Major General Liu Shen-mo, director of the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Training's Military Training Division, spoke at a news conference at the ministry in Taipei yesterday. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense

REGIME CHANGES: An analyst said the chances are high that an announcement would be made before the end of this year to length compulsory service

By Aaron Tu and Jake Chung / Staff reporter, with staff writer and CNA

New voluntary military recruits are to undergo more intense and longer training from next year to boost their combat preparedness, the Ministry of National Defense announced yesterday.

Major General Liu Shen-mo (刘灯梨), director of the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Training's Military Training Division, told reporters that the system as it is has new voluntary military recruits undergoing 230 hours of training over five weeks.

However, from Jan. 1, boot camp is to be extended to eight weeks with the total training hours increased to 380, Liu said.

Aside from what is taught in the existing program such as combat skills and weapons use, the new program is to include health management, pressure resistance, sports science, survival skills and casualty care, among others, he said.

The new recruits would also spend more time on marksmanship, he said.

Currently, recruits need to fire 86 rounds in a prone position, but from next month they would need to fire 160 rounds while standing, prone and kneeling, with nighttime firing added, Liu said.

After completing the eight-week course, the recruits would be assigned to military units for further training as they began their service, he added.

However, the change would not affect compulsory military training, with conscripts to undergo a five-week boot camp before being assigned to field units.

The nation's military is a mainly volunteer force, with conscripts serving supporting roles. Taiwan has about 215,000 troops.

As of last year, there were 160,000 voluntary military personnel.

The decision to change the boot camp training program was to meet “the needs of modern warfare and learn from the experience of other more advanced countries,” Liu said, without elaborating.

As for extending the duration of mandatory service to one year, ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang (Sun Lifang) said that the policy would have far-ranging effects and preparations are under way for its implementation.

More detailed plans would follow once they are known, Sun said.

The Act of Military Service System stipulates that reverting to one year of mandatory service would require one year of advance notice, meaning that if the notice is not announced this year, the planned 2024 implementation date would be postponed to 2025.

Experts yesterday urged the government to make its policy decisions known as soon as possible, as it would help ministries and the public prepare accordingly.

Institute of National Defense and Security Research fellow Su Tzu-yun (Su Ziyun) said that China's military is becoming more advanced, while recruitment in Taiwan is facing the added challenge of a falling birthrate.

Chen Kuo-ming (陈国明), editor of the Chinese-language Defense International magazine, said that the chances an announcement to length compulsory service would be made before the end of this year are high, but it is also important to outline how training would change.

Extending service would allow conscripts more time to hone their infantry, logistics and maintenance skills, Chen said, adding that while it would be difficult for conscripts to operate armored vehicles, they would still be adequate foot soldiers in the event of an invasion.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES