Taiwan to reshape training system for ‘strawberry soldiers’, analysts say ‘still not enough’

KEY POINTS

  • Analysts say new training system for reservists won’t do much
  • New program faces limited training time and lack of instructors
  • US military planners don’t believe Taiwan will hold line against PLA

Taiwan is reportedly revamping its training sessions for military reservists after being criticized for producing “strawberry soldiers” who are “fragile and easily crushed” in real confrontations with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

It comes as the United States and the Pentagon have suggested Taiwan increase its defense budget, buy more weapons and bolster its reserve forces, reports South China Morning Post.

Under the new training system, some reservists will have to spend 14 days a year undergoing refresher training. Currently, training is limited to five to seven days.

This will apply to 13% of the 110,000 reservists and they will be called up by lot. Selected players will be required to shoot more than double the number of balls they shoot during shooting practice. Combat training will increase from half a day to 56 hours.

Despite all these measures, analysts do not think it would do much good because training time is limited, the shortage of instructors and the facilities inadequate.

“Even after the army increased refresher training for reservists, 14 days is still not enough and the effect would be limited because these people have never received such harsh training as the active forces,” said Chang Yen-ting, a retired airman. lieutenant general of the force, told the South China Morning Post.

Chang added that reservists suffered from low morale and were not enthusiastic about being called up. This is in addition to the shortage of instructors and training materials.

Chieh Chung, a security researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a think tank for the main opposition Kuomintang party, agrees with Chang’s view.

“The military must address the problem that there are not enough qualified officers to train the reservists. Worse still, the specializations of the reservists are not taken into account by the military when calling up, which means that a reservist can be assigned to a position contrary to what he learned when he was a conscript,” Chieh told the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, a 22-year-old reservist told the outlet he ‘wouldn’t agree if I have to go to war’

Peter Liao, a member of a 2.2 million-man reserve force, said he didn’t think he had “learned enough to survive a war”.

“It was like a cram school because there was a lot of stuff, various doctrines in particular, to learn,” he said. “But before I could fully digest anything, the instructors already started stuffing us with new stuff. Take cleaning or disassembling a gun, for example. I learned that in class, but if you asked me to do it again in a field operation, I suspect I wouldn’t remember how to do it,” he added.

He added that new draftees rarely had simulated field experience because supervisors feared injury. Liao said that “sweeping leaves and pulling weeds were part of the routine service in the camp.”

“So if you asked me if I was going to war, would I be able to fight the enemy? I can tell you that I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that,” he added.

Recently, a report by the wall street journal had suggested that US military planners did not believe Taiwanese forces could hold the line against the People’s Liberation Army. Taiwan military is riven by internal problems, many of which have accumulated over years of calm and economic prosperity and which now eat away at Taiwan’s ability to deter China, the report adds.

Taiwanese reservists attend a military exercise Photo: AFP/Mandy CHENG

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