A view of the motherlands DNA from military service (3)
Upon a recall, I started to write about my military service memories in a series; firstly about the military training period, secondly about the transition to ‘mastery’ and stories from the dorm. In the final piece of this series, I write about some moments and beyond the determination, I have some recommendations I’d like to share about the system.
There are the links to the first two blogs of the series:
To remind you of the transition period from military training to ‘mastery’, I have again shared a short piece I wrote about this:
It was clear where everyone was going after the military training. Some of our short-term soldiers were given tasks of education sergeants, some as writers, some in charge of the soldiers club and different areas of the brigade, and some continued as soldiers in Denizli’s province of Soke. I got chosen to take role in the main management area of the Brigade Headquarters. I was appointed to the IT department of the Brigade Headquarters. Although I had no foundations of computer engineering, because I could use and understand computers, I was designated to run the whole information process for the brigade. When one of my good friends was appointed to the Intelligence area, the other was appointed as a clerk in the dorm we were in. To be honest, because we were all short-term soldiers, we were all divived amongst the brigade, which meant I had known people in all areas. We got along immediately with my friends in the IT department. I fell into a really good environment. From my perspective however, it was short lived.
After spending 3 weeks in the IT department, I was moved to the commanders level, next to the Brigade Commander. We had one general in the brigade which was the Brigade Commander. Along with the brigade, we also had a staff colonel. There was an order adjutant assisting the both of them and I was appointed as his order soldier. In other words, like in the private sector, I was the assistant to the assistant who looked after the two most authoritative officers. They also gave me an extra task as an English teacher. Both of my roles were easily manageable.
A photo with my friends from the IT department...
Except for one person...
There was no problem when it came to the definition of work, although my whole life I never avoided working. I was able to handle all types of workloads. My friends who also worked on the Brigade Headquarters command level were also really nice. I got along comfortably with all of them. The majority of the people who worked on the command level were from Istanbul, Izmir and from cities like Bursa, being regions of the West, in which I had no problem getting along with. The Brigadier and staff colonel from the Brigade Headquarters were not only good people but also good directors. I didnt have problems with anyone except for one person...
However much I got along with the Brigadier and the staff colonel, that was exactly how bad my relationship was with the order sergeant. My intention is not to blacklist anyone, that’s why I wont give any names. I am especially writing this piece for my friends I worked together in the command level. I’m sure they will read these sentences with a smile on their faces, beyond the pain.
If they asked me to name the top 3 most negative people that I have met, this order sergeant would easily make it in this 3. As he was a member of the army, I won’t go into detail. However, I do want to say beyond the tasks that I was assigned for the Brigade Headquarters, I didn’t allow anyone to use me in any other way. And this caused some tension from time to time with my order sergeant. Considering he was such a bad person, he’d change his tune and be the total opposite infront of the brigade commander and staff colonel, but when on the command level, he’d lay out all of his dirt to the soldiers.
A near miss of a punch
I will give you a simple example. I used to give him computer lessons frequently. One day, when I was entering some things on the PC, he yelled out from behind me, like he was ordering me ‘let me show you, do this like this, do this like that’ for functional things I taught him only 3 days before. First I thought he was joking. I lifted my head and realised he was being serious. I remember saying to myself ‘what shall I say to this guy?’.
Another time we suffered tension was when, one day when I was in the kitchen of the command level when he came in with a mass entry. He said to the tea boy ‘get out and shut the door’ and to me ‘you stay’. Because I figured what was going to happen, I was ready for what was coming. He again started yelling and screaming. He couldn’t control his anger and started making up some lies and stories. The minute he raised his hand at me, I tightened my fist, so at the first physical attempt, I wanted to punch him right in the face, but I ended up doing what I had to. I was sure of wanting to get revenge on behalf of the whole command level. But for me to be in the right, I waited for him to make the first move. But he couldn’t dare to take the next step, his hand was stuck in the air. He didn’t have the guts.
There were two reasons why he didn’t have the gut. Firstly was because the brigade commander really loved and respected me, and I’d always show him the same love and respect. Secondly, short-term soldiers had a special status. No matter how much lower authority they had than the sergeants, they had a higher rank than them when they were going to court. If the soldiers who had university degrees stayed on for a long-term, they would take a role of lieutenant, which is higher than the sergeants authority. For this reason, he put his hand down which he raised against a soldier in the command level. With much anger and screams, he left the room slamming the door.
This tension continued throughout my military service. There were many reasons for this. As I said, I wont go into further detail. However it was the most difficult factor I faced in the military. Besides that, everything else was fine.
Different body types, different behaviours
I believe there was a serious imbalance in the army. Whether it be the officers or sergeants, we came across different physical appearances and shapes. For example, the sergeant I was under, was short and seriously naive, but there were some sergeants who had good characters and physical abilities. This also applied to the officers. For example, in our brigade there was our Major who was 1.90cm in height and when you saw him, you’d say that he looked right like a soldier with a good character. On the other hand, I also met other authorities that couldn’t even see their toes from being overweight. There were also some officers and sergeants who were so passionate about their country and their people, and who were willing to sacrifice anything. I came across all types.
