Left, Right, Left, Right, Left…

As a military-minded sort of chap, I’m always fascinated by the differences from what I was taught during my brief career and the training foreign soldiers undertook. Since this blog is focused around my activities in Georgia (let’s face it, I don’t do anything anywhere else), we’ll be looking at the Georgian Army, specifically their training and structure. To those of you who aren’t interested…you’ll just have to cope.

Unlike most modern armies, the Georgian Army is divided into three; the Regulars, National Guard (weekend soldiers) and Reserve Army (conscripts). But the differences don’t end there.

Britain’s military is divided into Regulars and Reserves. For the Army, the Regulars number around 100, 000 and the Reserves around 40, 000. The thing is, the part-timers are trained to exactly the same standards as their Regular colleagues, with the same equipment, uniforms, etc. And they’re bloody good, too. Hell, we have Reserve units for everything. Every Corps in the Army, but also for the elite Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines Commando and even the Special Air Service.

The size of the Regular Georgian Army is around 40, 000, but what I find shocking is that their weekenders are only 500 men strong. Georgia’s military faith is instead placed, should the need arise, in the conscript force of the Reserve Army. To me, that seems a little dim. Here’s why.

First off, not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. You have to develop a high standard of physical fitness to carry your whole life on your back over months of intense training, a tolerance to the discomfort of living in the field for weeks at a time in various weather conditions, proficiency with your rifle, and above anything, a thick skin. People used to ask me, why do military instructors scream and shout all the time? Simple: if you can’t take that, how on earth are you going to cope with enemy rounds slapping into the ground around you, or RPGs whistling over your head?

The Georgian Reserve force trains its men for 21 days. You can’t learn a lot in 21 days. Let’s go back to some of the points I just listed off. My friend Eduard did his 21 days service last year, in the summer. Officially, he is now combat-ready. First problem; he undertook his training in the extreme heat of July/August, and would be completely unprepared for any kind of action in the winter. It makes a hell of a difference, believe me. Secondly, he is a lovely, kind-hearted family man,  and I can’t think of anyone more unsuitable to front-line duty, or anything more criminal than taking a man from his wife and children just to stand in line, unprepared, unwilling and untrained, in front of a Russian tank. Surely the point of having a military is that the soldiers fight so civilians don’t have to?

Another important thing to consider is that the Reserve forces are all being issued with the Soviet AK assault rifle. A fine weapon, if used in the right hands. The Regulars, however, have been equipped with a myriad of new and fancy Western firearms. For the most part they’re American-made M4s, but there’s a host of Israeli, German and Austrian weapons being imported as well. Why? It’s not Call of Duty, you know. You don’t unlock new guns the more you use the old ones.

The fact is firearms are like people; everyone is different. Sure, there are similarities. Everyone has two eyes, a nose and a mouth, and every gun will have a trigger, barrel and firing pin. But even if we just look at the AK and the M4, the differences are vast. One fires the larger 7.62 bullet, the other the NATO 5.56. That’s already a pretty big difference in recoil. There’s no need to get technical here, but suffice to say if you’ve been trained all your life on an AK, the transition to something else won’t be instantaneous.

A friend of mine, Lasha, was a part-time Georgian soldier for two years and loved it, but was always frustrated the training was never really tough enough, his father having served in Spetsnaz during the Soviet Days. In 2008 when the Russians attacked, he dutifully reported for duty to collect his gear. He was told his uniform was ‘somewhere’ and he was given an AK47 with no bullets because he ‘wouldn’t need them’. Now, this was a time when the nation was under attack. I can understand military apathy to the Afghan war, a war that it’s arguable they shouldn’t be involved in, but an invasion from an opponent the size of Russia? A real sense of urgency is needed, to say the damned least. The establishment needs shaking to its core.

I met some United States Marines here in 2010 who were here training the Georgian Army, and since I was in the Army at the time we had a good long chat. I was quite impressed, truth be told. The United States Marine Corps always reminded us a lot of the British Army; carry what you need on your back, rely on yourself and the men around you, since its bloody stupid to count on hordes of backup artillery and tanks. I love that way of thinking, it makes the individual rifleman almost unstoppable.

The Marines told me they were struggling to teach the Georgians because they’d previously been taught by some members of the US Army. If you don’t know, the US Army is a very different beast to its Marine Corps cousin. Far more static, dependent on massive artillery, tank and air support, it’s a lumbering and heavy sledgehammer rather than the precision blade of the Marines (note: I appreciate the Green Berets and Rangers are an exception). So the poor Georgians had been taught by the US Army for a year, being trained in the same way those troops had, namely a manner that relies on heavy support the Georgians don’t have. The things those USMC lads were teaching them however seemed innovative and professional.

