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Croatia - Military Personnel

Croatia was reported to be planning to bring back a "light" form of the military draft in 2019. According to Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic, the scheme under consideration would amount to three or four weeks of mandatory basic training for draftees. Compulsory military service existed in the former Yugoslavia, and Croatia continued the practice until 2008.

"Our intention is not to reinstate national service in its previous form, but to teach basic military skills to young people," Krsticevic told Croatian TV channel HRT in February 2017. Defense officials suggested the short training program being discussed would actually appeal to most Croats. "We do not want to militarize our society. The point is to teach preparedness for natural disasters," Krsticevic said.

Since 2001 Croatia has undertaken an intensive program of defense reform that continues until today. At that time Croatia had a conscription system that produced 47,500 service-members on active duty and 183,000 mandatory reserves and a force structure that included 6 corps, 63 brigades, a fleet of ships and four airbases. By 2008 the volunteer system produces 20,500 service-members and 6,000 contract reserves that support a force structure of no corps headquarters, 2 brigades, a naval flotilla that includes Coast Guard vessels, and two airbases.

The targeted CAF numerical size of the active component is at most 16,000 active military personnel and up to 2,000 civilian personnel. In 2006 the prescribed numerical size of the CAF amounted to a total of 21,113 active military personnel and 4,184 civilian personnel. The most important characteristics of the existing personnel structure are: an unfavorable age structure, a relatively high number of management-command personnel in relation to executive personnel, an unfavourable qualifications structure and an inadequate positioning of personnel.

Since the required numerical size was not achieved, what took place was the natural process of a prioritized filling of the organizational positions of senior officers and NCOs, which disturbed the so-called pyramid of ranks. The 2010 Officers’ and NCOs Professional Development Standards will help troops recognize and define their statuses. The Armed Forces’ goal is to achieve a transparent system of equal opportunities in which those who get promoted are those who deserve it because of their work. The second level is the overall relationship between officers, NCOs and soldiers which is not sufficiently balanced. The third level is the age structure; here significant progress has been made, but the structure must further be corrected by admitting young officers and soldiers into the military service.

Conscript service in the Republic of Croatia was mandatory for all fit male citizens having turned 18. Conscript service lasts 6 months. Training was conducted in training centers and in units of services and specializations (three months of basic and specialist training followed by three months of final training). In the period of final military training a portion of soldiers attend the month long Basic Leadership Capabilities Course. The institution of conscientious objection existed in the Republic of Croatia, according to which draftees regulate their obligation through civilian service of their conscript period. Civilian service of the conscript period lasted 9 months.

February 19, 2008, saw the last conscripts in the Croatian military depart their barracks for the final time. With the end of this cohorts' tour of duty, the Croatian military no longer has any conscripted personnel. New soldiers entering on duty will be the first members of Croatia's all-volunteer force. This marks a significant step in Croatia's efforts to modernize and professionalize its military service. In 2007, the Croatian military saw its long-term plans to end conscription accelerated, with the Croatian parliament voting to suspend conscription as of January 1, 2008.

Voluntary military service is the new way to provide the Croatian Armed Forces with personnel. It is one of the most important projects in the Armed Forces which began in 2008 after the decision was brought to freeze mandatory military service. Voluntary military service training lasts 8 weeks. In voluntary military service, which can be served by both men and women, conscripts acquire the basic military knowledge and skills needed to partake in the defence of the Republic of Croatia, and get themselves prepared and trained to carry out assignments within the units of the Croatian Armed Forces. In addition to that, voluntary military service also is a condition for admittance into active military service for all those who after the successful completion of their training wish to become professional soldiers. Namely, upon the successful completion of the training program and in accordance with the achieved results, conscripts are provided with the opportunity to sign a contract for permanent employment in the Armed Forces. Of the 250 first generation voluntary conscripts, 208 of them, 25 being young women, signed the contract for permanent employment in the Armed Forces.

For the fulfilment of their basic constitutional mission the CAF retained the capability for increasing the overall military potential of the country to a necessary level. The capability to increase the military potential will be ensured by preserving the mechanism of general military obligation, by introducing voluntary military service, and by adopting a new reserve concept (contract and non-assigned reserve).

The reserve component will reinforce the CAF potential for the conduct of operations in the country and abroad. The contract reserve will man reserve units with an active core, ready to be assigned to any kind of operation within 120 days from the day the decision is made.

