The latest brainstorm: military sports centers to popularize a military career

The other day I came across a Hungarian-language article about a speech delivered by Antoni Macierewicz, the Polish minister of defense. The article claimed that the minister talked at length about the necessity of having an army that would be strong enough to defend Poland’s independence without outside help. His assessment of Poland’s military strength, both now and in the future, sounded far too optimistic to me, so I visited the Polish site where the information came from. There I learned that, according to Macierewicz, if there is national unity and a national government, there is also a strong army. “We hear voices that the Territorial Defense Force is not needed, but it is the Polish army that binds the nation together.” A unitary Polish nation means an invincible army.

The current Hungarian government has been thinking along the same lines. The debate over the military has been going on for years. It has become evident that the kind of professional army the United States and some other countries have doesn’t satisfy Fidesz politicians’ somewhat old-fashioned military ideas. While in 2003 the socialist-liberal government was envisaging “an army for the 21st century,” the present leadership in many ways would like to build a much more traditional defense force. Viktor Orbán and his comrades know that returning to conscription is out of the question because a few days after such an announcement the Orbán government would be a thing of the past. So they have been trying to expand the numbers of recruits. Given the low pay and prestige of the military in Hungary, this project never got off the ground. Then came the idea of building up a force of reservists who, somewhat like the National Guard in the United States, would serve as part-time soldiers. Interest in the program was meager. Even the training of the so-called “border hunters” was intended to serve as a kind of introduction to army life. Just yesterday, however, the Hungarian media reported that a whole class of a police academy was ordered to the border because the number of “border hunters” was insufficient.

In the last year or so the ministry of defense has been looking for ways to make military service more attractive to young men and women. First, we heard that shooting galleries would be attached to schools, and several school principals reported receiving inquiries from KLIK, the center in charge of all state schools. But a few days later the ministry of human resources, which deals with matters related to education, issued a denial. Although there will be more emphasis on “patriotic” education, the talk about the “militarization” of Hungarian schools was nothing but an unfounded rumor. If there was, at one point, some thought of using schools as sources of future military personnel, this idea had been scrapped.

Meanwhile, the ministry of defense was working on a new idea. On February 11 the ministry announced the formation of the National Defense Sports Association (Honvédelmi Sportszövetség/HS) under its auspices. HS’s president is István Kun Szabó, a major general and assistant undersecretary in the ministry of defense. According to the initial announcement, “the task of HS is to renew the relationship between society and the Hungarian Army and at the same time to promote the establishment of a voluntary reserve system on new foundations through leisure sports.” As I suspected, this new military sports association is a backdoor way to try to enlarge the Hungarian Army. There will be plenty of enticements. In the sports centers that will be built, people can learn to shoot, fence, engage in martial arts and strength athletics, even joust. In addition, they can learn to drive and apply basic first aid. The Sports Association will also organize military summer camps. “Ultimately, the goal is to attract as many young people as possible who want to play a role in defending the country by applying for either reserve or professional service.”

The news came on September 6 that the government had set aside 17.5 billion forints (57.1 million euros) to build 40 sports centers. In a second round, another 67 such centers will be established. They will be constructed on land owned by the Hungarian state, and the structures will also be state-owned. The amount of money to be spent on the first 40 centers is considered by commentators to be extravagant. But these centers must be relatively large to accommodate all the different sports offered. In addition, each of the facilities must have a staff. All in all, operating these centers will not be cheap. Moreover, there is no guarantee that those who benefited from the sports facilities will actually enter the armed services. This will most likely be a mighty expensive way of recruiting military personnel.

At one of the military summer camps

Criticism of the plan to establish more than 100 shooting galleries was immediate. Apparently, 98 shooting galleries exist in Hungary now, and all of them are in terrible shape. Some people argue that the renovation of the existing galleries should be the first priority, not building new ones.

