I wanted to make this post ever since I commented on Ed Piercy`s post about a ten days ago. But as some of you know, my state of mind was not set for making posts – I was mostly making ones that I could publish without much effort from my side.
I was drafted to join the army in 1988. when I was 19 years old. Back then, former Yugoslav army was organized by the concept of total national defence and every young man in the age of 18 (up to 30 as I remember) was supposed to spend one year in military service. The half of Yugoslav armed forces of 180000 members were conscripts. Since I finished high school for being an airplane mechanic, it was obvious that I will be in air force. After spending three months in one big recruit center in north of Serbia (a former air base) I was transfered to a biggest, most expensive and probably the strongest air base in Balkan peninsula, Zeljava Air Base, today in Croatian-Bosnian border. It was really impressive air base. Placed on the foot of Pljesevica mountain, it had several runways and tunnels drilled through mountain, where MIG-21 airplanes were hidden during night and when not on training flights. With large mess hall and underground water source, electricity generators and other facilities, a base could have 1000 men to survive for about a month without external intervention. As an airplane mechanic, my duty was to help professional officers in maintenance of aircrafts: pre-flight check, fuelling, changing tires but also to help arming it with rockets, bombs and ammunition, changing black boxes (which are in orange colour 😛 ), washing the surface, etc.
In our society there was an important meaning of joining the army: if one was capable to be in the army, he was considered a grown up man, not a kid anymore. I know a lot of young people would laugh today but it was considered as appropriate transfer from teenager to adult person, capable to take life in his own hands. Also, as soldiers, we were respected; everyone wanted to talk to us, people were curious and usually shared their "soldier stories", comparing them with what we told them. Personally, I think that young people, especially in towns where big recruit centers were, hated us 😆 In friday and saturday evenings it was impossible to find a free chair in caffes or restaurants – everything was occupied by soldiers. In recruit center where I was at the beginning, there were more than 8000 soldiers and in fridays a town was invaded by blue uniforms(air force, ground forces had olive green ones). But we needed to get back to barracks until 10 p.m. so locals were have to wait for that to get out and have fun 😆
At the end of 80s, what was once considered the forth strongest army in Europe (after United States, United Kingdom and former Soviet Union), had only some of its shine left. Except in some special forces units, most of the officers were not so interested in how their soldiers are doing: some of them just worked their 8 hours, thinking only about how to spend weekends or to have cheap summer holidays in military hotels along Adriatic coast. I knew that some of them would just run at a first sign of danger. We were taught to defend our country, to respect our people and to be example in society. I am sorry to say that some officers were nothing but a shame to country and army they presented. Once, during moral and political work with soldiers (when most of soldiers were not listening to him at all, just waiting for time to pass), one of the officers told us about "new political tendencies" that would, according to his opinion, destroy country and lead to national separation. At the end of his speach he asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand and after presenting myself, I asked him whether the army, as a leading and most powerful organisation in SFRY, would have enough strength to stop those tendencies. What a smart ass I was. He looked at me deep in the eyes and answered something that I could not understand at all; mostly some phrases that meant nothing. Later, I have been told that one military intelligence officer was interested about me :left:
Unfortunately, we both were right. Him in claiming that "new political tendencies" would destroy the country and me in claiming that army would not be able to stop that. I left air force in December 1989. and in less than two years everything has gone to hell.
me in summer of 1989. in front of an old Douglas DC-3 transport airplane left after Second World War
Blogs I Follow
- Thrifty Campers
- A Walk with Wildlife
- Daddy said...
- The Spryte's blog
- The View From My Bowl
- Humanity in Syria is at risk
- Make every day a little bit special ♥
- Clouds and Cappuccinos
- Robin's Robins
- A Sneak Peek On Things I Like
- A Canadian in Ireland
- Jill Gallery
- The Fish Tank
- This Insubstantial Pageant Faded