The units manned with non-assigned reservists will be organised, equipped and trained only in the case that the Republic of Croatia were threatened by a potential aggression. The available time for their organization and training will take between 120 to 360 days. The CAF will keep records of non-assigned reservists (about 40.000) and keep prepared part of the infantry and artillery weaponry as well as critical equipment. The members of the non-assigned reserve will not be called for military service or trained until a threat escalate to such a level as to require a substantial increase of defence capabilities in the country.

A soldier candidate can be any person with basic military knowledge/skills primarily gained through voluntary military service (soldier-trainees). Based on results from medical, psychological and military-expert tests, the best qualified candidates will be offered the first contract for a specified period of time. Based on needs and demonstrated results, service can be prolonged, but not after the calendar year when the professional or reserve soldier turns 35 years of age. The planned recruitment of soldiers into active military personnel will be of up to 800 soldiers a year by 2015.

Any person younger than 28 and with an appropriate civilian and military education can become a NCO. The main source of manning will be the best contract soldiers who, after appropriate NCO education, will sign their first NCO contract. By 2015 it is planned to introduce up to 275 new NCOs a year.

In 1998 the Croatian Armed Forces began developing an NCO work system which is based on Western countries’ and NATO member’s models and that presents NCOs with opportunities for advancement even after the completion of their duties as commander of a squad, which is a vital NCO duty in all armies. This means that career NCOs, that is, staff or first NCOs, can advance and receive considerably more duties than they did previously. As far as first NCOs are concerned, after commanding a squad, they are promoted in rank and to other higher duties, in other words, to first NCO of a platoon, company, ship or battalion, which is at the same time the crown of most NCOs careers. After acting as first NCO of a battalion, it is possible to advance to the highest of NCO duties: to those related to a brigade or regiment, to a base, to NCO schools and branches, to support command, to the Croatian Military Academy, even to the duties of thefirst NCO of Armed Forces.

Any person younger than 28 years of age who has completed university studies (pre-graduate students – bachelor degree as a minimum according to Bologna standards), and who has basic military knowledge/skills can become an officer. The personnel management system will develop a special model for career development for officers who join the CAF with completed graduate studies.

With an aim to retain and recruit specialised personnel, as well as to ensure that the whole defence system function more efficiently, a new category of active military personnel will be introduced – a military specialist. They will primarily develop in expert-functional areas, and their careers will be clearly separated from the careers of officers and NCOs.

Military specialist positions in the CAF are manned with personnel in the status of officers, NCOs and civil servants as well as civilians from the labor market who have special knowledge, skills and experience of importance to the functioning of the CAF. They will consist of specialists in the following fields: technical personnel, experts in critical specialties, musicians, administrative experts, organizational specialists, medical doctors and similar. They will not have command authority but may have leadership authority. By 2015 the total number of military specialists will be up to 2000, which will be introduced gradually by 200 each year until 2011, while the rest will be introduced by 2015.

In order for human resources management to be completely effective in retaining quality personnel a comprehensive standard of living program will be developed. It will encompass such issues as military personnel standards of living, support to families, care for retired members and models to ensure living and social conditions in the place of duty. Salaries and other material and non-material incentives for personnel will ensure competitiveness on the market recruiting and retaining personnel, having in mind the heavy load, complexity and requirements of military service.

It is necessary to be more competitive in the labor market so as to retain qualified young officers and NCOs, important for the functioning of the CAF. Since the goal is to transform the existing combined military structure into a voluntary system by 2010, this implies a different approach for human resource management and requires additional effort and resources for recruiting and retaining of personnel. A methodology for monitoring and retaining personnel will be developed, employment procedures will be improved and standardised, the rotation and evaluation systems will be analysed and improved so that their implementation will have positive results. A system of equal opportunity will be developed. Support to families of military personnel in their everyday life will be improved for the period of deployment and post-deployment upon return from a mission. Rewarding with decorations and other stimulations will stimulate development of excellence in work.

During the process of personnel downsizing, programs for preparation of personnel to be separated will continue to be developed. Programmes developed in this manner will be applied as standard procedures for all personnel preparing for transition into a civilian system. The successful completion of a contract will be adequately stimulated with a financial reward.

After 20 years of service active military personnel will have the opportunity for early retirement with support for continuing a different career. In this manner retired military experts that have proved themselves will be given the chance to continue a second civilian career in the defence system according to needs. Active military personnel for whom the military calling is a professional career will complete their careers during the calendar year in which they turn 55 years of age. Before the completion of their career they will be included into the program for adjustment to civilian life, coordinated with civilian institutions and organizations.

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