Actually, let’s talk a little more about the Americans here, because I was reading on Neal’s blog the other he’s rather anti-soldiers after hearing a lot of stories about US troops killing Afghan civilians. The most terrible thing is it’s all true. Every tragedy has its root, however, and I might have some insight others don’t.

I hope I’ve adequately shown here so far that the US military is such a massive behemoth that the differences within the thing are vast. Not just between the USMC and Army, either. One thing that really sticks in my mind is the following: America, unlike Britain, doesn’t have universal healthcare, so a lot of people enlist in the National Guard to get the benefit of free dental and healthcare. From what we heard from US troops come to visit us, a lot of them never even expected to be deployed. I can’t imagine anything worse than Bubba and Cleytus from the Alabama trailer park (not known as breeding grounds of cultural education and religious tolerance) being let loose on patrol around Kandahar, where sensitivity to the Muslim community is really the only chance for success in that wretched war. These are people who think ‘Taliban’ and ‘Al-Qaeda’ means the same thing as ‘Muslim’.

Another thing I don’t understand is why the Americans send their troops away for tours of duty that last 12 months. The size of the US Army is close to a million, the US Marines about 200, 000. The British Army, with the tiny Royal Marines, has a fighting force of about 150, 000 and we only send our men away for 6 months. It’s a strain, but we seemingly don’t have the problems (at least in numbers) of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that American servicemen do. But anyway, if you signed up for the dental care, got sent away to Afghanistan and are from some backwater part of America where ‘foreign’ is anyone from the other side of the street…it’s no wonder these tragedies happen. These people simply should not be let loose on the Afghan population. Instead, they should be given menial duties guarding the bases where almost everyone is from their own or an allied country, they can go home after the year with a medal and have people call them ‘heroes’.

Anyway, let’s get back to Georgia and wrap this up, but that’s something I thought we should mention. The Georgian Regular Army is an effective machine, full of well-trained and capable soldiers, so what I’d like to see happen to the Army is this: get rid of the useless conscription service, and pump the numbers up of the part-timers, and have them trained by the Regulars. In Britain, the Reserve forces are trained once a weeknight in a ‘regional training centre’ (RTCs are small, fenced off building complexes in major cities or towns) and then taken one weekend a month to a major base to receive proper training. Every year, they do a two-week camp in the winter or summer. If they’re deployed, they’re temporarily activated as regular soldiers.

I’ve seen so many abandoned or demolished building sites in Tbilisi that would be perfect for an RTC. With the promise of pay from not overly (at least time-wise) demanding work, why doesn’t the Georgian military abandon the outdated Soviet model and adopt my awesome system? Well, I don’t know either, but when I run for President, it’ll be one of the main points of my campaign. That, and the invasion of Switzerland.

About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
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12 Responses to Left, Right, Left, Right, Left…

  1. Tom says:

    I like your thought process here. Thanks for the shout-out to the Rangers. I think the US military has an outdated system, and I definitely think the size and scope of the military needs to be reduced. The 6-month deployment is MUCH better for the soldier and their families (let’s not forget how hard it is on them). I think the US is learning from you Brits–my brother’s deployment is 9-months.

    As for the Georgian military, I don’t know much about it. I had a friend who was ordered to report for conscription 3 times. Each time they told him “Nope, never mind, we don’t need you. Come back in 3 weeks”. Eventually they just stopped calling him to report. The military definitely needs get a bit more organized. Then again, the US military is also a big money waste machine.

    Do you think the military should require cultural sensitivity training before deployment? Would it make a difference? Is the problem on the soldier’s part ignorance or racism?

