the relevant regulation and send the noisy bunch of fresh recruits to bed, slammed open the door - and found that the loudest screamer was the assistant squad leader, a Fahnenjunker (E-5 equivalent officer candidate) and also an Easterner. So I just grumbled "are you finished with your Reichsparteitag soon". This guy came after me and was very apologetic, and with good reason; if I had reported just a peep, his career would have been finished there and then. He was lucky that I was still in awe of the godlike authority of any superior at that point, and told him I just wanted my sleep.

 

That was the time when officer candidates still went through basic training with all the other troops, then after the Fahnenjunker course were usually employed as assistant instructors, then would leave again for the platoon leader course, become assistant platoon leaders, then go to officer school. Unfortunately this traditional German hands-on leadership training approach has since been replaced by one more common elsewhere, where they are trained in dedicated officer candidate units, then typically go off to Bundeswehr university for some degree, and though there are force internships, they may get to handle lowly troops only once they're exalted 1LTs. This is done to get more flexibility in branch assignments of fully-trained officers in a smaller force, as opposed to having your future leaders stuck in the respective branches from day one of their career; but I consider it the single biggest mistake made in all the recent Bundeswehr reforms.

 

Promising NCO and officer candidates are of course identified in basic training and offered the opportunity to e. g. become reserve officer candidates with a two-year term. Of course MPs are all at least NCOs anyway, so most of the guys I went through basic training with in Celle were promoted E-5 at the end of the ten-12-month term and sent home as reserve NCOs; originally our class was to be first to serve 18 rather than the previous 15 months, but after the 2+4 Treaty limited the Bundeswehr to a total of 370,000, instead we became first to serve only one year. After my contract was cancelled, I was transfered to the HQ company of the parent MP battalion in Hannover and served out my term as a medic per my original training - mostly handing out pills and ointments, and doing the entry medicals of fresh recruits every quarter.

 

Five years later I went back for a voluntary three-week reserve exercise to take a break from university and overcome my initial traumatic experience with the Bundeswehr. :D My platoon leader from Celle with whom I had a good rapport was S4 of Signals Battalion Operative Information (PsyOps) in Mayen then, and he begged, borrowed and stole active duty days which were in short supply from brigade etc. for me. This was kind of a freak unit, very laid back, and very much to my liking; if I had started out there, I might very well have followed through with making a career out of it (though superiors there still noted I was not so sharp on military discipline :D ). Most of the time I was working on a youth magazine distributed to kids in Bosnia by SFOR, containing hidden messages of tolerance, democracy and world peace; though initially I was put to work writing an assessment of Serb propaganda against SFOR. Some time after I had left, NATO blew up a Serb radio station in Bosnia that had been conspicious in this, and I got to wonder how serious people had taken my report ...


Edited by BansheeOne, 30 September 2015 - 0539 AM.

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#17 rohala

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 0402 AM

Well I remember when I was in college in Greece in the early 1980s the lot of the average Fandaro was pretty bad--poor pay, poor treatment-ESPECIALLY if you're a foreign born Greek. Seems the training cadre thought FBGs were softies. I recall tales told to me by a collegemate of mine who was a combat vet from Rhodesia. His family moved to Greece after 1980 & first thing he did was get drafted. After the Rhodesian Military however, the Greek training was pretty 'uninspired'.

I can't really speak for foreign born (and foreign living) Greeks. They probably made up a substantial number in the past due to emigration, however today they have certain options to avoid service or do a very short term (3 months?). We had people who were born in ex-USSR countries, but they had grown up in Greece and the treatment they had was identical to the rest.
Life for the fandaros remains ugly. The army is an oppressive, depressive environment, and the fandaros is at the very bottom of the food chain. Back in the '80s hazing and violence were probably more common than today (today, speaking of my experience they are officially forbidden, and in practice very rare) but I don't think the Greek conscript was ever treated really poorly.
As far as training goes, well, there are phases and phases. Just after the 1974 war things tightened up a lot but as years passed they relaxed again. Complacency is a very big probelm for an army that doesn't fight. Add to that the budget constraints, and, very importantly, the unwillingness in peacetime to risk the health of the soldiers (realistic training is dangerous), and there will obviously be a big difference between real fighting experience and conscript service in the Greek army.
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#18 carrierlost

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 0536 AM

To add to bd1, here are some videos shot during basic training (first 10 weeks)

Tactics training:

 

50 km march:

 

At the end of basic training there are about 10 exams on various topics (shooting, topography etc.)

Here is one on shooting range:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO0HE7yVh8w

 

Navy basic training has some different courses during basic training:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAjQVKuyq9Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12fMcujPq2A

 

 

 

 

 

Around 2006-7 estonia adopted new system of service time 9 months for ordinary guys and 11 months for NCO´s and drivers, who are pre-selected from draft by tests. Part of these NCO´s can get addit. train. to become ´´aspirants´, wartime ensigns.

Very interesting. How long does one need to become “aspirant” after finishing NCO training?
 

Reserve squad leaders training is 8 weeks.


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#19 rohala

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Posted 02 October 2015 - 0643 AM

What proportion of Estonian men serve in the military? In wikipedia there is a mention that there are 2,700 conscripts serving in the army. Given the Estonian demographics the annual conscript class should be some 7,000 men, although perhaps up to 30% of them would be ethnic Russians. Russians, based on bd1's description, were not excluded in the 1990s. Are they today? Are medically unfit persons excluded (in Greece, except for extreme cases, medically unfit persons do unarmed service of normal duration).


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#20 bd1

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Posted 02 October 2015 - 0737 AM

our percentage of serving is too small, because

- the non-citizens or citizens of other countries don´t serve

- way stricter health demands (iirc in finland they take 70-80%, but half unit goes morning run, rest with health waivers take morning walk :blink: ) - but this is an issue everywhere nowadays i guess

- the most important , take a look of our population pyramid - it was decided by military that they will not expand first when the boomers -born in late 80´s- will hit the service age, because they will have to build infrastructure for that , equip, find trainers (manpower for that will have to come from somewhere too) and then downsize 5 years later...

- there never was much of alternative services , there was a police/forces of interior regiment (inf. train and riot stuff, would have been really useful nowadays :unsure: , but that was closed in end of 1990-s + there were para-military fire service/rescue companies that bolstered numbers of prof. firefighters , that were quite useful too).

 

at least that´s the official version, which i personally am not happy with....

 

 

 

 

actually the biggest problem back at my day that i forgot to write was that university students were not conscripted - that was left-over from sov.-era and kept many of the best and brightest away, many of whom have now joined Defence League and are active there. that at least was changed late 90´s


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