Attrition: High School Boot Camp

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January27, 2007: Russia will increase military training given to high school and college students. The communists introduced this sort of thing in the 1920s, and it wasn't eliminated until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But in 2002, it was brought back. Currently, the training consists of little beyond teaching the kids how to march in formation, use a gas mask, and take care of an assault rifle. There are also some history courses on the achievements of the Russian armed forces. It was believed that this would encourage more students to join the military after they graduated. That didn't work. But now that conscription is being gradually eliminated, the training will be increased, and directed more towards preparing young men for their one year of conscript service. It used to be two (or three, in some jobs) years. But in an attempt to make conscription more palatable, the term of service will soon be reduced to one year. That means the more basic military training conscripts have while in school, the more useful they will be when they are conscripted. Meanwhile, more and more conscripts are either paying a bribe for an exemption, or just not showing up. The military is having an increasingly more difficult maintaining its strength of 1.3 million. That's one reason conscript service is being reduced from two years to one (starting in 2008). Opinion polls show that half the voters want an-all volunteer army. In 2005, only 30 percent did. The military is shifting to an all-volunteer force as quickly as it can. The main constraint is money, because the volunteer, or "contract", soldiers have to be paid a competitive (to civilian jobs) salary, and provided with adequate housing and benefits (otherwise, qualified people will not sign those contracts.) The one year conscripts will be largely useless, as it takes nearly six months to teach new recruits any useful military skills. The one year term of service also means more recruits will be needed, and those recruits are simply not there. The generals are not too perturbed, for they know this situation will force the government to come up with the money for an all (or nearly all) volunteer force.

 


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