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Purpose of the Voluntary Reserve

18.04.2012

Zurab Vardiashvili, Liberali

Several dozen men in the center of Anaga village in Signagi district were waiting for the high-ranking officials from the Defense Ministry from the early morning. They were warned in advance that military officers were looking for volunteers for the voluntary reserve, or so called “People’s Army”. Local military servants were instructed to collect people for this meeting to their dissatisfaction not many locals wished to meet the officers.

Representatives of the Defense Ministry arrived in the village by black vehicle and met locals in the classroom of the village public school. The village governor and school director also attended the meeting.

“Good day, people, I am Archil Korganashvili and I want to explain to you the essence of the voluntary reserve,” one of the officers started. Major Korganashvili, head of communication department at the Defense Ministry, was trying to convince people during one hour to join voluntary army and take 7-day training.

The major initially mentioned political aspects of the issue: “There are much rumors reported on TV; politicians say many strange things… no paramilitary groups are established in the country. We do not compel anybody to join the army; we are not preparing for the elections either… this program has another title too – “Protect Your Home.” It will not happen like in 1991-1992 when some people had old guns and some better ones. Now, we will supply you with firearms. But you will use them only in war situation; otherwise you will store them and have them registered on your names.”

Korganashvili said they can choose the time to join the army voluntarily. “If you are busy today, you can join the army tomorrow! If you are busy tomorrow too, you can go there in a month! The gathering will take place either in Telavi or in Vaziani.”

The Major focused on military challenges of Georgia during his speech at the meeting. “We have main problems with Russia but we cannot be focused only on them. In 2001 Chechen people entered Pankisi Gorge and Russia bombed our territories. We should remember independent Georgia of 1918-1921 when Armenia was the first to attack us. Our neighbor believes that Eastern Georgia is part of Big Armenia and possibly, if we get weaker, they will launch war against us. We still have some unmarked borders with Azerbaijan. One day, all our kind neighbors might start war with us; or make some provocations against us. The situation about Iran is also very serious. It has extremely deteriorated its relation with US and Europe and there is high risk of war between them. Russia owns a huge military base in Armenia which is supplied from Iran. They now use other air or land traffic. If Iran is involved in the war, this supply will be stopped. Russia will try not to leave the base without attention. Turkey does not cooperate with Armenia either. So, Georgia is the only corridor for Russia and it will supposedly start a war.”

Volunteers will attend only one seven-day training. On the first day they will arrive in the base. On the second and third days they will take theoretical-statehood training led by historian Simon Maskharashvili. For the next three days reservists will study to use and shoot gun. On the seventh day they will return home.

Other trainings will take place in their neighborhoods. The ministry officers will study the territories and work out defense plan for each village. The local trainings will be held twice per year.

According to soldiers, a reserve of medicines and food will be created in villages in order not to depend on Tbilisi or other central towns during natural disaster or war situations.

The officers of the Defense Ministry said Kakheti is not first region where volunteers for voluntary reserve army are collected. Initially it started in Samegrelo, then in Shida Kartli. They said, certain people alleged that robbers were armed in Samegrelo but the regions were selected according to expected real threats.

The soldiers hope groups of reservists with 100 people in them will be established in every village. “Afterwards, even Russians will change their opinion about us. Now, they intend to launch war with the army of 40 000 soldiers and you know that it is easy for them to kill and defeat such a small army. However, even Russians will never dare to fight entire population,” another representative of the Defense Ministry Ilia Khalvashi said.

The program aims to recruit men from 18 to 60. However, military servants showed videos of men of 76 and 77 who were holding automatic guns. “It is enough they are able to walk, nobody will make them to run and participate in difficult operations. The seven-day training is far from the general army-discipline.”
 
Police and military officers cannot join the seven-day reserve “because they have their own job.” The employees of district administration cannot join the army either “to convince you that it is not issue of politics.” People convicted for gross crimes will not be able to join the reserve army. “I mean marauders and murderers. As for others, theft, robbery, etc, it’s ok”, major Korganashvili said “we will deliver probationers to corresponding police stations to leave their signatures when it is needed and then return them back to the base. Health is not important; the volunteer should be able to hold the automatic gun and shoot it; that is all.”

Seven-day reservists will be free from the 45-day reserve service. The voluntary reserve makes recruits free from obligatory military service.

The military officers underscore during their meetings with people that during the seven day training reservists will not be trained too hard. “After 6:00 pm you will not be allowed to have drink and quarrel. Besides that you can do whatever you want – play Nardi, cards, domino, basketball. We will give you balls if you do not have. By the way, the Defense Minister played cards with reservists in Gori. If villagers compete in some sport with each other the winners will receive prizes; the best shooters will receive a prize – Gerber knife.” 

The Defense Ministry officers spoke about Georgian armored vehicles Didgori and Lazika. They said the latter is better than Russian BMP.

Soldiers were dissatisfied with the fact that “statistically only 7 out of 100 men are ready to join the reserve army. It is shameful,” Ilia Khalvashi said.

“If a large-scaled armed conflict is launched with Russia, will we resist them with similar army?” locals asked the officers and they answered “yes.”

The military officers were astonished with “non-military” spirit of Georgian population. “Nobody asks you to run into a tank. The point is that you know all paths in this village better than we do. Let’s assume that Georgian army units entered this village, you should lead them and teach the way where to go and you must not serve the enemy. Maybe, somebody will instruct you to kill a sheep for your enemy to poison them; it is different case.”

“For example, in Kaspi local people were extremely polite with Russians. One degenerate in Samegrelo watched a tank of Russian soldiers. The tank had gone wrong and Russians asked him to watch the vehicle before they returned. He was there watching the tank instead exploding it. How can you complain about the army that they escaped from the battle field? You are brave only when we make toasts at parties.”

The Defense Ministry officers recalled the August war too and noted that “shameful things happened there” and several soldiers really deserted. “Villagers must not accept similar soldiers, they must stone down him like a traitor,” the officers said.

At the end of the meeting, the officers gave out audio CDs to local people with patriotic songs on it: National Anthem of Georgia, Psou Water [River in Abkhazia on Georgian-Russian border], “Hello Abkhazia,” “Kokoity Pandarast”; they want to raise the military spirit of reservists with those songs.

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