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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Army Draws You Like a Magnet

The road to becoming a professional soldier has never been this short. More and more people are taking this opportunity and entering the army ranks.

“The first thought about joining the uniformed services appeared in my head in high school. After graduation, I applied to a Police School, but I wasn’t admitted, so I chose National Security at the University of Social Sciences (Społeczna Akademia Nauk) in Łódź. After finishing my studies, I decided to join the army,” says 2ndLt Hiacynta Lichańska. In 2017, she went to the Military Recruitment Office, and in the following year she began her 4-month preparatory service at the Communications and Informatics Training Center (Centrum Szkolenia Łączności i Informatyki) in Zegrze. “It wasn’t easy, but I would have to break my leg, at the least, to give up,” jokes Lichańska. In the following year, she took part in the reserves training twice, and she admits the army started to draw her in. Later, there was a 4-month officer course for reservists at the Military University of Technology (Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna), and then, after finishing several more trainings – commissioning to 2nd Lieutenant of the reserve. Today, she has no regrets as to her decision. She fulfilled her dream, and, for a year now, she has been working as a professional soldier at the Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Support Center (Centrum Rozpoznania i Wsparcia Walki Radioelektronicznej) in Grójec.

All in One Day

The ranks of the Polish Armed Forces are gradually growing. According to the information of the Ministry of National Defense, since 2015 the number of professional soldiers has grown from 95,000 to 110,000. Increasing the numerical strength of the army is one of the ministry’s main priorities. The plans in this area are ambitious. According to the directions of development of the Polish Armed Forces, within 15 years our army is to number 200,000, or even 250,000 soldiers, including 150,000 professionals. The MoND wants to reach that goal using various methods – for example, the recruitment campaign called “Become a Polish Soldier” (Zostań Żołnierzem Rzeczypospolitej), which started already in 2018. The ministry also undertakes many other activities to encourage people to join the army. One of the main issues to consider is recruitment of volunteers. Over two years ago, the ministry noticed that the rules of recruitment, including complicated procedures, tests done in various places and at various times, as well as the necessity to wait for many months to be called, all discouraged volunteers. 40% of them gave up due to these reasons.

The “Become a Polish Soldier” Program Office was one of the bodies that was to deal with solving this problem. As a result, in September 2020, a new recruitment system was created. Many people are of the opinion that now it is much easier to get into the army. “First, I registered at a new recruitment website, and soon after that I got information about the place and date of my visit at the military recruitment center. There, I completed all the formalities: I underwent tests, interviews. Everything was done in one day,” emphasizes Paulina Brzyska, who now works as a civilian cook’s assistant at the 16th Military Economic Department in Oleszno. Although she had been thinking about joining the army earlier, she admits that she seriously started considering it only after she had finished her maternity leave and found out about the introduced changes.

It Was an Impulse

Apart from a new recruitment system, the shortened time of preparatory service has become a magnet for many volunteers. “Earlier, a lot of people, particularly those who work, couldn’t afford to drop everything for four months and come to a training. Personal and professional reasons got in the way. Now that the service lasts for a month, it’s easier to reconcile all these things. Many people come to check if the army is actually something for them,” says LtCol Mariusz Muskus, the commandant of the Military Recruitment Office in Mokotów, Warszawa. He also adds that for some, completing such a training is the first step to joining the professional army. In this case, the military also addressed the expectations of the volunteers and made the way to the professional army shorter than ever before.

Volunteers can express their will to join the professional army ranks already during preparatory service, not after its completion. This is what Private Anna Zimniewicz did. She underwent necessary tests and impatiently waited to sign the contract. Since June 30, she has been a driver and radiotelephone operator at the 12th Mechanized Brigade. “I returned to the unit where I had my training, so it was easier for me to adapt. Now, although there are many organizational matters on my mind, I am happy to have executed my plan,” she admits. Before she thought of becoming a soldier, she had worked in tourism, but a year of working online was really hard for her. “I had enough of sitting at the desk all day, I needed physical activity. That was when I decided to register at the recruitment website,” says Zimniewicz.