    Oh, as for my fitness center. People do use it because it’s free. Mostly women use it, though. It was designed really just for women, and I’m happy to see them using it. We have 75-100 users/week.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Cultural and religious sensitivity education is a default part of a British soldier’s pre-deployment training. As someone who’s traveled, you’ll know like I do that being able to greet someone in their own language or thank them makes a big difference in their perception not only of you, but of your countrymen.
      As for the US military, it’s such a big thing there’s a lot of variation in quality. I wouldn’t say the British Army is better, that’s down to the individual soldier, but on the whole we’re a lot more consistent; Regular, Reserve, Army, Marines etc. Bubba and Cletus from the National Guard won’t greet the locals kindly (as they’re supposed to) like their colleagues from Marine Force Recon or the Rangers would. Sadly, a bad interaction with the local people from ignorance soldiers reflects across the whole of the military and, by extension in this case, America.
      Ignorance of both sides, civilian and military, makes things worse. Tragedies break communication; when some racist redneck from the National Guard gets drunk and kills some Afghan civilians, of course the Afghan people are going to think their lot might be better off with the Taliban after all. So then you have Afghan troops and police turning their guns on their NATO instructors and gunning them down (22 British troops have died from that so far) which then reflects terribly on the Afghan soldier eager to learn and who strongly believe in a democratic Afghanistan.
      Neal was wrong to say that soldiers are all blood-thirsty Afghan civilian killers, but the incidents he highlighted weren’t all left-wing articles of propaganda; in the British Army we were shocked at just how many times there was violence from American troops done unto Afghan civilians, but as I hope I’ve shown here it’s the result of using ignorant soldiers who have no cultural knowledge, tolerance or training. People say ‘all soldiers are murderers’ are as ignorant as those who say ‘all of them are heroes’; the Army chef flipping burgers doesn’t have the same claim to the title like your brother does, but that chef will still get his medal at the end of the tour. In the same way, not all Afghan civilians are Taliban sympathisers; these people need our help, that’s what we’re there for. But I think it’s too far gone now for any real progress, and it makes me sad to think of what might have been.

  2. Richard says:

    Overall interesting points. I recall my own bout of national service as a conscript in the Norwegian army.

    However, I am not sure a more potent army is what Georgia really needs at the moment.

    Probably the best deal for Georgia would be to go neutral and just keep a small force of professionals to guard that neutrality and do peacekeeping missions abroad and such.

    Because lets face it: Russia is the main threat against which the kind of army you describe would be even remotely useful, and Georgia has no hope in hell of defeating Russia alone, not without major backup from the West, and the West has no intention of providing that backup lest it get involved in WWIII against a nuclear armed Russia.

    I also fear the the weapons and training given to Georgia by the West will eventually be used against the country’s own population, including new military adventures against the breakaway republics…

    As for well trained and professional troops being less suceptible to commit attrocites in war, I suppose you are right up to a point. However, occupation and anti-insurgency warfare is still very dirty business, and professional troops still commit attrocities on occasion, either by accident or wittingly. Neither can you say that the British army is totally immune to this; “Bloody Sunday” comes to mind….

    • tcjogden69 says:

      That’s more or less what I’ve been implying in these blogs; military action is the worst idea when it comes to retaking South Ossetia and Abkhazia, since it will only provoke the might of Russia’s armed forces. Quite what Saakashvili was thinking in 2008 is anyone’s guess.
      No, professional forces are not infallible when it comes to tragedies in peace keeping operations, but then again the local population aren’t beyond conniving with the enemy, either. Correct training and education helps minimise the risk of things going wrong, but war is an unpredictable thing, like any aspect of politics.
      As for Bloody Sunday, it was nigh on forty years ago, and a lot of lessons have been learned since then. Even back in the ’60s, no one had the answer as to why our military’s premier shock troops had been sent to deal with a civilian riot. Back then, no training was given in dealing with that kind of situation, either, and when eighteen year old soldiers with loaded rifles are having petrol bombs thrown at them…the ending to that story is pretty predictable.
      I deliberately didn’t mention the Russians in this blog because that wasn’t the point; it wasn’t my intent to suggest how Georgia would be best put to deal with a second conflict against Russia. Rather, this was a blog suggesting how the Georgian military could modernise itself. The conscription service here is not like the models used in Scandinavia or Switzerland; twenty-one days doesn’t compare to a year.

  3. longbowman says:

