Defense chief: Reservists unnecessarily being treated like children

Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Maj. Gen. Martin Herem on Esimene stuudio on Tuesday night. December 17, 2019. Source: ERR

Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) Maj. Gen. Martin Herem said on ETV's Esimene stuudio on Tuesday night that although exercises demonstrate that Estonian reservists know and are capable of a great deal, they lack the initiative to decide things for themselves. He believes that one reason for this may be the fact that they are not given enough opportunities during conscription to decide things for themselves and cultivate a sense of responsibility.

The EDF has some major moves coming up. According to Herem, the goal thereof is to increase the efficiency of EDF preparations. The defense forces also wants to increase its overall conscript numbers.

The defense chief agreed with the show host's claim that freedom may be one factor influencing the serving of conscription.

"Everything we do in conscription needs to better prepare citizens for national defense," he explained. "Anything that doesn't do so, the question arises why we're wasting time or resources on it. And if it so happens that Tuesday or Wednesday is free, according to the schedule, why does this person have to await the next morning in the barracks if theyy can go out instead? Not necessarily home, but to the movies, or to go watch sports."

Herem believes that increased independence would help improve conscripts' and reservists' sense of responsibility.

"We can see at exercises ⁠— and this is a minor shortcoming ⁠— that after years spent back home, reservists know and are capable of a great deal that they must do, but they show poor initiative," he said. "They don't understand that they are the ones that have to hammer out that win. I think this comes from the fact that we herd them like little children. They need to be given more opportunities to succeed and fail, and decide for themselves, and cultivate their sense of responsibility as a result.!

The defense chief noted that conscription is to be made not more comfortable, but more reasonable.

Herem doesn't, however, believe in modern-day talk of so-called "snowflakes."

"Conscription is — I have called it a drastic environmental change for a citizen," he said. "I don't really believe in that 'snowflake' talk, and don't talk about it either. In the 1920s and 1930s, if we look at the orders of the defense and war ministers, they're essentially talking about the same thing — young men with gentle souls and weak bodies that should be handled differently. There's nothing new about it.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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