Paulina Brzyska says that out of 105 people who were doing preparatory service with her, as many as 70 applied for professional service. She did it after completing the training. “During the tests, it turned out my vision defect excluded me from professional service, but luckily, it is possible now to undergo a corrective procedure. I am already waiting for my operation and as soon as it’s done I will submit my documents. I hope to sign my contract very soon,” says the volunteer.

Private Karol Hajdasz has served in the professional army since July 1. As a civilian he was a car mechanic, as a soldier he is a rifleman at the 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Złocieniec. “It was an impulse, I simply wanted to prove myself. I decided already during the preparatory service to continue my adventure with the uniform,” says Hajdasz. Today, he is learning the ropes of the profession. “I’m sure that the army is where I will be able to develop. Besides, I feel great in a uniform,” emphasizes Hajdasz.

The number of people interested in the army is constantly growing. To the end of June, the number of active accounts on the recruitment website totaled over 27,500. The number of volunteers undergoing preparatory service is also gradually growing. In 2019, the army trained 7,629 volunteers, and last year, when everyone was facing the problems connected with the pandemic, the military managed to call 9,967 candidates for training, including as many as 6,278 on the basis of the new formula. All the signs indicate this year will break the record as to the number of trainees – for the time being it is already 7,863. “Statistical data collected from the region covered by our Recruitment Office confirm the system works. People are more willing to come and they rarely give up during the recruitment process. If they drop out, it is mostly due to the recruitment committee’s decision. However, we can’t help the fact that work in the army requires good health and psychophysical resistance, so these conditions must necessarily be fulfilled by all candidates,” says LtCol Muskus.

A Big Challenge

The number of places at military universities is also gradually growing. “In 2014 and earlier, military schools admitted 300–500 candidates a year, but from 2015 onwards, the number of places is constantly growing,” inform representatives of the MoND. In 2016, the schools admitted 824 candidates, in 2017 – 1,226, in 2018 – 1,435, in 2019 – 1,632, and in 2020 – 1,611. This October, as many as 1,625 future officers will be able to start the academic year. There are many candidates who decide to take this route to the army, and the interest in studying at four military universities (University of Technology in Warsaw, Naval Academy in Gdynia, University of Land Forces in Wrocław and University of Aviation in Dęblin) continues unabated for many years.

“It’s definitely not a shortcut. Military studies are years of sacrifice, hard work, specialist training. Not everyone would be able to rise to the challenge, considering the fact that the recruitment process itself is already very demanding,” explains Maj Marek Kwiatek, a spokesman for the Military University of Aviation. Candidates for pilots are required to have very good results of the high school leaving exam, excellent physical condition and health, but also to pass a selection training that checks one’s predispositions to service in the air. That is a high bar, but it clearly does not demotivate the candidates – only this year almost 500 people applied for the 70 available places in aviation specializations.

Private 1st Class (Officer Cadet) Kinga Tomaszek started the School of Eaglets in October last year. She graduated from Secondary Aviation School in Dęblin and now she is studying aviation and cosmonautics with a specialization in piloting jet aircraft. “In high school, I completed a glider training, I did parachute jumps, I wore a uniform. I treated all this as a preparation for my future profession, as I already knew back then I wanted to wear a uniform and pilot aircraft,” she says. Today, she combines both her passions. “My dreams are coming true as we speak. I am aware the path I’ve chosen is not an easy one, but I think it’s worth every effort to be able to do what you love in the future.”

This Is My Calling

Those who dream of officer stars can also choose a slightly shorter path and take part in officer courses. Although the number of available places and specializations is limited, the offer attracts a lot of interest. The courses train candidates for armored and mechanized divisions, reconnaissance divisions, but also future military doctors, lawyers or financiers. In 2019, 138 people graduated from the officer courses, in the following year – 79, where the academies prepared a total of 105 places.

