The confluence of recent news stories makes an update on the health of Russian military forces opportune. As elsewhere in the armed forces, the military’s medical situation seems generally better compared with two or three years ago.
According to Izvestiya, the chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate (GVMU), General-Major Aleksandr Fisun told the Defense Ministry’s Public Council that illnesses in the army declined 13 percent in 2013. The illness rate in 2012 had been 40 percent higher than 2011.
The MOD attributes the improvement to better living conditions for soldiers. These include heated barracks, washing machines, shower facilities allowing troops to clean up more than once a week, and socks replacing foot wrappings.
Fisun said, among conscripts, 60 percent of illnesses were respiratory in nature, while about 14 percent involved skin conditions.
Better training for commanders was another factor in cutting the number of sick soldiers. An MOD spokesman told the paper:
“Work in early identification of illnesses was reinforced — commanders were strictly ordered to send subordinates for initial observation on just the suspicion of an illness. The condition of everyone hospitalized was reported to [military] district commands.”
Valentina Melnikova of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (KSM) told Izvestiya commanders have been the problem. However, she said Defense Minister Shoygu has said any soldier not allowed to see a doctor can now turn to military prosecutors for help.
Bmpd.livejournal.com published Fisun’s pie charts from his presentation to the MOD’s Public Council.
There are separate pies for conscripts and contractees. Respiratory diseases, however, were the largest problem for both groups, accounting for half or more of illnesses.
Fisun also presented data on fitness for service among this spring’s conscripts.
The tabular data shows an increasing number of young men are fit, or fit with insignificant limitations, to serve in the armed forces (73.4%). Most of that improvement apparently comes directly from decreasing the number of potential soldiers considered to have limited fitness for service (21.6%).
Reasons for “liberating” citizens from serving were pretty evenly distributed among, in order, muscular-skeletal and connective tissue diseases, psychiatric disorders (drug addiction, alcoholism), digestive system diseases, circulatory diseases, nervous system diseases, and other.
KSM’s Melnikova told Interfaks-AVN that illness was still the major issue for young men facing the spring draft. She indicated 80 percent of complaints coming into KSM concern unfit men who were drafted.
In Moscow, some conscripts with documented health conditions were deferred until fall under additional medical observation, but others were told they have to serve now, and had to turn to the courts for relief.
Meanwhile, the GVMU is reportedly amending physical standards for Russian Spetsnaz and VDV soldiers. It’s lowering the height requirement by 5 cm (2 inches), and increasing the weight limit by 10 kg (22 pounds), according to Izvestiya.
Spetsnaz and VDV may soon be as short as 165 cm (5’4″) and weigh 100 kg (220 pounds). The new standards will apply for conscripts, contractees, and military academy cadets.
Izvestiya was told a Defense Ministry order officially putting these standards into effect is expected in 2-3 months. Its VDV source said the increased weight limit is related to use of the newer D-10 parachute which can bear up to 120 kg, so it can support a heavier jumper along with 20 kg of gear.
Perhaps the last, best word comes from Ruslan Pukhov, independent expert and Public Council member. According to Izvestiya, he recommends increased spending on rear support and logistics, even if it means less expenditure on armaments:
“It’s worth sacrificing a couple nuclear submarines or refraining from construction of corvettes , but don’t economize on people — on their food, medical care and pay. Iron doesn’t fight, people fight.”