Thank you for your column in general which I read frequently, but specifically your column on Conscripts caught my attention. It would be interesting to know the answers to the many good questions that you raise.
I am one who completed the service back in 1985, batch 14 of the Military College to be precise. In those days, they had divided the conscripts into two categories – graduates and non-graduates. I had graduated from a US university so I was put into the graduate category. . I wonder if they will do the same this time… so I am not sure how the age limit of 18 will be implemented.
Even though the age for recruitment was 18 years of age, there were many, myself included, that were actually not called for service until we were close to 30 years old. There were a number of reasons for that, which included a backlog of recruiting the recruits. In other words, there were only two batches a year of say 100 people or so a year per batch. So they could not get all the people born in any given year enrolled in one specific year. So the remaining people carried over to the next year and so on and so forth. Moreover, conscripts had the option to defer entering the army due to their pursuing continued higher education… so in fact, many were chasing masters degrees etc hoping to reach the age of 30 so that they would not be recruited (age 30 was the final age one could be recruited). After reaching that age, or if you were exempt for health reasons or an only male child, I believe one paid a fee / fine of KD 500 and that was it.
In my specific situation, I was working for NBK in New York, having just moved there six or seven months prior…then all of a sudden had to return to Kuwait to complete the service because I was already at the age of 29 and getting close to being exempt. That upset my career without a doubt but I was ready and did return to Kuwait to complete my obligations to my country – but this was certainly one major point which you raised. It was not easy for me. Just moved there, found a flat, furnished it, getting into the work rhythm and bingo, go home to join the army…. Again having to find a place to live, furniture and the rest. By the time I was out, somebody had taken my job of course and I sat around NBK, Kuwait, trying to fit in somewhere (I am leaving out a lot of details). So clearly – yes, it had upset my life and my career.
Not only that, but we were expected to return for updated military training every year for one month for the next ten years as reservists. The invasion and liberation interrupted those 10 consecutive years after my initial training but I had to keep going until I was 40. Which again was ok with me, but after liberation, I found myself working for a foreign company, namely Smith Barney (Citigroup) in Bahrain. I had to use my annual leave for many years to return to Kuwait (find a place to live, cost of air tickets, rent a car plus other expenses etc..) for my one month refresher course. Luckily I had understanding bosses.
Notwithstanding, I am one who believes in serving one’s country as I did, and to this day, proud of it. And I would be proud to have my sons serve their country as I am sure they would be. However, you touched on a key point , many key points in fact – but one which I experienced firsthand and it would be interesting to see how the system would address this very important and crucial issue. What I went through was not a pleasant experience with regards to uprooting my life and serving… and again, having to do the same almost every year thereafter for 10 years.
I hope the authorities would consider this extensively and find a solution to assist the next generation. It is not an easy situation as there are so many variables to consider, but maybe it has to be limited to ages 18 to 22 for example. I don’t have the answer but there are many models of conscripted service in the world which I am sure we can learn from.
Thank you again for your article. Keep writing. The topics you address very interesting.
Osama Talat Al-Ghoussein