Reserve duty leaves weekend warriors unpreparedA couple of days ago I was besieged by yellow sand, the sky looked really dark, my lottery ticket didn’t hit the jackpot again and credit-card bills filled my mailbox. Life wasn’t exactly on a high note. Suddenly, the sun broke through the dark clouds.
I received notice of my annual reserve training. Not that reserve training is an absolute joy; it is what it is. For three nights and four days, eligible Korean men are subjected to running in circles and eating army-issue chow. As I said, it is what it is.
Civilian men now accustomed to the good life try to do once more what they did in their prime ― a daunting task indeed. This being the fourth round of training since my discharge, it would be my last. That was the only reason I was in a good mood.
Few people realize how inconvenient reserve training can be for those in the working world, nor how dangerous. During PRI, or pre-rifle instruction, the session just before target practice, reservists are constantly reminded by drill sergeants that under no circumstances are they to raise the rifle muzzle in any direction but at the target in front of them.
Despite the warning, there is always some idiot who does the inevitable. Sometimes when the rifle is jammed and not working (usually the safety hasn’t been removed), this numbskull turns his body and his rifle 360 degrees, then tells the drill instructor, “Hey! I can’t shoot!” It gives me the creeps.
There’s a good reason why people in the army say that next to enemy fire, friendly fire is the deadliest. That’s why I look for a spot on the target range that’s not flanked by others. That way, I keep an eye on one side only.
The cadre of civilians, most of them weekend athletes if that, try hard to keep up with the training regimen while sleeping in tents in near-freezing temperatures to rise above and beyond the call of duty. Despite their best efforts, so much time is wasted doing things that make no sense.
A typical daily report to the higher-ups would read something like this: Reserve unit A conducted a drill exercise to resupply unit B on the other side of the hill with petroleum, using portable pipes. In reserve training lingo, that translates into a bunch of ajeossi hanging out together under some trees, using the pipes as their seats, smoking and listening to colorful army stories that get fatter over time. Even so, the leaders would nod their heads and say, “We are ready!” I, for one, know I am not.
In light of the security situation on the peninsula, I understand the need to maintain a reserve army even when it amounts to little more than a head count. But by conducting shorter but more intense and higher-quality training, the Korean Army would do a lot of good to itself and the reserve corps.
I have a boss who acknowledges that I have to be out of the office for my duty but who still expects me to turn in my stuff. Other reservists have the same ordeal. So how do we cope? What we all do is pull an all-nighter to take care of business before training.
This pattern has to stop. Either training should be shortened or the higher-ups should allow us some free time in the evening to get some real-world work done.
Otherwise, as a reservist soldier, I will be good for one thing ― getting caught and becoming a drain on the enemy food supply. Although with our northern brothers, it might be a different story.
by Brian Lee