This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri July 19th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
This week’s article is a little different, we take a look at the armies of potential enemy’s.
The United States Army is the greatest army in the world. It is the most feared by our potential adversaries, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, we have the best funding, the most advanced technology with the most advanced equipment, and the smartest soldiers. But what makes the US Army very different from those potential bad guys is the level of trust and authority given to enlisted personnel. A big part of that trust is culture. This country is a free and open society. Anybody can do anything or become anything that they have the brains and the drive to accomplish. Especially out here in the country, we generally take a person at their word. It doesn’t make any difference what a person’s status in life is, if we want information and they know what they are talking about, we listen. If we want to know how to do something and someone else knows how, we become their student. Our Army reflects that attitude. Going back over 50 years, I’ve only run into a couple of young officers who wouldn’t take the word of a private, if the private knew what he was talking about.
Russia; Twenty five years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian Generals came to the United States to observe our destruction of missiles and U.S. Generals went to Russia to observe the same thing. Our observers saw no trust given to individual soldiers, everything was micromanaged, with multiple layers of officers up to a General. The Russian Generals were amazed at how few soldiers we used to accomplish the same tasks, because of the trust and confidence the U.S. military had in individual service members. Russian soldiers lived in dilapidated buildings that would not be considered livable here. They were barely paid, poorly fed, and many never participated in full army maneuvers. The culture of the Russian army was brutal and harsh. It created hard fighters, but not competent ones. The Russian Army took what it saw of the U.S. military to heart.
Russia is the largest country in the world by land mass at 6.6 billion square miles, but it is ninth in population at just over 140 million. Russia has actually been in a population decline for the past few years, but there are indications that the birth rate may be increasing. Vladimir Putin’s mother was a factory worker and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, transferred to the Army and was severely wounded in 1942. Putin’s maternal grandmother was killed by German occupiers in 1941, and his maternal uncles disappeared at the war front. At 12 Vladimir Putin started studying Judo and Sambo, which appears to be a Russian version of our modern mixed martial arts. Putin studied law at St Petersburg State University (the Harvard of Russia) graduating in 1975. He went to work for the KGB, rising through the ranks. His last major assignment was in Dresden, East Germany, where his cover was working as a translator (he speaks fluent German) until the fall of the Berlin wall. He left the KGB, as a Lieutenant Colonel, in 1991 and went into politics. He rapidly rose through positions until he was appointed Prime Minister in August 1999. On 31 December 1999, Boris Yeltson unexpectedly announced his retirement making Putin Acting President. Vladimir Putin, who will turn 65 in October this year, has continued to maintain control of the Russian government. He helped create the political party “United Russia” which controls about 77% of seats in their Duma (congress). United Russia’s platform and policies were based not on a political ideology like conservative, liberal, or socialist but on Russian solidarity. Economic conditions for average Russians have steadily improved throughout Putin’s reign. Three years ago when the prices of oil fell, Russian went into a recession, but has since recovered. Their standard of living is not near to ours, but it has continued to improve. Putin is tremendously popular in Russia, enjoying about an 80% approval rating. There is rampant corruption in government and in business, and subtle to active suppression of opposition by those in power. Up to and including assignations. Putin has put billions into the Russian military, upgrading equipment, training, living conditions and pay, and creating a professional corps of career soldiers. In the past couple years the Russian Army has been on an intensive publicity campaign, interacting in public events, and developing a family friendly Army.
Russian males between 18 and 27 must perform one year of military service, but starting January 1st, they could choose to be drafted for one year or enlist for two years. Volunteers now outnumber conscripts. At the end of 2016 the Russian military had about 900,000 people, 384,000 contract soldiers and sergeants, 270,000 conscripts, and 225,000 officers. The Russian Army is not equal to the U.S. Army in core professionalism, but it is a professional army, with advanced technology. It appears that history is taught selectively in Russia, because the average Russian is proud of Russia and they are patriotic. When asked about the Lenin years, young people often answer “That was before my time”. Vladimir Putin is an aggressor, as evidenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the interference in Syria. He considers himself a man’s man, he once said that he learned on the streets of Leningrad 50 years ago, if a fight is inevitable, hit first. I think that he has a deep hatred for Germany, and would like to see it under Russian rule. As soon as we pulled our troops out of Europe, Putin started making noise. Dealing with Russia is serious business.
