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Poland Table of Contents


Conscript Training

Prior to 1990, individual and unit training followed the Soviet model because of Poland's regular participation in joint Warsaw Pact exercises with the Soviet Union and northern-tier allies Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Most conscripts served their entire term of active duty as privates or privates first class. Outstanding individuals were identified early for specialized schooling as NCO candidates. NCOs were required to commit to four years of additional service after completing their schooling. Thirteen warrant officer candidate schools operated in 1981, offering specialized technical programs of between one and three years that included more political indoctrination than did programs for NCOs.

The Main Political Administration (Glówne Biuro Administracji, known in the West by its English-language acronym, MPA) was headed by a deputy in the Ministry of National Defense. But the MPA also exercised independent authority as a department of the PZPR Central Committee; ultimate responsibility was to the PZPR, and the head of the MPA was appointed by the PZPR Secretariat. The MPA conducted political indoctrination in the armed forces and counseled the army in personnel policy making and appointments. Political officers in Polish People's Army units supervised party organizations and communist youth groups for conscripts. The most significant youth group was the Union of Military Youth, which sought to improve both the moral and ideological outlook of service personnel, at the same time reinforcing party control of society. In the 1980s, about half of Polish conscripts were members of the union.

In 1989 the first noncommunist government pressed hard to reform or replace the MPA. In late 1989, the organization was replaced by the Main Education Board (Glówny Zarzad Wychowawczy-- GZW), and party posts in the military were abolished. Party influence on military training continued, however, until late 1990, when the collapse of the PZPR and of the old state security system (together with strong pressure from Parliament), made clear to the military establishment that meaningful reform was necessary to garner crucial public support.

In the postcommunist years, conscript training has been limited by the budget. As of mid-1992, no division-scale exercises had been held since the Warsaw Pact era. Total exercise time for trainees was significantly reduced, and items such as projectile allotments were limited. Cruises by navy personnel and training flights for pilots, both very expensive phases of training, were curtailed; in 1992 Polish pilots averaged between forty and fifty flying hours annually, compared with an average of 200 hours for NATO pilots.

Data as of October 1992