Morale: Dressed For Excess


April 23,2008: Russia is introducing new uniforms, developed by a top Russian clothing designer, and has discovered that many of the top generals and admirals look terrible in the new threads. The reason is that the design team was given the new military physical fitness standards as a guideline. The problem was that a third of the senior officers did not meet these standards. Not only were all of these guys overweight, but a quarter of the senior officers could not pass the new physical fitness tests. The order has now gone out to the generals; shape up or retire.

Russia has been upgrading its armed forces for the past five years, with the goal of having a highly professional, all-volunteer, force in the next decade. New equipment, new weapons, new housing, new tactics, new uniforms and, perhaps most painful of all, new physical fitness standards. Through the 1990s, the Soviet era forces fell apart, leaving Russia militarily weaker than it has been for centuries. Only its nuclear weapons provided some security, and comfort, during that dark decade.

It's not just the generals who are having problems with physical fitness. Half the conscripts (who comprise about half the military manpower) are physically unfit when they enter service. The volunteers are a different story. In fact, they cannot become "contract" (volunteer) soldiers unless they can meet higher standards all around. Russia wants to go with an all-volunteer force as quickly as possible. But it's a matter of money. Volunteers have to be paid wages competitive with the civilian job market. That will take time. Meanwhile, everyone is out exercising more, and looking better.


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