Reviews & Profiles
Want to join the army? Here is how it's done
Posted Thursday, October 31 2013 at 02:00
Joining the army can be one of the most challenging and rewarding decisions one can make. That said, however, it is something you want to carefully consider before taking the plunge. In order to ensure that you are making the right decision for yourself and your country, there are a few things you should consider before enlisting, writes Risdel Kasasira.
A few months ago, you could have seen or heard about the national army recruitment around the country. Pictures of the half-naked male recruits running, queuing and others with their mouths wide open to check for broken teeth or gum disease were all over the media. Many were disqualified because they did not meet the requirements to be enrolled as servicemen.
Simple medical cases like a broken tooth or ringworm would get you disqualified, an issue that made some people wonder whether it was an excuse by the army leadership to deny some people a chance to enroll in the army.
However, Uganda People’s Defence Forces, says all those who were told to go back home failed to meet the basic requirements for enrollment.
At the end of the exercise, at least 3,000 youths, aged 18 to 25 were recruited and they are now undergoing training at Kaweweta Military Training School in Nakaseke.
Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesperson, says the requirements differ depending on the course to be undertaken. A civilian can join the army either as a recruit or cadet and the requirements vary, although there are some that cut across.
For basic military training, where recruits are passed out as privates, the lowest rank in the army, the requirements are lower compared to those of cadet officers, where one graduates as second lieutenant, the lowest rank of commissioned officers.
Commissioned officers manage, command units and according to the British system, adopted by Uganda during colonialism, they wear pips on the shoulders with red gorgets on the collars. They range from second lieutenant to general while non-commissioned officers wear them on the lower and the upper part of the arm.
Lt Col Ankunda says for cadets, the minimum academic requirement is Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE), while for recruits, it is the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE).
This year however, the emphasis was put on those who studied science subjects. “We wanted those who can easily be trained to fly planes and operate computerised weapons,” he says.
The most important requirement for anyone to be recruited in the army is they must be nationals. “He must be a Ugandan of good character,” Lt Col Ankunda adds, “They must be known in the villages where they stay and must come with letters of introduction from the LCI to the LCIII. We don’t want to recruit chicken thieves.”
Unlike in the previous recruitments where recruits only needed one letter from the LCI, the recent one was more bureaucratic. The recruits were this time required to add a letter from the LCIII. This was intended to weed out people who forge LCI letters and manage to get recruited.
The army spokesperson says the more bureaucratic process helped them reduce forged letters from local governments. “This worked well for us. It was used because of the lessons learnt from previous recruitments. There were many forgeries.” One recruitment officer, who did not want to be named, said, “If one goes through that chain, there is smaller probability of having forgeries.”
Weeks before the recruitment started, the army makes announcements through the media, throughout the country on the quality of people they want and they also caution all local leaders to be careful while making recommendations.
In the past, university graduates would join as recruits, but these days the army recruits them for the cadet course because experience has shown that if they join as riflemen, they naturally demand promotions. They are eventually taken for either cadet or Young Officers’ course so that they become officers.
Every district is given a quota depending on its population. Kampala District which has the biggest population in the country had the highest number of recruits. There are some districts which failed to raise the required number of recruits. But this is covered by the districts with a higher quota.
Upon the end of training, these recruits will be foot soldiers who will be deployed in the jungles in Central African Republic or Somalia to fight the enemy.
Currently, the 3,000 that were recruited are undergoing drills. They will spend nine months being initiated into military life. They are trained in field craft, skills at arms, tactics, marksmanship, political education and others.
“By the end of nine months, they will not be civilians. They have a glimpse of what soldiering is,” says Lt Col Ankunda. He explains in detail a normal day for trainees.
A typical day of a trainee
By 4am, they are all out of their beds. They start with running 12km minimum, go for parade and they are counted. Platoon sergeants, who are chosen among the recruits to command platoons of 40 men, make sure that all personnel under their command are on parade. After that they go for class to study military academics.
Lunch is prepared. They also train at night. They are trained on how to move in the dark without being noticed by the enemy. They do map reading both during the day and at night. They do utema duni (singing and telling stories) up to around midnight after which they go and sleep.