There are objections about the overall course of the Hungarian Army from military experts as well. Gyula Kovács, a retired lieutenant colonel and expert of the Magyar Hadtudományi Társaság (Hungarian Association of Military Science), wrote an opinion peace in Népszava on August 18, 2017 in which he described the Orbán government’s military plans under the title “On the road to the 20th century.” Kovács doesn’t believe that István Simicskó, minister of defense, is the right person to lead the Hungarian military. After years of funding shortages, now at last the ministry is getting a sizable infusion of money, which should be spent on reform. The Hungarian Army is still organized according to the old Soviet structure, which by now even the Russian Army has abandoned. When at the moment there are only 38.6 billion forints for development, spending 17.5 billion on sports centers seems a terrible waste of money. Kovács points out that “the main goal of the program is the formation of a territorial defense force of 20,000.” But he doubts that 20,000 young people will be ready to join the army any time soon. Moreover, one wouldn’t need a larger force if the leadership got rid of the bloated bureaucracy (about 20,000-21,000 men and women) when only 6,000-7,000 people are actively engaged in the military. If the army’s structure were at last changed, 12,000-14,000 men and women could produce, given modern equipment, a division of American quality. In short, the whole project is a waste of money. A modern army cannot be built by recruiting youngsters who like to shoot and enjoy martial arts, he claims.

I can only concur. I simply cannot believe that this trick will produce a large number of recruits. And Gyula Kovács is most likely also right in saying that Hungary doesn’t need such a large force. A smaller and more modern one would suffice, but that would require serious changes, which the big brass would undoubtedly be loath to implement.

September 10, 2017
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Jean P.
Guest

“A modern army cannot be built by recruiting youngsters who like to shoot and enjoy martial art…”

There is not enough of them but there are many who would be tempted to join if they would be introduced to computer warfare and killer drones.

Member

The problem with Defense Minister Simicskó is that he cares more about sports than the military.

Just read this interview with him, a fluff piece, that appeared in the regional newspaper for the Újbuda part of Budapest. They even say “Those who know you know that your true love is sports.” Then they proceed to ask him four questions about sports, one about the “sport hospital,” and nothing related to the military or defense.

http://ujbuda.hu/ujbuda/a-csaladbarat-kormanyzas-a-gyermekvallalasi-kedvet-erositi

Moreover, from this interview we also learn that Simicskó hasn’t even given up his seat in Parliament, so he is still representing Újbuda. How can you be a government minister and a Parliamentary delegate at the same time?

Member

It is fairly common in European parliamentary systems.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘….cares more about sports than the military’

The ‘enterprise’ discussed sure can look a way to fill those expansive stadiums….;-)….. All that unused green could be great for mass calisthetics, foci, kosarlabda whatever etc etc and instituting ‘patriotic’ fervor that apparently the leadership feels for some reason it is needed. Plenty of space to keep the flags flying too.

And like for the Roman emperors of yore that kind of real estate could be the Colosseums of the day namely a great place to set up ‘mock’ land skirmishes to keep the army sharp and on its mettle. It’s there they’d get the patriotic ‘bang for the buck’.

Ivan
Guest

“Ha az összes gárdistát, vitézt, hagyományőrzőt, nemzeti arcvonalast, betyárseregest beléptetik, még akkor is csak néhány ezerrel nőne a létszám.”
Gyula Kovács lists all the paramilitary formations, assessing that, even if every last member were to join the armed forces, they would amount to only a few thousand.
I must say I’m relieved: I thought there were a lot more of the fancy dress thugs.

Ferenc
Guest

To me the idea behind ‘military sports centers’ seems a combination of military and sports promotion. Imagined results bigger army AND more competitive sports(wo)men, so military/state paid sportspeople, like in the ‘old days’. Up to you to estimate which OV likes most, military or sports.

wrfree
Guest

All in all ..perhaps in one way of it’s putting the ‘labdasag’ in the vigyazsag…👍

Exhack
Guest

Can’t help cheering my neighbours for steadfastly refusing to go down the military road the Poles are travelling at the moment. Hungary has its NATO commitments and that’s OK. But there’s no reason to blow more air into Mr. Orban’s already inflated sense of self importance.

dos929
Guest

I much bigger danger is lurking in the background… All those ‘macho’ men and hooligans that the regime relies on may decide to join the ranks of those ‘civil’ or semi-military organisations in return for good pay and/or realising their childhood dream of getting their hands on fire arms. And these forces together with the TEK and other paramilitary units (Parliament Guard, Civil Defence, etc…) can and will be used against ‘enemies of the people’; i.e. those that oppose the regime. The Orban regime is itching for a ‘fight’ with Hungary’s opposition, and if there won’t be a reason they will make one. This why to put so much money and effort into those shooting galleries and associated infrastructure.

Peter Williams
Guest

Just what I was thinking!

