Closing Down Basic Training Camps

According to a recent decision by the Greek Ministry of National Defence, basic training camps will be abolished in Greece, starting March 2018. “Soldier Reception Centres” will be set up instead, in 23 different locations throughout the country. Recruits will be staying there for 3 days to undergo a medical checkup and receive clothing. Then, they will be transferred to a base of operations to be trained on their assigned military branch and speciality, and in order to complete the remaining part of their service.

The above decision was made on the pretext of staffing bases of operations directly, now that Turkey’s aggressive bravado has gone beyond any permissible limits. For people unfamiliar with military issues, the Ministry’s decision probably sounds correct—or it may simply leave them indifferent. Those on the inside, though, have realised that this is a jerky move that fits a political agenda. So, they now have every reason to worry.

• My Objections to Closing Down Basic Training Camps

First, it has not been announced whether and to what extent any special categories have been determined, e.g. regarding soldiers without the obligation to do their entire service at a base of operations—and by what standards. Experience has shown that apart from the legitimate beneficiaries there will also be some people who have connections; those who can pull a few strings. This entails the risk to have one more injustice perpetrated against the underprivileged.

What’s more, recruit training camps have an important task to perform during mobilisation. After closing them down, who is going to undertake their mission? But my biggest objection to the Defence Minister’s recent decision is based on the certainty that the fighting capability and operational readiness of Greek Army installations in border zones will inevitably dwindle.

• Our Fighting Capability Will Taper Off

To achieve their purpose, bases of operations must be staffed with personnel that will be well-trained and able to cope with the special conditions of a military campaign. Soldiers deployed in these installations should have undergone part of their basic training at a recruit training camp, so as to have acquired a code of military ethics (albeit, admittedly, to a rather small degree). This will help them adapt themselves smoothly to the requirements of the base; they will gradually fit in and strengthen it greatly.

On the other hand, the duration of the military service is far too short and this fact has brought about a reduced manning that leaves no chance for bases of operations to be reshaped into permanent training centres or to be fully transformed so as to facilitate Formations, let alone high-level Formations. This is because, to operate properly, the new installations will have to be staffed with personnel that will be either detached from other bases or never sent there in the first place. There is visibly a big question mark hanging over the decision to eradicate basic training camps altogether.

• Illegal Migrants to be Housed in Former Recruit Training Camps?

In all likelihood, illegal migrants who have flooded the Greek islands will be transferred to former recruit training camps to be housed there. Unfortunately, our country has succumbed to EU pressure, and given in to the demand that the migrants remain in Greece, in fact in one particular region of the mainland, namely Sterea Hellas [Central Greece]. Is it really just a coincidence that most of the abolished recruit training camps are located in the central district of Sterea Hellas, i.e. in Avlona, ​​Thebes, Nea Peramos, Lamia, and Messolonghi?

Indeed, the treacherous government of Greece is ignoring the effects of this deplorable act, directly hurting our national interests. The illegal migrants who will be resettled into former recruit training camps will instantly turn them into a ghetto, a no-go area barricaded off to police, a safe haven for criminals, agents of Turkey and other countries, Islamic terrorists, drug dealers and arm smugglers, a hub of prostitution and people trafficking.

Basic training camps with their up-to-the-minute facilities have cost millions. So far, they have been kept in excellent condition by staff who put forth a zealous amount of effort and dedication. And yet they will be soon wiped out, just like other facilities taken over by migrants. In a very short period of time, crime will spread into the adjacent towns, with devastating and undeniable consequences.

Finally, this is most probably where jihadist groups will be organised, equipped and trained to attack the Armed Forces and Security Forces in a period of crisis, in the form of a fifth column, causing distraction.

• Some Do’s and Don’ts

The government, the main opposition party, and the rest of the Greek political spectrum—with the exception, of course, of Golden Dawn—do not seem to be aware of these serious hazards.

There is no room for any amateurish behaviour that would undermine our national security and the fighting capability of the Armed Forces, inextricably linked to it; no room for any attempt to fit a dark and sinister agenda!

If the government fails to assess the risk of its own decisions or simply does not care, then it is up to the leadership of the Armed Forces to push ahead and apply logic. As a matter of fact, t h e y will be the ones who will eventually have to cope with the consequences of bad political choices.

The military leadership might be forced—according to Carl von Clausewitz—to meddle in politics and use different means. To prevent that, Greek military leaders should remind political leaders of their responsibilities and insist on supporting some realistic proposals that will keep the fighting capability of the Hellenic Armed Forces at the highest possible level.

This set of proposals should definitely include an increase of the length of military service to 18 months, and the maintaining of basic training camps as they are now. Having powerful Armed Forces is the only deterrent force that would discourage our ever-aggressive neighbours from pressing ahead with their expansionist plans. The military leadership cannot tolerate such an irretrievable breakdown, i.e. to have army officers overloaded and strained by the extra work of training recruits in bases of operations instead of basic training camps.

Georgios Epitideios
Retired Army Lieutenant General
Member of the European Parliament
for the Popular Association “Golden Dawn”