Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Volunteer Force of Draftees

While Chile maintains a compulsory military service, the fact of the matter is that all men and women serve voluntarily. That's because there are so many young people eager to enlist, there never is a shortage of recruits. This year, the armed forces have 21,000 applicants -- far more than the 11,000 needed. Among women, 5,600 applied for just 1,000 openings. So commanders can afford to be picky about who gets in the army, navy or air force. Why the love for the military? For one, the armed forces provide training in fields that can translate to civilian jobs. In fact, it's fair to say that Chile's military is the country's largest trade school. The danger of hostilities breaking out with a neighboring country is remote, so no one feels the risk of becoming a casualty. Conscripts are chosen at random from registration rolls, but many enroll themselves. In many cases, they can choose which branch of the military in which to serve (women can enlist only in the army, though they can be officers in all three branches), and even the location of their 12-month military service.

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