Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, July 23, 2004


This is coolbert:

In a previous blog I have described how Spartan youth was put through ordeal to "toughen" and "test" them for a life of military service.

Please do not think that preparing youth for a life of war or military service ended with the Spartans. This sort of thing is done in much more ameliorated versions to this very day. By societies all over the world, all having their own unique way of doing so.

The whole nature of the Boy Scout movement as conceived by Baden-Powell was to prepare youth for entry into the military.

Teach them skills as boys they would require to survive and prosper if inducted into the military when they became adults.

Baden-Powell observed during the Boer War [1899] that the aristocratic youth of England, when becoming officers in the British Army, were just not prepared for living rough. Could not camp, start a fire, find their way cross-country by map and compass, hike, etc.

Learning how to do all these things while a Boy Scout would so much better prepare aristocratic boys for future military service as leaders in the British military. [Of course, today, the Boy Scouts are no longer exclusively for aristocratic youth. Are for all youth. Baden-Powell, when he did think up the idea originally, did have aristocratic youth in mind however].

And of course in the U.S. we have Junior ROTC [JROTC] at the high school level. Participants learn proper wearing of the uniform, marching, protocol, leadership skills, marksmanship using air rifles, etc. For those youth expecting to join or contemplating to join the military upon graduating high school. It is interesting to note that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point does take a contingent of twenty JROTC cadets each year as freshman. This bypasses the entire Congressional appointment system.

In the old Soviet Union, an organization called DOSSAF existed.

This was a military run organization oriented toward preparing interested Soviet teenage youth for military service. And what was taught in the DOSSAF camps? Marksmanship [with real rifles, not air rifles], orienteering [following a course on a map by compass], piloting aircraft, sport parachuting, martial arts, etc. Spartan-like real military training. As close to the Spartan ideal as we find in modern times.

And the grads of this program quite often went to serve in the most elite of the Soviet military units, Spetsnaz [special purpose units] in particular.

[Some time ago I read a most interesting article about a course run by DOSSAF. This course consisted of youths who would build from a kit portable radios and directional hand held antennas. These youth would then as teams be dropped off in a wilderness and be required to follow the directional antennas in a "fox hunt" to find a distant moving transmitter they could hear via their portable radios. A variety of skills would be learned in this type of course. Electronics, orienteering, wilderness movement and survival, physical endurance and hiking skills, etc. All combined into one course. I find it interesting that the Soviet defector Suvorov reported that Spetsnaz units were equipped with directional antennas that would allow them to "home" in on transmitters of U.S. nuclear equipped units, the main targets of Spetsnaz.]

Israel too has pre-military courses for their most promising youth. This is called GADNA [there is another program called Mechina [read about Mechina by clicking here], but this is a different approach to pre-military training than GADNA]. In a country where almost all secular youth are conscripted into military service, this would not be unexpected. A select group of Israeli youth prior to conscription are put through a training program for evaluation. These are youths that have been spotted as potential leaders in the military, even at an early age. Officer candidates, pilots, members of elite ranger/commando type units. Training consists primarily of long cross-country marches by small groups, marching the length and breadth of Israel in month [?] long exercises. Leadership, living rough, hiking, physical fitness, a oneness with the land, orienteering, etc., all are stressed as part of the training. Go to this web site by clicking here to read and see a description of one of these hikes.

"Time spent in training increased from fifteen days yearly plus one hour per week during the ninth year of school to roughly forty days a year in the twelfth year of school. Over the years, its emphasis had shifted from weapons familiarity and drilling to sports, physical fitness, and camping."

All the while these specially selected youth are being evaluated for future leadership roles in the Israeli military.

Potential pilots for the Israeli Air Force in particular are screened as part of this process. Israel begins training it's Air Force pilots at the age of nineteen, this type of pre-military training allowing for proper evaluation. You do not have to guess if a candidate will be suitable. A much better evaluation can be had by observing a trainee engaging in exercises of the sort described above.

[This type of training goes back to the days of Orde Wingate, mentioned previously in a prior blog. Wingate popularized this type of military oriented exercises in Palestine during the 1930's as a way of preparing recruits for the "Jewish Special Night Squads". Wingate was a man who had long experience in this type of military activity from his days leading cross-country patrols in the Sudan in the hunt for "shifta" [bandits]. Cross-country marching under load, living rough, etc. All useful skills for the soldier.]

Victor Ostrovsky, the renegade Israeli Mossad katsa [case officer], describes GADNA [Bow and Arrow] as being a training ground for what he calls "frames". Jewish self-defense groups. In countries outside of Israel, where Jews are in the minority and persecuted, these "frames" constitute a military self-defense group to fight back against attackers.

The British continue in the tradition of Baden-Powell with youth oriented programs run by the various regiments of the British Army, such as the Royal Green Jackets.

These are "cadet" youth programs that develop a rapport between British youth and their military. Wholesome activity that channels the energy of the young [teens] into useful enterprises. And allows those youth who are so interested to begin seriously considering a career with regiments they are familiar with. Evaluation works both ways in these cases. The youth can begin to consider if the military is for them, and the military can to begin to consider if the youth is for them. This is especially useful in a military such as the professional British force, which can choose to be selective and discriminating. Cadet training includes:

"Royal Green Jackets Cadets

The Army Cadet Force

Cadets participate in a wide range of activities designed to bring out their talents including:

Outdoor activities

Expeditions (in the UK and overseas)
Cross-country running
Learning to work as a member of a team
Learning how to instruct and to encourage others
Self development by becoming part of the management "

The training philosophies of the Spartans still exist, but in, as I have said, ameliorated form!



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