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Modern Wars & Warfare General discussion on war. Topics that are not covered in any of our sub-forums below. .

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  #1  
Old 21 Mar 17, 02:42
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Question Does Conscription Produce Mediocre Soldiers?

The reason I'm having those doubts is reliability of conscripts. If a great proportion of the conscripts don't want to be in the army because the've been drafted against their will, can they be relied on to do their job properly, as compared to professional soldiers?

Are professional soldiers always superior to conscripts?

Have their been any studies to investigate this matter?

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  #2  
Old 21 Mar 17, 09:32
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It is not the conscript, but the system that is the issue. Conscript armies are armies of attrition. They have their soldiers for only a short time, so they teach them basic skills and engage.

All volunteer armies invest in their soldiers because they cost a lot more, and they have them longer.

Conscripts are best for large-scale conventional wars with clear goals.

Regulars are best for COIN and counter-terror.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 10:33
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Up until the 60's the UK had conscription , at the same time the UK was involved in Malaya, Egypt,Cypress,Korea (early 50's)....As a conscript soldier at the time all I can say is "we were good" in comparison to other army's.

A a lot of it is discipline, training and regimental pride...In my time , as I turned "regular" (lifer), I met members of other armies, US included,their "regulars" were well trained but their conscripts were just a rabble, again due to training, or lack of, and discipline and lack of.... example..USMC great, US Army ( at the time) filled with cry babies, wimps, slobs and semi illiterate thugs an undisciplined mob...As one Sgt said to me "they were animals".....USA regulars were ok and well trained......Things are different now thank goodness
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Old 21 Mar 17, 10:41
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As AJR pointed out, conscription itself doesn't produce mediocre soldiers - training and discipline does, although the attitude of the trainee figures into a great deal as well.

To the draftee, it's something to "get through" without any commitment, but to the volunteer it is more a matter of pride and service. This can be overcome with proper training and motivation, but that is largely lacking on both sides.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 10:43
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Conscription is meant to provide a large number of basically-trained reservists that can be quickly used to create new units or to fill-in the manpower shortages of existing units. So even if they're mediocre, they're definitely better than a civilian who has had absolutely no contact with the army but is called up in case of crisis. You'd have to train that civilian from scratch - which means you'd have to be able to do so in the first place. For small countries that may be impossible.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 11:14
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The Draft brought in many people that were very well qualified for the Army. The "problem" was in how they were used and a lack of time training. The guys going to Vietnam after Basic and AIT are not going to be well trained. It did allow the Army to field more troops in the field. Lots of guys went to college in the 60's and early 70's to avoid getting drafted. My Mother made sure I was in college before my 18th birthday.

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Old 21 Mar 17, 11:29
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What conscripts (group/class/nationality)? Which army? Why were they being drafted? Did they think the fight was worth it?

We stopped accepting volunteers during WWII because the war industries were losing valuable men. We drafted them in part based on what their current job/skill was contributing to the war effort.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 13:31
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What conscripts (group/class/nationality)? Which army? Why were they being drafted? Did they think the fight was worth it?

We stopped accepting volunteers during WWII because the war industries were losing valuable men. We drafted them in part based on what their current job/skill was contributing to the war effort.
Britain had a similar experience in WW1. One other factor was that the volunteer armies do contain the most motivated men. This meant that large numbers of men who had the potential to be future junior leaders (NCO and junior officers) were killed as privates on the Somme and there was a problem for finding such men in 1917/18. If one is likely to be fighting a long war better to start with conscription as Britain did in 1939
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Old 21 Mar 17, 14:00
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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Britain had a similar experience in WW1. One other factor was that the volunteer armies do contain the most motivated men. This meant that large numbers of men who had the potential to be future junior leaders (NCO and junior officers) were killed as privates on the Somme and there was a problem for finding such men in 1917/18. If one is likely to be fighting a long war better to start with conscription as Britain did in 1939


I don't know about other countries, but the idea that we had to stop people from volunteering said much about the American people's attitude toward the war.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 14:14
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Conscription has its limits. If you assume that the vast majority of conscripts will only be in the service for their initial period of conscription, and then get out, you are limited to how much technical expertise you can give them.
In the industrial age, most military jobs were fairly straight forward and could be taught to someone in a matter of a few months. In that situation, conscripts could learn their job(s) fairly quickly then spend several years applying that knowledge / ability to the task they were assigned. It was much the same as being a factory or office worker of the period.
With the massive increase in technology that that the electronics age has brought us, this is no longer the case. It can take years to train someone to be proficient in many military tasks today. Thus, conscription for say two years or so, doesn't buy a military much any more. Too many jobs aren't worth teaching a conscript since by the time they learn it they're getting out. This means you now need professional soldiers, sailors, etc.