Civilians also have the opportunity to become a professional after completing the course. “Although the main source of candidates for the officer cadet corps are professional privates, there might not be candidates among them with competences or education necessary for a certain position, especially as regards niche specializations, such as orchestras and ensembles, cyber security, medical rescue, air traffic or IT systems operation. In such situations, the army reaches out to civilian volunteers to fill the vacancies,” admits SSWO Andrzej Woltmann, a senior officer cadet of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. In 2018, 137 people became corporals, a year later – 244, and in 2020 – 365. This year, as many as 428 civilians will be able to take part in such courses at officer cadet schools: Air Force in Dęblin, Land Forces in Poznań, Navy in Ustka and Territorial Defense “Sonda” in Zegrze.

One of the volunteers is Daniel Florkowski, who has finished undergraduate studies on internal security at the WSB University in Poznań. “Patriotic values are very important to me and I want to join the army. It’s my calling. I am also keen on aviation, and my dream is to serve at the 7th Special Operations Squadron in Powidz. The school in Dęblin is the best place to prepare me for this,” he explains. Patryk Krajewski is another candidate for an officer cadet. He has finished Physical Education at the University of Szczecin. After graduation, he went back to his hometown, Złocieniec, and, having finished a training, he became a penitentiary correctional officer. “There are many people around me who work in uniformed services, I play at a football club with soldiers. Some of them have encouraged me to join the army, and I finally thought: why not?” he says. He admits that in the event of failure, he has prepared a plan B. “As a private 1st class of the prison service I can take part in the qualifications for the Private Corps of some military unit without preparatory service. I strongly believe, however, I will succeed in becoming a corporal.”

Best Decision of My Life

The doors to the army are open also to reservists. The ranks are reinforced by the troops of the national reserve forces – in the years 2018–2021, over 4,000 of them became professionals – former soldiers and those who had completed preparatory service already before introducing the new recruitment system. Among the latter is Cpl Kinga Siennicka, who completed preparatory service in the NCO corps at the beginning of 2020. “Earlier, I had worked as a civilian in the Border Guard, but at some point I felt I wanted something more. I went to the Recruitment Office, I did my training in Poznań, and later I took part in the training of the 18th Mechanized Division. I decided I was doing pretty well and as a corporal of the reserve I applied for professional service, which I started on July 12,” she says. Reservists willingly use the opportunity to start professional service: almost 14,000 of them joined the army in the last three years, and already 3,700 this year.

The army as a plan for life has also been chosen within the last four years by over a thousand officers of other services. Among them was SSWO Ewa Wilk. “My father was a professional soldier and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, at the time I was finishing high school, women were not admitted to military universities,” she explains. Therefore, she finished engineering studies in geodesy and cartography at the Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska), and later, after completing preparatory service and a warrant officer course, she started work in the Border Guard, where she served for 17 years. Eventually, she decided to go forward with her old plan. Her decision was influenced, among other things, by the opportunities of development offered by the army. “It turned out that in the army I would be able to combine my interests with my education,” she emphasizes. In October, she started work at the 22nd Military Cartographic Center in Komorowo. “I think it was one of the best decisions in my life. I finally feel I am where I am supposed to be,” admits Wilk.

When talking about the increase in the army’s strength, it is impossible not to mention the Territorial Defense Force (WOT). The growing ranks of the formation now include about 30,000 people, with over 25,700 troops. For some of them, it is the first step to becoming a professional. In 2018, such a decision was taken by 109 of them, a year later – 180, in 2020 – 321, and this year – 131 so far. This was also the plan of Cpl Adam Jabłoński. However, he started executing it by joining WOT. “At first, I treated my service at the 12th Wielkopolska Territorial Defense Brigade as a chance to prove myself. I quickly learned, though, that despite great trainings and working on advanced equipment, the service in WOT was not enough for me,” admits Jabłoński. After the first year, he began to ask his superiors about opportunities of professional growth. “I knew it wasn’t an easy career path and that you needed to pave it on your own, step by step, with hard work and everyday service. I think my engagement was appreciated, as my superiors sent me to a Territorial Military Service NCO course,” says Jabłoński. After finishing the course, he applied for professional service. Since December 2020 he has served at the 124th Light Infantry Battalion in Śrem as a commander of an anti-tank section.

