18 December 2014, 14:42
316604 |

A Soldier’s Reflection on Joining the Armenian Armed Forces

As his eighteenth birthday approaches, every male Armenian citizen braces himself for what is coming: mandatory military service. Suren Stepanyan, who served in the Armenian Armed Forces for two years, gives insight into the preparations young men go through prior to joining the army, and expresses the fears, struggles, and inevitable acceptance of being a soldier.

There was a time when fathers in Armenia would refuse to marry their daughters off to young men who had not served in the military; those who avoided the draft were sworn at in the streets and even subjected to unfair beatings. When I was preparing to go to the army, I learned that my grandfather had served for three and a half years, and I simply rejoiced that my time in a uniform would last only two.

The winter draft (and release) has now begun. Many young men are gradually coming to terms with the fact that they must soon leave their ordinary lives. Others are still hoping that they will be stationed in a “good place” or that kidney stones will miraculously appear during their medical examinations. But it’s all quite pointless, each one of them will still have to go.

About a month before reporting to duty, the same to do list is on the mind of every future soldier.

To Do List
Settle all debts
Pass all failed university exams
Enjoy all the pleasures you had planned for the next two years in the space of one month
Shave your head. Shave your head!

Then you’re on the road and off to God knows where.

As they enter the service, some new recruits find that their expectations are met, and other are completely surprised by the reality they meet. The fact remains, however, that most soldiers encounter the same feelings and experiences.

2 YEARS. Or rather, 730 DAYS, 104 WEEKS, 24 MONTHS, 17,520 HOURS.

That’s how long you’re in the army. Then, you count your gains and your losses.

Patience (it’s not that easy to countdown two years by making and removing marks on your belt)
Friends (military service is a real ordeal, and therefore it’s the perfect place for finding true friends)
Nerves of steel (it’s quite difficult to grow accustomed to uneducated, ignorant and foolish officers)
Ability to endlessly consume cooked wheat & cabbage (nothing in your regular life would force you to constantly eat this stuff, it’s awful)
Number of books read (never again will you have so much time for reading books. Sadly, many who enter the military begin reading what is only the second book of their life)

Faith in people (of course only in part: however, it is difficult to see a soldier steal your uniform and still be able to trust people)
Your girlfriend (not every girl is ready to pay your phone bill every month, constantly send care packages, and wait for two years--she’s not crazy)
Two years of your life (many feel that the years in the army are two years lost from your life, but that is debatable. In your regular life it would be hard for you to make so many connections with people from all over the country, or learn so much slang)
Definitely a few kilos (the average soldier is skinny. You eat by a strict regiment, and the physical exercise doesn’t let you put on weight)
Your social life (the changes and trends of civilian life bypass you, and after you’re done serving, you spend a good long while trying to catch up)

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