    [quote]A friend of mine, Lasha, was a part-time Georgian soldier for two years and loved it, but was always frustrated the training was never really tough enough, his father having served in Spetsnaz during the Soviet Days. In 2008 when the Russians attacked, he dutifully reported for duty to collect his gear. He was told his uniform was ‘somewhere’ and he was given an AK47 with no bullets because he ‘wouldn’t need them’. Now, this was a time when the nation was under attack. I can understand military apathy to the Afghan war, a war that it’s arguable they shouldn’t be involved in, but an invasion from an opponent the size of Russia? A real sense of urgency is needed, to say the damned least. The establishment needs shaking to its core.[quote/]
    Dear sir
    I was a part-time reservist too and I have more than three hundred rounds of 7.62X39 and fifty rounds of 7.62X54 and also in Gori there were warehouses with full of ammo of different calibers. You only needed to go there and to grab it. As Saakashvili said “This is totally bulshit”.
    There was a problem with officers of reserve and with the management of National Guard.Also with planning this reserve. There wasn’t Ammo problem.
    [quote]Secondly, he is a lovely, kind-hearted family man, and I can’t think of anyone more unsuitable to front-line duty, or anything more criminal than taking a man from his wife and children just to stand in line, unprepared, unwilling and untrained, in front of a Russian tank. Surely the point of having a military is that the soldiers fight so civilians don’t have to?[quote/]
    I can understand but who will defend this country? There are men with families, men with girlfriends and men with no family no girlfriend and so what?
    [quote]why doesn’t the Georgian military abandon the outdated Soviet model and adopt my awesome system? [quote/]
    Who are you sir? are you a brigade general of british army, or major general? or even you are fieldmarshal?
    Why do you think that YOUR model is awesome (especially with airborne brigade, we don’t need this because we don’t have to do force injection in thousand miles away also we don’t have some hellies to do this)?

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Why do I think my model is awesome? Because it works. Simple as that. I don’t know why anyone would think that the current Georgian one is better; it clearly isn’t working. What, do you really think that someone who is forced into soldiering will be more motivated than someone who is willing to fight and well-trained? As for an airmobile brigade, no, you don’t need it for force projection, but, if you look at the 2008 war, Georgia was fighting on two fronts. If an airborne brigade was kept in Reserve say, in Tbilisi, it would be able to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice should the need arise; for example, if points along the line were broken or if Russian paratroopers deployed when the bulk of the Georgian forces were on the frontline, then you’ve got a need for an airborne brigade. That’s known as a ‘Rapid Reaction Force’ (or something similar) in the West. You do realise that I have Georgia’s best interests at heart, don’t you? If you’d read my words properly you’ll know I love this place and the people, and I have the utmost respect for the Georgian Army. The whole point is, imagine if the part-time troops were as good as their Regular brothers. That’s all I’m trying to say. So, I’m on your side…

      • longbowman says:

        Why do I think my model is awesome? Because it works.

        But you don’t mention where it works. What works in UK may be not work in Georgia.

        I don’t know why anyone would think that the current Georgian one is better; it clearly isn’t working.

        I don’t think that current Georgian one is better but your model is some kind of utopia.

        What, do you really think that someone who is forced into soldiering will be more motivated than someone who is willing to fight and well-trained?

        You aren’t catching the point. We Georgians are very small nation and we MUST use ALL our resources, every single man or may be woman. Will of fight is very ephemeral and without proper system of war machine it will disappear with the first shot.
        Training in reserve forces is bad, management is band of fools, resources are lost but the idea of total defense isn’t bad.

        As for an airmobile brigade, no, you don’t need it for force projection, but, if you look at the 2008 war, Georgia was fighting on two fronts. If an airborne brigade was kept in Reserve say, in Tbilisi, it would be able to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice should the need arise

        You don’t know that Russian aviation controlled air and will control in other war too? We don’t have Air Force, We don’t have transport and we will not have air supremacy which is the most important thing in work with airborne. Without it airborn will not work.

        You do realise that I have Georgia’s best interests at heart, don’t you? If you’d read my words properly you’ll know I love this place and the people, and I have the utmost respect for the Georgian Army. The whole point is, imagine if the part-time troops were as good as their Regular brothers. That’s all I’m trying to say. So, I’m on your side…

        I don’t think that you’re not in Georgia’s side and i think that part-time troops must be as good as their regular troops, but some your words are wrong IMHO and because I speak with you. If you’re not against I and my military fanatic friends (not the same that you know🙂 )will speak you with a little bottle of red wine or with beer.

        p.s. WordPress create fucking normal quote tag

      • tcjogden69 says:

