Recently, the topic of contract soldiers has somehow disappeared from the media. A few years ago, not a day passed without a journalist raising a topic in some way connected with contract servicemen. Today, even in specialized publications, there is silence.
In conversations with current officers, many problems emerge. Officers complain about the poor quality of training of subordinates, about the low educational level, about the unwillingness to serve with dignity. The contract soldiers themselves talk about problems with money allowances, housing and other difficulties in military service, which force them to leave the army immediately after the end of the contract.
What is a modern contract soldier like?
It is clear that since the beginning of the military reform, the Ministry of Defense has studied quite a lot of those who entered the service under the contract. In different sources, the numbers are slightly different, but in general the difference is insignificant.
So, a modern contractor is a native of a family of workers (more than 50%) or public sector employees (18%), living in a small town, having a secondary education, often brought up in a single or large family, or having a stepfather or stepmother (about every tenth) …
You can continue the description further. But what is written above is enough to understand the goals that a soldier or sergeant sets for himself. This is, first of all, getting a profession, good earnings and the opportunity to live better than parents do. This is getting a living space in the future. And the opportunity to continue education further.
By the way, education as a goal is in the first place only for a small part of contract servicemen. The fact is that the “three” and “four” in their certificates for the most part do not reflect the real level of knowledge. And the holders of these certificates know this.
A modern contractor is a typical representative of the Russian provinces with a low standard of living. Residents of regional centers, not to mention Muscovites and Petersburgers, are a rarity among contract soldiers. This is due, in my opinion, to great opportunities to realize oneself in civilian life.
On the motivation of military service
Oddly enough, but what many talk about almost constantly, that is, high wages, is not the main thing for soldiers. The main thing is to serve the Motherland. Exactly. Soldiers and sergeants really want to serve. And a stable and high salary is taken for granted. According to opinion polls, only 4% of contractors regret their service. But if so, why are there any claims against them on the part of the officers?
Another number to write about with pride. Two-thirds of the contract soldiers are well aware and aware of the danger of military service. Moreover, they are ready to sacrifice themselves. Participation in hostilities is perceived by the majority as a reward. Although material incentives play a certain role here.
Indicators of readiness to participate in the defense of Russia and to participate in peacekeeping operations in other states differ very little. More than 80% of contractors are ready to defend their homeland from external enemies. About 80% are ready to participate in peacekeeping operations in other countries – however, financing is one of the main positions here.
Why are they leaving?
We have a strange situation in the work of military enlistment offices and military units. The military registration and enlistment offices must fulfill the plan for the recruitment of contractors, the units must fulfill the plan. For this they will ask from above. But for the fact that the soldiers and sergeants do not conclude a second contract, they will not ask.
Simply because the command of the unit will correctly draw up the papers. And a completely different situation will turn out. It is no longer a contract soldier who does not want to serve in this unit, and the command of the unit does not want to conclude a second contract with a negligent soldier.
So why are they leaving? There are many reasons. But there are several of the most typical ones. First of all, refusal to continue service follows after the contractor feels the deterioration of his socio-economic and legal situation.
Alas, this is a fairly common situation in the army. And it concerns almost all military personnel, be it an officer, warrant officer, sergeant or private contract soldier. The imperfection of the legal framework for contract military service has not yet been eliminated. Voennoye Obozreniye has written quite a lot about such things.
There are also more “mundane” questions. Simply put, the state is not fulfilling its obligations. The state promised service housing – so what? But nothing. No housing. Rent an apartment from private owners. Agree, for a young man who wants to create his own family, give birth to a child, arrange life, this is important.
The moral and psychological atmosphere in the unit is no less important. The attitude of commanders and chiefs to the soldier. Conditions for rest and leisure. Relations between military personnel outside the military unit. Very often, an ordinary contract soldier lives outside the army collective. Officers and warrant officers are a rather closed caste and do not allow privates and sergeants into their circle.
What needs to be changed?
I’ll start with a description of the classic Soviet “demobilization” of the 70s and 80s. Just to remind you how he looked then.
So, the military uniform is ideally “sewn in” to the figure. On the shoulders of the sergeant’s shoulder straps with three “gold” metal stripes and metal letters “SA”. Leather belt with slightly bent buckle.
On the chest a set of icons. “Guard”, “Excellent worker of the Soviet Army”, class specialist, warrior-athlete, sports category. Airborne Forces and Marines added Excellent Parachutist after Gvardiya.
If you think about it a little, then this soldier is a living poster describing the priorities of all the soldiers of that time. He is a sergeant simply because the epaulette is “the most beautiful.” Do you remember what tricks the demobilization went to in order to write this title on the military ID? The rank of sergeant was an important indicator that you had power in the army.
But the set of signs of soldier’s valor was an indicator that you did not beat your thumbs in the army, but really served honestly and with dignity. And this was no less important than the military rank.
But back to the contractors. From childhood, we were taught the Suvorov phrase: “A soldier who does not dream of becoming a general is bad” – as a dogma. However, the support of Suvorov himself in his victories was often precisely the “bad soldiers” – veterans who served a quarter of a century and did not dream of being generals. They were soldiers!
It is exactly the same today. Yes, a contract soldier has the opportunity to receive education during his service. Does he want this? Surely in the life of any officer there was a driver who had to be driven out of the park with a stick. Who was ready to repair, refuel, lubricate, clean, paint his combat vehicle day and night. At the same time, he was not at all interested in the position of squad commander or platoon commander.
Most of the contract soldiers are about the same soldiers. They want to thoroughly know their military specialty. They are interested in it. But! What are the prospects for service for such a person? Alas, none. The position of mechanic driver does not give growth prospects. By the way, this is also one of the reasons for the departure of soldiers and sergeants after the end of the contract.
It seems to me that in order to create prospects for contractors, it is necessary to change our attitude towards the sergeant rank. Get away from the fact that the sergeant must necessarily be a commander or chief. The “Soviet” attitude is outdated.
We are fixated on money. If we pay, they will serve. Will not! Today, a fairly large number of contract servicemen simply do not want to improve their skills. Why bother? I am already a highly qualified specialist! ..
It is necessary to change the contract system
Talking with contractors, I came to a seemingly paradoxical conclusion. Most of them do not see their life in the army. And they went to serve for purely pragmatic reasons. Earn money, solve a housing problem, get an education, assert oneself, etc. The army as an opportunity to solve personal problems for a relatively short period of time.
And therefore, until we make sure that contract servicemen choose the life of a professional soldier once and for all, the reform will not work. This means that all the efforts of recent years will simply disappear into the sand.