BUILDING A BAND OF BROTHERS
THE FIRST BATCH OF QATARIS COMPLETE MILITARY SERVICE
"MILITARY TRAINING FOR GRADUATES WILL RESEMBLE THAT GIVEN TO CAREER MILITARY STUDENTS IN AHMED BIN MOHAMED MILITARY COLLEGE BUT WILL INCLUDE RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL AND TECHNICAL LECTURES ON CIVIL DEFENCE, FIRST AID, THE ENVIRONMENT AND PREVENTIVE MEASURES."
BRIGADIER MOHAMMED MISFIR AL IYADI COMMANDER STUDENTS' TRAINING CENTRE
HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued a law in March this year on National Service, which made it mandatory for all Qatari males aged between 18 and 35 to undertake military service for a minimum period. It also went on to say that they will not be employed in the private or public sectors before fulfilling this requirement unless there is a valid exemption or deferral of the requirement. The national service includes training and duty at one of the armed forces units in accordance with the explanatory presentation given by Staff Major General Mubarak Mohammed Al Kumait Al Khiyareen, the commander of the Qatari Emiri Air Force and head of the National Service Committee. The law states that the length of service shall be three months for those who have graduated from a higher learning institute, given that the course requires two years or more of studies. The service is to be four months for those who have not graduated from institutes of higher learning and for those who have not graduated from secondary schools until the age of 24. Qatar is mulling over making it optional for women to attend a national service programme. Recently in June 2014, at the graduation ceremony of the first batch of military trainees, it was announced that there were plans for special training programmes for women which would be put in place after careful studies.
A permanent training centre for the national service is being built, but until this time that it is ready, the training continues to be provided in Al Shamal. Close to 2,000 young Qatari men comprised the first-ever batch, and the second batch, consisting of university and high school students, will begin its training as part of the national service in September and October. This was disclosed by the Minister of State for Defence, Major- General HE Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah, at a ceremony held to mark the completion of the first batch of national service.
Many Qataris applauded this decision with the view that it would engrain the value of self-dependence among Qatari youth. The move also intends to serve the country's defence objectives and maintain security readiness and stability of the country through a reserve force that can augment the regular one during times of emergency. Abdulaziz Al Mahmoud, a prominent Qatari, approves and encourages the mandatory military training for Qataris, saying, “We need to teach our children commitment, discipline and the fighting spirit. The question is, however, whether this project alone is enough to achieve this?” He also has his reservations. “Our lifestyle, education and culture are full of flaws that have to be fixed before people are taken to military training camps. Our young men do not know anything about the military, except for the uniform and the salute,” he says.
“These youth have some traits such as laziness that leads to obesity, over-dependence on the tribe, family, acquaintances and servants to get whatever they want, and a belief that money can do anything for them. Trainers will not be able to deal with these youth who, unlike us, have been raised in luxury.” To counter this, Mahmoud feels that military training should be augmented by training in schools.
Qatar Today takes a closer look at the national service laws in the region and a few globally, in addition to an in-depth look at what's happening in Qatar with a visit to the national service training camp at Al Shamal, in an attempt to throw light on why such disciplinary training is vital for the new generation of leaders.
National service around the world
The UAE council of ministers has endorsed a federal compulsory national service law for male youth between the ages of 18 to 33. According to this law, the service is optional for females. When the project is implemented, the UAE
"THE DURATION OF TRAINING ADOPTED IN MANY COUNTRIES IS TWO YEARS. BUT AFTER CAREFUL STUDY IT WAS FOUND THAT THE THREE TO FOUR MONTHS OF TRAINING IS SUFFICIENT IN LIGHT OF ADVANCEMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY AND STRATEGISING." STAFF BRIGADIER NASER ABDULRAHMAN
AL JABIR ASSISTANT COMMANDER STUDENTS' TRAINING CENTRE
will follow the example of the State of Qatar. The Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoom announced that compulsory conscription will enhance the protection of the nation and teach the youth the values of loyalty, obedience and sacrifice. Compulsory conscription was implemented in Kuwait and was discontinued; but recently discussion has started within government circles to resume it. In Saudi Arabia, demands have been on the rise to adopt compulsory national service and not without strong logic considering the kingdom's relatively small population against its vast geographical area, huge natural resources and eminent religious position. Some Arab countries that adopt compulsory conscription include Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Sudan. Jordan cancelled the national service after signing a peace
agreement with Israel. Countries like Egypt depend on the engineering corps of their armed forces and on conscripts in peace times to implement infrastructure and other projects – something that can be viewed as one of the benefits of this policy. The participation of the youth as conscripts in national projects under the supervision of the army provides them with training and a chance to participate actively in building their countries with their own hands and making direct financial gains. We can also look at the experiments in other countries such as Germany which has alternative civil programmes instead of military service for its conscripts. The youth can choose to work in social fields for the duration of their compulsory military service, according to this system. Such programmes can be the core of compulsory conscription, not restricting the objectives to military work per se. In these cases the culture of compulsory conscription is used as a doorway for the youth to serve their country and solve its economic problems. On the other hand there are also countries such as Israel and Singapore that take their reserve forces seriously and maintain large numbers of them.