As I mentioned previously, dont get fooled by my pose. I never had anything to do with guns. Beyond all the required training, I was always besides a PC.
The partners of the soldiers also had different profiles. Some were more authoritative than their partners, making life difficult for them while in the army; while on the other hand, some were very respectful, and would treat them with total affection.
Things without reason
We were continuing to complete our military service in an environment full of discrepancies. The only consistent thing was soldiers trying all methods to get out of the army. For example, the guard protecting the commander from our level had an operation for an ingrown hair and got a medical certificate allowing him 40 days off. From our conversations, I gathered his situation wasn’t serious. Everyone was looking for a way to dodge time, trialling all methods. I would have never opted to have an ingrown operation as an excuse to dodge the army. But of course, this is a matter of choice for some.
There might be some curious to know if I had made most of the time I was in the surroundings of Pamukkale. Yes, when I used to take ‘home leave’, I’d regularly visit Pamukkale. And of course, out of a twist of fate, there were Gaziantep kebab restaurants in Denizli. We would go there to eat. Sometimes I’d join my friends on the days we had off to visit the city. At that time, there was a small shopping centre there. I remember, enjoying ourselves at bowling and having a real good time with the whole commander leve. In order for you to picture these moments with my friends from the commander level, here are some photos I’d like to share:
I’m crossing the ball commander!
Actually, from time to time, we had some good times. There was a carpeted football court. The officers and sergeants regularly played games there. Normally, soldiers couldn’t join them. Only specially chosen soldiers could play with the authoritative officers in the Brigade Headquarters. And I was one of those chosen soldiers allowed to play. Even in the army football matches, we’d come across very interesting situations. First of all, everyone playing in the matches would refer to each other as ‘commander’ which was even used for soldiers of order.
The positions I played were quite the same as always. I generally played as a midfielder or in the defence positions. Wherever required a fill in, is where I’d play. As there was always a vacancy in the left back or right back, I’d even be able to go for goal from passes that came from the forward player. One day, I scored a goal from the centre of the field to my short-term friend who was the goal keeper. Although it was a generic goal, even I was surprised. We had a joking time about this after the game with my friends from the intelligence office and short-term soldiers.
I would display the classic defence moves and assist beyong my position to get the ball back into play. My defence skills are quite strong. Because I could predict what the player in forward was going to do, I’d be able to prepare myself for defence and never allow a ball to pass me.
The lieutenant that couldn’t get over the top
One day, we were again playing football with 2 of my soldier friends, officers and sergeants. I was in right back position. In the other team, the forward player was a tall lieutenant. During the game, this lieutenant started getting angry at me, because no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t get the ball past me, I kept getting it each time. After seven-eight attempts, I realised he was getting seriously angry, and I was thinking how this may adversely effect me, so I started taking defence for myself. The most authoritative on field was a lieutenant colonel, who was playing in our team. We were always passing the ball that me and my friend kept getting to him. And for this reason, this forward playing lieutenant colonel was scoring many goals. To be pre-cautionary, I went up to the lieutenant colonel and said ‘commander, the lieutenant is getting angry, there might be some commotion very soon’. And he said ‘forget about it, go back to your position and play’ to which I said ‘yes sir!’ and went back to my position. However, in a matter of moments, what I was worried about happened. Within 20 seconds of this conversation, the lieutenant got the ball and he tried to have a go at me to trip me. I again got the ball off him and passed it to my friend in midfield when the lieutenant dived into me. It was pretty rough. I got nailed down head first. I could have broken my leg. The lieutenant colonel that saw this got very angry and yelled at the lieutenant ‘what are you doing? You’re going to break his leg, shame on you!’.
After being told off, the lieutenant tried to come over the top, but the lieutenant colonel stopped him and said ‘get out, there’s no room for butchers like you here’ and threw him out of the field. And the sergeant who wanted to stick up to the lieutenant tried to defend him by saying ‘he has no fault’. The lieutenant colonel, uncontrolling his emotions also told him to ‘get off too’. After, he asked 2 soldiers who were sitting on the bench to get into the game and play.
Amazing supporters of Denizlispor...
We weren’t just playing games, we were also watching Super League games (it was referred to as the First League back then). After a long week of working, I’d look forward to the weekend. On the weekends, I also went to a few Denizlispor games. The Denizlispor games, which were across to our 11. Infantry Brigade were quite interesting. Denizlispor wasn’t a bad team. They sometimes didn’t know left from right. Sometimes they’d win against the top 3, but then lose against the last team in the rank. Because we could never assume the outcome, these games were interesting to watch. The supporters were also such characters. I haven’t seen supporters like this my whole life. They’d watch the games like they were watching a theatre show, at the same time eating sunflower seeds. Imagine a stadium full of quiet supporters just eating sunflower seeds. One side of the stadium was always trying to get the others fired up. And no one would even pay attention to the speaker who kept yelling out ‘Greeeeeeeeeen’ at his loudest. He tried this a few times. Besides a small majority, no one else was joining in to complete the teams colors by screaming out ‘Blaaaaccckk’. No one cared.