You Have to Want It

The newly created units or the easier path to becoming a soldier are only some ways to increase the numerical strength of the army. The Ministry is particularly interested in teenagers. They are the group to which the MoND offers, i.a., programs coordinated by the “Become a Polish Soldier” Program Office, such as certified military uniformed classes (CKWM, replaced by military preparation classes created in 2020) and the Academic Legion (Legia Akademicka). The first program was launched in 2017 and it is currently implemented in about 200 high schools in Poland. The schools run military classes according to the standard curriculum supplemented with preparation for service. The graduates of such classes can count on easier access to the army: they get extra points during recruitment to military universities or WOT. They also have a chance to complete shortened – from this year 12-day – preparatory service. Many graduates gladly use these bonuses. In the 1st and 2nd edition of CWKM, the training within the shortened preparatory service was attended by over 700 high school graduates, and this year applications have been submitted by 854 people. Among them is Private (Res) Andrzej Krzyżaniak, this year’s graduate of 111th Fighter Squadron’s PUL High School No 1 (I Liceum Ogólnokształcące PUL im. 111 Eskadry Myśliwskiej) in Wołomin. I decided to start preparatory service in order to gain new experience and get additional points as a reservist during enrolment at the Land Forces Academy, as this is my chosen path to becoming a professional soldier,” he says. Also the people who enrolled for the Academic Legion program during their studies have an open door to professional army. Since 2017, about 7,400 people have completed the basic training, 5,800 of whom have been awarded the rank of corporal after completing the NCO module. This year, 58 best trainees have been given the opportunity to take part in the first ever officer module.

Service for your country, stable employment, an opportunity of professional development, a chance to prove yourself – these are only some reasons why young people decide to put on a uniform. “The Polish Armed Forces offer all of these opportunities. Everyone can find their place in the army if they really want to,” says 2ndLt Lichańska.

COMMENTARY

Artur Dębczak
Introducing a new recruitment system, particularly during the pandemic, proved to be a great challenge. It was worth it, as the formula currently used in the recruitment process by most civilian companies and corporations also proved to work well in the army. We have to be aware, though, that it is impossible to increase the strength of the army overnight. Apart from offering incentives to potential candidates, we need to think and act in advance. Today, the number of teenagers and students taking part in military classes or Academic Legion programs would be enough to form another division, or maybe even two divisions of the Polish Armed Forces. This potential is constantly growing and I think that we will be able to see the effects of our actions in a few years.
LtGen Artur Dębczak is the Director of the “Become a Polish Soldier” Program Office.

Bigger Training Possibilities
Increasing the numerical strength of the army is closely connected to promoting professional privates to the NCOs corps.
After completing training, gaining the rank of corporal and being designated for an NCO position, a soldier somewhat frees the former position in the professional private corps, which can be taken by a new volunteer. The number of professional privates transferring to the NCO corps is gradually growing. In 2020 (in the conditions of pandemic restrictions) as many as 1,828 privates finished NCO courses, including – to the end of May – 1,376 soldiers of the lowest level corps. This year, according to the MoND’s plan, the number of soldiers who will transfer from the professional private corps to the NCO corps will exceed 2,000.

Three Steps to the Uniform
Go to the zostanzolnierzem.pl website and enter necessary information.
Visit a Military Recruitment Office at a designated place and time, and complete all necessary formalities in one day.
Finish basic training and apply to join the ranks of the professional army.

Paulina Glińska

autor zdjęć: Michał Niwicz

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