Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Teresa Diaz |

Madrid (EFE).- There are currently 3,016 voluntary reserves in Spain, of which more than 20% are women. These are citizens who want to “serve Spain” and, to do so, contribute their skills and knowledge to the various missions carried out by the armed forces inside and outside the national territory.

“We are here to serve,” Jorge Bannon, honorary reservist for a year and head of communications for the ARES Association of Spanish Reservists, the bulk of the group, emphasized to Efe.

The reservists came to the fore after Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced the recruitment of 300,000 of them for the war in Ukraine. But in Russia and Spain these figures have a completely different meaning.

The concept was similar when our country had compulsory military service. Until the end of 2001, which thus ceased, once the “military” ended, the soldiers went into reserve, a situation where they remained for several years during which they could be mobilized.

Soldiers of Operation Atlanta
The arrival of the amphibious assault ship “Castilla” deployed in the Atlanta operation in Rota. EFE/Roman Rios

Requirements: Spanish nationality and age limit

The Voluntary Conservator figure was created in 2003 and since then any citizen can access it if they meet certain requirements such as having Spanish nationality, being 18 years old and not older than 58 if entering an officer or non-commissioned officer position, or 55 years for soldiers and sailors.

In addition, you must have the necessary psychophysical qualifications, which will be verified through tests and not be deprived of civil rights, as well as not have a criminal record, among others.

Being a Voluntary Reservist means being active to form part of the contingent that is periodically sent to overseas operations or to the mission that is in progress at the time of signing the pledge.

In crisis situations, when the needs of national defense cannot be met by professional military personnel, the Council of Ministers may take necessary measures for their induction into the armed forces, exceptionally.

A group of volunteers
A group of volunteer reservists from various Spanish military units in a file photo. EFE/Federico Velez

Volunteer reservists sign an initial 3-year commitment, stating how long they intend to be active each year and their willingness to perform missions overseas or participate in peacekeeping and security missions, which can be renewed.

The initial training phase lasts a minimum of 1 day and a maximum of 30 days depending on the applicant’s previous military experience.

Of the more than 3,000 Spanish reservists, 245 were activated from September 1 to conduct instruction and training exercises, training and improvement courses, or to provide service in units, centers or organizations of the Ministry of Defense.

In this situation they may have a maximum of 30 days a year to participate in the continuous training program, which is scheduled to provide service when activation is approved.

Volunteer saved profile

There is no generic profile of volunteer reservists and motivations are very diverse, although most were in the military, came from military families or had a certain affinity with security and defense, Ban said.

In his case, this digital marketing professional wanted to be a reservist because he was “stuck” by not being able to fulfill his dream of joining the Navy to wear glasses.

“And when the image of volunteer reserves was introduced, they were less demanding and I was able to get in without any problems,” he says.

Even for soldiers and sailors to access employment, although graduation from school or 2nd year of ESO is required, “highly specialized” occupations, such as a crane operator, require a highly valued profile in the market.

The average age of reservists is higher, which attributes to the association model, a merit competition in which places are offered that are associated with a “certain degree” and are “highly demanding”.

“When they ask you for an expert in international relations with a master’s degree, he is not a child, he is already a person of a certain age”, which “limits access greatly”, explains Ban.

During the visit to the division headquarters, Defense Minister Dr "Saint Marshall"in Burgos
Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles (D), at the General Headquarters of the “San Marcial” Department in Burgos. EFE/Santi Otero

10,000 applicants for 200 places

The replacement rate is low, as an average of 200 offers are made per year, not covering cancellations due to age (ranging from 380 to 400 per year). In the last call of October 2021, 250 places were offered.

And despite not having “many” promotions from various defense ministries, each time the call comes, 10,000 applicants turn up, according to association data.

The figure for the volunteer reservist is “attractive” for women, as evidenced by the fact that they represent more than 20% of the total compared to 8% of the armed forces.

And this, despite their being a “significant handicap”, says Banone, since in the eligibility criteria, not having done military service subtracts points, which the association considers discriminatory.

They also believe that applicants who are not officials are discriminated against, because they “have more access points than those who come from the street.”

In the Atlanta operation or in Lebanon

Bannon insists that volunteer reservists are there to serve and not ask themselves “whether it’s in Albacete or somewhere else.”
“When we renew our commitment, we are asked about our willingness to go on missions abroad or participate together with the Military Emergency Unit (UME) in the face of natural disasters,” he noted.

EU anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia are reserved in Atlanta or Lebanon.

Reservists are aware that “a conflict could arise at any moment and we could be called in,” Ban said.

Web version: Rosa Corona

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