The Denizlispor supporters continued to eat their sunflower seeds. To be honest, it was interesting and so lovely to see such a peaceful and tame supporter group in a country where violence is experienced at high levels. I was laughing at it infact. Although the grounds were getting dirty, it didnt matter; this was their pleasure.
The only time I saw the supporters of Denizlispor go crazy ‘Istanbul’ style was when they played against Fenerbahce in the last champions game. I couldn’t believe my eyes while watching this game on the screen, being played in Denizli. That peaceful and tame crowd was replaced by supporters lighting up flares, screaming and yelling throughout the whole game and infact swearing to the supporters of the opposing team. It was a big possibility that they were not supporters of Denizlispor.
The bad news that came on the last day
The turning point of my life was when I was getting discharged from the army. The day before I got discharged, Kentbank got seized. You can read about the details of this in my blog:
I will re-write a paragraph of that article here to remind you:
I was in my final days as an orderly of the brigadier general, the commander of Denizli’s 11th Infantry Brigade, when I received a phone call from my mother on the morning of July 11, 2001.
- Son, have you heard?
- Heard what?
- They’ve seized Kentbank. It’s on the news now. I’ve been unable to reach Selma (my father’s assistant).
- Who seized it?
- The state.
- All right, I’ll call you later.
After we hung up I called my father directly. He sounded terrible. He managed to confirm that the news and briefly described some of what he had gone through.
Thinking I needed to get back to Istanbul to be with my family as soon as possible, I first approached the staff colonel to explain the situation. I was due to be discharged the following day in any case. He then called the brigadier, who was out of town. Having received the commander’s approval, I received my discharge papers that very day. I thanked them for their kindness, made my farewells to my military buddies and left.
As soon as I left the base I was able to organize a flight to Istanbul that very day. I also cancelled the three-week holiday in Amsterdam, Bodrum and Çeşme I had planned as a reward to myself for having completed my military service.
That evening I was with my family. Everyone was miserable, as though they were in mourning.
The need for professional soldiers
It should be mandatory to have professional soldiers in Turkey. I think that the long times that everyone spends in the army is a waste of resource for the army and for those who could have used their brains more effectively in that period.
It is important for a country to have strong defence mechanisms in place with professional soldiers in order to protect their country. If required, they need to have soldiers ready for war, who can actually handle and carry a gun, and this is where the Swedish model can be used. This is, to keep training to a minimum (up to 10 days) and with certain period breaks to have this training revised again (for up to 2-3days), which can be much more beneficial. This way, they can update themselves with regards to the army and also update and develop themselves when it comes to training.
The importance of technology
We need to give a lot of importance to the army and to technology. As much as there are wars nowadays with just the use of technology, there are still some armies that attack to protect their countries with the simple use of guns and knives. We need to keep developing our technologies to stay above it all. This is an example of a country that is consistently developing with technology:
I believe they should completely remove the sergeant system. And because I had experienced it, I can clearly say this. For someone like me, who can speak 3 languages, has seen the world, has certain visions, should not be under the order of a sergeant who has limited knowledge of primary school levels, can’t speak any foreign languages and has a complex about himself. My general thought about the sergeants are, because they haven’t been able to get above a specific level, they make life hell for the soldiers. I have seen many sergeants aged 50, who have been quite annoyed by some new university gradautes that come and are forced to refer to the sub-lieutenant as ‘commander’.
For this reason, they should remove the sergeant system or seriously invest in their training to bring them up to a certain education and improved level.
The need for pyschological tests
They should have everyone in the army do a pysch test to ensure they pass and to cut ties with those who have pyschological disorders.
The standardisation of physical ability
As Atatürk said ‘A healthy mind is found in a healthy body’.
For a soldier to be mentally ready, I believe his physical ability also needs to be. As I said in my writing pieces about this earlier, soldiers are like bullets. When you look at them, you would say they look right like a soldier. However, some are not physically good enough. They should definitely not be in the army. They should set a standard for physical ability and only allow those to move forward in their service.
Education quality levels and sustainability
Once you pass to the professional soldier level, they should constantly go through regular education and training. Where there are many firms in the country getting involved in each others working functions, this shouldn’t be the case in the civil service schools. The ones in the civil service should have strong schooling and access to good education. I also believe this education should be free. When it comes to soldiers education, they shouldn’t be saying ‘the army is a school for these naive people’, which I certainly do not agree with. Those schools need to be built in the best possible way, in areas where those naives are, so they can be given the best possible education.
For now, these are all the things I wanted to say about my army and military service journey. Looking forward to seeing you in my next piece.
All the best.