Conscription also comes with limits on quality of recruits. The US (I'm more familiar with the draft here than elsewhere) draft system has pretty consistently rejected 30 to 50% of the draftees for various reasons, mostly due to health, mental state, or intelligence. That is, the rejected were either sick, crazy, or stupid.

As far as service, I really don't see any difference between first term volunteers and draftees in terms of quality. Many first term volunteers will quit too.

Interestingly, in WW 2, many of the older NCO's left over from the pre-war army were found to be poorer in terms of intellect and education than the draftees during the war. Yes, these professionals knew their job but little else. The draftees often had more education and even experience than the peacetime army troops did. What those peacetime NCO's were useful for was teaching the draftees the basics of military life and drill.

The draft can produce problems too. Germany in WW 2 drafted many skilled workers and technicians often hurting industry. The US had a similar problem, but got around it by simply inducting those sorts of individuals and then putting them back to work in uniform. I've read of universities at the time having technicians helping research scientists being inducted, immediately promoted to First Sargent or such with only a minimum of basic training, and then going back to work. I'd think that other militaries did likewise.

So, the answer overall is, it depends.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 14:59
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In a peace time conscripted army if you call up all eligible people you may well have problems in finding things for them to do. I once worked with a guy who spent most of this national service in the RAF pushing a brush round a hanger - he was a well educated man who latter went on to a string of technical degrees. There simply were not enough trained and skilled instructors (and areas of need) to give him more than basic training. There are all sorts of sorts of stories of make work duties including polishing the coal in the bunker outside the orderly room to make it look smarter. If on the other hand you don't call up all those eligible then you will get all sorts of accusations of unfairness from those who are called up.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 15:46
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If going by tests and requirements, Finnish conscripts have quite good training to their respective tasks. Normal jaegers go through multiple live fire exercises and the number blanks fired. In turn artillerymen and other "specialists" might not be in best shape or have the same know-how in jaeger stuff, but if there is a need for fast and accurate artillery barrage they know their stuff.

Cold Response 2016 is a good example what the better units made from our conscripts can do. Finnish-Swedish Battalion which had Finnish infantry company made from SKVJ (people who serve a year and prepare for service abroad) reservists managed to beat their opponents in both defense and offensive. One of their opponents were Telemark Battalion from Norway so at minimum they fought just as well as professionals. Then there was Arrow 16 which was Mechanized exercise which had Stryker Company from Germany participating (they do it again this year). In that exercise Finnish conscripts didn't look bad compared to Americans who had been in the army for about a year.

And as mentioned conscription brings people from all walks of life to the service and this means platoons and companies have wide variety of skills and trades. Imagine how useful it was to have a car mechanic in my platoon during the service. His expertise was very useful as was electricians skills when he tackled the problems of signal cables.

Motivation can be a problem and if looking the numbers of percentage of people wanting to protect their own country being small situation doesn't look good. Conscription can be a way to fix this. It is after all a big PR program to get people learn that defending their own land is not that bad thing to do.
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Old 21 Mar 17, 15:53
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One problem for the US in WWII was they allowed the Navy to sign people up as Reservist for up to a year before they were called up. The Army was not happy as this program soaked a lot of specialists. Roosevelt let the Navy get away with a lot.

The Army also was a little guilty of sending the lowest scorers to the Infantry. The Air Force got the best. The only time the Army got better manpower was when they suspended the ASTP Program in 1943 (or was it 1944?). These guys had been sent to college and promised a 1st Lieutenant rank when they graduated. They had been offered a chance at OCS and declined. Now they went in as Basic Privates to Repple Depples. One such was Kurt Vonnegut who was captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

The US Draft did not sort Draftees for occupations. One division activated and had a number of experienced pilots. The officers tried to get them transferred out, but it seems if you had no military certificate, you weren't qualified. They ended up in the Infantry.

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Old 21 Mar 17, 16:00
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And as mentioned conscription brings people from all walks of life to the service and this means platoons and companies have wide variety of skills and trades. Imagine how useful it was to have a car mechanic in my platoon during the service. His expertise was very useful as was electricians skills when he tackled the problems of signal cables.
First Sergeants used to be poorly educated. Many doing a tour in the Basic Training Companies paid special attention to anyone that said they could type. If you did a good job typing it would be very hard to pry the typist loose from a poorly educated First Sergeant that knew where the bodies were buried...

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Old 21 Mar 17, 16:07
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The US Draft did not sort Draftees for occupations.
I think the reference was to selecting people for the draft (or exempting them) based on the value to the war economy of their skills and occupation. The British likewise did not sort after conscription for most (simply too many and take too long) but did for some for example a lot of painters and decorators and theatre stage hands got packed off to a special camouflage and deception unit in Egypt to do things like move Alexandria harbour up the coast, make the Suez canal vanish etc,
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