The Russian Armed Forces are beginning an experiment for transfer of the 76th airborne division to the principle of manning by contract. Due to this, a meeting of the Military Council of the Airborne Forces was held this week in Pskov, where the 76th division was deployed. Airborne Forces Commander Georgy Shpak chaired the meeting. Major General Nikolai Maslikov, Commander of Logistics of the Airborne Forces and Deputy Airborne Forces Commander, read the main report. The command is concerned about the problems related to the experiment. Representatives of headquarters of the Airborne Forces told WPS that the experiment would be organized in two stages. One of the regiments of the 76th division will be manned with professionals in 2002, and the other units of the division will be manned with professionals in 2003. What are the main difficulties?

First, this is arrangement of the division. The experiment began with preparation of military infrastructure of the 76th division. In 2002, the government assigned 600 million rubles for this purpose. However, the need for money is bigger and is estimated at about 2 billion rubles. It is also not clear yet if this money will be assigned from the budget of 2003. It is planned that already by the end of 2003 servicemen serving under contracts should receive approximately 2,000 apartments in repaired and new buildings.

Second, the division faces material problems. Servicemen are discontented with low money allowances (about 2,000-3,000 rubles a month) and insufficient social guarantees. According to Colonel Victor Zaitsev, Director of the Organizational and Mobilization Department of the Airborne Forces, about 2% of professional servicemen of Airborne Forces terminate their contracts each month. These are mostly qualified specialists: drivers, snipers, and commanders of squads. Zaitsev says with alarm that if outflow of professionals from the Armed Forces continues, their percentage in the military units will fall to less than 15% by the end of 2002. At present, the percentage of professionals in the Airborne Forces amounts to about 25%. He adds that, due to these problems, it will not be easy to man a division with authorized strength of 5,500-6,500 servicemen.

The Defense Ministry plans that at the first stage of the experiment it is necessary to man one regiment of the 76th division with professionals. It is planned to find all these people in the troops. This means that professionals from other units will be transferred to the 76th division.

Why has the Staff of the Airborne Forces staked at manning the regiments with people from the troops?

“The answer is obvious: the Airborne Forces Command does not lay much hope on Military Registration and Enlistment Offices. Experience of the last few years showed that, due to the low level of wages of professional soldiers, these were usually unemployed homeless people, vagabonds, drunkards and so on, who enlisted in the Armed Forces to serve under contract. The Military Registration and Enlistment Offices are interested only in achievement of the target figures of professional servicemen enlistment,” says Zaitsev.

Meanwhile, he hopes still that people will come to the Pskov division to serve under contract.

Zaitsev says that if housing and leisure infrastructure is built in Pskov for the military, “This will make servicemen from other units move there to continue their service. In other places, professional soldiers usually live in barracks,” explains Zaitsev.

According to him, the experiment for transfer of the division to the contract principle of manning should disclose all advantages and disadvantages of this process. The main disadvantage for officers of the Airborne Forces is already obvious. The State failed to create the necessary motivation for soldiers and sergeants serving under contract. Meanwhile, the government plans that professional servicemen will come to the division already in September 2002, and that the division will be fully manned by September 1, 2003.