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Reserve Military Service

An excellent administrator, Raul Castro improved the overall quality of the military while reducing the active duty strength by transferring thousands to the expanded ready reserve forces, and thoroughly integrated the ready reservists with the active military forces. The August 1973 Law of General Military Service stated that there are two categories of reserve, first reserve and second reserve.

The first reserve includes politically reliable personnel who have received active military training. Although male personnel up to the age of 50 (women up to the age of 40) may be retained in the first reserve, those under 35 receive considerably more training and are the first to be mobilized. The second reserve is composed of other personnel, including those considered politically unreliable and criminals. Although these people have military training obligations, they receive less training than those in the first reserve.

The ready reservists are part of the first reserve. They are thoroughly integrated into the Army and account for about 30 percent of the combat-ready force. Since over one-half of the Cuban troops deployed to Angola and Ethiopia were ready reservists, thousands had actual combat experience. The majority of the ready reservists are assigned to units. They are assigned to all positions except possibly some mid-level and most high-level command positions. Ready reservists are trained in most of the same skills as regular personnel. Women reservists are assigned to combat service and combat service support units in specialities such as communications and nursing.

Training for ready reservists and some other selected first reservists may include one 2-hour period each week, and one Sunday each month. Almost all ready reservists and other selected first reservists have about 45 days' extended active duty a year. Reservists can be mobilized for as long as necessary. Reservists are compensated only for long mobilization or training periods, such as the 45 days' annual training. In practice, most first reservists trained approximately 45 days a year regardless of age, and some may also train a few hours one day a week and all day Sunday once a month. Second reservists usually were not called up for military training. MINFAR had the authority to transfer those in the active military service to the reserve and to call reservists to active military service for as long as is necessary.

The reserves arc well integrated into the regular army and because of this integration, it is often difficult to determine whether units are regular or reserve or a combination of both. The Cubans have three manning levels for their units:

  1. Category I — Units manned at full strength by active duty soldiers.
  2. Category II - Units partially manned by active duty soldiers which are augmented by reserve forces.
  3. Category III — Units composed of active duty cadre which are augmented by reserve forces.
In categories II and III, the principal function of the active duty personnel assigned to the units is to form the cadre and to maintain the unit's equipment. When these units are mobilized for combat or for training, the active duty personnel assume the principal leadership and technical positions while the reservists are assigned as fillers. Reservists can also be mobilized to fill specific vacancies in regular or reserve units.

The Directorate of Organization and Mobilization is the MINFAR General Staff element responsible for managing the reserve system. Local mobilization sections maintain detailed records on all reservists and are responsible for assigning reservists according to the needs of the military units. The sections are also responsible for assuring that reservists who are not assigned to units accomplish their training obligations.

Operation Caguairan is a defense preparedness exercise, in which Cuban armed forces and reserves, as well as all other security-related organizations are mobilized -- essentially to defend Cuba from a U.S. military invasion. In 2006 a massive Caguairan exercise accompanied the "temporary" transfer of power from Fidel to Raul Castro. The exercise involved the mobilization of more than 200,000 active and reserve forces as well as their logistical support -- shelter, food, etc. -- for periods varying between 15 and 30 days. The Caguairan execution also included a "precautionary" increase of "preventive" security and police control measures.

Reserve Military Service consists of the fulfillment by male citizens of up to forty-five years of age of tasks related to defense preparation. For this purpose, they may be mobilized as many times as necessary, provided that the total time does not exceed one year. Since the Revolutionary Armed Forces, besides their permanent personnel, have a significant number of cadre units, Reserve Military Service has an important role in the completion of many of its units of regular troops. Part of the combat equipment is preserved in peacetime in heavily fortified facilities, and only a minimum crew is on active service, particularly those positions that require greater specialization and training. The rest of the crew is completed by members of Reserve Military Service, with whom the regular troop unit to which they belong maintains close ties. Many of these sergeants and soldiers, which number 300,000 troops [according to the MINFAR website], are veterans with outstanding participation in combat actions, especially during the fulfillment of internationalist missions.

The Cubans have plans for mass mobilization in the case of grave national emergency. Under these circumstances, all available personnel in the first and second reserves-numbering several hundred thousand-as well as the MINFAR paramilitary and MININT forces would be mobilized. MINFAR ready-reserve personnel, particularly those assigned to Army units, can be mobilized within 4 hours. MINFAR and MININT personnel are well schooled in individual combat skills, and thousands of troops had actual combat experience in Angola, Ethiopia and elsewhere, though these aging veterans are now past combat age. However, since personnel are rarely cross-trained, units are dependent upon key personnel, particularly in-the command structure. Should any key individual be incapacitated, the remaining members of the unit do not have the training necessary to fill the vacated position and to function effectively.

As of 1980 the regular and ready-reserve forces in the Army, Revolutionary Navy (MGR), and Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR) totaled between 197,000 and 210,000 personnel. The well-trained ready reserves were included with regular forces because they are combat ready and could be mobilized within 4 hours. A significant portion of Cuban Forces in Africa were ready reserves. The 175,000 to 200,000 other reservists were not as combat ready.

Of the reserve forces, one Western analysis reported that as of 2000 the Army had 39,000 in 14 reserve brigades, the Ejército Juvenil de Trabajo (Youth Labor Army [EJT]) had 70,000, the Civil Defense Force had 50,000, and the Milicias de Tropas Territoriales (Territorial Militia [MTT]) consisted of approximately 1,000,000 people. These reserve forces are designed to provide strategic depth and to fight the Guerra del Todo Pueblo, or War of the Entire People.

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