Three-and-a-half years after it started phasing in one-year service, the Russian Army’s condensing combat training into three months so it can put draftees in line units for their remaining months. One wonders what they’ve tried to this point, or if they’re just now addressing the implications of the shortened draft term.
Twelve weeks of basic training is about the norm by world standards for draftee armies. But the Russians have compressed what they previously taught over a longer period, so the question is how well conscripts absorb, retain, and employ their lessons.
Officially, Russia’s three-month accelerated combat training program is experimental. Krasnaya zvezda reports, since June, the 19th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in North Ossetia, has been trying a new program to take new draftees and turn them into professionals, ready to serve in combat sub-units [подразделения], in three months.
The army daily claims these new conscripts focus exclusively on the combat training course, which now reportedly includes 1.5-2 times more “practical exercises” than in the past. The course covers 90 days (536 hours). It retains the traditional first month of individual training, and the last two consist of training and coordination [слаживание] of sections, platoons, and companies (batteries). The course ends with several days of test exercises, sub-unit combat firings, and company-tactical exercises.
The brigade’s deputy commander says:
“In the new program, theory has been practically thrown out, the stress is on the practical part. In connection with cutting the conscript service term to one year, the task of preparing, in three months, a coordinated sub-unit, ready to fulfill missions in various conditions, stands before us.”
The choice of the 19th IMRB wasn’t accidental. As KZ notes, the formation saw action in the five-day war with Georgia. It has a “reinforced company-tactical group” of BMP-3s fueled for a 500-kilometer roadmarch ready to depart garrison within 30 minutes, according to KZ.
KZ then describes how outsourcing repair and support work has enabled draftees to focus entirely on combat training.
This week, Mil.ru updated the experiment. It said the brigade is currently finishing platoon coordination and beginning company coordination, which will continue until mid-August. The Defense Ministry says the Ground Troops’ Main Combat Training Directorate is monitoring the accelerated program. In late August, it will oversee the company tactical exercises, and determine their capabilities for action under combat conditions. Conclusions about the three-month combat training program will come in September.
Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta yesterday, Vladimir Mukhin questions whether it’s possible to train professionals in three months. He notes the Southern MD was supposed to be 70 percent contractee-manned by now, according to the Defense Ministry old contract service plan. Parents of green soldiers feel like their sons are serving in a “hot spot,” according to Mukhin. Conscripts from this formation died in the Georgian conflict. The onus is on the political leadership, says Mukhin, rather than military commanders to explain why units here aren’t manned with professionals.
Mukhin quotes former Ground Troops’ Chief, General-Colonel Yuriy Bukreyev:
“If a conscript soldier has basic military training, then it’s possible to give him the skills to employ him in combat conditions in the North Caucasus. I’m giving the same conclusion from the Soviet Afghan experience again, when I headed the staff of the Turkestan Military District. But then soldiers served two years. At first, they were in training sub-units, they underwent additional mountain training in special training centers. Only afterwards, that is when they’d served in the troops a year or more, were they sent to Afghanistan. Today conditions are a little different. The conscript soldier’s service term’s been shortened to 12 months. And this means the intensity of combat training should increase. The Ground Troops’ Glavokomat is just conducting an experiment in training first-year soldiers to carry out missions under the conditions of an armed conflict. We’d like to hope that raw soldiers won’t be drawn into resolving such missions. Professional sub-units would appear more effective here. But, unfortunately, in our Armed Forces reliable conditions for the mass recruitment of contractees into the troops still haven’t been established.”