The Chinese army, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the largest in the world at 2.3 million, is a political army. Soldiers swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), not to the country. The PLA divides its active duty personnel into three categories, conscripts, NCO’s (Non-commissioned Officers) (Sergeants), and officers. All young men are required to register for the military. They are eligible for the draft between the ages of 18 thru 22. Women may join but are not required to register. Millions register for the draft, but volunteers fill most of the requirements. The PLA requires one third of draftees come from urban areas and two thirds from rural areas. Even volunteers are called conscripts during their initially required first two years of service, after which they may leave the service, apply to become NCO’s, or apply to a military academy to become officers. The PLA established a formal NCO corps about 20 years ago, but NCO’s only rise to the level of squad leader and have very little influence with officers. Conscripts are not allowed to marry. NCOs may only marry people from their hometown or village, cannot live with their spouses while on active duty, and may only stay off-base with their families during vacations and holidays. Junior officers also are not allowed to live with their families.
The Arab armies don’t have a good track record in winning wars. Their armies suffer the same problem as the Chinese, in that they don’t have a non-commissioned officer development program. Most Arab officers treat enlisted soldiers like sub-humans. Initiative is discouraged. Training is usually unimaginative, cut and dried, and not challenging. Part of their problem derives from their culture. The Arab educational system is based on rote memorization. The learning system tends to consist of lectures, with students taking voluminous notes and being examined on what they were told. A foreign instructor’s credibility is diminished if he has to resort to a book. That practice lessens a students’ ability to reason or analyze based upon some general principles. Thinking outside the box is not encouraged. Doing so in public can damage a career. Head-to-head competition is generally avoided, because losers are humiliated. Knowledge is hoarded and not passed on. If an officer passes on information to his men, then in his mind he loses power. If a soldier has a technical skill, he does not teach it to others, for he would then lose power.
North Korea is a country within an army, whereas other countries have armies within the country. Men must serve in the North Korean Army for 10 years, women for seven years. People who get space at the university are drafted after they graduate, and their time is reduced. Those with a bachelor’s degree serve for five years and scientists for three. The North Korean Army has about 1.19 million active, with 7.7 million trained reserves. It also has 3,500 battle tanks, 72 submarines, 302 helicopters, 563 combat aircraft and 21,100 artillery pieces, which, by numbers, makes it one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
On June 13th a North Korean soldier crossed the demilitarized zone on foot and surrendered to a South Korean soldier. No shots were fired. On June 18th another North Korean soldier, with makeshift foam floating devices, swam across a narrow part of the fast-flowing Imjin River, which crosses the demilitarized zone. Common soldiers are given only a few potatoes a day to survive. A North Korean said that in his high school class there were 25 boys. Five went to college and the remaining 20 went into the Army. When soldiers get too weak to perform, they are given leave to go home and recover. Their families pick them up and feed them back to health. Then they go back to the Army. Rape is common in their army. A female defector said that there were 120 soldiers in her unit, but only 20 males and they were high ranking officers. She said that every single female in her unit was raped. A set of summer clothes is issued to soldiers every two years. One defector said that they are so badly made that they cause pain. He said the insides of winter boots are stuffed with cotton and produced rather shabbily, so after you wear them a couple times the cotton starts to come out, then it hurts every time you wear them.
Army conscripts are taught to obey the teachings of Kim Jong Il and current leader Kim Jong Un. Soldiers are routinely brainwashed rendering them virtually incapable of any logic.
We need a strong military.

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