The job was simple “Hard Training, Easy Battle”. This is the slogan of the Military Training School at Shai Hills. Yes, Hard Training for soldiers and not for Boys and Girls Scout. Interestingly, the Military Garrisons or Units across the country all have several slogans that should clearly give you a fair idea of what to expect.
Some of the Slogans are ‘Ready and Willing sure to Deliver, Hard Training Easy Battle, 64-Dare Not Honour and sacrifice, Kulum Shiri (Be Prepared), Airborne-All the way and some more, Artillery-King of the Battle, Leave Fight or Die Hard etc. but are new recruits conscious of the demands of the military training?
Having associated all of these slogans to the military, it will be surprising if anybody at all think that training to become military personnel was similar to a training manual for a keep fit club. Not at all. It is a serious business for serious people who are prepared to put their life in the line of fire and die for the nation.
Were these young Ghanaians prepared to die for the nation? With the current results, it is easy to give an emphatic no as an appropriate response. Did these recruits understand the profession they had chosen for themselves? If they did, they would have realised that as enviable as the Ghana Armed Forces is seen to be it is definitely not a walk in the park.
In a release issued by the Director Public Relations of the Ghana Armed Forces Colonel E. Aggrey-Quashie stated that there is a cessation of training of recruits as a result of insubordinate behaviour. What constituted insubordinate behaviour was an illegal demonstration relating to the strenuous nature of training that they considered as maltreatment. Perhaps these recruits wanted to be mollycoddled, petted and finally given the mandate to protect our nation but will that pass the test of battle? NO.
My concern, however, is the opinion expressed by some individuals about the dismissal of the 500 recruits. What Ghanaians have to understand is that the Ghana Army has a standard manual for training personnel for the service. The school conducts combine training programmes for all recruits on six months’ combat infantryman’s course.
Training is a vital part of every soldier’s development. Recruits are not only taken through Drills but also acquire various skills such as carpentry, masonry, tailoring, driving, nursing, catering and other trades that will empower them to be useful in the society after their service.
In the past, after the colonial era, people are forced to join the military based on the physical structure or any special skill of the individual. The Ghana Army has over the years improved not only in the area of skills training, but continue to review its own performance to meet other requirements on international theatres.
Ghanaian soldiers are dotted all over the globe performing special duties and providing peacekeeping services for humanity. In various theatres they perform their duties with excellence and military precision and it is no wonder that the service attracts so many. Although the development at the recruit training centre was worrying, the decision of the Military High Command was militarily astute.
One may easily blame the command for the disturbances at the training school, yes command should have picked up intelligence about the intentions of recruits at the training centre. Why was no intelligence picked up? Could it be that training personnel numbers have reduced in relation to the number of recruits or perhaps the recruits were smarter than their trainers?
Again, we as a nation must also take part of the blame. The Ghana Armed Forces must go back to the old method of recruiting personnel into the service. With that method, publications were made for prospective candidates to apply, they were then screened through various transparent physical demand targets of athletics, fitness etc. And with this process it was very obvious who passed the screening and who failed.
This method, however, reduced the impact of people attempting to influence recruitment processes by sending their candidates to the training centre. There was no list coming from any source of qualified candidates. Right there on the El-Wak Sports Stadium or the selection centre those who passed knew themselves.
The current situation raises unanswerable questions about the recruitment process, especially with the candidate selection process. Do all candidates undergo the basic fitness tests, both physical and psychological? Are the best being spotted by recruiters or nepotism and relationships with the powers-that-be interfering with the process? Definitely the Army must somehow reform these processes of selection.
It is not enough to say that the recruits were not good enough. A further commentary on how these recruits who all seemed to have failed en masse need to be investigated if such occurrence should be avoided in the future. But let all beware that the military is not a place for the faint-hearted. It is a place where the weaknesses of character both physical and mental is uprooted to present the finest worthy to defend us all.
By Agbeko Ben Coffie