Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has signed a Moscow government decision obliging all tenth-graders of general secondary schools and students of vocational schools to undergo military training from April 20 to July 20. The training will be organised on the territory of the Taman motorised rifle and the Kantemirovskaya tank divisions, and every young man without health problems will within forty academic hours be introduced to the organisation and procedure of military service, laws on defence and other relevant legal acts, and to weapons and combat equipment adopted in ground forces. He will also shoot from an automatic rifle and a machine gun, get his first marching drill and fulfil norms in military sport. Forty hours is equivalent to five working days. The newspapers sounded the alarm. "Generals will again be torturing our boys!" - these are the most harmless words addressed to the schoolboys' parents and the students themselves by some of the media.
Their fears are understandable. Following the tragedy of the last year, when one of the schoolchildren died after running a long distance in a gas mask at a similar training in Khanty Mansiisk, any new military pre-conscription classes evoke serious misgivings. Won't they harm the boys' health, will the lads be treated with respect and care, and will not the military make them do what only well-trained professional soldiers can perform?
All these questions are justified.
None of the parents want to give their 16-year-old sons over into the care of uniformed bureaucrats. It is easy enough to injure the psyche (and not only the psyche) of a teenager. Subsequent medical treatment is long and complex. But military training lessons are not designed to teach the lads in five days "to bravely endure the hardships of military service", as the field manuals request of soldiers. They are not soldiers. They are future men, fathers of families, citizens of their country. And lessons in manhood, which is the stated purpose of this training, are called upon to leave in the heart of youngsters respect for military service, professional army, and defence of the country, rather than hatred. This training is expected to prove to a doubting young man that he can and must be the support of his land, his parents, and his future wife and children.
To be sure, these lofty emotions to be inculcated need not sergeants with two years of service behind them or "barracks hooligans", but gifted fatherly commanders, real teachers who will not shun "manhood classes" with their students.
Only close ties between the army and school can make the planned training classes unforgettable. Only close, confidential and mutually respectful contact between parents and military commanders can turn five days of army drill into wonderful time to be always remembered by every young man afterwards. Regardless of what profession he may choose for himself in the future.