2008: With most European nations dropping
conscription and going all-volunteer, they are finding that the transition
brings with it some unexpected surprises. There is even some interest in how
Britain (went all-volunteer in the early 60s) and the United States (did it a
decade later) handled things.
problem encountered was the need to get rid of the "conscript
mentality." Officers, and especially NCOs had to quickly adapt to the fact
that all their troops were now volunteers, and more could be demanded of them.
It apparently takes 5-10 years before NCOs got rid of all the little tricks they used to deal with reluctant,
and often downright uncooperative, conscripts.
being able to demand more from the troops, the all-volunteer force also
attracts a different sort of recruit. You end up with more women, and more
foreigners. The foreign recruits do not include the traditional ones (the
Gurkhas in Britain and "foreign legion" troops on the continent.) This
came as a surprise to some European nations (like Spain and Italy) when they
found that about ten percent of the volunteers had immigrated from another
nation. The U.S. had less of a problem with this, as there was a long tradition
of recent migrants signing up, even during the three decades when conscription
was in force.
do with all these volunteers, before long, is sharply raise standards. Britain,
Australia, Canada and the United States are all noted for their well trained
and very effective troops. That's not just because they all speak English, but
mainly because they have an all-volunteer force and expect the most from their
troops. Spain and Italy are making the most of this, training troops to a
higher level of skill and performance. Italy has also greatly expanded the size
of its Carabinieri (para-military police) force, making it about the same size
as the army. The Carabinieri are well trained light infantry who excel and peacekeeping
missions. Spain is organizing similar units.
European nations drop conscription, they find themselves with many more recent
examples of how to handle the transition, and what to ultimately expect.