Most countries in the world now are not in a state of continuous war as many of them used to be in the past decades. War has become extremely costly and has serious consequences for all. This is why most countries prefer to use their armies as a deterrent to aggression rather than assault forces. In other words, we have all but forsaken what is called “pure defence”. However many countries, including those in the GCC, have large infrastructure components costing hundreds of billions that need a military defence cover to protect them against any external threats. Naturally compulsory conscription in countries with a limited population such as the UAE and Qatar will not enable them to ensure complete security coverage during external threats. For example, the ratio of the armed forces personnel to the population is 6.80 to 1,000 in Saudi Arabia (source: Wikipedia). Nevertheless, such a decision to adopt compulsory conscription has many benefits. Ukraine's interim president Oleksandr Turchynov decided to resume compulsory conscription system due to deteriorating security conditions in his country. Singapore's population of five million is served by an army of 72,000 highly trained soldiers. During emergencies, this army can swell in numbers, recruiting between 500,000 and 800,000 reserve personnel who are already trained, ready for duty and know their combat missions.
From inside Al Shamal camp
Qatar Today toured the camp during the training sessions and spoke to many of the trainers working with the very first batch of cadets. Brigadier Mohammed Misfir Al Iyadi, the Commander of the Students' Training Centre says: “The vision of HH the Emir is to apply the national service system to enhance the potential of the Qatari youths, lead them in the right direction, and engrain qualities to develop positive behaviour.” According to Brigadier Al Iyadi, the idea of the service originated from HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad when he was still the Heir Apparent. This was further developed by a committee headed by Air Force Staff Major General Mubarak Mohammed bin Kumait, with the participation of military and academic staff. “The implementation of this idea has been amazingly successful, and will attract more applause when the first batch graduates.”
He explained that when employees join the programme they will be allowed to keep their jobs while serving, without losing the increments and promotions to which they are otherwise entitled. Regarding the employees of non-governmental organisations, the Ministry of Defence shall bear their remuneration and shall give them gratuities. Examples of these include pilots working for private companies who receive wages from their employers according to an agreement with the Ministry of Defence. Conscription duration for these pilots is counted as part of their employment ten-
ure when calculating retirement benefits; non-employees are given gratuities. The Commander added that conscription for nominees who are still studying will be delayed until they graduate from their Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral programmes as stipulated by the law.
Talking more about the types of training they undergo, Brigadier Al Iyadi says “Military training for graduates will resemble that given to career military students in Ahmed Bin Mohamed Military College but will include religious and cultural lectures on civil defence, first aid, the environment and preventive measures. Military training for the infantry includes field training and arms assembly, and concentrates on physical fitness exercises and the skills needed on the battle field,” The Commander also points out that the training programme is flexible and that students with urgent educational commitments during the training programme can disrupt training and go back to their education either at undergraduate or higher levels; they can rejoin the national service programme when they complete their studies. He also points out that delaying the national service for one year is possible. The delay can be renewed until the student turns 21, on the condition that the student concerned is a graduate of a secondary school, especially regular day time secondary school. For students of under-graduate institutes, training can be postponed until they turn 25.
The period is sufficient
Staff Brigadier Naser Abdulrahman Al Jabir, Assistant Commander says, “The duration of training adopted in many countries is two years. But after careful study it was found that the three to four months of training, as specified by the law, is sufficient in light of advancements in technology and strategising. Also these terms ensure that careers and studies are not heavily disrupted.” Training of university graduates will not have wider academic aspects while emphasis will be on upgrading physical fitness and leadership skills to qualify them to fill leading positions in their respective institutions. He says “the first batch of university graduates include 500 students, while secondary school graduates will range from 1,500 to 2,000. This is a large number, considering that secondary school graduates tend to seek employment and some of them prefer to join the national service before starting the university. The difference between the training programmes of these two groups is not only the duration, but also intensity with the secondary school graduates being put through a tougher course. “We started with university graduates because they are ready right now, and are at the appropriate age. Registering secondary school graduates has started already; and their training programme will start next September.” According to the Commander, “The Supreme Education Council provided the national service committee with the names of students who meet the criteria of admission. Those students will then be called to join the national service. Working professionals will be contacted through their establishments.” He added that there is a follow-up committee to work between the Ministry of Interior, Passport Department, Ministry of Public Health, the Education Supreme Council, Ministries of Labour and Economy to track the employees of private businesses. The two programmes, though they start a month apart, will conclude together and the graduation ceremonies will fall on the same day