Ferenc
Guest

OT – OV on ‘health’
Today OV was speaking at the start of the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Budapest, Hungary on 2017.Sep.11-14.
Just to have it clear, WHO stands for World Health Organisation.
One of the things OV talked about: “we must address challenges of mass migration, demographic issues at their root causes.” (sic or sick…)
https://twitter.com/WHO_Europe/status/907149771588214784
Note: didn’t notice reports about other current OV main topics like e.g.’solidarity’, Soros…
Live coverage on twitter: https://twitter.com/WHO_Europe

Ferenc
Guest

HirTV news item about another part of his speech at WHO session
http://hirtv.hu/videok/190118

Ferenc
Guest

OV spoke about the very special Hungarian word for Health, being Egészség. I am very interested in the opinion of people with much better Hungarian language skills than me, about the following quote from OV’s speech:
“Az egészség szó egészen különleges szó a magyar nyelvben, nem egyszerűen fordítható le, ugyanis az egészség szó Magyarországon az egész szóból származik. Az egész szó jelenti az egészséget, és egy ősi meggyőződést fejez ki, hogy az ember akkor egészséges, hogyha egész, vagyis teljes életet tud élni. A teljes élet és az egészség szó a magyar nyelvben lényegében összeér…”

PS: full speech (Hungarian only, so far) available at http://www.miniszterelnok.hu/orban-viktor-beszede-a-who-regionalis-bizottsagi-ulesen/

Member

“Health” has a similar etymology: From Middle English helthe, from Old English hǣlþ, ultimately from West Proto-Germanic *hailiþō, from Proto-Germanic *hailaz (“whole, hale”). Cognate with Old High German heilida.

Istvan
Guest
So Hungary has a problem recruiting for its all volunteer army, no surprise really, so does Germany, and the USA. Here is a link to short article on the travails of the US Army’s 6th Recruiting Brigade in North Las Vegas https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/military/leader-of-west-recruiting-faces-challenge-to-attract-more-volunteers/ There is nothing new in these stories, there is also nothing new in using athletics as a recruitment tool for the military, this article discusses pro-football in the USA and military recruitment https://the-cauldron.com/the-nfl-is-one-giant-military-recruitment-tool-ae28276185e4 The truth is so many contemporary young people in the west are both psychologically and physically incapable of military service that what we called in the Army the “wash out rate” during the basic training period is very significant. According to a NATO analysis “it is not unusual that 30% or more of the European enlisted recruits do not complete their first term.” In the USA the Navy, Army and Marines have recruits drop out or are forced out of basic training at a rate of between 11 and 14 percent annually. This is on top of the approximately 71% of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. overall who would not qualify for military service because of reasons related to health, physical appearance and educational… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘So Hungary has a problem recruiting for its all volunteer army, no surprise really, so does Germany, and the USA’

For sure yet here in the United States I’d believe that the ‘recruits’ would have no issue in putting themselves ‘in harms way’ in defense of the US. It would be interesting to know though know who a Magyar recruit thinks he would be fighting for. Europe? Magyarorszag? Or the great one?

With VO’s consistent harping on the EU and Zsolt’s usual profanity laced harangues it would arguably make his soldiers to be surely to ask if the occasion presents itself are we fighting for that?

Member
Totally OT: A group known as Romai Partért Egyesület (Alliance for the Romai Riverbank), which supports building a dam along the Danube recreational area in District 3, today launched a blatantly anti-Jewish attack on activists who want the dam to be built further inland. The “alliance” has an amateurish website that does not list any members save its leader, a fellow named Gabor Egri. The alliance’s diatribe consists of two Facebook posts. The first names and shames the chief evildoer, András Lányi, a Hungarian writer, philosopher and film director. Worst of all, it accuses him of having connections to the SZDSZ. The second post reads as follows: “Jewish intellectuals united. They want to lock up the residents of a 70-hectare area of the Romai Bank in a ghetto! They would raise a concrete wall along the Kiralyok-Nanasi line (a traffic artery that runs parallel to the Danube – AK), splitting our district in two! They razzle-dazzle us with dishonest, demogogic allegations! As if they had forgotten what happened to their relations in the 1940s – they want to treat the people who live on the 70-hectare area in a similar way! They draw up plans on privately owned plots of… Read more »
Member
Guest

A bit OT – but showing how O and his henchmen like war:

Hungary is “blowing up itself” like a balloon to show how powerful the state is:
Hungary will not let Croatia and Romania become members of the OECD!
https://bbj.hu/politics/hungary-blocks-oecd-membership-for-romania-croatia_138546
I’m sure that will make O even more popular – but not outside Hungary …

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