Professional soldiers take on border security duty
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey has hired a total of 1,388 people in a year to serve as professional soldiers.In line with an action plan drafted by the ruling Justice and the Development Party (AKP) government, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has begun its transformation to a professional force, rather than a conscripted one.
Since July 2011, 35,877 people have applied to the TSK to join the army as professional soldiers, according to figures provided by Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz. Of these, 1,388 have so far been trained and sent to border units, Yılmaz said. Yılmaz’s explanation came as a written response to an official request from Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Hakkari deputy Adil Kurt for information about practices underway to create a professional army.
Professional soldiers have been contracted in three phases, Yılmaz said in his response, without elaborating on the dates of these phases. In the first phase, 17,827 people applied to the army, of whom 3,038 were tested. Of those, 1,992 passed the tests, and eventually 503 of this group were employed as professional soldiers. In the second phase, 453 people were hired, and in the third phase, 432 were hired, Yılmaz said.
Applications are still being reviewed, and candidates are still undergoing physical examinations and security investigations, the minister said. Hiring will also continue gradually, according to the results of the personnel examinations and background checks, he said.
“The contracted soldiers are being employed at border units within internal security zones, in line with the TSK’s needs,” Yılmaz said.
No soldiers among the 1,388 professional soldiers hired so far have died in service, Yılmaz said, while adding that 41 soldiers (commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers) died in service between Sept. 3, 2011 and June 26, 2012.
The minister didn’t specify the terms of the contracts under which the current 1,388 professional soldiers are employed.
According to a law adopted by Parliament in March 2011, candidates to become professional soldiers first sign a pre-contract agreement in order to receive military training. Those who successfully graduate from training are supposed to then sign a contracts for at least a three-year, and no longer than a four-year, term of employment. Consecutive contract agreements for those who have already been employed will pave the way to extend this term from one year up to three years. Contracted soldiers will serve for a maximum of 10 years in total.
One of Kurt’s questions, concerning rumors that “according to agreements, the TSK will not inform the public of the professional soldiers’ deaths if they are killed while serving,” was not addressed in Yılmaz’s response.