        I’m glad you’re actually debating with me and not just saying ‘You’re wrong!’. I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, I’d just like to know why, and you’ve given me some good arguments here. First, in answer to your question about the Reserve forces…
        Yes, British Reserve forces work well in the UK, but they do everywhere else, too; the United States, Europe and the former Empire. In fact, in countries such as Canada and New Zealand, most of the military are Reserves, but they are still excellent soldiers. I don’t see why Georgians couldn’t have the same; it doesn’t work because we’re an island, or because America is huge, or because New Zealand is far away. It works because they are highly motivated patriots, and I’m sure we could find plenty of those in Georgia; put ‘Territorial Army’ into YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. You also said that Georgia needs every man and woman it can get; history shows us that’s correct, but my point is, if conscription is 100% necessary, why not have both? Highly-trained part-time troops as well as an emergency conscription force? That’s what I’d like to see. You also mentioned that the training and management in the Reserves is bad, and I don’t understand why, especially as the Regulars are so good. A lot of my former colleagues in the British Army had the highest words of praise about Georgian soldiers; they told me they’d rather work with them than the Americans😉
        As for your air superiority comment, you’re right again, but I’ve heard all kinds of things about new Georgian anti-aircraft weapons. I hope they’re true, we’ll certainly need them if there is a next time.
        I was talking to some friends of mine the other day who had done their twenty-one days but wanted to do more, but couldn’t leave their families or civilian jobs for too long. Well, a Reserve force is the answer. I’m sure they aren’t alone, I’m sure there are plenty of Georgian people all over the country like them who are the same, who’d be happy to go for a weekend every so often and train as soldiers. There’s no reason why that couldn’t work; I don’t need to tell you that Georgians have an ancient warrior culture, and make very natural soldiers. As for wine or beer…Mukuzani or Natakhtari please😉

  4. longbowman says:

    Yes, British Reserve forces work well in the UK, but they do everywhere else, too; the United States, Europe and the former Empire. In fact, in countries such as Canada and New Zealand, most of the military are Reserves, but they are still excellent soldiers.
    But in the UK in the USA and in the former Empire there aren’t same reserve forces.
    I’m not refusing the importance of reserve forces’
    It works because they are highly motivated patriots, and I’m sure we could find plenty of those in Georgia; put ‘Territorial Army’ into YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.
    I know what is Territorial Army.
    But motivation and patriotism is only an ingredient of war machine
    The most important things are resource organization, management and unbroken chain of military traditions. We have motivation, patriotism and will of fight but we don’t this three key terms.
    You also said that Georgia needs every man and woman it can get; history shows us that’s correct, but my point is, if conscription is 100% necessary, why not have both? Highly-trained part-time troops as well as an emergency conscription force? That’s what I’d like to see.
    We have same idea but with different implementation. I didn’t said that you’re wrong in this part of discussion. But three terms like holy trinity are very important and we don’t have it.
    You also mentioned that the training and management in the Reserves is bad, and I don’t understand why, especially as the Regulars are so good. A lot of my former colleagues in the British Army had the highest words of praise about Georgian soldiers; they told me they’d rather work with them than the Americans
    The reason is that somebody in MOD aren’t thinking like us. Before 2008 Reserve forces were officially for the checkpoints and after-war counterinsurgency. Today also reservists are treated like secondary material of war.
    As for your air superiority comment, you’re right again, but I’ve heard all kinds of things about new Georgian anti-aircraft weapons. I hope they’re true, we’ll certainly need them if there is a next time.
    anti-aircraft weapons cannot achieve air supremacy, only fighters’ fleet can. We haven’t fighters only close air support aircrafts.
    I was talking to some friends of mine the other day who had done their twenty-one days but wanted to do more, but couldn’t leave their families or civilian jobs for too long. Well, a Reserve force is the answer. I’m sure they aren’t alone, I’m sure there are plenty of Georgian people all over the country like them who are the same, who’d be happy to go for a weekend every so often and train as soldiers. There’s no reason why that couldn’t work; I don’t need to tell you that Georgians have an ancient warrior culture, and make very natural soldiers.
    It will be good. As you look I didn’t refuse your good ideas. I’m only discussing your wrong ideas.
    As for wine or beer…Mukuzani or Natakhtari please
    Ok

    • tcjogden69 says:

      It sounds to me so much like the problems are within management and administration. We had the same problems in World War 1, with the transition to modern warfare. What do you think would be the best way to convince the Ministry of Defence to move with the times? (Actually, one of the best things that happened during the 2008 war was damage done to Russia’s air forces. Georgian anti-air fire brought down a fair few aircraft, and my sources state that the loss of experienced Russian pilots was a major blow. If the air defence has been improved since then, then I’m optimistic).

      • longbowman says:

        It sounds to me so much like the problems are within management and administration.

        At last you’ve understood.

        We had the same problems in World War 1, with the transition to modern warfare.
        Nope. They aren’t the same problems. you had problems only with tactical innovations. you had traditions, you had military standards and you have military leaders. We HAVE NOT.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        I agree that traditions are a big part of it all; we have had some problems with that recently with the amalgamations of various regiments after pointless defence cutbacks, but it’s not a major issue since most regiments can trace their lineage back hundreds of years. So, that’s Georgia’s problem, but what do you think the solution is? Less civilians making military decisions?

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